A Food Lover's Tour Of Naples, Florida

Naples, Fla., was named by its founders, who described the site as reminiscent of and surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy, in beauty, beach, and climate. You will be the judge of Naples, once you have experienced this magical spot that has long been an enclave of affluent Midwesterners and other discerning folks, who are enamored with the climate, culture, fauna, flora, and food scene in South Florida.

Once a snowbird haven, this city is now a year-round Mecca for international sun worshippers and seekers of the good life. Every denizen is delighted to share their story of discovery and is fiercely devoted to this city by the sea or more precisely, the Gulf of Mexico. Besides the boating, fishing, and birding, the world-class beaches boasting clear, warm gulf waters and white sand strewn with seashells beckon to all, to come, play and stay. It is no wonder why Coastal Living has named Naples as number two in its just-released list of the "15 Happiest Seaside Towns in America!"


Courtesy of Naples Bay Resort

Naples Bay Resort: A Room for all Seasons

The Naples Bay Resort, the newest property in town, is a perfect place to settle in for a short stay or an extended visit. This Tuscan villa complex offers luxury hotel accommodations with marina views and two- to three-bedroom cottages suitable for families. The service is warm and personable. With Tony at the bell desk and Marilyn, who recently won top honors as exemplary concierge, the service couldn't be more accommodating.

The décor is comfortable and it is easy to make yourself at home, except that home was never this good. After surveying the expansive grounds, it's time to decide on what to do first; rent a boat, kayak, bike, play a round of golf or a game of tennis, peruse the shops, or hop a resort shuttle to the beach or the resort Club.

The Club is an activity center onto itself, with pools, waterfalls, a lazy river with floating rafts, a quiet, adults-only pool and lounging area, and a café and bar. The Club houses a state-of-the-art fitness center supervised by trained staff and a serenely sensual spa. The spa offers all the services you would expect to find with sea salt as a pervading theme ingredient in the treatments. One important feature is the quality of the staff. The receptionist and masseuses are seasoned professionals who make your spa visit a therapeutic pleasure to experience and repeat. When it's time to eat, consider these finds.


Courtesy of L'Orient

L'Orient-Southeast Asia Meets Naples Bay Resort

At L'Orient restaurant, open your eyes, and you are in Naples by the gulf; close your eyes and you are in some exotic amalgam of Thailand, China, and Japan, with a bit of the Mediterranean thrown in for good measure. This family-owned and run bistro has something for every taste. Yes, there are the traditional dishes that you crave: kung pao, pad thai, lo mein noodles — all exemplary!

But far more interesting are the specials: salmon with truffle emulsion, star anise duck, short rib, and caramelized onion flatbread. L'Orient goes far beyond the norm to offer a sophisticated palate the chance to soar well beyond the usual Thai offerings in an exquisite marina setting.


Courtesy of Michael Reiss

Sea Salt

Third Street in Naples, Fla., is rockin' with live music and plenty of eateries, and no place is more hip than Sea Salt. Chef Fabricio and his wife Ingrid have designed a contemporary indoor/outdoor space that is irresistible to the senses. The décor is exciting, and as you walk into the dining area, the first thing you see is the impressive wine cellar, floor to ceiling, with some of the largest and most intriguing selections on the West Coast of Florida. Then just past this stellar collection, you'll glance at the Chef's Table in full swing with 10 diners enjoying a 12-course repast fit for a king — yet available for the mere cost of the table for the evening.

The Chef's Table dishes are special editions of the menu items showcasing the uber fresh selection of fish and seafood that distinguish this restaurant from so many others in a town noted for its restaurants. There for the viewing and eating, was a freshly caught swordfish, including tail and head with the sword still intact. Quite a site for anyone who hasn't ever seen the real deal. 

This is just one of the many fish varieties delivered daily to chef Fabricio by his local fishermen who know he will accept only the finest and freshest catch. These are prepared in a variety of ways including simple grilling that brings out subtle, fresh flavor. Not to be outdone by the fish, the fresh pastas also elevate this restaurant to star status among the gourmet crowd who gather faithfully at the door, patiently waiting for a table during the high season.

The waitstaff are professional and are eager to impress with a tasting selection of the global salts that line the kitchen walls. And then there are the wines, by the glass or by the bottle. Sommelier Liset Zelaya will surprise and delight the most sophisticated connoisseur with the broad and deep range of selections on offer. It is evident from the patrons that once you have enjoyed the pleasures of this contemporary Venetian cuisine laced with new world influences, you will return to be surprised and delighted by chef Fabrizio's latest creations.

The Naples Food Tour

Whether you are here for a weekend or an extended stay, The Naples Food Tour is a must on your short list. The Naples Food Tour owner, Elaine Osbond, is a self professed "foodie" and former owner of a local tea room. She became the keeper of so many secret culinary finds that she decided to share her wealth with the community. When you hop on her bus, you are off for a grand adventure into what makes Naples cook.


Courtesy of Osetra

We started off at Osetra on Fifth Avenue, sipping champagne, and tasting caviar and smoked salmon crostini.


Courtesy of Swan River

Swan River
We next went to Swan River for the freshest seafood since Cape Cod, sampling calamari, seared tuna salad, Maine lobster salad, and their renowned seafood chowder.


Courtesy of Jacquie's Jamming

Jacquie's Jamming
Then on to Jacquie's Jamming for a taste of her current tropical fruit selection and the jellies, jams, chutneys, and salsas that she creates to highlight her tropical treasures.


Courtesy of Madam Mac/Radical Rations Catering

Madam Mac/Radical Rations Catering
Self-taught, Madam Mac specializes in all matters of mac and cheese and she adds her pulled pork, beef brisket, collard greens, and black bean medley to the tasting for some mighty fine eatin'. We go on to visit two more gourmet stops, well orchestrated, as we are just beginning to crave dessert.


Courtesy of Royal Palm Chocolates

Royal Palm Chocolates
Off to Royal Palm Chocolates, where Philip and his wife welcome us to their hand-crafted chocolate shop. Here we learn about the intricacies of making perfect truffles, as we sample some of their ever-changing creations.


Courtesy of Peace Love and Little Donut Shop

Peace Love and Little Donut Shop
Last on our tour was the Peace Love and Little Donut Shop serving Intelligentsia Coffee and some of the most unique raised donuts you'd never imagine finding housed in Wayne's World Gas Station. The drive-thru lines are hot and heavy from early morning and at only 70 calories for an undressed delight, we can see why.

Tour guide Elaine is a trailblazer and a determined foodie scout who is constantly adding more sources to her list. She has many additional stops, each more fascinating than the last, with the tastes, personalities, and stories that make for a thoroughly enjoyable and delicious afternoon delight. This is a tour worth repeating and recommending. Bon appétit!


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