Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Broken Egg: 6115 Exchange Way, Lakewood Ranch, FL

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Today was Gabriel’s and my 2nd Saturday morning since moving to Lakewood Ranch and the first one that was free to go out for breakfast. We live a mile from the Broken Egg and had noticed the cute outdoor dining section when we drove past every day. We decided we’d try it today and got there around 9:30 to see plenty of open tables. We sat right away and our waitress brought over menus and took our orders for coffee with skim milk & honey (which they actually had- both seem to be fairly hard to get around here), and ice water. I noticed on yelp.com that there was a check-in deal for $5 off a $25 check. I showed it to the waitress who checked with her boss and confirmed that it would be honored. We actually doubted we’d spend enough to use it, but then we saw the prices…

Our waitress came back a few minutes later with our coffee, skim and honey, but no water so we asked again. The coffee, I’m sorry to say, left a lot to be desired. Although it was hot and topped off frequently by a team of staff, it was so weak and flavorless that it really needed the skim and honey even more than it normally would.

For my breakfast, I ordered the Ken’s Bella Veggie Skillet: 2 Eggs ‘your way’ (I had them poached), sautéed Portabella Mushrooms, Spinach, Sun-dried Tomatoes & Swiss Cheese over potatoes with a side of fruit salad and rye toast. I asked for my toast dry with butter on the side.

My meal came out lightening fast and looked great with lots of veggies and 2 perfectly poached eggs. I dug right in and was pleased with the combo of flavors and textures. The only thing that wasn’t great was the soggy/cheesy potatoes that the whole thing sat atop. I was hoping they’d have some crispy edges, but no, not even a little. The fruit salad was a nice refreshing side, full of fresh melons, berries and apples. Unfortunately, the waitress had forgotten my butter for my toast so I reminded her again. I’d finished about 3/4 of my meal before she finally came around again and I asked for a 3rd time. When she finally brought it out I was just about done eating my meal. Well, better late than never I guess.

Our check was brought over and our ‘pretty good’ food quickly turned into ‘totally not worth it’. Even WITH our $5 credit, the total plus tip came to $30. That’s just ridiculous. We are NOT in NYC anymore and charging more than double what a breakfast at a great NY diner would charge is insane. Yes, the setting is cute. Yes, the menu had great choices and the food was tasty…but NO, not worth $30 at all. I will not be going back.

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MacAllisters Grill & Tavern: 8110 Lakewood Main St. Lakewood Ranch, FL

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Gabriel was teaching yoga until pretty late last night so we’d decided to go out for dinner when he got back. We had a $10 coupon to MacAllisters since we’d moved to Lakewood about a week ago and the info/welcome center gave us our choice of restaurant gift certificates. We’d heard it was one of the only places close by that serves dinner until 10pm, so this was the perfect opportunity to try it.

We were seated right away and were surprised to see that it was fairly crowded. Apparently, Tuesday night is trivia night and a bunch of people were there to play and drink $1.99 beers.

We noticed right away that they also offer $3.99 martinis (!!!) so we decided to have a toast to our new Florida Driver’s Licenses and our 11 month-i-versary. I ordered a dirty martini with extra olives and I must say, it was excellent. The olives were gigantic and delicious and the martini was super dirty, just like I like it.

Our waiter Chris was extremely personable and friendly and we enjoyed chatting with him throughout the meal. He made some recommendations and took our orders and then our rolls and salads were brought out quickly.

I ordered the chicken marsala which came with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and a side salad with blue cheese to start with. The dressing was SO good with a little spicy kick to it that’s unusual in blue cheese. The rolls were warm and fresh- but we found it odd that they only brought 3 of them for the 2 of us.

I asked for more broccoli and less mashed potatoes so as not to have the carb-loaded side tempting me. He happily took care of that for me and the portions were perfect. The chicken was cooked nicely, tender and very flavorful in it’s marsala sauce, but I would have like a few more mushrooms.

Overall, for about $15 I had a hearty and filling meal and a great cocktail. Add that to the friendly service and late hours and we will surely be back soon.

Lucky Pelican: 6239 Lake Osprey Dr. Sarasota, FL

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Last night, Gabriel and I joined 2 other couples for dinner at the Lucky Pelican. I’d heard about this restaurant a bunch of times already from my parents and their friends. Apparently, it’s one of the best seafood places around and people will gladly wait up to an hour for a table. The woman who organized the dinner was smart enough to call ahead (they do not take reservations but you can call to get on the list) to tell them the 6 of us would be there at 6:30 when our meeting time was really 7, so we only had to wait a few minutes before being seated. Awesome.

Our menus and drink orders were taken right away by our waiter, who seemed a bit ‘off’. Perhaps tired, perhaps overworked, perhaps completely and totally drunk. Hmmm.

