“Now if you're blue
and you don't know where to go to
why don't you go where fashion sits...
Puttin' on the Ritz”
Irving Berlin’s 1929 song, Puttin' on the Ritz, is as popular as ever, and so is stylish dining at the Naples’ Beach Ritz-Carlton, Bites-style.
it's simply topping To be there
and hear them swapping
“Wow, this is a well hidden secret," my friend said after swooning over the first bites and the musicians. “Do you really have to blog about it to others? I want it as my private club!”
There are over 40 hot or cold small plates, or tapas-style bites and desserts, divided into seven menu categories. Each dish is a medley of complementary textures and tastes. Think you know what a dish will taste like? Guess again! Chefs like Brandon Carter who opened Bites almost a year ago, and Executive Chef Derin Moore, CMC, tweak and twist each dish to give that Ritz “wow” factor. Below, I’ll take you from squash soup to toasted nuts, so you'll experience an evening of magical dining!
Valet park the car, silence the cell phone, and sashay into the Beach Ritz-Carleton’s lobby past guests clad in cut-offs to tuxedos. Birkenstocks meet white golf shoes. Fine linen soberly reflects on tattoos and lobster-red sunburns. Walk straight ahead and a few steps up. Bites is a separate world. Its soft chairs, hardwood floors, curtained walls and soaring ceiling say “You’ve arrived.” Lounge on a plush couch. Indulge. A glance at the menu’s prices that range from $4 to just $14 reassures you that “prices really are inexpensive.”
On my three visits, I chose selections with professional server Jonathan White's guidance. He has in depth knowledge of each dish’s ingredients. His recommendations are spot on. He exchanged his chef’s training for a “front of the house” career. You (and his family) benefit from his decision and his culinary passion!
Sit near the piano if you want to enjoy live music. If you’re here to chat, sit farther away-no need to compete with musicians. Order a drink or glass of wine. I pair drinks more with the sauce, than with the underlying fish, lamb or beef. Some savory Asian dishes pair best with a beer ($8); bolder dishes go with a strong Pinot or Cabernet. For mixed drinks, I like the colorful Hermosa Sunset ($13)
A lovely lady with an intoxicating South African accent brought the Bites wooden bread box. Its slender prosciutto-Parmesan breadsticks poke upward, antenna-like. Inside huddle three warm savory blue cheese mini muffins with caramelized onions, and slices of sourdough-rye baguette.
Start light with the lobster roll trio ($14). Fresh Maine lobster chunks are mixed with mayonnaise, red onion, capers, lemon and fresh herbs.. The Ritz version replaces the traditional New England butter- toasted hot dog roll with rich brioche rolls. You get your money’s worth of lobster.
Go bold with a plate of marinated olives ($4).
The short rib sliders ($12) offers slow and low red wine braised short ribs, served on two small sesame buns, topped with melted Taleggio cheese and onion relish. Recommended!
|Two Plump Hushpuppies Cornering a Short Rib Slider|
There’s a nice crunch from the peanuts and texture from the rice. The sauce has a welcoming mild-moderate spiced heat. This demands a Corona beer ($8)!
In their mitts,
Puttin' on the Ritz"
The musicians perform at a comfortable sound level, and we paused in our dining to clearly concentrate. Steve Uscher’s masterful classical and contemporarly guitar and Winnie Carrillo’s evocative vocals dance through the air, warming the room as they play their version of “Hotel California, ” and a variety of contemporary and torch songs. Winnie’s mezzo soprano voice and her percussion from castanets, snapping fingers, and the drum-like Peruvian box deftly mesh with Steve Uscher’s passionate playing.
|Steve Uscher and Winnie Carrillo|
It’s a must to savor the exotic taste of Moroccan lamb ($11). The tender lamb loin is marinated in a refreshing Moroccan spice mixture and grilled, nicely showcasing the delectable lamb. Dipping a morsel of lamb into the English pea and fresh mint puree puts each morsel over the top!
“High hats and narrow collars
White spats and lots of dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time”
Mr. Berlin, Bites at this Ritz won't break your piggy bank.
It’s time to reveal the ahi tuna carpaccio ($8). It’s my favorite visual presentation. The luscious pink slab of high grade tuna is pounded thin, topped with a diced green tomatillo and red tomato salsa, and crowned with miniature tortilla chips.
CIA-trained Chef Brandon Carter came by. He started at the Naples Ritz-Carleton six years ago, and has been appointed Sous Chef. He currently presides over Bites.
We share a special appreciation for one new Bite-the “wild mushrooms with sherry cream sauce” ($9). The base is a crisp potato puff- termed by Escoffier in 1903 as "croquettes de pommes de terre a la Dauphine." Pate a choux dough and potato puree are mixed, piped, and deep fried into a fritter in truffled oil till puffy and crisp, with a creamy interior. Looking like swirled donuts or buñuelos, they taste divine while hot! The chefs elevate the classic French dumpling to a culinary art form, topping it with the tender earthy flavors of fresh wild mushrooms. Tonight’s mushroom mix has wood ears, chanterelles, and matsutakes.
“Thanksgiving dinner on a skewer” ($9) is the Rit’z clever holiday take, tapas style.
Steak and fries ($14) got very good reviews from the next table.
Sautéed chicken livers ($6), Bites-style can made a chicken liver lover out of any dining companion! The morsels are pan fried till crispy yet still tender inside-not easily done. Their rich taste is accented by a reduction sauce rich with caramelized sweet onion and smoked bacon. Recommended.
Osso bucco, Ritz style ($12) has Madeira-braised veal cheeks painted with braising sauce reduction, served atop crispy risotto fritters. Dusted with gremolata (chopped lemon and orange zest and finely chopped rosemary with sea salt) it’s the ultimate in rich and savory!
The rich red pears started as white California pears-the poaching port wine has completely permeated the pear! I’ve used cloves, cinnamon, honey, vanilla and citrus zests in my pear spicing-I wonder what the Ritz uses. Why put pears in the menu’s cheese column? Bite in and savor the contrast of the crisp pear and port with the pungent soft blue cheese nugget at the base.
Pair with a glass of Port, Sauternes or Barsac to toast this creation.
Desserts change often.
I liked the warm snickerdoodles cookies followed by hot chocolate shooters ($6). It’s fun!
We went gaga over the now-gone raspberry crème brûlée (above); the current pumkin crème brûlée ($6) is just as luscious. You can’t go wrong with the vanilla ice cream profiteroles ($6) - 3 profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce and toasted almond-a classic. Pair with a cappuccino ($6).
Pants with stripes and cutaway coat
Puttin' on the Ritz"
I've given you my favorite bites to savor at Bites, chosen from three visits. Now take someone special, or special friends, to enjoy Bites with you.
Relax… Pace yourself. Listen to the musicians. Savor your evening. Walk on the beach afterwards. An evening at Bites is an experience you'll treasure.
We love the Ritz, we live in Ft Lauderdale and enjoy the ride over to snack and listen to the great music, it should not be missed.
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