Members of the media gathered on a warm autumn day on the well-scaped grounds of Rabbit Run Farm, a hydroponic Buckingham nursery, to hear all about the Lee Country Convention Bureau's (www.fortmyers-sanibel.com) latest project that will help our local economy while boosting tourism.
The group's inaugural Restaurant Week 2012 will expand over the course of 11 days in more than 30 restaurants spread throughout Lee County, offering guests a unique one-on-one experience with some of the best and most highly acclaimed chefs and restauranteurs in the industry.
Tamara Pigott, executive director of the VCB, welcomes guests to the kick-off media celebration.
Members of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau gather with establishment participants, owners and chefs of the inaugural Restaurant Week, during a recent media seminar at Rabbit Run Farm, Buckingham. Between Oct. 5 and 14, more than 30 restaurants within Lee County will offer very special dishes and events during the inaugural celebration. Photo by MELISSA SCHNEIDER.
"The purpose of Restaurant Week is to gain exposure for the VCB, participating restaurants, and Lee County, while promoting sustainable and local foods and produce. Restaurant Week features deliciously local and sustainable culinary celebrations involving local chefs and a wide variety of area restaurants," she said. "Special three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus and one-of-a-kind culinary experiences are available, along with wine tastings paired with live music, exclusive cooking demonstrations, tours and classes. These are just a few examples of what happens when you combine amazing food with the perfect location."
Between Oct. 5 and 14, visitors and residents of Lee County will have the chance to experience a unique way of getting to know the culinary industry at some of their favorite local eateries.
"What makes this event so special is that we [residents and visitors of Lee County] care about our natural environment it's very special to us," Tamara said.
Bonita Springs mayor, and owner of Survey Cafe, Ben Nelson, spoke about our visitors and what they want when they're in our lovely county.
"When people come to work and play down here, they want to enjoy all we've got especially in our restaurant industry," he said. "We have such great restaurants around here, and Restaurant Week is such a great way to boast that. I think all of our county's cities should join us in this special event. The economy is back It's back, and people are here."
Participating eateries during Restaurant Week include:
Fort Myers Beach: Matanzas Inn Restaurant, Parrot Key Caribbean Grill, Chloe's Fresh Seafood and Steaks, Shoals Restaurant and Wine Bar, Bayfront Bistro and Flippers on the Bay.
Sanibel: The Blue Giraffe, The Timbers, Matzaluna, Traditions on the Beach, Sweet Melissa's and The Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant.
Downtown Fort Myers: The Wisteria Tea Room, Yanos and The Twisted Vine.
Fort Myers: Artisan Gelato, Blue Window French Bistro, The Melting Pot, DaRuMa, University Grill, The Prawnbroker, 3 Fishermen Restaurant, Rabbit Run Farm, Bistro 41, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, LaMotta's Italian Restaurant and Sunshine Grill.
North Fort Myers: 3 Fishermen Restaurant
Cape Coral: Bubba's Roadhouse Saloon.
Bonita Springs:?Survey Cafe, A Table Apart.
Pine Island: Tarpon Lodge.
Concluding the special media event, Denise Muir, owner of Rabbit Run Farm, gave eager guests a tour of her hydroponic farm.
Denise and her farmers grow anything from semi-organic carrots, radishes, beans, lettuce and eggplant to micro-greens, wheatgrass, squash, spinach and the farm's signature plant Okinawa purple sweet potatoes, which take nine months to grow and mature.
"Not many try to grow them, because they take so long, but I love them so much, I've planted an extra field of them, just for me," Denise said.
Throughout the tour, the farm owner encouraged guests to "feel free to graze"?on the sprouting hydroponic vegetables, and enjoy the peaceful Buckingham acreage.
Denise and Rabbit Run Farm supply only local residents, visitors and restaurants with her fresh-grown goodies, and sure to thank each and every one of them for their patronage.
"Thank you to all of the restaurants and customers who buy our produce and do wonderful things with them," she said.
Visit RabbitRunFarm.com for further information on the business and its products and services.
The tentative schedule to date includes:
Twisted Wine Bistro Unplugged and
Uncorked with Paul Cullen of Bad Company
Thursday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m.
$82 per person, visit PaulCullen.net
This "Unplugged and Uncorked" event with former Bad Company bassist Paul Cullen is unlike anything patrons have experienced in the past. The complementing combination of funky jazz and outstanding wines encourages one to relax and enjoy the good life. The Twisted Vine will be serving a perfectly paired meal with Paul's Wines and musical accompaniment.
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort
Tarpon Bay Restaurant Dinner for Two
Friday to Sunday, Oct. 5 to 14, 5:30 to 9 p.m.
$69 per couple, visit CoconutPoint.Hyatt.com
What goes great with four gourmet courses? A nice toast! Tarpon Bay Restaurant is at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort recently awarded Florida Green Lodging's Three Palm eco-friendly certification. This indulgent dining experience features sustainably harvested seafood and produce.
