Once a trigger for fantasies of comfort food – soup, stew, cereal, bowls take on new context in the foodie era of millennials and health-conscious chowhounds. Recently, I abandoned my comfort-food associations to tread into this new bowling lane.
I tried three very different bowl establishments and found all of them – eventually– comforting. At first, all that “design your own bowl” decision-making threw me. Finding myself in the position of experimenter and inventor seemed actually the opposite of comforting. It forced me to overcome a lifelong struggle I’ve endured when it comes to narrowing down so many menu items I wish I could try to a few manageable courses.
And in the first place, Southwest Florida has so many bowl restaurants now, I had those decisions to make. Here’s how I fared under all that ponderous weight.
Spoondrift Island Bowls, Sanibel Island
Owned by the same family who operates Malia Island Fusion on Sanibel, this decision was a no-brainer. I love Malia, so Spoondrift seemed a good place for my initiation. Choosing from the four bases, one protein (two if you order a large bowl) out of eight, four toppings out of 13 options, crispies, a sauce and a finish had me briefly in a panic as I stood in line behind only one other person. So, under a little pressure, I ended up with a bowl of artisan greens topped with spicy tuna, jicama, cucumber, tomatoes, crispy onions, coconut ginger and Thai peanut sauces and sesame seeds. Sigh of relief! I’ll vary up the next time, but with that success under my belt, I was ready for my next bowl.
The Bowl, Naples
Açaí, I knew that. Kombucha, sure I’ve heard of it, never tried it, was totally ready to. Pitaya? Matcha? I studied ahead, but still didn’t make the best choices, even though The Bowl helps a sister out by packaging its options. So I could order the Key West instead of having to decide a la carte to combine açaí, pineapple, mango, banana and coconut milk. I only had to choose from topping options: granola, strawberries, banana, coconut shreds and honey. With all organic ingredients, The Bowl epitomizes the new wave of healthy bowling, although the sugar quotient tips the scale for weight-watchers. At the last moment, I chickened out on the kombucha and opted for organic coffee with almond milk, which I regretted.
PokeBowl Café, Fort Myers
By now, something of a bowl expert and feeling confident in the field of Hawaiian poke, which I adore, I hit up this tiny strip mall storefront. Behind six others in line, I had ample time to sift through menu offerings to pair with my cravings. On a base of brown rice, I built raw ahi tuna and salmon, pineapple, spicy cucumber, carrot, corn, crispy onion and tangy creamy ginger soy and sesame eel sauces. That one converted me wholly to bowldom. And on a quick whim, I ordered unsweetened lemon tea. Loved it!: a final lesson in the benefits of moving out of my comfort zone.