The Marco Island Marriott, in the process of upgrading to the brand’s luxury JW tier, replaced the former Kurrents with the upscale surf-and-turf cuisine (and strikingly modern dining room) of Ario (arioprime.com). The resort reeled in chef Gerald Sombright, a veteran of esteemed kitchens across the country like Michael Mina’s Wit & Wisdom, to spearhead the transition; he recently took a hiatus to appear on the 14th season of Top Chef.
At the Pink Shell Beach Resort overlooking a beautiful wedge of sand, the hotel plotted a revolution—to give an island known for daiquiris and coconut shrimp its first beet, blood orange and goat cheese salad along with pork from Circle C Farm, chicken from Joyce Farms and snapper from the Gulf. The result was Jack’s Farm to Fork (pinkshell.com/jacks), an evening endeavor in a space that was a ballroom in a previous life. (“Evening” is an important distinction, as the morning pancake-and-egg spreads are not cut from the same cloth). It takes its mission seriously, printing the baker’s dozen of farms the restaurant works with at the bottom of the menu. Each plate represents a blank canvas for edible flowers, shoots and pickled veggies to combine in breath-catching bites, from an Anson Mills Carolina Gold risotto with mascarpone and mushrooms to a braised fennel and saffron grouper.