Aqua in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Aqua in Naples, Florida! You can’t miss this Fifth Avenue restaurant because of the stunning cobalt blue goblets placed atop white tablecloths for open-air dining. Look above them and see the restaurant name: AQUA followed by Seafood & Steak. That says it all. The Mediterranean-style gourmet dishes satisfy whatever mood you’re in. Begin with a luscious bowl of New England Clam Chowder. Follow it up with the lightly grilled Romaine Caesar Salad. Ask for anchovies; you won’t regret it. Move on to the Chilean sea bass, lobster tail, crusted snapper, king crab legs, or calamari. There is no wrong choice. Others might gravitate toward a juicy filet mignon or perhaps a Berkshire pork chop. From land to sea, the choices are endless. It’s best to make it date night so you can nibble off each other’s plates. The night simply isn’t long enough to try everything your heart desires.

Keto Midday Snack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Keto Midday Snack! The funny thing about the Keto diet is discovering I ate that way, but didn’t know it was a “thing”. I’d pack a lunch in the morning because I was one of those people who ate at my desk. Hence, finger food seemed the logical choice. Hard-boiled egg, cheese wrapped in meat, nuts, veggies, and fruit. It was easy to nibble on and never got cold when a phone call or visitor interrupted my break. I wonder how many other people go through the same thing. Now, by choice, I still like finger foods to nibble on. Imagine that.

KETO MIDDAY SNACK

Ingredients:

3 slices smoked ham

3 slices Swiss cheese

Garlic and onion chives

3 cherry tomatoes

2 dill pickle spears

1/4 cup walnut halves

Instructions:

Place the ham on a flat surface. Add a slice of Swiss cheese. Lay garlic chives horizontally over cheese. Roll the pieces tightly into a spiral. Wrap two or three strands of onion chives around each ham roll and tie in a knot. Repeat two more times. Serve with cherry tomatoes, pickle spears, and walnut halves.

Alberto’s on Fifth in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Alberto’s on Fifth in Naples, Florida! There’s nothing that makes me feel more special than dining on white linen tablecloths. Call me crazy, but I simply love it. Now, imagine this table in the mountainous part of Northern Italy where the chef is transforming ordinary food into spectacular dishes. The secret, you wonder? Fresh, local vegetables, pasta, and seafood with fewer processed ingredients. Traditions are important, cutting corners is not. Each dish is a form of art. Creamy mozzarella, salty prosciutto, and fresh basil leaves will literally drive your tastebuds crazy. Listen to the chatter. Crowd-pleasers are everywhere. Linger over the delicious Italian balsamic vinaigrette drizzled over a garden salad. The aromas seduce the palate with a slightly spicy taste. Aging is the secret, of course. But it doesn’t matter what I say, it’s the velvety texture on the tongue that is the judge. Take smaller bites to enjoy the meal longer. It has profound effects that will find you enjoying the meal with satisfying results.

Juicy Roast Turkey

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Juicy Roast Turkey! There’s nothing worse than dry-as-dust turkey, around the holidays. Watch your guests if they keep asking you to pass the gravy. Today I’m going to give you a few tips to keep that from happening. You can thank me when it’s your turn to host the holiday meal. Number one: Truss loosely, or not at all. The secret is to allow heat to get to all sides of the legs. Cooking the turkey until the legs are done may result in overcooking the breast meat. Number two: Don’t overcook. The timetable on the package is an estimate. Always use a meat thermometer, even if the turkey comes with a pop-up version. Always. Number three: (and this one is the hardest for me) Let the turkey “rest” before carving. I’m talking 20-30 minutes. Evidently, during the roasting process, the oven heat forces all the juices to the center of the turkey. When you allow it to “rest”, after it’s done, the juices seep back into the cavities and make the turkey moist. It’s definitely worth the wait.

JUICY ROAST TURKEY

Ingredients:

10-15 pound turkey, thawed

1/2 cup butter

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 teaspoon thyme

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Wash the turkey, pat dry, and transfer to a roasting pan with a roasting rack. Stuff the turkey as desired. Otherwise, salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. In a small saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Add the lemon juice, zest, and thyme. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. Cover the roaster with the lid. Transfer pan to oven. Bake for two hours, basting the turkey every half hour. This insures even browning of the skin. Remove lid and roast turkey an additional 1 1/2 hours, continuing to baste at half hour intervals. When the meat thermometer reads 185°, remove the turkey from the oven. Transfer it to a cutting board; cover with foil. Let it rest for half an hour. This makes carving easier and produces a juicy roast turkey.

Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs, Florida! Have you ever eaten in a tiki hut along the waterfront? The open air seating is a sought-after request for a stunning tropical view. It feels like being on a river in the tropics the way the trees embrace the shoreline like an island oasis. There’s no doubt atmosphere affects our perception of being carefree and downright sexy. At Coconut Jack’s the local seafood is fresh, the cocktails are thirst-quenching, and the experience is memorable. Oftentimes, the chef features a daily special that will leave you smiling all the way home. If seafood is your go-to choice, there’s plenty to choose from and more to look forward to on a return trip back.

Iced Peach Spritzers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Iced Peach Spritzers! Ripe peaches are succulent and running-down-your-chin juicy. When you have an abundance of them, think peach cocktails. By adding a sparkling mixer, such as seltzer water or Prosecco, you’ll feel as though every meal is as special as dining out. The blend of flavors and textures is far from ho-hum. Both versions are suitable for mixed company. Go completely non-alcoholic or throw together a grown-up concoction made with a nice white wine and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.

ICED PEACH SPRITZERS

Ingredients:

4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 8 wedges each

1/4 cup sugar

1 bottle white wine, chilled

12 ounces seltzer water

Instructions:

Layer peach wedges on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. To serve, place 3-4 frozen peach wedges into a stemmed glass. Add 3 ounces of white wine. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of seltzer water over top. Stir. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Rusty’s Raw Bar & Grill in Estero, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Rusty’s Raw Bar & Grill in Estero, Florida! Just because a restaurant tells you they offer raw seafood doesn’t necessarily mean you have to order it. They do offer American fare that satisfies the burger-and-fries crowd. This cozy sports bar hangout seems to attract the “regulars” for their favorite brew as well as social connections for casual encounters. Face it, people enjoy small talk while viewing a game. It’s relaxing and comfortable. It’s actually fun to watch the bartender create drinks or talk about her current sunburn or newest tattoo. Alcohol can be a perk, and the comfort food is a bonus. Plus, a pause in the day has advantages. Attitude adjustments come free. If you drive by a place and see a row of cars and trucks in the parking lot, odds are it’s probably a pretty decent place and worth checking out. I did.