Destination Dining


SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

When I heard through the “Sarasota Dining Grapevine” Executive Chef Pedro Flores from The Table Creekside was also going to oversee the menu at Phillippi Creek Restaurant & Oyster Bar; my ears perked up. This Dine-mark™ restaurant has a large, long standing, loyal customer base, carefully cultivated, and  comprised of people from Sarasota and visitors alike. So what changes could one expect? What about the menu? Additions? Deletions?  This menu thing could be tricky and fraught with unintended consequences.Creekmenu

I heard there were a number of new items already on the menu, so I decided to go to Phillippi Creek Restaurant & Oyster Bar and check it out. When we first arrived it was busy, but were able to get a waterside table. The typical Phillippi Creek newsprint menus looked the same, but upon further examination, we noticed a number of positive changes and additions.

“Just in time for the change in seasons comes innovative and delicious additions to the menu at the Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar. Nearly two dozen of Chef Pedro Flores’s creations have been added to the already award-winning signature specialties that make Phillippi Creek a year round favorite with locals and winter visitors alike. “

We needed a few minutes to study the menu before we could make our strategic selections. This was not easy because it required us to pass up some of our stand by favorites, so we could try something new. We chose the following as our representation of the expanded menu:

  • Chicken Salad Plate: Free range chicken, seasonal fruit, roasted vegetables, jasmine salad, organic greens $10.95
    Fresh, colorful, full of flavor, the chicken salad had some fruit mixed in but was not sweet, just the way we like it! A great starter for sharing.
  • SONY DSCStuffed Grouper: Shrimp, scallops, and Blue Crab stuffing Market Price
    This was a big piece of grouper, stuffed full with visible bits and pieces of shrimp, scallops, and crab.
  • SONY DSCBaked Seafood Trio: Salmon, mahi mahi, grouper $24.95
    What an outstanding presentation of 3 fish individually placed on a cedar plank, colorful, full of various flavors, can easily be shared.

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  • Wahoo Ceviche Cones: Blue corn cones stuffed with ceviche $8.95
    Although not brand new to the menu, it is relatively new and underscores the theme of fresh, new, exciting presentations.

SONY DSC

  • Chocolate Fudge Brownie: Topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce $7.95
    A dark, warm, rich, moist, chocolate brownie with melted swirls of vanilla ice cream and caramel…one word…WOW!

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Even though we passed on our regular faves to try the new dishes, we were not disappointed in the least! Chef Pedro Flores and his team have done an outstanding job of adding some creative and innovative items to the menu while maintaining all of the customer favorites. In fact, these new menu additions are destined to become new favorites. For fresh, delicious seafood, meet me at at “The Creek.”

SRQ Reviews, the restaurant guide you need to find the best dining in Sarasota, Florida.

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

If you are like me, every year Thanksgiving seems to come upon us with little to no notice. This year is no exception. I cannot believe we are only days away from Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season. Each year we highlight some Thanksgiving dining options for you to consider. Despite the short notice, this year is no exception.

A traditional home cooked Thanksgiving meal.

Since Thanksgiving is a holiday share amongst family and friends, the traditional home cooked meal generally takes center stage. For those of you looking for fresh and/or organic turkeys, there are a number of options:

  1. Morton’s Gourmet Market is offering fresh Bell & Evans turkeys and Eberly Farms organic turkeys. Call 941-955-9856 to place an order.
  2. The Butcher’s Block is offering Amish turkeys for pick up. Call 941-955-2822 to place an order.
  3. Whole Foods Market offers a wide selection of Heritage, heirloom, organic, or kosher turkeys. You can also special order a chilled brined turkey.
  4. The Fresh Market is offering a 1-stop shop for all of your Thanksgiving needs.
  5. The Mozzarella Fella, a new addition to Sarasota is offering Italian specialties, side dishes, and catering for Thanksgiving. Call 941-366-7600 for more information or to place an order.

One of the best dining views in Sarasota!

For some, the thought of planning, preparing, and serving a large holiday meal is daunting. Not to mention the clean-up which is part of the process! Fortunately, Sarasota is home to many fine restaurants offering options for Thanksgiving Day Dining.

