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.

SONY DSC

  • 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!

SONY DSC

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.

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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!

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.

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 

Everyone needs a couple of dependable breakfast spots where the food is good, coffee fresh, wi-fi and newspapers available, and the price is right! I submit the Monday-Friday breakfast special served between 7am-11am at Deli Lane Sarasota as “Exhibit A.”

Two Eggs any style, choice of bacon, ham, or sausage, grits or potatoes, toast, and 2 pancakes all for $4.95! A great buy for the money but even better once you taste it!

Sarasota's breakfast and lunch place-Deli Lane
Sarasota’s Deli Lane

So if you are looking for a hearty breakfast at a unbelieveable price, consider the breakfast special at Sarasota’s Deli Lane. You will not be disappointed.  

Do you have a favorite spot for breakfast? If you do, please tell us. We would like to know.

SRQ Reviews Network

Have you ever really had a hankering for Southwestern Mexican food? The kind of yearning which is not satisfied by your average Mexican restaurant.  If you are an aficionado of southwest Mexican cuisine then you know what I mean. Even though I love Mexican food, there are times when you need those subtle flavors of the southwest cuisine. Fortunately for those of us that live in Sarasota, we have El Toro Bravo to satisfy our southwest Mexican cravings.

Southwest Mexican food in Sarasota

Sarasota's El Toro Bravo

El Toro Bravo is a family friendly, casually oriented, local kind of place. Family owned and operated, the food is real homemade Southwest Mexican cuisine. Individaully prepared, fresh, and tasty.

If you have not been here before, your 1st impression might be “Is this the right place?” Rest assured, once you dip that 1st chip into the homemade salsa you will say to yourself ” I am definitely  in the right place, if not then I just made an outstanding discovery!”  The food is great! Ample portions, well prepared, and served with a desire to do it right. A limited but serviceable beer and wine list are available to accompany your meal.

Not only is the food superb, the price is right. For that reason El Toro Bravo is one of our “Friday Faves.”

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

You can join the El Toro Bravo Club and receive email specials and discount coupons. A great way to try something new.