A few weeks back, Tim and I skipped town to celebrate our 5th year wedding anniversary. We bid farewell to the Pittsburgh snow and said hello to warm, Florida sand.
For the past couple of years, Tim has been summoned to participate in an annual orthopedic conference at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Work conference…in Florida? Um…sign me up! Anyway, he has enjoyed his time spent there so much that he decided that I too need to experience such a little slice of heaven. So we traded in all of our Marriott points for two glorious nights at the Ritz.
When we arrived to the hotel, we were greeted by one of Tim’s favorite Bellmen, Kevin. After catching up with him for a bit, we checked in with the ever-so-friendly, Annette. She poured us two glasses of chilled champagne, snapped a picture of us toasting, and handed over the keys to our tropical palace for the next 48 hours.
With anniversary champagne in hand, Kevin gave us the grandest of tours (well me at least) through the elegant hotel. Once he made sure that we were completely smitten with our room, he left us to take in the breathtaking sights. Here was the view from our balcony.
After we unpacked and settled in a bit, we decided to mosey on down to the Terrazza to indulge in a proper brunch. We requested to sit outside. The sun was shining and the tropical breeze was blowing; exactly my kind of dining atmosphere. After perusing the endless brunch options, I came back to the table with a plate piled high with mussels, shrimp, soft cheeses, and fresh fruit. I’m pretty sure Tim sampled every single item, for the blog of course.
After we got our fill, we decided to hit the sandy shore. Something magical happens when you combine the beach with a cold, flavorful brew. It’s like the world stopped for that very moment as we savored the malty suds and buried our feet deeper into the white sand. And yes, these cups definitely made it to Florida with us…
After a few hours of beach ecstasy, we decided to make it back up to the room to get ready for our dinner. As we made our way into our gorgeous room, we were greeted by a bucket of craft beer generously filled with Cigar City Brewing Co. offerings. I was beyond ecstatic to finally sample these native brews. What a perfect and most thoughtful surprise for these out of town craft beer fans.
After we savored our Floridian craft brews, we made our way down to the open air restaurant, Gumbo Limbo. We sat at the bar so we could pick the bartenders brains about their crafty libations. Desiree, our wonderful bartender for the evening, made us some INSANELY delicious drinks. She concocted this masterpiece (see below) after a brief explanation of flavors that I love and loathe. I admit, I have absolutely no idea what the name of this drink was or even what went into it. But after one sip, I didn’t care to know because right then and there, I knew we were in very good hands.
After our cocktails, we indulged in their fresh red snapper ceviche. This tasty fish is gently tossed in a coconut-lemongrass reduction, accompanied by charred corn, sweet potatoes, and cilantro. To. Die. For.
For the entrée portion, I ordered the Grilled Wagyu Churrasco with Peruvian mashed potatoes, asparagus, braised cipollini onions, sun-dried tomatoes, with a chimichurri and port wine sauce. This picture does not even come close to capturing how divine this meal was. We are talking fireworks, the whole nine-yards, ultimate foodgasm status right here.
Dinner took me longer than normal. I think a part of me never wanted the moment to end. The drinks, the food, the scenery, the company, was all too perfect. It was as if all my day-to-day stresses had became nonexistent and this was my new reality, even if it was just for a brief moment in time.
After we finished our meal and bid farewell to our new friends, we turned in for the night. What a beautiful, refreshing day.
We woke up as the sun did. Waking up early seems so much more enticing while on vacation. I guess it’s just because we had no plans and absolutely nothing to accomplish all day but relax, enjoy tasty cuisines, and drink the finest libations south of the Mason-Dixon line. No snooze button required for days like these..
We started off the day by going for a walk and grabbing a quick bite to eat. Then we headed down to the pool to kick off another day in paradise. We made a quick detour to the beach bar to grab a few cold ones for our upcoming session of relaxing and basking in the warm Florida sun.
