"Friday Faves"


Hanna Schneider and Rochelle Seldin

The Fresh Start Café, one from an abundant crop of new Sarasota restaurants, recently opened in the Burns Court area. Founded by business and life partners Rochelle Seldin and Hanna Schneider, the restaurant represents a new beginning for each. Rochelle, a singer, entrepreneur and entertainer, longed for another opportunity “to do her own thing” and work for herself—to make a new beginning. Hanna, after taking a hiatus from the food service business to focus on the couple’s young family, wanted to put her culinary skills back to work. The seeds for the Fresh Start Café were germinated.

With an emphasis on fresh, the menu is well-balanced, offering familiar and unique breakfast and lunch fare (eggs, frittatas, baked goods, soup, salads and sandwiches), all with a Fresh Start Café signature touch. For our meals we had the following:

    • Pumpkin Muffin: Fresh-baked and covered in powdered sugar.  $2.50
      Very fresh, subtle flavor; great with morning coffee.
    • Apple Muffin: Fresh-baked, with chunks of apple.  $2.50
      Very light and flavorful, sweet but not overdone; another great accompaniment to coffee.
    • Burekas: Flaky puff pastry filled with salted cheese. A popular Israeli way to eat burekas is by adding slices of hardboiled egg, tomatoes and black pepper.  Cheese: $3.50; add $1.00 for the “Israeli Way”
      Very interesting pastry; a non-sweet baked good alternative, simple yet flavorful.
    • Poached Eggs over Spinach: Topped with hollandaise sauce, served on rye toast with a side of chopped salad or fresh fruit.  $7.25
      A very nice presentation: eggs perfectly poached, colorful, flavorful, and the toast was great.

      La Greca Fiittata

    • La Greca Frittata: Three eggs, spinach and feta baked (not fried) to order in a deep skillet, served with toast, strawberry butter and a choice of chopped salad or fresh fruit.  $8.25
      A very filling, flavorful alternative to the omelet; nice presentation, delicious.
    • Going Green Frittata: Three eggs, zucchini, broccoli and chives, baked (not fried) to order in a deep skillet, served with toast, strawberry butter and a choice of chopped salad or fresh fruit.  $8.25
      Fresh and full of subtle flavors and texture; nice presentation.
    • Tuna Salad Sandwich: Choice of Italian ciabatta, black Russian rye, wheat grain or white bread, served with lettuce, tomato and onion.  $6.25
      A well-prepared and presented sandwich served with a side of couscous.
    • Thanksgiving Day:  Your choice of bread with turkey, cheddar, cranberries, and horseradish mayo.  $8.75
      Very flavorful and filling, served with a side of pasta salad; simply delicious.

      Tuna on Black Rye

      The Fresh Start Café offers a limited selection of beer and wine to accompany your meal, while offering a good selection of coffee, tea and soft drinks. The wait staff is very friendly, accommodating, fast and efficient.

      Perhaps the Fresh Start Café is an insider’s place, mostly discovered by locals in the Burns Square and Palm Avenue areas. However, the word is getting out about the quality of the food, and the Fresh Start  is becoming a very busy spot for breakfast, lunch or just for coffee—another welcome addition to the Historic Burns Court neighborhood.

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For weeks I watched the transition take place; the former space of longstanding Zoria and the short lived Main Street Oyster Bar being transformed into the new Half Shell Oyster House. Started in the summer of 2009 in Gulfport, Mississippi and shortly thereafter in Biloxi, the Sarasota Half Shell Oyster House is a joint venture between Bradenton resident Dino Mirando, and the Gulf Coast Restaurant Group headed by Bob Taylor.

Located at 1991 Main Street, on the corner of Links Avenue, the Half Shell Oyster House is an impressive space. Dark rich wood tones, tiled floors, wrought iron railings, white linen tablecloths, and a large high ceiling space, the newest place on Main Street exudes southern charm and offers a menu which is totally complementary.

