Sometimes, you want to go out for dinner. Other times, you want to go all out.
If you’re in the mood for the latter, the latest culinary creations by Naples chefs Brian Roland and Ryan Flood promise to satisfy your appetite for edible excitement.
On a recent weekend in Naples, 13 diners gathered for a meal at Fifth Avenue Café — on this particular night, they had the whole restaurant to themselves. The lucky baker’s dozen was among the first to try one of Naples’ newest dining options, 13 Dozen, a pop-up restaurant concept created by Flood, who is executive chef at Maria d’ Anna Cafe in North Naples.
“I’ve been thinking about the concept for a while,” Flood said. “It started out as being a pop-up restaurant, then I changed my concept to a restaurant that’s open when I wanted.”
Before the meal, eventgoers have the opportunity to meet their fellow diners over a drink and appetizers, such as goat cheese with speck, dates and sweet soya and smoked fish on English muffin toast points with dill salsa and crème cheese. Diners then take a seat at the table for a six-course prix fixe meal.
Each meal is open to just 13 diners and Flood plans to hold a dozen each month.
The small party size allows him to make the event into a chef’s table of sorts. “I’m the only one cooking it, purchasing, prepping it,” Flood said “ … I can prepare everything and provide good quality service and food.”
If you go
CRAVE CULINAIRE'S POP-UP SERIES
What: A pop-up dinner series in Naples produced by Chef Brian Roland. Dates, menus and venues will be announced exclusively to ticket holders 48 hours before each dinner.
When: Begins late September or early October, and then ongoing
Where: Venues and dates to vary
Admission: Dinners will vary from $75 to $300 per person, depending on the menu.
Information: Patrons should register for event and ticketing information at “What’s Cookin’” on www.craveculinaire.com.
What: 6-couse prix fixe meal by Chef Ryan Flood, open to 13 dinners per meal
When: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, and 25-26, sign up for information about future diner dates
Where: Fifth Avenue Cafe, 821 Fifth Ave S., Naples
Admission: $85 to $175 per person, depending on the menu
Meals range from $85 to $175 and include drinks. Each month will have a different theme. But, if you want a seat at the table, you’ll want to sign up early; meals for the rest of September are booked.
With the Underground Pop-Up Series, Roland plans to introduce the area to a new kind of dining experience, one in which the details — everything from the menu to the venue — are revealed at the last possible moment. Pop-up patrons could find themselves feasting on lobster on a private yacht or gobbling up grass-fed beef at a private farm. They might even discover they’re headed to an airplane hangar for the evening.
“They’re not going to really know,” Roland said. “It’s going to be the luck of the draw.”
Such pop-up dinners are de rigueur in larger metropolitan markets, including Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Roland has even participated in a few, alternately as a chef and as a diner, and plans to draw upon those experiences when he launches his pop-up series at the end of September or early October.
“It was a big learning experience, because I was exposed to a type of service that I wasn’t accustomed to,” Roland recalled. “Executing something like that from a chef’s perspective in the kitchen, it’s exciting, it’s challenging. It really gives you an opportunity to create dishes that are not items you necessarily have to sell on a menu. So it’s really a way for the chefs to express themselves more and not have as many limitations.”
Until January, Roland served as the executive chef at M Waterfront Grille in the Village on Venetian Bay. During that time, he held a summer chef series, which brought in other chefs to collaborate on a special menu. Now, Roland heads his own personal chef and event company, Crave Culinaire.
To become a pop-up participant, patrons will register for an e-newsletter on the Crave Culinaire website (www.craveculinaire.com) to be alerted to upcoming dinners. They’ll purchase tickets and await further details of the event, which will be released exclusively to ticket holders 48 hours before the dinner. Roland will also use social media to let potential patrons know of an upcoming pop-up dinner.
Dinners could range from $75 to $300 per person, based on the menu.
The frequency of the dinners will vary, depending on the availability of the venues and the talent. Roland plans to invite many of his chef friends to join him in the series, so if a local or visiting chef suddenly decides to become a pop-up partner, it could translate into a short-notice dinner.
“There could be months when we don’t do one, there could be months when we do two or three,” Roland said.
One thing the dinner series won’t include is adult libations. That’s because Roland plans on popping up in venues that are unlikely to have liquor licenses and he will not be permitted to charge to serve alcohol. But there’s also another reason, he adds: There is no shortage of wine lovers in Southwest Florida, many who would love to pop up with their own bottle in tow.
For that reason, while the menu will remain a surprise, Roland will share a “flavor profile” to assist guests in selecting which wines to bring to the dinner.
And then, when they show up, they should expect to be dazzled.
Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo
“They’ll show up and these locations are going to be decked out as if you were walking into a fine dining restaurant,” Roland said.
Still, it won’t actually be a restaurant — and that’s part of the fun. Roland is already working with service staff on the pop-up series, and describes his team as being fully committed to the concept. In some of the rustic venues, more preparations and logistical considerations will be required, as portable equipment will need to be brought on site to make the event a success.
In turn, Roland hopes that work will translate into an even greater “wow factor” for his guests.
“That’s what it’s really about for me — building an experience,” he said.
Marshall Hanno, the chairman of the wine and chefs committee for the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, can attest to Roland’s abilities in that arena. As part of the festival, Roland prepared a vintner dinner at the Hanno’s home; the theme of the dinner was “Moulin Rouge,” and “Brian just ran with it,” Hanno recalled.
Hanno commended Roland for his skills in the kitchen, but also for his ability to prepare and present something memorable. He believes the pop-up dinner series is next in the line of Roland’s inspired epicurean ideas.
“I think people will find it very interesting and it will be very successful,” Hanno said.
When it comes to food and wine, Southwest Floridians are always looking for something new, Hanno added.
Now, Roland plans to give it to them. They just won’t know exactly when or where.
“I think the element of surprise is something Naples needs, and I say that with the utmost respect and love for Naples, because I’ve lived here now for 13 years,” Roland said. “I think the element of surprise is something Naples needs and wants.”
-- Showcase editor Sarah Poston contributed to this story