I ordered a mojito and a water with lemon, both of which were brought out shortly and the waiter asked us if we wanted to order any apps. We hadn’t really looked over the menu yet, so we asked for a few more minutes to decide. He came back about 1 minute later and we still weren’t ready so when he left, I commented that since we’d just turned him away twice, he probably wouldn’t be back for 20 minutes the next time. Unfortunately, I was correct. When he did finally come back, we ordered the calamari and shrimp starters and happily received the bread and butter he’d brought with him. We also put in our entree orders at this time, during which, it became rather clear that he was in fact, drunkity drunk drunk. “I’d like the seared scallop salad please”, “ok, one ceasar salad”. Ummm no.

About 10 minutes later a busboy brought us our entrees. Huh? What happened to our apps? “Oh, you ordered apps?”

Oh boy. He also forgot 2 of the women’s sodas and Gabriel’s avocado. Ooookay. Maybe a pen and a pad of paper would be a good investment for this guy.

So, our entrees (and my mojito) were REALLY excellent. My scallops were cooked to perfection with a golden sear and light seasoning. The arugula, mangos and toasted almonds made a great combination with the scallops. The dressing was a  light, sweet vinaigrette and it was summery and delicious. I totally cleaned my plate. My friends, who eat here frequently, said they’d NEVER had a problem like this with the service and we all actually found it quite laughable….plus we saved money on the apps that never came.

We decided to skip dessert, although the choices sounded great. I will definitely be back since the menu had tons of appealing options, reasonable prices, excellent food and it’s about 3 minutes from my house…I’ll just be sure to sit in a different section next time in hopes of having a sober person to take our order.

 

 

 

 

Fast N Fresh: 8138 Main Street, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202

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My mom, Gabriel and I stopped here for lunch today. They opened fairly recently and it looks clean and cute with it’s bright green chairs at the outside tables. There was no line and we took our time looking over the menu. There are so many great options, from create-your-own salads to panini, sandwiches, soups and wraps. I decided on the you-pick-2 with a Market salad (mandarin oranges, almonds, cranberries, raisins, apples and baby greens) with the raspberry vinaigrette  and the half sandwich (Turkey & Pear – Roasted turkey, cheddar, sliced pear, honey mustard on multigrain). The service was fast but pretty much forgot half of the ingredients for my salad so I had to go back and ask for the almonds, cranberries and raisins. I assume that the employee was new so I guess I can forgive that- but it was a pretty stupid error. The dressing was so-so, but since it’s fat-free, that explains that. I enjoyed my sandwich quite a bit, especially the grainy, thick toast it came on.  Overall, for under $10 to have a healthy and tasty lunch is reasonable in my book. The convenient Main st location and outdoor seating is an added bonus. I’m sure I’ll be back.

Miss JC Garden: 8310 Market St. Lakewood Ranch, FL

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Gabriel and I moved into our new condo in Lakewood Ranch today! We were so excited to finally get here and settled in right away. Around 9:30, we realized we hadn’t eaten dinner yet and didn’t have any groceries so we decided to see what our options near Publix were. Publix is an awesome grocery store, but we NYers aren’t used to supermarkets that close at 10pm and we had to rush to pick up some things we needed for the next day.

A few doors away from Publix, we found Miss JC Garden. In the window, we saw the sign that they serve Chinese, Thai and Malaysian food with a healthy spin. Wow, what luck! Totally our kind of place.

We were welcomed warmly and seated right away in the empty restaurant. Light, airy  crunchy noodles, mustard and duck sauce were brought out along with ice water and menus. The menus are extensive, and it took us a bit to look through and decide what to order.

We eventually settled on healthy steamed chicken and vegetables with szechuan sauce on the side. We were happy to find out that they don’t use any MSG or chemicals here in their preparation. We also ordered Moo shu vegetables that came with 4 thin pancakes.

Everything that we ordered was piping hot, fresh, full of veggies and high quality ingredients. Our 2 entrees were the perfect amount of food and we quickly ate everything in front of us. Our total came to just over $20, a very reasonable price for the amount of food we were served.

We will absolutely be back…not only because it’s 3 minutes from where we live, but also because the service was friendly and personal, the food was awesome and healthy, and the options are endless.

Bravo Miss JC Garden. You’ve impressed 2 NYers who were worried we’d never find decent Chinese food around here…We are VERY happy to be wrong about that assumption.

How to find my recipes….

