Best of Banner: The top things we ate in June

Will Watts
Correspondent

From Naples to Estero, June offered some great food choices; which made picking the best of the month a bit difficult. Here we go!

Cooper’s Hawk, North Naples

Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant in North Naples describes itself as a wine-driven dining experience, inspired by Napa Valley’s wine country. It was founded in 2005 by CEO Tim McEnery. The Naples location offers a modern dining experience which is stark in nature, yet appealing.

We started with the roasted vegetable and goat cheese flatbread ($11.99), featuring mozzarella, roasted grape tomatoes, pesto, basil and a balsamic glaze. The crust was nice and crisp, like a flour tortilla, and the toppings plentiful. This was one of my favorites dishes of the night.

I also sampled the pistachio-crusted grouper ($27.99) served in a mustard sauce with a side of Mary’s mashed potatoes and asparagus. While the asparagus could have used a little salt, an easy fix, the mashed potatoes and the grouper were pure perfection.

We also tried the Mediterranean salad featuring shrimp ($17.99). This salad has cucumber, red onion, asparagus, kalamata olives, a zesty giardiniera, sweet grape tomatoes, feta cheese and polenta crisps and is topped with an Italian vinaigrette. This salad also had a bit of a lettuce problem. And there was not nearly as much harmony in the ingredients. But the salad is huge.

And finally, the most anticipated course of the night, dessert. I picked the S’more budino ($8.99) featuring a caramel custard and Valrhona chocolate mousse and topped with toasted marshmallows. A beautiful dish that tastes as good as it looks (and sounds). I savored every bite. Amazing! A must try!

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Cooper's Hawk for your next wine and dine

Komoon Thai Sushi & Ceviche, Bonita Springs

Komoon Thai Sushi & Ceviche is a unique concept offering selections from Thailand, Japan and Peru. The restaurant has locations on Pine Ridge Road and Immokalee in Naples; but we dined at the Bonita Springs location.

First up, some dumplings ($6). You can get them steamed, deep fried or pan fried. You can select pork or shrimp as the filling. We picked pan-fried shrimp. What they lacked in size, they made up for in flavor. Delish!

We also ordered the “Palta Rellena” ($9), an avocado sliced in half and stuffed with your choice or chicken, “krab” meat or shrimp salad and served on lettuce leaves. We selected shrimp salad. Amazing! My favorite dish of the night. The avocado was just right, and the shrimp salad was amazing!

For my main entrée, I picked the sushi boat for one ($28). You get sushi rolls, nigiri and sashimi on a beautifully decorated boat. Fresh. Absolutely delicious and absolutely satisfying. This is a great way to sample a wide assortment and find your favorites.

My dining companion ordered the mixed vegetables ($15) featuring sautéed carrots, zucchini, broccoli, baby corn, snow peas, scallions, onions, cilantro and mushrooms. It’s served with rice and you can add a protein. He added the fried tofu. This dish did not match the photo on the menu, and while tasty, was a slight disappointment.

Komoon Thai Sushi & Ceviche has a vast menu, so do your homework in advance. There are so many great options.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Komoon has a vast menu from Thailand, Japan and Peru

Naples Flatbread, Estero

Next stop, Naples Flatbread Kitchen & Bar at Miromar Outlets in Estero. But it was not just a normal visit on any random day. It was a ‘Taco Tuesday.’ At NFB, that means if you buy one taco entrée, the second is only half price. You can also get $5 margaritas and shots or $2 Coronas.

Taco entrees come with chips and salsa and your choice of two tacos. We had the “NFB Shrimp” and the “Boom Boom Shrimp.” The NFB shrimp features tequila-lime shrimp, lettuce, pico de gallo and a cilantro lime crema, and the “Boom Boom Shrimp,” lightly battered shrimp with a spicy sauce and slaw. Both are served on corn tortillas. While it may not be authentic Mexican, it was crazy good! The tacos were packed with so many ingredients that the tortillas gave up after the first few bites.

We also sampled the “Gouda Mac & Cheese Bites” ($11.99) and the “Loaded Garlic Bread”

($8.99) The bites consist of elbow macaroni with gouda cheese and bacon, battered, and served with a chipotle ranch. And yes, they taste just as delicious as they sound, with or without the sauce.

The loaded bread featured alfredo sauce and roasted garlic, topped with melted cheeses and served with marinara. It’s big. And while it may look simple, it’s amazing. I loved every bite.

We also selected a flatbread to go, the “Pietro” ($20.99). It features prosciutto, goat cheese, mozzarella, black mission figs, arugula, caramelized onions, garlic parmesan aioli and a balsamic reduction. The figs added an amazing layer of flavor to this truly exceptional flatbread. I highly recommend this dish.

Naples Flatbread Kitchen & Bar has great service and top quality food. And it’s surrounded by some fun shops at the Miromar location.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Marking ‘Taco Tuesday’ at Naples Flatbread

The Local, Naples

The Local, located on Pine Ridge Road in Naples has enthusiastic servers, and a comfortable location near some great shopping and some unique dishes. And their locally-sourced ingredients are just another reason to support this restaurant.

We started with the vegan Korean lettuce cups ($17). In one saucer, you get roasted eggplant and mushrooms sauteed in soy sauce. In another, a mix of lemongrass, ginger, carrots, radish, pickled red onions and cabbage. You also have a stack of lettuce leaves to use as “cups” or wraps. All that’s left is making some beautiful vegan tacos! Yum!

For my entrée, I had the saffron risotto ($17). It features Arborio rice, zucchini, onion, garlic, red bell pepper, saffron and white wine. It’s vegan unless you add shrimp (an additional $8), which I did. The shrimp can be grilled or blackened. I picked the latter.

My partner in dine picked the “Kung Pao” avocado ($17) which features panko breaded avocado, organic brown rice, bell pepper, onion, cilantro and cashews with garlic. You can also add shrimp to this dish, which he did (the grilled).

The avocado was the best part of this dish – to keep the inside so intact while having a crispy outside, that’s a challenge The Local met. All the individual parts of this dish tasted great. There is some question as to whether this was the best pairing of ingredients.

We ended this meal with a delectable banana bread pudding ($12). Going in, I was wondering if it would be banana bread turned into a pudding or bread pudding with a banana flavor. It was more like the latter. It’s a sharable size. Drenched in condensed milk. A very nice way to end this meal.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: The Local makes the most of locally sourced

This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food. Not all dishes are featured in print, but you can find a gallery of all reviewed dishes online at marconews.com.

If you go

Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant

  • 11905 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
  • 239-449-1700
  • chwinery.com

Komoon Thai Sushi & Ceviche

  • 3300 Bonita Beach Rd SW #101, Bonita Springs
  • komoonthai.com h 239-234-2442 
  • komoonthai.com

Naples Flatbread Kitchen & Bar

  • 10801 Corkscrew Rd #520, Estero
  • 239-495-3528
  • naplesflatbread.com

The Local

  • 5323 Airport-Pulling Rd, Naples
  • 239-596-3276
  • thelocalnaples.com