Links to My Published Foodie Articles

A pupu platter of some of my tastiest work:


Where to Find Pink Shrimp & Striped Mullet,

10 Amazing Chef’s Tables You Should Know About, USA TODAY

Naples Illustrated’s 2017 Dining Awards, Naples Illustrated

Best Naples’ Restaurants for Fresh-from-the-Sea Catches, USA TODAY

Nassau’s Best Restaurants, USA TODAY

Pink Gold Rush documentary, WGCU-TV

Pink Gold in Fort Myers Beach,

Shea’s at Lansdowne Street brings a little Boston to Naples, Naples Daily News

Three60 Restaurant in Naples, USA TODAY

Iceland’s Crazy Culinary Traditions, USA TODAY

From Farm to Table in Southwest Florida,

Filling Up on Sushi at ‘Tween Waters Inn,


A Rosy Morning at Rosy Tomorrows

My cauliflower had a first name: Veronica. More importantly, it had a delicious nutty, slightly garlicky flavor after I roasted it with a drizzle of olive oil and grind of sea salt and pepper. Veronica cauliflower, also known by some as Romanesco cauliflower or broccoli, was one of the first-time food encounters I experienced Wednesday during Market Day at Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm in North Fort Myers.

The gate to Rosy Tomorrows' Old South grounds

The gate to Rosy Tomorrows’ Old South grounds

I tasted the tiny yellow flower of a Mexican mint plant (a.k.a. Mexican mint marigold), which tasted much more like anise than mint. And a marble-sized Everglades tomato: It burst like a flavor capsule in my mouth. I also brought home a pretty box of tiny, assorted sweet peppers that added a delightful crunch to my salad. And a loaf of rustic olive-rosemary bread.

I met “Rosy” herself at Market Day, which happens every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the farm is open to the public. Rose O’Dell King started making the local news several years ago as the founder and first president of Slow Food Southwest Florida and a proponent for wholesome, non-toxic, and humane animal and garden products.

As a French Culinary Institute trained chef, certified sommelier, and former sheep farmer, Rose knows her way around a farm. She found 100-plus lovely acres in North Fort Myers that suited her needs and set out to produce food organically, holistically, sustainably, humanely, and as close to nature as possible.

She raises rare, slow-growing, heritage breeds of livestock known for their adaptability to Florida and their pedigree of good taste: 100 percent grass-fed Longhorn cows, pastured Red Wattle pigs and Dominque, Australorp, and Silver Laced Wyandotte chickens. Naturally, they are hormone and steroid free. I did not buy any meat this week – that you must order ahead as much of Rosy Tomorrows’ inventory is grabbed by fine local restaurants.

Assorted mini-bells from Rosy Tomorrows

Assorted mini-bells from Rosy Tomorrows

Tentatively in early May, the farm will celebrate the opening of a new barn, where Market Day will take place in the future. During its building, Rose suspended serving food on Market Day, but that will reconvene, beginning with a continental breakfast of fresh goodies at the grand opening, and such offerings as Rosy Tomorrows’ signature basil lemonade, market salad, and sweet and savory hand pies on Wednesdays. Check online for details.

A new chef has joined the staff ; meet her and manager Matt DeuxHerst, head gardener Kelsey Costa, their adorable tow-head daughter Ila, and able assistant Bekah. The staff are extremely knowledgeable about their wares and how to prepare them. Thanks, Kelsey and Bekah, for the Veronica cauliflower tips!

Mereday’s boosts Naples’ food rep

Shrimp amusee.

Shrimp amusee.


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.

Leaking Sea Salt’s Leek Soup Recipe

Photo shoot at Sea Salt for Chef Fabrizio's cookbook with Vanessa Rogers

Photo shoot at Sea Salt for Chef Fabrizio’s cookbook with Vanessa Rogers

The concept for Sea Salt, Naples’ top culinary adventure, came to Venetian-born Chef Fabrizio Aielli in a dream, he tells me. About to make a transition from success story after success story in Washington, D.C., he awoke one night thinking – “the sea, the salt – it’s perfect for a Naples restaurant!”

He also told me, over the past five months I’ve been researching, testing, and writing his first-ever cookbook: “Every time I make a recipe I take a little trip in my mind.” Gotta love this guy’s creative process (he listens to Pink Floyd or opera for inspiration).

