“We’re so happy you’re still together,” pronounced my boyfriend’s best friend and family members upon our return from our first vacation together.
“Um, what?” I replied. Apparently, some folks find traveling with significant others trying—and the group had billed our trip to Florida for my friends’ wedding as a make-or-break scenario. The boyfriend had never taken a trip with a girl (huh?) and apparently had a great deal of hesitation over the whole idea of spending that amount of uninterrupted time with a female.
Meanwhile, I’d not thought twice about it, and had been looking forward to getting out of the snow and enjoying three days by the beach to relax, read, and run. At this point, Washington was still covered in snow and—surprise!—our trip was extended an additional three days, as a result of the final spring snowstorm.
Aside from minor quibbles over the positioning of pool chairs and the appropriate amount of time to stay in the hot tub, we returned to Washington unscathed and still a couple. We got to celebrate Jennifer & Jesse’s nuptials and, of course, broke briefly for brunch at the Bay House.
The Bay House is a seafood restaurant with a Southern feel, touting “Gracious Hospitality Since 1990″ as its tagline. The charming restaurant lies not far from the popular beaches of Naples, but is tucked away, perched atop the Cocohatchee River. Inside, the décor is prototypical yacht or country club, with large, white table clothed square tables, club chairs and servers in white shirts with bow ties. It’s a bit dark inside, with walls of green beadboard, dark wood trim, with rowboats and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Floor to ceiling windows allow for an unobstructed view of the river.
We sat outside under the turquoise umbrellas, and it was an absolutely perfect March day in Florida, with a slight breeze and temperatures in the low 70s. The pace was slower, and we sat back in our chairs, sunglasses on, and lingered awhile, a rarity for us both.
Much to our amusement, there was a lively party of elderly ladies celebrating a birthday brunch with mimosas, presents, lots of hugs and a lot of fanfare. Naples is clearly where Bitches Who Brunch go to retire.
The brunch menu at Bay House offers a selection from the raw bar, chilled oysters, or mason jars to start. There’s also a selection of sandwiches, seafood classics like lobster rolls, blue crab bisque and shrimp ‘n’ grits, and brunch classics.
We started with coffee, as we always do, and I couldn’t help but try a fun cocktail labeled the Antioxidant Intoxicant. The bubbly concoction was made with prosecco, and blueberry and pomegranate juices. I was expecting the purple beverage to be offensively sweet but was pleased to discover it was light, pleasant, and easy to sip.
Ever since brunching at Farmers, Fishers & Bakers on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, I’ve loved bruleed, sliced grapefruit in the mornings. This was an option on the menu and I ordered it, encouraging boyfriend to do the same. “No no,” he said. And, when mine arrived at the table he quickly ordered a second.
The grapefruit was sliced in half and the segments were loosened with a pairing knife for ease of eating. The grapefruit was topped with a hard sugar crust, crumbled pistachios, and mint. It was perfection and definitely the highlight of the meal.
For his entrée, the boyfriend ordered the corn beef hash, which he devoured but described as unmemorable and nothing exceptional. Served in a rectangular, ceramic baking dish, the hash was made with potato pancakes, chopped corn beef, grilled onions and topped with poached eggs and sweet pepper jelly. He regularly avoids sugar and dressings, so he turned his nose up at the red pepper jelly.
For my entrée, I chose the crab, mushroom, and leek frittata, as those are three of my favorite flavorings. The enormous frittata was topped with a substantial amount of red pepper jelly, Manchego cheese shavings, and fresh arugula. The dish was well prepared, large, and hearty, but I couldn’t help feeling that the quality of ingredients could have been better. There was just something that kept this dish—which looked beautiful, featured my favorite things, and was prepared correctly—from being delicious rather than just A-OK.
When on vacation, it’s best to indulge. And, when at brunch, you must order doughnuts or beignets. Late into our brunch, I discovered beignets on the menu and —wanting to linger awhile longer—I placed the order without hesitation.
Beyond the grapefruit, the beignets were the other highlight of the meal. The piping hot pastry puffs were freshly fried, coated in cinnamon sugar and served in a cone, with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. They melted in your mouth and the chocolate and caramel made them even better.
The Bitches say: B+. When at the Bay House, go for the bayfront view and nautical atmosphere, cocktails, desserts—and I assume the seafood.
The Bay House
799 Walkerbilt Road
The Bayhouse serves brunch on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.