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!

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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!

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

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

Continuing our tour of wines from the Southern Hemisphere, today we are tasting the 2008 Unfiltered Malbec from Loma Larga Vineyards. Generally we associate Malbec with Argentina, however this Malbec is from Chile.

Background: A long history of wine production

Wine production in Chile started in the mid-16th century with vines carried by Spanish explorers, missionaries, and settlers. Most of the early wine production was conducted by missionaries for religious consumption but by the end of the 16th century the fledgling wine business expanded its use of the “common black grape” to produce sweet wines for export and general consumption. This sweet wine production continued through most of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Aging Cellar

The influence of French wine making was strong and French vines were introduced into Chile by wealthy landowners in the late 18th century. Not only did the introduction of French varietals expand the types of wines produced, but it incorporated French wine making techniques into the process. With an expanding production base Chile increased its exports of wine and became the 3rd largest wine exporter to the United States behind France and Italy by late 20th century. Today Chile ranks 4th in exports to the United States.

The winery: Loma Larga Vineyards

After researching the feasibility of producing limited quantity premium wines in Chile, the Diaz family started Loma Larga Vineyards with the 1st vintage being 2004. With an intense focus on quality, consistent production, and the most sophisticated wine making techniques, Loma Larga Vineyards is producing limited quantity high quality wines for export.

Advanced Wine Making Techniques

Our Tasting:

On our 1st pour we were immediately drawn to the color of the wine. A deep, dark, inky purple tone, the wine visually exuded a richness which was backed by the taste. Flavorful, visually appealing, the wine presented a richness and character which we expected to pair well with the grilled porterhouse we were planning to prepare.

On our 2nd pouring we were matching the grilled porterhouse, oven roasted herbed potatoes, and an arugula salad with the wine. A perfect pairing. The wine has a big mouth feel which stood up to the grilled beef and was moderated some by the potatoes. A very nice combination. Once again, we were quite impressed with the character of the wine and the “long legs” which were demonstrated when the wine was swirled in our glass. This is a wine which can be cellared for 3-5 years and certainly meant to be paired with food.

Where to buy the wine:

Retailers:

Restaurants:

A special thank you to the folks at GOS Wines for their support in providing information and the wine.

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

SRQ Reviews Network - Dining Guide

Continuing our tour of wines from the Southern Hemisphere, today we are tasting one of the most popular varietals from Argentina. The 2007 Malbec from Dolium Winery.

Background: Old World comes of Age

Wine making in Argentina can be traced back to the 16th century when vine stock was brought into the country from Chile and Spain. Cultivation of the vines expanded and the Mendoza wine region began to emerge as the country’s most important wine-producing region.

Historically wine production in Argentina was primarily a domestic business. That is, the wine produced by Argentine vineyards was for domestic consumption and not of export quality. This focus on domestic production continued for centuries. A series political dictatorships and economic threats began to have a influence on the Argentine wine industry. With the hyperinflation of the 1980’s and the drop in domestic wine consumption within Argentina, the Argentine wine industry began to think about exports. The success of Chile’s wine exports provided a  further catalyst for the Argentine wine producers to make wine worthy of export.

With an emphasis on producing higher quality of wine for export, investments were made in technology and equipment to improve both quality and yield. Today, Argentina is ranked 5th in worldwide production.

The winery: Dolium Wines

The Old world comes of age is exemplified by Dolium Wines. Taking the Latin name for amphora, the ceramic wine storage vessels used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, Dolium is making a connection to the old world. In ancient Rome, wine was stored underground as a means of temperature control. Today Dolium is the 1st underground winery in Argentina to combine old world traditions with modern-day technology to produce their wine.  

In 1997, Mario Giadorou, a mechanical engineer, turned his attention to his ancient Italian family’s business of wine making and a new Argentinian winery emerged. The winery continues to invest in technology to produce distinctive wines representing the characteristics of the Mendoza region and the international standards of wine consumers around the world.

Our Tasting:

On our 1st pour we were impressed with the dark red ruby colored wine. We expected depth of flavor and were not disappointed. With a nice aroma we took our taste and were very surprised in a good way. Expecting a big “malbec mouth” we discerned the characteristics of the grape but also a subtly sweet taste as well. Very good.

On our next pour we were pairing the wine with some sweet and spicy bbq spare ribs. It was a delicious pairing. The subtle sweetness of the wine matched perfectly with the smokey sweetness of the sauce on the spare ribs. It worked very well together.

On our next pouring we wanted to try something a little more spicy for a pairing. We choose a lemon, jalapeno sauced fettucine. This was a spicy dish so were not sure how this wine would hold up.  Once again, the subtly fruity flavor was enhanced with the spicy sauced pasta. The wine was a winner!

Smooth, rich, with a subtle sweetness, and a deep red color, this Malbec from Dolium is a versatile wine which pairs well with grilled meats and spicy flavored dishes.

Where to buy the wine:

Retailers:

Restaurants:

A special thank you to the folks at GOS Wines for their support in providing information and the wine.

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