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 Visitor & Convention Bureau's 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 at 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 restaurateurs in the industry.
"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," said Tamara Pigott, executive director of the VCB. "Restaurant Week features deliciously local and sustainable culinary celebrations involving local chefs and a wide variety of area restaurants.
"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.
Bonita Springs mayor, and owner of Survey Cafe, Ben Nelson, spoke about Lee County visitors and what they want when they're here.
Fort Myers Beach:
Flippers on the Bay
Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt
LaMotta's Italian Restaurant
"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 will include:
* Cape Coral: Bubba's Roadhouse Saloon
* North Fort Myers: 3 Fishermen
* Pine Island: Tarpon Lodge.
* Downtown Fort Myers: The Wisteria Tea Room, Yanos, The Twisted Vine.
* 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, The Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant,
* Fort Myers: Artisan Gelato, Blue Window French Bistro, The Melting Pot, DaRuMa, University Grill, The Prawnbroker, 3 Fishermen, Rabbit Run Farm, Sunshine Grill, Bistro 41 Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, LaMotta's Italian Restaurant
* Bonita Springs: Survey Cafe, A Table Apart.
Concluding the special media kickoff , Denise Muir, owner of Rabbit Run Farm, gave eager guests a tour of her several-acre hydroponic farm.
Denise and her farmers grow anything from semi-organic carrots, radishes, beans, lettuce, unique cauliflower and eggplant to Asian greens, micro greens, wheatgrass, squash, spinach and the farm's signature plant - Okinawa purple sweet potatoes, which take nine months to grow and mature.
Throughout the tour, the farm owner encouraged guests to "feel free to graze" on the sprouting hydroponic vegetables, and enjoy the peaceful Buckingham acreage.
Rabbit Run Farm, supplies local residents, visitors and restaurants with her fresh-grown goodies, and sure to thank each and every one of them for their patronage.
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
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
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 and Wine Bar
Saturday, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13, 11 a.m.
$40 per person, visit SandyButler.com
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.
* A Table Apart Dinner and Seafood Demonstration by Chef Jeff Acol
Monday, Oct. 8, 6:30 p.m.
$99 per person, visit ATableApart.com 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 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 Cafe, a restaurant created by Lori and Ben Nelson in 2009 in a 1940s Florida-style house in the heart of Historic Downtown Bonita Springs.
* Rabbit Run Farm Tour and 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. 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
Chef Seaver will speak on how we can use the sustainable seafood movement to reconnect consumers with the source of their seafood. 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.
The public is invited to Edison State College for a complimentary presentation by Chef Barton Seaver.
* Chef Barton Seaver book signing
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
"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.
* Chef Barton Seaver at Sweet Melissa's Cafe
Sunday, Oct. 14, 6 p.m.
$100 per person
For the finale to the LCVCB's 10-day 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. 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.