With recipes such as Kumamoto Oysters in a Foggy Day in Venice, Caesar gelato with tomato caviar, watermelon gazpacho with arugula sorbet, and saffron taglierini carbonara made with sea urchins instead of cured pork … you’re bound to want to take that little trip with him.

Working on the cookbook has been its own adventure. Every recipe has a story… and a twist. His mission with the book is to make readers feel at ease in the kitchen.

“I cook by touch and smell and taste,” he says. “In your own kitchen, you should not be intimidated; you should develop your own rhythm and senses.

“Just cook with a glass of wine and a smile on your face. Everything tastes much better.”

With that advice in mind, I tested his leek and potato soup with crème fraiche today. Per his advice, I followed his technique, but made some of my own rhythm. His calls for fried quail eggs and caviar. I loved it in its more rustic, simple form.

Serves 6.

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced

8 leeks, white stalks washed and diced

4 ounces prosciutto from hock or side cut, whole (I substituted a couple of thick slices of applewood bacon that I had on hand)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oilleeksoup

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

5 5-inch sprigs thyme

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

6 quarts house-made chicken stock

1 cup crème fraîche

1 tablespoon chopped chives


In a large stock pot combine potatoes, leeks, prosciutto, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Cut a 4-inch square of cheesecloth and wrap thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns in it, creating a pouch. Use kitchen string to secure at top and add to pot with chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook on medium-high heat for about 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Remove and discard cheesecloth pouch and prosciutto (or bacon). Allow soup to cool somewhat, then blend in a blender until smooth. Return soup to stock pot and stir in crème fraiche. Bring back to a simmer and heat for 5 minutes. Serve in bowls; sprinkle chives on top.


The New Doc Ford’s


Bar scene at the new Doc Ford’s Captiva.

The third and newest Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille has debuted on Captiva Island outside of South Seas Island Resort entrance. It occupies the former Holy Smoke Heavenly Barbecue with seating for more than 300 people.

The menu pretty much mirrors those at Doc Ford’s original Sanibel location and the one on Fort Myers Beach. Like the first two restaurants, the third serves tropical cuisine and cocktails inspired by the Doc Ford series of murder mysteries by New York Times bestselling novelist and Sanibel resident Randy Wayne White.

Recently, owners Marty and Brenda Harrity shared recipes for two of my favorite Doc Ford dishes – Quinoa Veggie Salad and Yucatan Shrimp. Below are my home-kitchen adaptations.

The passionfruit vinaigrette makes the quinoa dish bright and addictive.

The Yucatan shrimp also rates highly with the New York Times, which wrote of it: “you could eat this meal tonight in Des Moines or Brooklyn, in Paris or Jakarta, and imagine yourself on a beach staring south, the moment holding perfect as a soap bubble that might never pop.” I think my friends who last shared it with me in Minnesota would agree.


4  tablespoons unsalted  butter

Yucatan shrimp from my kitchen

Yucatan shrimp from my kitchen

1  large clove garlic, mincedJuice of two large limes

1  tablespoon sambal oelek

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1  pound large, fresh, shell-on shrimp

1  teaspoon jalapeño, seeded and chopped

2  tablespoons chopped cilantro.

In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.

Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter to saucepan. When it melts, stir in the lime juice, sambal, salt, and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp, cover and remove from heat; cook for 2-3 minutes or until they are just firm and pink. Do not overcook. Drain into a colander and shake over the sink to remove excess moisture.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp and chili sauce. Add jalapeño, sprinkle with cilantro, and toss again. Serves 4, messily.


2 cups each white and red quinoa, cooked according to package directions

1/2 cup brunoise-diced zucchini

Quinoa Salad. Pretty. Delicious.

Quinoa Salad. Pretty. Delicious.

1/2 cup brunoise-diced yellow squash

1/2 cup brunoise-diced carrot (peeled)

1 cup passionfruit vinaigrettte (recipe below)


1/2 cup passionfruit puree

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup white balsamic

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (1 large)

2 tablespoons diced garlic

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients except olive oil, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil to emulsify. Season. Mix together with salad ingredients and refrigerate before serving.