Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Local, Naples, Florida

Gulfcoast Chowder with Snapper and Grouper
Today, my husband had the very good fortune to be invited to play a round of golf with Coach Brian Craig and the men of the University of Kentucky Golf Team.  So, that meant that the kids and I were off to figure out lunch plans for ourselves.  Now, some might be feeling sorry for me right now, having to conjure up lunch plans to satisfy the likes of a 13 year-old boy and an 8-going-on-20 year-old girl.  But, lucky for me, my kids are smart and savvy eaters.  We enjoy lunch dates, even without Dad around, because that means that we can eat seafood to our hearts' content.  My hubby grew up right on the Indian River and apparently years of eating seafood as a youth have turned him off for the rest of his life.  Sad for the kids and I because we LOVE seafood.  So, today, while Dad was away having fun, we turned our bad luck into a stroke of good luck and headed toward one of our staple seafood restaurants in town.

We had intended to spend the early afternoon lunching outdoors at Steamers ... that was until I pulled into my parking space and remembered the new farm-to-table restaurant just next door.  For some months now, I've heard a simmering buzz about the newly opened The Local, a restaurant focused on sourcing their ingredients entirely from local sources.  Apart from featuring locally grown vegetables, The Local also prides itself on being a "Sea-to-Table" restaurant by buying seafood from the local fishermen who pull in their catch from our Gulfcoast waters.  As much as I enjoy nice fried oysters at Steamers, this new place I had to try.  With seafood on my mind, I couldn't resist convincing the kids to give it a try.

Because today was a rather cool but sunny day, we chose to sit outside.  But even as nice as the weather was, the warmth of the Gulfcoast Chowder was calling to me.  I ordered a cup for myself, knowing of course that I would be prompted to share.  The Chowder came out promptly in a clean white cup, piping hot and subtlety scented with the aroma of seafood.  Surprise #1:  This cream-based chowder featured a nice seafood broth.  Often, I find chowders so chock full of potatoes and starchy that classifying them in the soup category seems rather blasphemous.  Not so here.  This chowder is broth and fish, with hints of corn, celery and possibly yellow pepper.  Perhaps even a touch of white wine.  If there was potato in there, it was certainly not obvious - and for me that is fine.  Because what I want most from a chowder is the fish which brings me to ... Surprise #2:  Fish, fish and more fish.  Gulfcoast Chowder is made with snapper and grouper, and a lot of it.  In every single bite.  And I LOVE that, especially because I shared the chowder with the children who would otherwise have monopolized the seafood in my soup.  Nothing annoys me more than doling out spoonfuls to the kids hungry mouths to find me left with nothing but potatoes and celery.  But I had no need to fear at the Local today.  Not one of us was gypped of a bite of delicate fish!  When lunching with the kids sans Dad, I will definitely order this again!

Gulfcoast Shrimp & Grits.  Can you spot the bacon in this dish?


For lunch, I ordered something unusual for me, Gulfcoast Shrimp & Grits.  And now those who know me are bewildered about the grits.  Yep, I'm not a fan of grits.  Polenta I can do but grits, not so much. Why order it then?  Well, I had to think fast on my feet; the kids hadn't given me a lot of time to peruse the menu.  It was right there on the special board and frankly, I like to give the new restaurants I try a bit of an uphill climb when it comes to challenging my discerning palate.  I know, it's not fair, but as my husband likes to say "Life isn't fair."  Thankfully, I do a lot of homework about the new places I try so that I am not too often sorely disappointed.  Not everyone makes the mark, but not everyone crashes in flames.  And happily I can say that I enjoyed my grits today.   Not overly grainy, today's grits were texturally more smooth than I'd had before.   A plus for someone like me.  There was a little more on my plate that I would have wanted, but that was fine.  I ate all but a couple of spoonfuls.

The buttery smooth grits were a good complement to the Gulfcoast shrimp.  If my taste buds are qualified to do so, I can say that these shrimp were indeed very fresh.  It's either that or my mind thinks that they just came from the open waters.  Either way, they were nicely done, sautéed with halved cherry tomatoes.  Nestled nicely in the grits, dotting the spaces between the shrimp, were nice bits of diced fresh bacon hidden in sautéed tomato and chopped green onion.  So well diced and not visually obvious to the eye, biting into the bits of bacon in a spoonful was like opening a surprise gift, one so good that I had find and save the next one for my final bite.  My only want at the end of the dish was just for a touch of acid to freshen my palate.  If I could drink wine, a nice white zinfandel would have done just nicely.  (Gotta remember to bring the antihistamines next time, darn wine allergy!)

How much I spent:  $$.  Today's lunch for 3, with soft drinks and iced tea, cost $67 with tip.  Per person it doesn't soon too bad but it is rather pricey for lunch when you realize that the other diners beside myself were two kids.  The Local has a kids menu but with entrees like shrimp and fresh catch of the day, the prices are bound to be higher than that for typical kids fare.

My overall rating:  4 spoons.  That chowder had me with the fish.  And I'm a sucker for any farm/sea to table/fork restaurant.  You all should know that by now.



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