Signature Charbroiled Oyster

Center stage on the menu, oysters of course, with the Half Shell signature charbroiled being one of many choices. Shrimp, crab cakes, and fish round out the seafood selections; however there are salads, pasta, chicken and steak for the non-seafood lover. In other words, the Half Shell offers a broad choice of menu items for all diners. The Half Shell Oyster House opens daily at 11am.

Pre-opening Reception: A “Win/Win” Event

On Friday January 6, 2012, the Half Shell Oyster House sponsored a pre-opening reception supporting the Mark Wandall Foundation.

About the Foundation:

The Mark Wandall Foundation formed in 2003 in honor of Mark Jeffery Wandall who tragically lost his life due to the negligence of a red light runner. The primary missions of the foundation are to support and nurture children in our community who have experienced loss in their lives and to educate and raise awareness regarding traffic safety and compliance.

This pre-opening reception was most certainly a win/win event attended by hundreds of people. Launching their first event, The Half Shell Oyster House underscores their care and concern for the community; while donating all the food, drinks, wine, beer, venue and staff for the evening, creates a well-received fund raising event for the Mark Wandall Foundation.

What better way to stress test your staff, make sure you are ready to open,  and give something back to the community?

Well done!

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.

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

Derek Barnes

Derek’s Culinary Casual sets the standard for fine dining in Sarasota. With extensive training and experience in the culinary arts, a creative flair and an innovative style, Derek has been pleasing Sarasota diners at his own restaurant for 6 years running. Perennially a favorite amongst critics and customers, Derek’s talent for creating unique, delectable dishes has earned him a semifinalist nomination for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef South award, Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon award, the “Most Innovative Chef” title in the Best of SRQ Magazine, and inclusion in the exclusive Zagat America’s Top Restaurants listing.

This year, Derek has created a special menu for a “Culinary Casual Celebration” for 2012!

Derek’s Culinary Casual
Welcomes You to New Year’s Eve 2012 

FIRST COURSE 

SEA SCALLOPS & CAVIAR
house made pasta,TaylorBayscallops, caviar, preserved lemon butter

SONOMA-CUTRER, Chardonnay, 2009, Sonoma
14. additional with wine pairing

~or~

BLUE CRAB BRANDADE
grilled corn bisque, blue crab, parmesan & truffle oil whipped potato, tatsoi greens

FRANCOIS MONTAND, Sparkling Wine, NV, France
10. additional with wine pairing

~or~

HOUSE CURED FOIE GRAS
ginger & citrus scented cranberries, walnut streusel, sauternes & vanilla bean vinaigrette

SCHLOSS VOLLRADS, Riesling, 2010, Germany
12. additional with wine pairing

SECOND COURSE

BEEF SHORT RIBS
chorizo mashed potatoes, black olive roasted green beans, crispy onion,
smoked shallot sauce

AMALAYA, Malbec, 2009, Argentina
10. additional with wine pairing

~or~

MALLARD DUCK
crispy roasted ½ mallard duck, house made potato gnocchi,
wild mushroom & foie gras ragout

LOLA, Pinot Noir, 2008, Russian River
15. additional with wine pairing

~or~

ARROZ CON MARISCOS
crispy barramundi, shrimp, calamari & mussels with toasted rice, white beans,
aji pancha broth, red onion & cilantro condiment

LAS BRISAS, Sauvignon Blanc – Verdejo   Blend, Spain
9. additional with wine pairing

~or~

BUTTER POACHED LOBSTER TAIL
parsnip, sweet pea, mint, preserved lemon, vanilla bean butter

HONIG, Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, Napa Valley
11. additional with wine pairing

THIRD COURSE

SMORES CHOCOLATE COOKIESANDWICH
Michigan cherry curd, pistachio crumble

WARRE’S WARRIOR, Special Reserve Port
9. additional with wine pairing

~or~

POACHED PEAR
lavender & honey poached pear, goat cheese ice cream,
black pepper caramel sauce

DOMAINE de BEAUMALRIC, Muscat de Beaumes de Venice, France
10. additional with wine pairing

~or~

ARTISAN CHEESE PLATE
candied pecans, dried apples, guava pâté

PEDRO XIMÉNEZ, Solera 1927
12. additional with wine pairing

 75 DOLLARS, PLUS TAX, PLUS 20% GRATUITY

Please note space is limited and reservations are a must. To make reservations, please contact Derek’s Culinary Casual at 941-366-6565.