The Sandy Butler and Shoal's Restaurant & Wine Bar
Saturday, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13, 11 a.m.
$40 per person, visit SandyButler.com
How often does the executive chef of a restaurant allow you, the guest, to help prepare lunch? Join Chef Michael Ragusa for this rare opportunity at The Sandy Butler and Shoal's Restaurant. Guests will be able to shop for ingredients in The Sandy Butler, a gourmet specialty market, and then take those ingredients next door to Shoal's Restaurant and Wine Bar for an interactive experience of preparing lunch with the chef. Fresh farm produce from the restaurant's own local farm will be incorporated into the meal and accented with locally sourced seafood.
A Table Apart Dinner and Seafood
Demonstration by Chef Jeff Acol
Monday, Oct. 8, 6:30 p.m.
$99 per person, visit ATableApart.com
Chef Jeff Acol is a native of Hawaii and a self-proclaimed avid ocean lover. At A Table Apart, Chef Acol and his wife, Jessica, have chosen to only serve sustainable seafood options on their menu as a conscience effort to preserve the precious resources of the World's oceans. This unique dining experience will feature a presentation by Chef Acol about sustainable seafood choices and why it is such an issue of importance to all societies. Following, guests will enjoy a multi-course dinner featuring sustainable seafood, complimented with a wine pairing.
Survey Cafe Lunch and Historic Society
Tour of Downtown Bonita Springs
Tuesday, Oct. 9, 10:30 a.m.
$26 per person, visit TheSurveyCafe.com
This culinary experience will start with a guided tour led by the City of Bonita Springs' own Mayor Ben Nelson to explore this charming downtown area filled with history and personality. Following the tour, lunch will be served at the quaint Survey Caf, a restaurant created by Lori and Ben Nelson in 2009 in a 1940s Florida-style house in the heart of Historic Downtown Bonita Springs. Serving breakfast and lunch, and dinners during season, the cafe is a place with character, great food, a unique and comfortable atmosphere. Proper environmental practices are important to the Cafe, using Grounds for Change coffee, organically and locally grown food whenever possible and environmentally friendly paper products and cups.
Rabbit Run Farm Tour & Culinary Class
Thursday, Oct. 11, 10 a.m.
$40 per person, visit RabbitRunFarmLLC.com
Guests will experience a tour of the hydroponic Rabbit Run Farm in Buckingham, to learn about the variety of heirloom plants grown and how the vertical-growth system works. The sustainable farming practices used at Rabbit Run will be the focus of the tour material, including the farm's dedication to selling only to local restaurants and customers. Following the tour, a culinary class will be presented inside the farm cottage, where Chef Kristina San Filippo will demonstrate a selection of recipes using Rabbit Run Farm produce. Guests will then enjoy a salad and vegetarian entree for lunch, featuring the recipes presented in the culinary class.
Dockside chat with Chef Barton Seaver
Sunday, Oct. 14, 8:45 to 10 a.m.
$5 per person, visit BartonSeaver.org
Sustaining fisheries means sustaining fishermen. Chef Seaver will speak on how we can use the sustainable seafood movement to reconnect consumers with the source of their seafood, and, by doing so, creates opportunities for added value to follow added responsibility in a fishery. Guests will enjoy coffee and light refreshments at Parrot Key Caribbean Grill overlooking Matanzas Pass.
Speaking of Sustainable Seafood
with Chef Barton Seaver
Sunday, Oct. 14 11 a.m., Free admission
The public is invited to Edison State College for a complimentary presentation by Chef Barton Seaver, who will elaborate on why he chose to use sustainable foods in the kitchen, and the impact the sustainable seafood industry has had on the world.
Chef Barton Seaver book signing
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Free admission
"For Cod and Country" is part of Seaver's mission to help the public engage in a more sustainable food system on nearly every level. The story of successful conservation is a lesson of responsible consumption. It is a tale of the opportunity that we have to make tasty and personally sustaining choices that keep our needs in balance with what the world can provide
Chef Barton Seaver at Sweet Melissa's Caf
Sunday, Oct. 14, 6 p.m., $100 per person
For the finale to the LCVCB's 10-day deliciously local and sustainable culinary celebration, Chef Melissa Talmage will host an eloquent evening of eclectic dishes, delectable wine and the chance to be up close and personal with Chef Barton Seaver to learn more about the critical issues of the World's seafood supplies. This dinner will be held at Sweet Melissa's Cafe on Sanibel Island, a local favorite for inventive food incorporating locally grown produce with responsibly harvested seafood. Each of the four courses will be paired with a complementing wine. The exhibition kitchen will allow guest to observe Chef Melissa and her kitchen brigade prepare the meal while Chef Barton shares his ocean friendly and holistic approach to enjoying the bounty of the sea in a sustainable and healthy manner.
For more information on Restaurant Week, for a complete schedule of events, organizers, contributors, sponsors, registrants, recipes and more, visit TasteDeliciousLee.com.