Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jack's Farm to Fork at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina



Executive Chef/Chef de Cuisine  David Rashty has brought Michelin Star caliber expertise, fine casual dining, and service to SW Florida.  To Naples? To Fort Myers?  Nope, he's brought it  to  Jack's Farm to Fork, in the Pink Shell Resort at the northern tip of Fort Myers Beach!  Chef David, an International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute)  alumnus,  has been chef at  both  Michelin-starred Daniel Boulud's  Café Boulud, and   three Michelin starred NYC's Jean-Georges.   


Chef  David brings an incredible dining experience  at reasonable price. If you look back over my 130+ reviews on my blog, I rarely rave about a restaurant. Well, I'm raving now!  Items range from a wallet friendly $6-8 for most of the appetizers, through most main courses in the $20's, to the outlier- $48 for one of the best cuts of beef you'll ever have. Summed up, you get to enjoy beautiful haute cuisine, a full service bar, reasonable price points and upscale casual dining  and understated atmosphere, all whilst overlooking  glorious sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.

Farm to fork dining is about delicious food that's usually organically farmed nearby, quickly transported to the restaurant, and  cooked to order. It is based on sustainable agriculture.  That means you'll savor the freshest fish that swim over from Fort Myers Beach's Trico Fish Company's ships,  and some incredible pork and beef from S. Florida's farmers. Edible flowers and multicolored carrots hail from Ohio's Chef's Garden; succulent vegetables amble in from N.  Fort Myers' Herban Gardens.


My dining partner and I arrived at the Pink Shell Resort at 7:00 pm, but were seduced and  delayed from immediately entering Jack's 2nd floor eyrie, by spending a few minutes enjoying the spectacular burnt orange and violet-layered sunset drifting over the Gulf's lazy waters, sugar-white sand beaches, and graceful palm trees.  Kids fly long tailed kites, seagulls dip and turn; all ages walk or joyfully run barefoot on the fine-grained sandy beach's broad width.  This beach's fine sugar-grained sand puts  many other slender-waisted beaches of coarser sand to shame! Well, that's my lateness excuse, and I'm sticking to it.


Upon entering Jack's from the outside balcony,  we were greeted by Jack's General Manager, Aldo Trevino. Noticing our sunset photo-taking from turtle- height to practically en pointe, he suggested a key table for its stunning view of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Tables are set far enough apart from each other. We could not hear individual words of our neighboring tables, and we certainly couldn't bump chairs with a neighboring table's chairs. This is a welcome, and rare open floor plan to experience. 

Our professional server, Daniel, made dining a pleasure with his knowledge of the dishes (which change weekly), his suggestions, and by anticipating our needs for sharing plates. This was clearly neither his first rodeo, nor ours. It made for one of my best dining experiences ever in the U.S.A ., let alone in SW Florida. Yes,  Chef David's cuisine, and the service level is that refreshingly wonderful.  

We were quickly offered a choice of waters and drinks, and gifted with a delectable foie gras amuse- bouche.
The micro-greens and fresh flower arrangement simple beauty, and the complexity of the quarter-sized foie gras bite truly stimulated curiosity and appetite alike.

The octopus a la plancha ($16) is accompanied by sliced Spanish chorizo, chickpeas, roasted red pepper and fingerling potatoes,  all on a bed of garlic ailoi. 
The tender, grilled octopus is a molluscan counterpart to a tender heart of palm-if I didn't tell you that octopus was the main actor, you'd not have guessed!  Highly Recommended.

The crisply braised heritage pork belly FKS Farms, Punta Gorda ($16) may steal your heart!
Lovingly sous vide cooked for two days, then briskly crisped before serving, chili-Sriracha  sauced, and poised over a contrasting, yet mild kimchi with pea tendrils and peanuts; it's richly flavorful,  and short on unnecessary fat.  Highly Recommended.

We took a break with a light, and more nuanced  blood orange & goat cheese salad ($12), with delicate strips of prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula, beets and fennel. It's as good as a sorbet for an intermezzo.


Prince Edward Island Mussels meunière ($14)  is a classic French moules preparation "in the style of the miller's wife." This name always struck me as odd;  why not  "in the fisheman's wife" style?  It's essentially mussels steamed with a dry white wine broth and butter the world over, with locally variable combinations of parsley, thyme, garlic, leek, bay leaf, lemon juice, cream and the mussel's own briny liquid.
The Normandy version  features apple cider or Calvados, of course! Chef David's version with plump PEI mussels, crème fraîche, white wine, thyme and other fine herbs with a side of crisply toasted French bread is perfect for dipping, as are the shells for scooping every last drop of the liquor from the bowl.  Recommended.

Beet salad a la Chefs Garden, Huron, OH ($12) is an excellent buy for its price and beauty,  with gold and red beet cubes, goat cheese mousse, pistachio vinaigrette, popcorn shoots and  chives. Pure eye candy to be savored. Highly Recommended.

You'll meet engagingly outgoing Chef Dave as he makes the rounds of the dining room. He'll share as much as you'd like to know about the Farm to Table concept, his incredible culinary background, or talk about nearly any subject culinarian.  Me thinks he channels Auguste Escoffier.