Here are a few to consider:

  1. Ophelia’s on the Bay is offering a Traditional Turkey Dinner featuring turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and gravy for $25.00 per person. Call for reservations: 941-349-2212. Our comments: Perhaps one of the finest spots for water-view dining. Very friendly attentive staff. Quality food. To see our full review>>>
  2. The Polo Bar & Grill will be offering a Thanksgiving Day Buffet from noon till 5:00pm, $35 per person, $14.95 for children under 12. Call for reservations 941-782-0899 ext.2.
  3. The Bijou Cafe will be offering their full dinner menu as well as some chef specials and of course Carolina turkey on Thanksgiving Day from noon till 8:00pm. For information and reservations call 941-366-8111  Our comments: Quiet, casual elegance, very fine service. Friendly staff. To see our full review>>>
  4. Libby’s Cafe + Bar is offering a special plated Thanksgiving dinner which includes a special “brown bag” for leftovers,  as well as a la Carte items. Pricing for the Thanksgiving plate is $30/adult, $12/children (12 and under) Our comments: Libby’s has definitely stepped up their game. Food is very good, setting is excellent. A new review is forthcoming. To see our full review>>>
  5. Duval’s New World Cafe will be serving up a special Thanksgiving feast from 2:00pm till 9:00pm. For reservations please call 941-312-4001. Our comments: Casual, subtly upscale, friendly staff, and quality food. To see our full review>>>

No matter what the choice, one thing is clear; we wish you the very best Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

SRQ Reviews, the restaurant guide you need to find the best dining in Sarasota, Florida.

Now in its seventh year, the Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week, presented by Visit Sarasota County, starts on June 1, 2012 and runs through June 14, 2012. A foodies’ favorite enjoyed by visitors to Sarasota and the people who live here, participating Savor Sarasota restaurants offer specialty0priced multi-course lunches for $15 and dinners for $25. With more than 35 restaurants participating, the breadth of cuisines, style of restaurants and the various locations within Sarasota County provide a range of selections sure to please your palate and dining budget alike.

Waterfront at Ophelia's

The waterfront at Ophelia’s.

Are you a foodie looking to try one of the restaurants from the largest concentration of Zagat-rated spots in Florida? Is there a new place you have been dying to try but just never got around to making reservations? How about a return to one of your favorites or a waterfront locale?  Since specialty-priced lunches and dinners are offered over a two-week period from a wide array of restaurants, there are no real excuses for not sampling some of Sarasota’s finest cuisine. Here is a list of a few of our favorites, with our review and the Savor Sarasota menu:

Derek’s Culinary Casual   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
The Broadway   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
BlueQue Island Grill   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Maximo   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Selva Grill   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Bijou Café   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Salute   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Libby’s Café & Bar   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Patrick’s 1481   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
eat here   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Mozaic   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Lavanda   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Pattiegeorge’s   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Duval’s New World Cuisine   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Caragiulos Italian-American   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu
Ophelia’s on the Bay   –   Savor Sarasota 2012 Menu

As with any special offer, there is limited time to take advantage of it. So why not act now and explore some new dining spots in Sarasota? Your tastebuds and wallet will shower you with appreciation!

Chef Darwin Santa Maria

Chef Darwin Santa Maria and flavorful food may be synonymous in Sarasota. Darwin has created and served his version of Latin fusion cuisine in a number of Sarasota venues for over a decade. Although a number of stories have been written about Darwin’s culinary skills and talent, I wanted the backstory on Darwin’s culinary evolution. Here is what I found.

JLQ: Many things have been written about you, so I would like to focus on something you would like the Sarasota area to know about you but has not yet been written. Any thoughts?

Darwin Santa Maria: Yes, one thought might be the inspiration behind my cooking; that which inspires me to do new things, to keep going. I do not think anyone has written about that.

JLQ: Sounds good. Before we explore your inspiration, can you share your culinary background?

DSM: I was born in Peru, came to Miami as a child, went to high school in Sarasota and returned to Miami to go to Johnson & Wales’ culinary college. I graduated from Johnson & Wales and was expecting to travel. My plans were to go to France and Hawaii, but before I left on such a long journey, I wanted to return to Peru and visit my father.

JLQ: So what happened when you went back to Peru?

DSM: I went back to visit my father and I reconnected with a childhood friend. As kids and families we did everything together, but I did not see her for seven years and now she was a grown woman! We started dating and I decided to return to Sarasota and visit my mom.

JLQ: I presume your plans for travel were altered?

DSM: Yes, I decided to give Sarasota a try and worked in a number of restaurants starting as a line cook and working my way up from there. I was very fortunate to work with people that let me do my own thing and I learned from them.

JLQ: What did your early working experience teach you about the restaurant business in Sarasota?

DSM: I learned there was an opportunity to introduce Latin food and spices to the Sarasota diner. I had purchased some of my own chilies and spices and experimented with certain dishes. We were getting requests for Latin parties and specials. People were enjoying the new food. It was very exciting.

JLQ: Then what?

DSM: Well, I got married in 1999, went from sous chef at Michael’s on East to the Executive Chef of Fred’s and was named as one of the Top 10 Chefs in the nation by Food and Wine Magazine in 2001.

JLQ: That is a great deal of success and stress in a short amount of time. How did you handle it?