While ordering up some of our favorite craft brews, we discovered something intriguing about the Ritz-Carlton’s tap system. It fills from the bottom! This great feat is accomplished by magnets. The bar tender places the special cup on top of the nozzles. The nozzle pushes the circular magnet up and allows the beer to flow in NINE times faster than the traditional draft pour. Once the cup is filled, the glass is taken off and the circular magnet snaps back to the donut-shape strip magnet at the bottom of the cup. Eureka! A cold one with the perfect head Every.Single.Time. I’m not going to divulge how many beers we ordered just to witness this…
After we got our sun fix, we went back up to the room to grab a snack and get ready for the night. As we walked through the door, we were greeted by this beautiful display of plump chocolate covered strawberries and chilled champagne. I had to pinch myself. Was this real life or did I just doze off at the beach and dream this up? Nope, this was real life. And I was in heaven.
After savoring each and every perfectly ripened strawberry, we ordered a small plate for lunch. We ordered the chicken quesadilla with peppers and onions. It included spices like achiote and annoto, which were deliciously exotic and bright. The chicken was marinated in a citrus blend with oregano. Hands down it was the most divine quesadilla I’ve ever laid lips on.
We took our time getting ready for the evening. We enjoyed our food and drinks as we watched the waves move up and down the Gulf. We toasted to many things that afternoon, but mostly to the thoughtful staff who took the extra time to make this stay completely unforgettable.
We saved the best for last and planned our final meal at the exquisite Sushi Bar, DUSK. We requested to sit at the bar right across from the chef’s work station, so we could witness a true culinary performance.
After making the painstaking decision on what rolls to order (EVERYTHING sounded so amazing) we chose the Louisiana Roll, Volcano Roll, and Red Dragon Roll. The Louisiana Roll (left) featured spicy tuna, grilled pineapple on the inside and on the outside had tuna tataki, roasted garlic, cilantro, and a spicy sauce. The Volcano Roll (middle) included spicy tuna, warm crab, lava sauce, and tobiko (Flying Fish Roe). The Red Dragon Roll (right) showcased shrimp tempura and cucumber on the inside and was adorned with eel, avocado, and sweet potatoes on the outside. Be still my beating heart.
We watched in awe as the chefs moved in complete unison while preparing these offerings. It was a perfectly orchestrated culinary dance that clearly took many, many years to master. The Chef De Cuisine, Harunobu Furuta, along with Chef Rogelio Alejandre prepared our rolls that evening. Prior to joining the Naples resort, Chef Furuta was Chef de Partie at The Ritz-Carlton in Okinawa, Japan. So basically, we were eating some of the best sushi you can find in the States. Not one second went by that I didn’t feel like the luckiest eater in the whole wide world. Perfection seems like an understatement for this dining experience.
But the fun didn’t stop there. We ended up ordering one last roll after our sever Matt’s glowing recommendation. He convinced us to try the Latino Roll. Boy was he ever right. It featured salmon, tuna, yellowtail, cucumber, avocado, jalapeno, cilantro, and ponzu sauce. A-Maz-Ing. So fresh. So perfect.
We left DUSK with our bellies full and our spirits fuller. We experienced such an exquisite expression of food, it left me speechless. The detail, precision, training, and dedication that go into becoming a world class sushi chef is staggering. Mind blowing, really. I’ll never forget that meal.
As we walked back to our room, I thought about how this quick two-day stay seemed like much more. I was completely rested, pampered, and most importantly inspired because of our stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Every meal was pure culinary perfection, and the drinks were second to none. And I can honestly say that we really enjoyed hanging out with the waitstaff. They took the time to get to know us and they were genuinely as excited about good food as we are. As we walked into our room for our last night, we were greeted by this heartwarming display…..
It’s these types of beautiful gestures that turn even the shortest stays into the most unforgettable ones. These two days of luxury will be forever imprinted in my memory. The food, the drinks, the company, and the warming sun was just what the doctor ordered for us Pittsburghers. And now you know exactly where to find us on our 10th year wedding anniversary. Cheers!
**A most heartfelt thank you to Veronica, Gabrielle, Kevin (KP), Annette, Desiree, Matt, Brian, and everyone else who made this trip so incredible. I couldn’t have dreamed up such a perfect stay. Thank you for the most epic two days ever!**
Cheers N’at Devon and Tim