Tuesday, April 26, 2016

1500 South, Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay at Naples Resort

1500 South

1500 South is an elegantly casual dining spot with delicious food.  Perched with a great view of the yachts coming and going, It's a beautiful spot to sit on the marina's dock and watch the tide and the boats go by.

You may perch on the open deck, or indoors at the curvaceous bar,
or the dining room, overlooking the open kitchen.  

I missed meeting Chef Art Smith on my visit. He was  opening a Disney Farm to Table restaurant.  This two-times James Beard Award recipient pairs Southern American food with Italian accents. Think you have a busy life? Well, besides having 20 some restaurants to keep track of -some his own, some  in partnership- he has also adopted four young children. Now, That's busy!  

His Chef De Cuisine, Dagan Stocks, presides over 1500 South with a quite capable hand.
Carol, and Chef Dagan Stocks
He was formerly the Chef de Cuisine at the noted J&G Grill at  the St. Regis Bal Harbour (as in Jean-Georges Vongerichten), and Chef de Cuisine at the Vail Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.   Chef Stocks actively sources fresh local produce , supplementing this bounty from Ohio's The Chef's Garden. 

My guest and I were promptly seated. Drinks were ordered. There's a reasonably priced good wine selection, and a varied selection of  mixed drinks. A basket of hot buttered rosemary biscuits quickly arrived (I had walked by the open kitchen a minute earlier, and watched them come hot out of the oven, and be anointed with butter.)  
There are many ways to make biscuits in the South; these authentic ones happen to be firm, not flaky, and better with a dollop of honey. I just happen to prefer a lighter, flaky style of Southern biscuit. Whatever your preference, save room for what's to follow!

We were amazed at the superb flavor of  Chef Stock's special Springtime treat- slow roasted duck risotto with Arborio rice, served with roasted fresh morel mushrooms, Miner's lettuce and a fresh ramp gel.
The risotto is spot on, both creamy and a little crunchy. the duck is essentially a 10 hour slow cooked made with a morel mushroom stock. The  stars of the dish are only available for a few weeks out of the year-the fresh morels and the tangy ramps, which are accented with Meyer lemon. Miner's lettuce is well named-it's usually grown in caves. this round-leafed plant has a hint of green apple flavor! Highly Recommended.

 When I told our server that I'd never seen a ramp in the wild, guess what Chef Stock sent over! Have you had ramps? 
They taste in between a leek and an onion, and are more pungent than a scallion.

Next we savored the 25-hour slow braised oxtail hoe cake ($16). The braised oxtail's  rich layers of flavor are unbelievable! This component  alone could be a meal! It only gets better with caramelized Vidalia onions,
  Gorgonzola Dolce ( a savory buttery blue cheese that's not "dolce" or sweet), and the welcome slight sharpness of  baby arugula craft a tasty trio!  Hoe cake is a delicious foil for the toppings-think of it as a flat cornbread pancake.  Highly Recommended.

We then slowed the pace with the vegetarian-friendly  "farm to table" seasonal roasted vegetables, featuring purple, orange and green cauliflower from Oakes Farm, baby green pepper,  celery root, broccolini,
The Chef's Garden heirloom slender carrots, baby Portobello mushrooms over saba noodles, with a splash of balsamic  vinegar, and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese ($16). Such a beautiful and flavorful assortment of colors and textures!  Chef Dagan Stocks clearly has fun crafting these dishes.

Salt & pepper are not on the table; lemons are.  I only added salt to my veggies-just personal taste.

Chef Smith's fried chicken ($27)  is one of the most tender I've EVER had. Don't balk at the price for 3 pieces of chicken-you're not at KFC-just order a plate!

It starts with the finest chicken, which is then brined for 24 hours, soaked in buttermilk for 24 hours, then dipped in a mix of White Lily flour and various herbs and spices. This epitomizes "succulent" with its  juicy tenderness!  Chef Art perfected it for Oprah's table; you too get to savor this, while overlooking the harbor. Try a dip in the house-made hot sauce It's not too hot, with Fresno peppers,  chile de arbol peppers, and citrus. Highly Recommended.

There are over 15 different gelati and sorbets made in house.  I opted for the blood orange sorbet, pistachio gelato, and chocolate gelato trio.
The chocolate gelato with 62%  dark chocolate cacao is my fave!  The blood sorrel leaf/red ribbon  looks like a coleus leaf, however, only the sorrel leaf is edible.  

My companion chose vanilla bean crème brûlée, served atop white chocolate, and topped with mixed berries and strawberry- balsamic sorbet.
This is a VERY good custard, with a crisp sugar crust that demands to be cracked! This version started with Chef  Antonio Bachour at the St. Regis. I really respect Chef Stock..not many chefs credit another's creation.

On our next visit, I'll try the fried green tomatoes with classic chow chow remoulade, the "Three Little Pigs" ham sampler, chicken and dumplings, and the grilled shrimp and octopus grits with aged Provolone.  All the pasta is made in house. Chef Stock enjoys making his own pizza crust.

Happy hour  menu items should be ready by the time you visit...that could be another reason to make 1500 South a favored watering hole. Parking can be a signficant problem in season, as Bonefish Grill has the majority of parking spaces. This is when you hand the keys to the parking valet, and grandly walk off.

Time will tell if this is the dream career for Chef Stock- he gets to order the best ingredients and equipment, craft specials, while enjoying living in Naples-what's not to love?! Restaurant competition?  None really. 7th Avenue Social comes to mind for its varied offering of Southern dishes as well as Latino treats. It doesn't have 1500 South's waterfront setting, or signature dishes like the braised oxtail, fried chicken, or unique grits. 

This is delicious Southern cooking, straight from Oprah's own private chef;  Chef Stock channels it directly to you. Dig in!

(Note: During my visit, (in tourist season)  breakfast buffet was served from 7-11 a.m. daily- that has been discontinued, as of today, 5/18/16; that service may resume next season. Dinner is served Tuesday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m. No lunch is served. Call and check; days and hours may seasonally change for 1500 South as for many other spots.  BTW, If you click on a photo, it and others will appear much larger and flavorful!

I was fortunate to meet Chef Art Smith later by chance, in another setting. What a great, friendly down-to-earth guy! We talked for over an hour, comparing our respective childhoods in Florida, to experiencing travel to cities across the globe.  He is passionate about giving back to his childhood community in a truly generous way. He grew up in Jasper, Florida, which, to be kind, is now long past its glory days. He is partnering with Walt Disney World and others, revitalizing parts of nearly forgotten Jasper with a cooking school, bakery, and school for meteorology.)

1500 South, at Naples Bay Resort.  1500 Fifth Avenue South, Naples,  530-5105, 1500southnaples.com   

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