Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Evening at The Escalante

Season is almost over, meaning Southwest Floridians will soon reclaim possession of the roads and restaurants. In the midst of the winter chaos I was introduced to a gem, one that I have driven by a million times but never took the time to explore; The Escalante Hotel on the corner of 3rd Street South and 5th Avenue South in Naples.

Fashioned after the Brazilian Court in Palm Beach, this boutique hotel is the former Beach Comber, an historic property dating back to the early 1950's.

Hotelier Mary Brandt has made a number of changes since taking over, converting the high-rise part of the hotel into condos, keeping only those chic suites with private patios surrounding the pool for guests. She has also added fitness classes and yoga on the pool deck and the beach, as well as an organic garden, growing produce and herbs for the restaurant.

About the restaurant, Veranda E, Brandt recruited innovative California chef Michael Kang to help revamp the kitchen and menu. The restaurant is delightfully al fresco; the poolside trees strewn with lights for a magical setting.

Serving fish flown in from Hawaii and organic meats from North Carolina, among other specialties, the energetic Chef Kang and his staff use combinations and ingredients that 'foodies' will go mad over. The concept of each dish is so simple, it is prepared with the idea of creating that elusive, perfect bite. If you are adventurous and want an even bigger treat, don't order off the menu. Instead let the chef and the expert kitchen staff prepare something special for you. Just tell them your wishes and how many dishes; we had eight.

First up was a small portion of curry rock shrimp and scallops that I want to eat full size, for a poolside luncheon with a cold glass of viognier.

Foie Gras A La Mode
The most decadent dish came next; foie gras a la mode. The fatty meat was perfectly crisp on the outside, surrounded by a mind blowing mix of flavors including white peach, sesame, teriyaki and an aged  balsamic reduction. While this flavor combo might seem a bit outrageous, remember the concept of a the perfect bite? A little of everything all at once worked to the point that I didn't know how I could go on eating, but I managed.

Carpacio of squid
The carpacio squid was almost too pretty to eat and once again the flavors were amazing. One of my favorite Asian dishes is anything Kung Pao and at Escalante, chef expertly used calamari steaks for the protein; tender and flavorful.

Asian Pear and Humboldt Fog Cheese salad
Next dish was part salad, part cheese course with a generous slice of Humboldt Fog. Asian pear, organic greens, walnut vinaigrette and lavender honey rounded out this mouthwatering course.
Crispy, whole snapper
Chef Kang approaches food like architecture, with dimension and typically plated in a vertical fashion. The crispy snapper was a perfect example. We had a fresh, whole yellowtail that was split in the middle then prepared in a ceviche-style before being flash fried. It is one of the most popular and most impressive dishes on the menu. Some guests even share it as an appetizer.

We also had wild tiger prawns from Nigeria in a sake sauce and the most tender dry aged, bone-in ribeye with porcini hoisin sauce, a killer combination of east meets west. This is sadly when the white flag of foodie surrender was raised. So naturally a dessert course was brought out, just to make it official.

You might not be able to pronounce all of the ingredients used in the dishes at Veranda E but you won't care, your taste buds will be tickled in ways you will dream about when you go home.

If you have a special event or wedding in the future, give The Escalante a look. This historic hideaway has charm, pays attention to detail and has a restaurant that will hold you hostage with amazing meals during your stay.

Note: Dinner prices range from $14 to $55
ginab2u's Hotel Escalante album on Photobucket

ginab2u's Hotel Escalante album on Photobucket

1 comment:

  1. :) Another great getaway! Coming from you :) Perfect!