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

With the holidays falling on a weekend this year, many restaurants are taking a well deserved break and closing; while others are choosing some variation of openings and closings. We did a survey of various Sarasota restaurants to see which are open, and what special menus may be offered. While we did find most restaurants closing for the Christmas weekend, many are open for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Here is a sampling of what we found for 2011 Holiday Dining Options. Please note you can see our review of the restaurant by clicking on the restauran’s name in the list. In addition to our editorial on the restaurant, all of the restaurants’ contact information is available as well as google maps for directions on the review page.

Christmas Eve Christmas Day New Year’s Eve New Year’s Day
Libby’s Cafe & Bar Regular hours, menu, and special   items closed Regular hours, menu, and special   items Sunday Brunch and a la carte   dining
Ophelia’s on the Bay 5:00-10:00pm   Regular menu plus Holiday specials 4:00-8:00pm   Regular menu plus Holiday specials 4:00-11:00pm   Regular menu plus Holiday specials 11am-2pm Brunch5:00-10:00pm
Regular Dinner menu   plus Holiday specials
Patrick’s 1481 Closing at 4:00pm Closed Special 3 Course Dinner $22/person   Champagne toast at Midnight Regular Hours and menu
Bijou Café Closed Closed 5:30-10:00pm  Regular menu Closed
Indigenous Closed Closed 5:30-10:00pm  Regular menu Closed
Mediterraneo Regular hours and menu Regular hours and menu Special a la carte menu Closed
Divino’s Regular hours, menu, and special   items Closed Regular hours, menu, and special   items Closed
Salute Ristorante-Enoteca 4:00-8:00pm   Regular menu plus Feast of the 7 Fishes Special Closed Regular Menu plus specials Live  music starting at 8:30pm Closed
Selva Regular menu plus music in the   back lounge Closed Regular Menu plus specials music   on the patio Reservations only Closed
Beach Bistro Regular hours and menu Closed Special Holiday Menu Regular Hours and menu
Pattigeorge’s Restaurant Regular hours and menu Opening at 5:00pm    Regular menu Regular Hours and menu 10PM   seating with Champagne, party hats, and favors Opening at 5:30pm Regular menu
Mozaic 4:00-9:00pm   Regular menu plus special items Closed 5:00-6:30pm
Reception, Food and Wine pairing dinner $79/pp                after   7:30 $109/pp
Closed
Derek’s Culinary Casual Closed Closed
5:00-10:00pm 
    3 Course Pre Fixe Dinner $75pp
Closed
Terrace on the Circle Closed Closed 7pm -1am Mediterranean   Extravaganza!  $50/pp food and entertainment, Belly Dancing, featuring a   Middle Eastern menu 7:30-3:00pm   Regular menu
Two Chef’s Casual Dining Regular Hours Closed Regular Hours and menu plus   special items Regular Hours and menu plus   special items
Square 1 Burgers & Bar Closed Closed Regular Hours and menu plus   special items Regular Hours and menu plus   special items

SRQ Reviews wishes you the Merriest of Christmas’ and the very best New Year!

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

With an artistic eye and a historical perspective of performance art, Denise Kowal founded and sponsored the first Avenida de Colores Burns Square Chalk Festival in November of 2007. With a small beginning and a large vision, the Sarasota Chalk Festival has quickly become one of the most successful Festivals in Sarasota and certainly one of the most anticipated. Last year’s attendance was estimated to be 45,000 attendees over the period with many more anticipated for the 2011 event.

