Cloudy at Sunshine Cafe Fort Myers

The fact that the parking lot was crowded on a Wednesday night in September at Sunshine Cafe in Fort Myers should have been a good indicator.

Turns out a Living Social coupon had published that very day. And evidently the tiny dining room staff was unprepared.

Our group of four friends wasn’t bothered to have to wait for service as long as our server kept our drinks fresh. Which happened most of the time.

We were forgiving. Up to a point. After we indicated we were finished with our dinners and he cleared everyone’s plate but mine – through another round of drinks – and then later disappeared for a quarter of an hour, our generosity of spirit waned.

Perhaps he thought because I had only eaten one of the two cornmeal-crusted soft-shell crabs that came on the night’s special, that I really didn’t mean I was finished.

The crab that made us crabby.

Perhaps he forgot that when I asked for tartar sauce, he offered remoulade that never came. The overly fishy-tasting crabs were drizzled with a sweet Asian chili sauce that did nothing to complement them. The remoulade would have rescued them I thought, but alas I’ll never know.

My friend’s filet mignon was cooked au point but the demi glaze was thickened with cornstarch rather than reduction.

One more gripe before onto the good news: a Madras one of us ordered was off – some kind of odd coconut flavor in there.

So the next time I will go for the paella, which was flavorful and multi-layered with sausage, chicken, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and an authentic Latin tomato sauce.  A ray of sunshine.

Our fourth dish, the sesame-crusted salmon, succeeded fairly well. The veggies crowded on the plates weren’t bad either, especially the red cabbage.

To be fair, I’ve dined here several times before, so possibly the Living Social-inspired crowd created a fluke. Hopefully my next visit will warrant a sunnier weather report.

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Salt-Crusted Crayton Cove

Naples’ historic community a local secret

Where boat docks constitute the heart of a community, you are bound to find three qualities that conspire in creating a destination of depth and specific energy: seafood, artists, and storytellers.

The story told of Crayton Cove in Naples begins in the early 1900s as intrepid boatmen and pioneers discovered and settled this final Florida outpost.

Reaching from beach to bay, 12th Avenue South, back then known as Pier Street, was the town’s main thoroughfare connecting the Naples Pier with the docks at Back Bay.

Later renamed for early developer E.W. “Ed” Crayton, the Back Bay community attracted a lively mix of commercial fishermen, workers building the Tamiami Trail, and business folk who started an inn, a grocery store, and Naples’ first pharmacy.

Today, despite Crayton Cove’s deep roots and home to City Dock, the neighborhood has retreated into something of a hidden Naples secret.

“No one knows we’re here,” Nora Butler, a design artist formerly from the Sanibel Island-Fort Myers area, told me. “Even the people who live in Naples don’t know about Crayton Cove.”

Although that’s how John and Joann, snowbirds from Illinois we met at the Cove Inn chickee bar, like it, the dozen or so galleries, restaurants, and shops that today make up the tight little community have banded together in a Discover Crayton Cove movement to heighten awareness of “the original Old Naples.”  Read more of this post

Yanos in Downtown Fort Myers

Marilyn, moderne, and mmmm

Downtown Fort Myers keeps getting tastier. Case in point: Yanos.

Simple and sleekly decorated with bright walls and Warholesque Marilyn Monroes, its idea of cuisine measures equally newfangled and classy.

Mushroom ravioli with Gorgonzola cream

For lunch or a dinner appetizer, you can’t miss with the brilliant mushroom ravioli and Gorgonzola cream I sampled recently.

A well-researched wine list complements such other triumphs as Bloody Mary gazpacho, smoked salmon and boursin croissant, beer & BBQ ribs, signature mac & cheese with artichokes and triple cheese cream, miso-glazed Atlantic salmon with citrus-ginger beurre blanc, and classic tiramisu.

2262 First St., Fort Myers; 239-332-7797.

What’s SUP? Stand Up Paddleboarding

Florida-based YOLO has changed the face and pace of water sports.

Tom Losee calls it’s a “lightbulb moment.” He, a former landscape construction contractor, and his entrepreneurial partner Jeff Archer, a fitness clothing industry veteran, had realized six years ago that it was time to get into the promising-to-be competitive stand-up paddling (SUP) market. But what to name their company?

Tom Losee

“You Only Live Once” described both their early SUP moments and the risk of a new venture. And thus YOLO was born in the Florida Panhandle town of Santa Rosa Beach.

Definitely a better name than IGTI. That’s what I was thinking on a recent trip to Santa Rosa’s South Walton County: I Gotta Try It. Of course by then I’d heard a lot about YOLO, thanks to YOLO Watersports & Jim’s Rentals on Captiva Island.  Read more of this post

Agave Sneak Preview

Naples newest dining splash

Just back from a media tasting at Agave Southwestern Grill, which celebrates its grand opening tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 16) in North Naples at 2390 Vanderbilt Beach Rd.

With the tagline “Tequila Inspired. Real Wood Fired,” it puts a new, fresh spin on Tex-Mex with broad appeal and new interpretations.

Notice the ceviche station (be still my heart!) at the entrance. This nod to Peruvian cuisine demonstrates the restaurant’s breadth with four different varieties.  I recommend the vieiras y snapper tostone – a mashed plantain patty topped with marinated scallop and snapper, roasted corn relish, and a pickled red onion ring – layer upon layer of flavor.

Some guacamole, pardner?

Guac is made tableside – not especially a new concept, but I did unexpectedly love the bacon option.

We also tasted black bean soup with cumin crema and tomato-onion relish, brisket sliders with coffee-infused barbecue sauce and jicama slaw, rock shrimp quesadillas with tomatillo-jalapeno salsa, and four big-finish desserts. My sweet pick? Chocolate chile bread pudding – a

Chocolate chile bread pudding.

creamy confection of sweet bread, chocolate custard, cinnamon, and bourbon sauce with a tiny tingly backburn of chile pepper.

What I will try when I return (which I will!): grouper en escabeche (which traditionally means lightly pickled), prickly pear cactus and grilled mango salad, something/anything mole, and bacon-wrapped bison striploin with smoked jalapeno-cheddar mashed potatoes.

Tower o' Tequila

Oh and about that tequila inspiration, let me just tell you two things: 308 types of tequilas and mescals, and try the strawberry basil margarita.

239-598-3473, agavenaples.com