You might not be lured by the promise of an olive oil tasting. I was.
I was planning a road trip to Naples to try out the Scion iQ, Toyota's answer to the Smart Car, when I heard about a new food tour in that city. What better way for a foodie like me to spend half a day in Naples, city of snowbirds and money? So I bought a ticket for the end of my stay.
Right now, Naples is in its low season. Seasonal homeowners shutter their places and leave til the holidays. Restaurant owners take long vacations. Even the art museum is closed for the summer. So Naples Food Tours is doing only one food tour a week, on Saturdays, until the snowbirds start returning. In the spring, the company was doing three tours a week, varying the shops and restaurants so that someone who took a tour in March could do another in April and have little or no overlap in the stops. But in the slow season, there are fewer choices.
We had five stops, starting with the Naples Olive Oil Co., where we sipped thimble-sized samples of several olive oils and several balsamic vinegars. We were all stunned by how good the combination of strawberry balsamic vinegar and basil-infused olive oil tasted -- there we were, happy to be drinking salad dressing out of tiny paper cups.
We went to a pizza place for a slice, and some of the guys snuck off to the bar for a beer. We ate calamari at a seafood restaurant, Greek cheese and Hungarian and Bulgarian sausage at a cheese shop, and had a glass of wine at both places. We ended at Norman Love Confections, sampling beautiful and expensive chocolates.
Then I went to Trader Joe's. Why this purveyor of discounted wine and gourmet goodies would open its first Florida store in a city with perhaps the state's highest concentration of wealthy residents, I can't figure out. Seems like the wrong demographic. I know people from this side of the state who drive the 100 miles or so to Naples just to go to Trader Joe's and buy Three-Buck Chuck (the store's private label wine, at $3 a bottle). On this day I joined them.
So I drove back home with a stash of goodies I had bought on my foodie day in Naples: wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cheese, chocolates, spiced nuts. I'll be tasting those memories for some time to come.