Friday, October 8, 2010

Naples' Capital Grille Fall Foods and Second Anniversary

Naples’ The Capital Grille just celebrated their second anniversary. Highest compliments to Proprietor Peter Lopez and Executive Chef Jeremy Houston!  Capital Grille has been one of my top recommendations to visitors who ask for a great dining experience. Why? It’s got what I call their “Dining Trinity”-great seafood and steaks, great Old-World or old club- like ambiance, and superb, friendly servers and sommeliers. Well, things have changed, they now have an unbeatable “Dining Quartet”-I found out that their fine excellent produce comes from The Chef’s Garden Farm, the renowned sustainable Ohio family farm.

I last blogged about Capital Grille over a year ago, and have eaten there several times since then-with so many restaurants to try each year, it’s uncommon for me to eat even twice at a spot in a year!

I was there last night for dinner with a “foodie” companion. Long story short-the evening was flawless, from salad start through surf and turf with great wines, and an apple tart finish. It all goes back to the Trinity, er, Quartet of excellence that’s exemplified at Capital Grille, day after day. Fine quality and consistency rule!
We started with the Chopped Salad. It’s a great fresh mix of romaine lettuce and heirloom red with artichoke hearts, haricot vert, asparagus spears, red radishes, celery, shucked sweet corn, and garbanzo beans, drizzled with a subtle Sicilian olive oil vinaigrette. Chef’s Garden Farms shines on this. The Garden’s sustainable program exceeds “Organic” standards, by not using some of the chemicals or fertilizers allowed in organic farming. Chefs such as Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz also use Chef’s Garden produce-that’s as good as it gets. Each item within the salad stands well on its own rich with rich, optimal taste. I’m not much of a salad eater, and I finished each morsel! Yes, because it’s that good, I finished it all on my own-without any prodding!

 Sommelier Jasmine Peterson’s pairing with Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel Rose ’09 ($9 glass) nicely lets the grapes’ varietal mix of springtime freshness complement the salad with its fruity yet dry body and smooth finish. You could also pair this wine with my favorite side, the lobster mac n’ cheese. Mmmm!
Sommelier Jasmine
Fresh Breads
The complimentary bread basket is a beautiful assortment of freshly baked crisp lavash, pumpernickel-raisin, pan rustica with onion, and dinner rolls topped with sesame and poppy seeds. You can make a meal out of the breads, especially with the appropriately room temperature spreadable butter. Yes, I don’t care for hard butter yanked from the fridge, that’s too cold to spread.
Sonja was our server, and her friendly, attentive professionalism through the evening sets the standard for anyone in the restaurant business to follow.
Her professionalism is shared by other servers-relax and enjoy your evening- you’ll find for yourself that you’re in the best of hands.

Next was the Fall special- Seared halibut with spring vegetables ($36) placed over a bed of haricot vert, The long slender French green beans are more tender and richer in taste than fatter, more plebian green beans.
The 10 oz portion of halibut is topped with grape sized tomatoes which have been oven blistered and tossed with puréed fresh basil and olive oil The fish, lightly crisped on top, was perfectly cooked as requested, to not quite flake in the center. The oven blistered grape-sized tomatoes were a knockout, so tender and bursting with a juicy, grilled-like rich tomato taste. This was finely paired with New Zealand Craggy Range “Te Muna Vyd” ‘08 ($12 glass), a rich ripe fruity sauvignon blanc that’s also perfect for drinking on its own. Highly recommended.

I love a great steak. The Center cut filet crusted with dried morel mushrooms and seared in butter ($29) was perfectly cooked-each mouthful full of rich savory taste, all served on a hot plate. Why can’t other restaurants passively heat plates with some of the abundant heat from their burners exhaust? I’m off my soapbox.
The steak is placed atop a grilled portabella mushroom that’s wonderfully steak-luscious in taste, mouth feel and beefy texture. These are accompanied by herb roasted oyster and cremini mushrooms, finished with a red wine veal reduction that’s out of this world! Ask your server for an extra bit of Chef Jeremy Houston’s savory ambrosia sauce! This was paired with Forefront by Pine Ridge ‘07, ($13) a full Cabernet Sauvignon with smooth tannins, hints of blackberry and toffee with a silky smooth finish-I would have guessed it was a Cab-Pinot Noir blend. Again, both highly recommended, and the wine can is nicely savored on its own. The Cab would also pair well with the bold Kona crusted sirloin. 
The Evening's Three Great Wines
We saved room for dessert. I’ve enjoyed the Cheesecake, and also the Chocolate hazelnut cake with Crème Anglaise before. This month special is the Apple Tart. Sliced Granny Smith apples are tossed with butter, cinnamon and sugar, roasted, then put in a buttery pie crust topped with streusel then baked.
 It’s finished with a big scoop of luscious caramel gelato. It’s a heavenly, rich dessert-perfect for one or two to share. After the dessert, we had no room for a dessert wine- I’ve had the Inniskillin Riesling before, and it’s a keeper.

We were very, very happy at having a flawless evening. Finer restaurants serve a few hundred meals over a day’s service in season, and humans can make a rare mistake. The mark of a professional is how they serve 99.9 percent perfect meals, and make the remaining 0.01 % right, and win a repeat customer. That’s why The Capital Grill continues to be one of my top recommendations for fine dining in Southwest Florida.

9005 Mercato Drive, Naples,  254-0640


Scenes from the Second Anniversary Below

Executive Chef Jerome Houston

Chef Gil Suarez

Braised Short Ribs with Cherry Jus on Horseradish Crustini

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