DSM: It was all very weird, exciting, fast and uncomfortable. There were photo shoots, wine dinners and autograph signings. I was very nervous and did not know what to expect, but one of the chefs, Michael Anthony, encouraged me to be myself and that advice had a calming influence on me. He even lent me one of his sets of knives for the “cook-off!”

JLQ: What happened when you returned to Sarasota?

DSM: After my experience in New York and the positive response to my food, I decided it was time to open my own place. I found a small space on Clark Road and the first Selva was born. I was nervous but confident we would do well and it was busy right from the opening. A few years later we moved to a larger downtown location. Business was good but very busy and time consuming. Although things were going well, I did not feel satisfied. There were many conflicts happening at the same time.

JLQ: So you were being pulled in different directions at once. How did you resolve these conflicts?

Inspired by Family

DSM: Yes, that is true. The business was taking center stage in my life. This was not good because at the same time my wife and I were trying to start a family. We adopted our first son. My father became ill in Peru, and the demands of the business continued to require more time. My wife decided to return to Peru while I sorted out the details of the business. I decided to give up the partnership and return to Peru. I put my family first.

JLQ: What happened when you were in Peru?

DSM: While in Peru, my wife became pregnant with twins. I had the opportunity to relax and regain my energy and culinary creativity. I thought about opening a restaurant in Peru but decided my heart was in Sarasota. I did some work with other restaurants and then the opportunity to do my own came about and Darwin’s on 4th was born.

JLQ: How will Darwin’s be different for you?

DSM: First of all, I learned from my prior experiences. My passion for cooking comes from my family, and that energy is strong. I know how important that is to me. I am working to maintain a good balance between work and family. In the past everything came so fast; the balance was not right. Now we are starting out with the right balance with room to grow and be flexible.

JLQ: Any last thoughts?

DSM: I know Sarasota is the place I want to be, and Darwin’s on 4th is the place where I want to share my food with friends both old and new.

JLQ: Thank you for sharing some of your previously unshared thoughts with us.

Derek Barnes

People rarely think about the time and attention a chef puts into planning a restaurant’s menu. After all, how hard can it be to create a list of the items being served? In reality, the days of a legal-sized sheet of paper with a listing of dishes are gone. Today’s chefs see their menu as an extension of their culinary vision: something that reflects their restaurant, skill and creativity—not just a list of dishes!

Although it sounds simple and rather mundane, the planning of a new menu can take months of work and preparation to do it right. I caught up with Chef Derek Barnes, owner of Derek’s Culinary Casual, to understand his thinking on menu planning and the process he deploys when planning to make any menu change.

Derek’s Culinary Training and Background

After graduating with honors from the School of Culinary Arts in Denver, Derek went to New Orleans to work with Emeril Lagasse in his Emeril’s restaurant. Starting there as garde manger, within a year and a half Derek had earned a sous chef position.

After four years with Emeril’s, Derek took a position as Chef de Cuisine at the Beach Bistro and then opened Culinary Casual in January 2006. Derek has earned accolades and awards such as Semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef South award, Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon award, “Most Innovative Chef” in the Best of SRQ Magazine 2009 and a three-time listing in the exclusive Zagat America’s Top Restaurants list.

JLQ: Before we get started talking about menus, can you tell me a little bit about what it was  like to work with Emeril?
Derek Barnes: Working with Emeril was an incredible learning experience. His persona in the kitchen is a lot different than what you see on TV. He is intense, demanding and expects the very best from you all the time. My time there was incredibly educational and rewarding, one of my best culinary experiences.

JLQ: It seems to me changing a menu at a well-established restaurant like yours is no simple matter. Can you tell us how the process works at Derek’s?
DB: Yes. The process is quite involved and requires careful planning and logistics. When we consider changing a menu we are trying to accomplish a few things. First and foremost, we want to keep our existing customers’ tastes and preferences front and center. Secondly, we want the new menu to be reflective of current dining trends and styles, such as small plates.

JLQ: Recently you changed your menu and added quite a few new dishes while maintaining many of the “old favorites.” What was the thinking behind this change?
DB: With our  sixth year of operation approaching, we thought the time was right to introduce some new items. This menu change offered us the opportunity to take the standard legal-sized menu sheet and transform it into a booklet, offering more choices and options to our customers. In essence, we were able to expand in a very cost-effective and affordable way.

Derek at work.

JLQ: So once you decide to make some menu changes or updates, can you step through your internal process?
DB: When we make any menu change we look at it very carefully. We know our customers’ tastes very well and try to plan new items accordingly. Generally, we offer daily special items in addition to our regular menu. Depending upon acceptance and feedback, many of these specials will become candidates for the new menu. Once we select a dish for possible inclusion, we source and price the ingredients, develop, refine and rework the recipe as necessary and then orient and train the kitchen staff. In essence we are providing quality control for the recipe, the ingredients, the preparation, the presentation and the pricing before the dish makes it to the printed menu.

