Mereday’s boosts Naples’ food rep

Shrimp amusee.

Shrimp amusee.

PORKBELLY_1

Pork belly etude.

First there was Conde Nast Traveler magazine: It recently named Naples as #17 its 2014 Top American  Cities for Foodies list. It mentioned Mereday’s Fine Dining by name in the write-up.

Then just last week Florida Trend magazine’s food writer, Chris Sherman, devoted the restaurant pages entirely to Naples’ boom as a restaurant destination. Again, the Mereday’s name popped up.

“Mereday’s Fine Dining is a multi-course tour of contemporary luxury,” he writes.

Coincidence? Not in my Naples foodie lexicon.

I’m just off another dining experience at the capable hands of Charles Mereday, and I’m still swooning.

The talented young chef boasts experience from Philly to the U.S. Virgin Islands and France. Growing up in North Carolina brings yet another influence on his global cuisine at Mereday’s, which opened harborside at Naples Bay Resort in July 2013.

In March 2014, Mereday opened Alto Live Jazz Kitchen – which Sherman also mentions in glowing terms (“sax-y food”) – nearby in Bayfront Naples. Conjuring it up from his Zanzibar Blue club kitchen days in Philadelphia, he has created a hot spot for cuisine and great live jazz and other musicians.

Back at Mereday’s, I am constantly delighted with every bite I take while I watch Chef Mereday work his magic in his exhibit kitchen. A quiet, calm, anti-chef-acting man, he makes appearances at the table to humbly hear high praise.

I couldn’t help gushing about a simple amusée he sent to our table on Friday. Gulf shrimp languishing in long-simmered shrimp stock tasted of the briny clean and simple.

Famous for his foie gras creations, Chef served that night on his ever-changing menu a foie gras torchon grape mostarda combination that made me groan in delight. I’m not exaggerating. The flavors and textures conspired for something that truly transcended the word “food.”

Braised pork belly with crisped edging,  a beautiful swirl of butternut squash puree, a small nest of truffle-laced greens, a single spear of white asparagus, and one porcini mushroom in its own sauce: It was poetic in its sentimentality and creativity.

We sampled shelled mussels in Indian Korma curry and coconut milk, stuffed quail with dried cranberry and pancetta, triple tail with blistered tomato vinaigrette and sauce vierge, and filet of beef in an exquisite veal jus with potato puree. Each bite transporting.

Carrot cake, mocha pots de cream with flourless chocolate cake and white chocolate ice cream, and sticky toffee pudding with brown butter ice cream finished the meal and finished us for anything but Charles Mereday’s brand of detailed, tightly  interlaced flavor profiles.

Mereday’s opens daily for dinner. Stop first in the bar for a well-crafted classic cocktail. Then move seamlessly to the contemporary dining space that surrounds it in sleek style. (Or you can choose al fresco dining with a marina view.)

The restaurant prices its meals by number of courses, starting with $55 for two courses plus dessert ($85 with wine pairings included) up to four courses plus dessert at $95 and $145.

Another secret: To sample Chef Mereday’s genius without investing in a multi-coursed meal, ask the bartender to see the evening’s bar menu selections. But beware, one bite leads to utter, desperate dependence on this level of culinary religion.

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