Grilled Heritage Pork  porterhouse from Circle C Farms (Felda, Fl)  ($32) may come with Anson Mills Sea Islands red peas and roasted butternut squash one night, or, as we enjoyed, yellow and purple cauliflower, whipped potatoes, Chef's Garden heirloom carrots, and a bowl of  pepper coulis.
I favor  my pork medium rare. This breed of pork is well worth ordering-the flavor is so very refreshing...I've not had this flavorful quality in years. Highly Recommended.


Grilled asparagus atop a pistachio and poblano pepper puree, topped with a deep fried farm-fresh egg ($6).   So much depends on spears of grilled bright green asparagus, glazed with pistachio-pepper puree, topped with a 63 degree panko-crusted, deep-fried  farm-fresh egg, beside the Chef Garden's flowers.
William Carlos Williams would have filled a red wheel barrow with  this treat, and so should you. 
When you savor a fork-full of luscious egg, earthy grilled asparagus and the pepper puree, you know you're dining with a master chef. Recommended.

Chef Rashty and his team took over this ballroom sized site nine weeks ago, formerly the spot for hotel guests' brunch.  It will be revamped over the next month or so. That's a bonus.  With lighting lowered to fine dining levels at twilight, it's just fine to my eyes, which  were centered on the sunset views and the beautiful plating of the dishes.  Night time's soft  overhead lamps' lighting brings forth  a different world that evokes Arabian nights. This is a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere, graced with fantastic views of the Gulf's beaches and the sunset.

Lobster risotto with Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice ($26) features one to 2 inch chunks of Maine lobster, mascarpone and Meyer lemon juice.
The classic Carolina rice makes for a superb risotto that's simultaneously creamy and properly a  little crunchy, so rich with flavor.  Highly Recommended.

Daniel graciously changed our silverware several times between courses, whether we heathens thought it was warranted or not.  Water glasses were silently topped off. White linen napkins were artfully folded if we left the table for sunset photos or to have a look around.  That's just a few marks of the classical fine service.

Are you a steak lover, willing to have the best? Order the Piedmontese  beef bone-in filet! Its $48 price point is comparable  to prices at the Capital Grille and other steakhouses. The difference is, this beef's taste exceeds that of  most steakhouses.
 My perfectly grilled filet came with a touch of classic au poivre sauce, whipped potatoes and  asparagus spears.  You may have  pureed parsnips on your visit.  Piedmontese beef's  flavor is in the leaner, healthier meat, compared to  Wagyu beef, where the flavor is both in the meat and the delectable fat.  Comparing the two is really apples and oranges; both breeds are oh-so-tender and delicious.  Highly Recommended.  

Desserts are the domain of a specially talented young woman, Nga, who speaks fluent English, French and Vietnamese. Trained in France, and recently from Palm Beach's Cafe Boulud,  her creations are a must have part of your meal. Recent choices are pistachio apricot tart, tart Tatin, and house-made salted caramel gelato- you are in for a treat! Who else creates brie and chocolate grilled cheese with brioche and strawberry Champagne sauce ($10)?

Creme brûlée ($12) is something I've had a few hundred times in my life, (and personally cooked a few times) and this one was one of the very best I've had.
The consistency is that of the finest custard; the flavor defines ambrosia. The brûléed sugar topping is perfectly crisp throughout.  Consistency and technique are key to turning out perfect ramekins. It starts with using farm fresh eggs. Try this version, and set your " creme brûlée meter" to a higher standard. Highly Recommended!

The flourless chocolate cake terrine is unlike any you've had.
This chocolate pyramid is far richer than any flourless dessert, with a superbly concentrated chocolate flavor and an unctuously dense texture. Topped with in house made  pistachio gelato and its cradling web of golden-brown spun sugar, it's Highly Recommended!


To sum up, we had a phenomenal meal and excellent service; a truly Michelin one star experience. Considering all the restaurants worldwide, that's a rare accolade, BTW.  At the end of our meal when we asked for the check, we learned that General Manager Aldo Trevino comped us as an unexpected  courtesy. My dining companion  and I are food writers-could our pointed questions have  alerted staff that we might not be hotel guests?   Our evening exceeded my high expectations; other diners expressed the same accolades. Not bad, for only being open 9 weeks! One couple off to the side were here for their third time in as many weeks.

      The dining experience is  fairly priced for the quality if you seek and appreciate dining's best. You can certainly pay a lot more, and get less quality elsewhere. If you are on a budget, then come for a birthday or anniversary. If you savor a fine dining experience at a very reasonable priced;, this is at the top of your Florida bucket list. I recommend reserving a table  before sunset for the optimal experience of watching  the sunset's pastels unfold and deepen through the broad windows.  The farm to fork food sourcing was a major attractant in my visiting. Chef David crafts elegant, yet hearty dishes from  fresh organic non-GMO local foods. It's impressive. Next visit, I'll try some of the different ceviches, shrimp and grits, grilled lamb, whole roasted snapper, and duck breast. 

Competition? NONE around for many, many miles.  The stunning sunset view is icing on this gem of a restaurant that ranks 5 stars on any restaurant reviewer's chart. Hat's off and a well earned Michelin star to Chef David Rashty!

Open Table users BONUS.  Instead of earning 100 points with a dinner, enjoy the special 1,000 point offer available 5-6 pm, and 8:30-9:30 pm.

Jack's Farm to Fork at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina,

275 Estero Boulevard, Fort Myers Beach, 239-463-8615

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