A 3D work in progress

The dates for the 2011 Festival are November 1-7. Currently underway, one can easily stroll the streets of Burns Square and watch the street art take an amazing form. On Sunday November 6th, the Sarasota Opera will be performing select scenes from Madama Butterfly at 11am, 3pm, and 8pm at the Chalk Festival. I have been watching the stage construction on the side street and it is truly something not to be missed.

One of the drivers for The Sarasota Chalk Festival’s popularity is its base simplicity. Pavement, pastel chalk, artists, talent, and time, all combine to form a multi-day interactive experience for the artists, sponsors, and spectators. By scheduling a number of visits over a few days, one can stroll the streets and watch the individual creations evolve and take on a presence which just has to be seen.

3D Street Art

In addition to performing street art, The Sarasota Chalk Festival offers a range of events spanning the entire week. Planning to come to the are and looking for a place to have a meal? There are a number of restaurants in the immediate vicinity which you might want to try:

Dining Al Fresco at Bond

Bond: Bistro style lunch

Burns Court Cafe: Casual Parisian style breakfast and lunch and happy hour

Fresh Start Cafe: Breakfast

Gallileo: Italian

Nancy’s BBQ: Casual lunch and dinner

Owen’s Fish Camp: Casual seafood dinner

Retropolitan: Casual Gastropub with happy hour

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

To see the Sarasota Chalk Festival 2011 Works in Progress Photo Album just click here:

Click on the link above to view the photos

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

A Special Dining Date for Mom

Mother’s Day is right upon us. Have you made your plans yet?
Here are a few options for you to consider? Here is a sampling of restaurants offering a special event for Mother’s Day Dining.

  •  Ophelia’s on the Bay: 9105 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, FL 34242
    941-349-2212
    Sunday Brunch 10:00am – 2:00pm $30 per person, Mimosa/Bloody Mary included Dinner 5:00 pm
  • Cafe Continental Pattisserie: 5221 Ocean Boulevard, Siesta Key, FL 34242
    941-346-3171
    Regular hours7am-2pm, glass of champagne or mimosa for every Mom who orders a meal.
  • Bijou Café: 1287 First Street, Sarasota, FL 34236
    941-366-8111
    Regular menu plus specials Dinner 4:00 – 8:00

    Two Chef's Apple Strudel

  • Two Chefs: 1617 Desoto Road, Sarasota, FL 34234
    941-355-5151
    Open 2:00-9:00pm.  Special menu/special pricing
  • Libby’s Café and Bar: 1917 South Osprey Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34239
    941-487-7300
    Mother’s Day Brunch 10:30am-4:00pm, $29/$12 for kids.  Regular a la carte dinner service 4:00pm-10pm.
  • Salute!: 23 North Lemon Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236
    941-365-1020
    Regular hours, regular menu plus specials
  • Terrace on the Circle: 419 St. Armands Circle, St. Armands Circle, FL 34236
    941-388-2222
    Regular Sunday hours, Complimentary Champagne cocktail for Mom!
  • First Street Chop House: 1296 1st Street, Sarasota, FL 34236
    941-554-4375
    Sunday Brunch 11:30-2:00 a la carte, Dinner 5:00-9:00pm
  • Fleming’s Steakhouse: 2001 Siesta Drive, Sarasota, FL 34239
    941-358-9463
    Mother’s Day Brunch, 11:30am-3:00pm, $32.95 per person/$15.95 for children, plus Mom gets a $25 Fleming’s Gift Card to use at another time.  Also, regular menu
  • Mediterraneo: 1970 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236
    941-365-4122
    Regular hours, regular menu plus specials
  • Derek’s Culinary Casual: 1825 South Osprey Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34239
    941-377-2486
    Although closed on Sundays. Will have dinner specials for Mom on Saturday May 7th

 So if your plans for Mother’s Day include dining out, you might want to consider one of these spots as you finalize your plans.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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