Find the Per­fect Pair­ing at Cooper's Hawk

Cape Coral Living - - Cape Departments - BY GINA BIRCH

South­west Florid­i­ans can travel across the coun­try to Sonoma or Napa for the ul­ti­mate Cal­i­for­nia wine-tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence—or they can get a taste of the real deal with­out ever leav­ing the area, at Cooper’s Hawk in Naples. The Napa-style tast­ing room and restau­rant opened in March 2016, and its suc­cess has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions, ac­cord­ing to gen­eral man­ager Ryan Quisen­berry. A part of the Illi­nois-based com­pany for six years, he says, “It’s like noth­ing I’ve seen be­fore; a tast­ing room, restau­rant and bar.” When peo­ple first walk in, most are amazed by the size of the tast­ing room. It’s full of wine, gourmet food items and trinkets geared to­ward oenophiles. The tast­ing bar can ac­com­mo­date big crowds and is a pop­u­lar spot for birth­day par­ties and pre­din­ing con­gre­gat­ing. While the tast­ing room cer­tainly is unique to South­west Florida, it’s the restau­rant that seals the deal. De­signed to bring the out­doors in, with lots of nat­u­ral light­ing, the de­sign of this more than 10,000-square-foot space is con­tem­po­rary rustic. The menu is also ex­pan­sive. Emily Yar­nell, ex­ec­u­tive kitchen man­ager, says, “The va­ri­ety, the menu, it’s pretty big. It spans lots of cuisines, so you can bring a whole group and everyone

Cal­i­for­nia-style wine ex­pe­ri­ence comes to Naples

can find some­thing they like.” One of her fa­vorites is the short rib risotto, com­fort food at its best with a rich mix of com­ple­men­tary el­e­ments that in­clude mush­rooms, sweet onion, shaved Parme­san and white truf­fle oil. “It’s some­thing that is ex­e­cuted flaw­lessly ev­ery single time; I al­ways rec­om­mend it,” she says. The risotto is one of Quisen­berry’s fa­vorites as well, but, he adds, “I can’t come here and not get a steak and glass of the bar­rel re­serve; it’s one of my go-to’s.” The gin­ger soy-glazed New York strip is an­other crowd pleaser. The cen­ter cut is mar­i­nated for an hour in a ma­chine called the tum­bler; prongs hold the meat, gen­tly toss­ing it in the mari­nade be­fore it’s grilled. The gnoc­chi is made from ri­cotta in­stead of potato and is sautéed, re­sult­ing in a lighter con­sis­tency than what is served at most restau­rants. It comes with roasted but­ter­nut squash in sa­vory sage­brown but­ter cream or in a hearty Bolog­nese with braised short ribs. For an ap­pe­tizer, the Mex­i­can Drunken Shrimp is per­fect for shar­ing, if you can sur­ren­der the plate. They are ba­con wrapped and served in a te­quila lime but­ter sauce with gua­camole. The por­tions here are gen­er­ous, so if you’re not as hun­gry or watch­ing your caloric in­take, the Life Bal­ance menu has se­lec­tions and serv­ing sizes all fit­ting in the 600-calo­rie and un­der range. There are dozens of wines on the menu and spe­cial se­lec­tions in the tast­ing room ev­ery month. It can be over­whelm­ing to a first-, even sec­ond-time diner. That’s where Cooper’s Hawk el­e­vates the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence by taking the guess­work out. Wine-pair­ing sug­ges­tions are of­fered for ev­ery single menu item, in­clud­ing the desserts. You can also or­der wine flights: four small pours of red, white, sparkling and more to taste side by side. Dessert wines in­clude those made from fruits other than grapes, as well as an ice wine and a port-style red; it goes nicely with the s’more budino. Rem­i­nis­cent of child­hood, a thick layer of toasted marsh­mal­low caps a clear glass full of caramel cus­tard, Val­rhona choco­late mousse and brown-but­ter toasted gra­ham cracker. It’s in­sanely sweet. Con­sis­tency is an im­por­tant word in the kitchen cul­ture at Cooper’s Hawk, not just in the day-to-day ser­vice, but also from restau­rant to restau­rant, from Illi­nois to Florida. Not only does the staff go through ex­ten­sive train­ing, chef Yar­nell says, “We have fam­ily meal­time where we talk about fla­vors, the menu, sell­ing points. It’s un­like any­thing I’ve ever seen.” Cooper’s Hawk is the cre­ation of Tim McEn­ery. He got the idea for the ven­ture dur­ing a tast­ing at a small bou­tique win­ery out­side Chicago with his fu­ture wife. McEn­ery re­mem­bers, “They brought in grapes from Cal­i­for­nia and Wash­ing­ton, and I thought, ‘Too bad they don’t have a restau­rant here; that would be kinda cool.’ That was the ge­n­e­sis of the idea.” McEn­ery searches wine re­gions world­wide, sourc­ing grapes for the Cooper’s Hawk brand. It’s not just served in the tast­ing rooms and restau­rants, but also pur­chased monthly by mem­bers of the pop­u­lar wine club. The en­tre­pre­neur says he trav­eled to Naples 25 times over the course of a cou­ple of years, look­ing for “the right cor­ner” to ex­pand. It was a good de­ci­sion, ac­cord­ing to McEn­ery, who says, “This is our 22nd restau­rant, and by far it’s the most buzz we’ve ever had.” For as large as the restau­rant is, it stays booked; reser­va­tions are sug­gested. Cooper’s Hawk cel­e­brates its 12-year an­niver­sary this Oc­to­ber. There are now eight restau­rants across the Sun­shine State, nearly 30 na­tion­wide.

Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

Cooper’s Hawk

11905 Tami­ami Trail N., Naples, Fla. 239-449-1700; coop­er­shawk­win­

Restau­rant & Tast­ing Room Hours

Monday–Thurs­day: 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Fri­day & Saturday: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Sun­day: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

Bar Hours

Monday–Thurs­day: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Fri­day & Saturday: 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Sun­day: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

Cooper’s Hawk Lux is a pre­mium line of wines in the com­pany's col­lec­tion. Above, pan-roasted bar­ra­mundi is on the Life Bal­ance menu of lower-calo­rie dishes.

The menu in­cludes wild mush­room-crusted chicken with sweet corn and pea risotto (top left) and Asian pork belly tostadas, held by chef Emily Yar­nell (top right).

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