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.

Advertisements

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!

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.

 

Planning a successful fundraising event can be daunting. There are innumerable tasks, hundreds of details, logistics to consider, inevitable last-minute changes and challenges to master before the event can even take place, let alone be successful.

Planning these types of events since 1991, the Florida Winefest & Auction team makes this type of challenge appear easy. Having raised $7.5 million raised for children’s charities, the Florida Winefest’s Balloon Glow Dinner was their latest example of an elegant, fun-filled fundraising event.

 

The Balloon Glow Dinner

The first of its kind in the Sarasota area, the Balloon Glow Dinner was held under the stars at the 85-acre Herschberger Ranch on Friday, Feb. 24, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Imagine a wide-open field and pond at sunset. On one side of the pond, there’s a tent-covered area with 20 round tables elegantly set. On the other side of the pond, six hot air balloons intermittently fire their propane burners, providing a colorful glow from the inside of the balloon and the corresponding reflection off the water—truly an interesting backdrop.

The gourmet dinner catered by Chef Paul Mattison was served buffet-style, with four primary food stations and three dessert stations all set up around the back perimeter of the tent. The menu consisted of the following:

  • Panzanella: Fennel-crusted bread salad of olives, anchovies, and capers with a red wine reduction.
  • Ripe Tomatoes and Boccancini: Mozzarella with caramelized onions and fresh basil oil.
  • Strawberry Salad: Romaine lettuce with strawberries, candied walnuts, gorgonzola and chopped red onion served with Sauvignon vinaigrette.
  • Pan Roasted Rack of Baby Lamb: New Zealand rack with a mint, tomato and lemon confiture.
  • Sliced Duck Breast: With mandarin oranges, roasted shallots, candied pecans and ginger demi.
  • Carved Beef Tenderloin
  • Paella: Traditional Spanish saffron rice with shrimp, mussels, fresh fish, chorizo, pork, garlic, onions, peas, artichoke hearts and tomatoes.
  • Plank Broiled Salmon: With basil, lemon and a Vernaccia cream sauce.
  • Shrimp
  • Chicken in Chianti: Slow-roasted chicken thighs with onions, tomatoes, celery, carrots, pine nuts, sultanas, demi-glace and sage.
  • Grilled Quail: With dried cranberry sauce.
  • Risotto: Fugi con Tortifo.
  • Smore’s: Fire pits, Graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and loads of fun.
  • Warm Apple Crisp: Deep-dish apple cobbler topped with vanilla bean gelato
  • Bananas Foster Flambé Crepe: Fresh-cut bananas, caramelized brown sugar, cinnamon and crème fraiche flambeed in a crepe with imported dark rum and banana liquor, topped with fresh, sweetened whipped cream.

Jim and Sharon Butler enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.

As one would expect from the Florida Winefest & Auction, an ample selection of boutique wines ranging from sparkling, white, rosé, and red in various varietals were available as an aperitif and an accompaniment to the meal. Music for the evening was provided by John Rinell.

This year’s Balloon Glow Dinner served as a preview for next year’s event: Planning is already underway for 2013 Florida Winefest and Hot Air Balloon Festival to be held at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch. Plans include participation from 15 to 20 balloonists, rides and much more to come—another first of its kind in Sarasota!

Florida Winefest & Auction’s 22nd annual event will be held in Sarasota, April 12 through April 15, 2012. For more information on all the events and ticket purchases, go to the Florida Winefest & Auction website.

Under the tent at the Balloon Glow Dinner. All photos by Candice McElyea.

 

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!