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.

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

Given the woes of our economy and the trends towards casual dining, one might argue the art of fine dining is diminishing. We disagree. Exceptional food served in a very pleasant or unique setting will always create its own demand. Besides what better way to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or special occasion than to spend the evening enjoying fine food, wine, family and friends?

So the question becomes where to go in Sarasota for a fine dining experience? 

There are many choices, one of my favorite “goto” places is Maison Blanche located on Longboat Key. 

The definition of fine dining varies. According to Wikipedia Fine dining can be defined as follows:

Fine dining restaurants are full service restaurants with specific dedicated meal courses. Décor of such restaurants feature higher quality materials with an eye towards the “atmosphere” desired by the restaurateur. The wait staff is usually highly trained and often wears more formal attire. Fine-dining restaurants are almost always small businesses and are generally either single-location operations or have just a few location

Our definition includes the following:

Food: High quality ingreadients, exceptionally prepared and presented
Decor: A plesant and inviting atmosphere conducive to dining, conversation,  comfort, and visually appealing
Service: Friendly, well versed on the menu items, attentive but not overly so, there when you need them

On a recent visit to Maison Blanche our fine dining definition was reinforced. Honestly from the outside of the restaurant one might think “what is so special about this place?” It has a  very unassuming presence. However once inside a transformation takes place and you realize something special awaits you. Using a black and white motif the decor is simple yet elegant.  White flowing sheers, white table linens, very comfortable black chairs, and black stone table adornments define the dining area. A perfect balance of elegance and simplicty; just the right showcase for the main attraction, the food.

Although Chef/Owner Jose Martinez hails from France and had restaurants in Paris and the south of France for a number of years, the menu is not classic French. Using classic French culinary techniques, adjusting for American tastes, and using sauces and seasonings to enhance the essence of the food, Jose Martinez, the James Beard Award nominated chef, consistently produces some of the finest dishes in Sarasota and dare I say all of Florida. Flavorful, tastefully presented, subtly seasoned the style is most definetly updated European; no heavy sauces here!

Keeping with the simple yet elegant theme, the service is friendly, efficient, most definitely well trained, and knowledgable. With an emphasis on making your experience enjoyable, the staff is attentive but unintrusive. Since the table is yours for the evening, there is no attempt to push the pace of dining and turn the table over to another party. Just sit back, take your time. and enjoy the entire dining experience.

The art of fine dining  is a delicate balance between quality food, an elegant decor, and outstanding service. A lofty goal often not consistely achieved, yet sought by many. Maison Blanche has mastered the art of fine dining. If you seek one of the best fine dining experiences on the Gulf Coast of Florida, make a reservation at Maison Blanche. Your taste buds will thank you!

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