Vacation - Sun, Sand, Food, Fun

There's no place like home.  But the beach in southwest Florida isn't exactly a hardship.

We had the best weather we've probably ever had in 40 years of going there.  It was in the upper 80s and sunny every single day!  We spend most of our time in the pool or at the beach, with a bit on the golf course to round things out.  I squeezed in the teensiest bit of shopping, of course.  Eric (that's Mister Sassy) and I had a couple of date nights as well.

Plenty of fresh, local seafood was consumed.  My favorites down there are gulf shrimp and grouper.  And I had both, more than once!  There are oodles of snazzy restaurants with high prices and lots of things drizzled on enormous plates.  I'm not a fan of that trend, but the food on those plates can be awfully tasty, so I put up with the pretentious presentation.

Probably the best meal we had was at a local beach dive called Doc's Beach House.  It is, duh, right on the water in Bonita Beach.  Their beach is great, with plenty of rentals and a usually rousing game of beach volleyball going.  We rented a kayak one day and Eric took the kids out in turns for some waves.  I got a solo turn.

Anyway, the food!  Our kids like the burgers or the fried seafood basket (grouper, shrimp, clams, scallops), but Eric and I split the broiled grouper plate.  Oh me oh my, that was the best, freshest fish I have ever tasted!  We chose the fruit salad and green salad as our sides (way too healthy), and they were fresh and tasty, too, but the FISH.  Two enormous pieces, plenty for two people.  Lightly seasoned, cooked just done and perfectly moist, and did we ever devour that plate of food.  Beer of choice, of course, is Land Shark Lager (thank you, Jimmy Buffett).  Not a bad deal for two adults to share and be happy with a $15 lunch.  If you ever get to Bonita Beach, go to Doc's - it has a great vibe, great food, reportedly great pizza, and they provide a fun place for sunset watchers.

(Cue up Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffett singing "Knee Deep")

On a date night, we went to Bice (pronounced bee-chay), a rather upscale Italian place in Naples.  Sat outside on a warm Florida night and shared a delicious meal with some new friends.  Naples is really fun on Thursday nights - live music up and down 5th Avenue, lots of people, beautiful cars, lights in all the palm trees, every restaurant and bar wide open and full of people enjoying the night.  I love to see music on the sidewalk and people dancing right there.  Especially all the older folks that live down there.

At Bice, the meal was special.  The bread they brought out was a savory olive bread, and it was served with a dish of three different dip-spread options:  butter (can't go wrong), olive oil and balsamic (good), and an unusual olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs and creme fraiche combination.  THAT was our favorite!  Eric and I shared (we share a lot of things, get to try more that way) the Ahi Tuna Tartar appetizer.  Yep, big plate, drizzled with an Asian ginger-soy reduction, and a lovely round stack of chopped raw ahi tuna, avocado, fresh tomato and red onion, garnished with large leaves of basil.  That was amazing.  We like to try wines, so he had a pinot grigio and I had a sauvignon blanc (from Chile!) and we swapped tastes.  Both were delicious.

Then we shared a spicy "fra diavolo" linguine and seafood.  So good, but I'd have liked it a bit spicier.  I'm not complaining, though - scallops, shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, and grouper in a light, fresh tomato sauce.  I get twitchy when a restaurant offers parmesan cheese with seafood pasta, and thankfully Bice is not one of those places.  Call me a snob, but cheese and seafood don't belong together in pasta.  Unless it's lobster mac-and-cheese, but that's another story.  We shared a chianti and a pinot noir and they were both excellent.

Our dinner companions wanted dessert, so we all dove into the profiteroles.  A very fancy word for cream puffs, right?  These were both good and disappointing.  The filling of marscapone cream was divine, but the puffs themselves were mushy, almost like they'd been nuked to warm up.  Maybe they warmed the chocolate sauce too much and that deflated the puffs, I don't know.  So, good flavor, not so good texture.  Oh, well.  Who's going to complain much about chocolate, right?  Even on another huge plate with more drizzles ;)

On our last night there, we went to the club where my parents live and dined deeply at the seafood buffet.  I liked the shrimp-scallop-mussels-crab scampi cooked to order and served on a rice-orzo pilaf.  The crab-stuffed cod was good, too, but I sure wouldn't have chosen cod as the fish for that dish.  The crab and corn chowder was by far the best item on the list - watch for a re-creation of that recipe coming soon to a sassy blog near you.

We all got tan, the kids had a ball, we saw tons of sea life, body-surfed some great waves, and enjoyed a nice week with my parents.  It's like going home, I know that area so well. 

Now, if I can just survive re-entry . . .