JLQ: So once the main menu is finalized, what happens to the dessert and wine menus?
DB: Planning the dessert and wine menu is a much easier process. Since the wine and dessert menus play supporting roles to the main menu, we design both in a complementary fashion after the main menu is established.

JLQ: Any last thoughts about menu planning at Derek’s?
DB: The menu planning process is ongoing here at the restaurant. We want to make sure the meals we serve are creative and responding to our customers’ expectations and tastes. I can see us changing the menu probably twice each year, which means it is ever-evolving.

Everyone loves a party, especially one done in grand style. Such was the case for the 2012 Forks and Corks Grand Tasting held on Sunday, Jan. 29. The 5th Annual Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival was hosted by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals and made possible through event sponsors, donors and business partners.  Sarasota’s culinary creativity, range and diversity were all  showcased in a series of winemaker dinners, interactive seminars and classes and with the culminating public event, the Grand Tasting.

The Sunday afternoon was “picture perfect” for an outdoor event: bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky with temps in the 70s. The magnificent courtyard of the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art served as center stage for a palate-pleasing presentation. The performers, approximately 50 local chefs and restaurateurs, combined their culinary talents with 80 international winemakers to present one of the finest flavorful food festivals in Sarasota.

The Grand Tasting event was scheduled from 12-4 pm. We arrived fashionably late (12:20pm), only to find the crowd already sizeable. With 1000-plus people attending and this event being a quick sell-out, we anticipated some difficulty with logistics. This was not the case at all! Registration was easy, the program well-organized, signage was good and the flow of people easily managed. All we needed was a plan to navigate more than 85 tables offering food, beer and wine. Our initial plan was amazingly simple in concept: start in numeric order, do a quick survey of the various foods and wines being offered (noting the ones we wanted to explore further) and then circle back to those tables we highlighted. We quickly realized our levels of interest far exceeded our capacity to taste and consume. So much for best-laid plans! Here are some of the highlights from our gastronomic trek.

Osso Bucco from Ophelia's

Local Food:

– Lamb Osso Bucco from Ophelia’s on the Bay
– Grilled Flank Steak on Artisan Roll from Michael’s on East
– Bruchetta Pomodoro and Agnolotti from Salute!
– Spicy Korean Pork Belly Happy Buns from The Polo Grill & Bar
– Kobe Beef Sliders from Square 1 Burgers & Bar
– Classic Caesar Salad from Euphemia Haye

Taylor Bay Scallop Crudo from Derek's

– Taylor Bay Scallop Crudo from Derek’s Culinary Casual
– White Bean Cassoulet from Bijou Café

Food photos courtesy of Larry Hoffman.

 

 

Wines from around the world:

– Bell Pinot Gris from Bell Wine Cellars
– Whispering Angel Rosé from Chateau D’Esclans
– Sondraia Bolgheri DOC from Poggio al Tesoro
– Noble Riesling from Helfrich
– Carneros Chardonnay from Merryvale Winery
– Champagne Rosé from Nicholas Feuillatte
– Mint Haven Cabernet from Morgenhof Estate
– Chenin Blanc from Post House

The afternoon was truly delightful, combining some of Sarasota’s finest assets: food, wine, people and weather in one amazing place.  Plus, on your way out all of the wines tasted were offered for purchase in a special retail tent at a discounted price. Now how is that for an added bonus? For those who like to plan ahead, next year’s Forks & Corks is scheduled for Jan. 25-28, 2013. Tickets go on sale Nov. 12, 2012.

Congratulations to all the people who made the 2012 Forks & Corks such a great success. Sarasota was proudly represented!

Photo by Peter Acker.

 

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

Derek Barnes: Executive Chef/Owner

Question: What is Derek’s Culinary Casual?

Answer:  An absolutely delightful spot for mid-week lunch!

Smoked Pork

Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich: A perfectly toasted bun (warm and crunchy on the outside; slightly charred on the inside) was the ideal vessel holding moist, stringy, tender pork with layers of subtle flavor. This is truly a refined pulled pork sandwich; absolutely delicious! In fact, I nominated it on my Foodspotting page.

Chopped Wild Salmon Salad

Chopped Wild Salmon Salad: A plate full of flavor, color, texture, and goodness. The light, healthy, and satisfying lunch

Chicken Banh Mi

Bell & Evans Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich: An interesting twist of this Vietnamese staple, full of flavor and textures. Once you taste this chicken, ordinary chicken will never do again. Amazing.

Banana Cream Custard

Banana Cream Custard: A signature dessert and one we always order. Also a Foodspotting nomination!

In addition to the above, Derek’s has many other lunch options.

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