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For my recipes, just put “chez carey” into the search engine on my blog…or click here!

https://bigforkinmouth.wordpress.com/?s=chez+carey

Salute!: 23 N Lemon Ave, Sarasota, FL

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My family and I went here for dinner tonight after our first attempt had an hour long wait and our 2nd attempt was closed. Salute has a great outdoor eating area with available tables and we were seated right away. Our waiter came over with menus and went over the specials. None of us wanted to order cocktails so we just asked for flat water. I also asked if, when he had a moment, he’d bring over some lemon for the water. When he came back to take our orders and to bring us bread and dipping olive oil, I again reminded him that I wanted some lemon. When he came back a third time to bring us our appetizers, I asked him for a third time for some lemon. Finally, he came back with 3 slices of lemon (for our table of 4. Hmmm) and my water glass was, by then, empty. Big fail. The bus boy overheard me complaining about the timing of this and re-filled my glass. Ok. Better late than never.

For my app, I shared an arugula, endive, radicchio salad with Gabriel. It came with a creamy balsamic dressing and shaved parmesan. Very nice and fresh, but kind of on the boring side.

For my entree, at the suggestion of our waiter, I ordered the chicken parmesan with penne. It was a great portion sized- very manageable and not overwhelmingly large which I appreciated. The chicken, however was totally overcooked, stringy, dry and unimpressive. The sauce and cheese on top were mediocre at best. I’ve had better chicken parm at a diner.

For the prices here, I would not return. Just a few nights earlier, we went to Cafe Baci for the same price and MUCH better food. I guess you’re really just paying for the lovely outdoor seating here and not much more.

Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

New Pass Grill & Bait Shop: 1505 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I stopped here for a quick lunch today before our fun day of going to see a waterski show and then to the Mote aquarium (both just down the street). It’s a great setting, right next to the Longboat Key bridge at the water’s edge. Tons of boaters dock here for lunch, beer and bait, and it was cool to see them coming and going as we ate outside under an umbrellaed table.

We stood in line for about 15 minutes waiting to place our order at the takeout counter. We decided to share a cheeseburger and a clam basket (which consisted of clam strips, fries and cole slaw). I was happy to see that they had malt vinegar– something I really love on fries that not a lot of places have available. We sat at a gulf-side table and waited for our name to be called over the loudspeaker that our lunch was ready to pick up at the side door. About 10 minutes later it was ready and we picked it up. The burger was basically cafeteria quality. The bun was better than average, but the meat patty was pretty poor. Not juicy, not flavorful, not really any better than a frozen grocery store cheapo one or one you’d get at a fast food joint. The clam strips were very good, not greasy, just super crunchy and a generous portion. The fries were also better-than-average. Super crunchy and tasty. We also shared a large, unsweetened ice tea that hit the spot.

I wouldn’t recommend coming here for great food, but for a lovely, casual setting and fun people, bird and boat watching, this is a great choice. For just under $20, I think next time we’ll choose to make sandwiches and sit at one of the many waterfront park picnic tables.

Cafe Baci: 4001 S. Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL

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From the street, Cafe Baci looks like it’s from 1960. The sign as well as the outside of the restaurant is dated and falling apart, and does nothing at all to represent the excellence that happens inside.

We were welcomed very warmly by the hostess and quickly led to our table. We saw right away that the clientele of this establishment is pretty much the over 65 crowd, and we felt slightly out of place and underdressed. The hostess assured us that people come in wearing just-off-the-beach clothes sometimes and that we were totally fine. Our waiter came over with menus and ice water and went over the specials, all of which sounded great. Shortly later, he brought over a basket of foccacia, delicious garlicy/parmesan breadsticks and some herbed olive oil. You see from my picture that we had all dived into those before I remembered to take a photo, and the basket is already partially empty.

This restaurant came very highly recommended by my friend and duo partner Mike (please visit mikesolomusic.com and careyyaruss.com com for more info ) and one of the things he mentioned to me was how accommodating they are to their patron’s requests. Knowing that, I asked if it would be possibly to add some grilled shrimp to the cappellini primavera, to which the waiter happily agreed.

When my entree came out, I was very excited for my first taste. It was loaded with huge, gorgeous, grilled shrimp, tons of fresh vegetables and homemade cappellini with a creamy, tomato sauce. It was seriously delicious, rich and indulgent. I was totally happy with it, even though I was expecting a nice, light pasta dinner and it was definitely on the heavy side. The portion was extremely generous and I happily shared it with Gabriel and my mom and step-father, who all agree that it was super tasty.

For dessert, we decided to order one tiramisu for everyone to share. When it arrived with an old looking strawberry on top, we assumed it must have been made much earlier and was just sitting in the fridge waiting for someone to order it. It was covered in a 2 inch thick layer of whipped cream on top and the espresso soaked cake was kind of overwhelmed by that. The flavor was good and if there had been less whipped cream I think we all would have really enjoyed it, but as it were, I pretty much was the only one who ended up eating it.

Overall, I was very impressed with Cafe Baci and would definitely go back. I would love to see some younger people in there, but unless they update the outside and make it look a big livelier and hipper, I doubt anyone under 40 will be going in anytime soon. With nearly full tables, it seems like their business isn’t suffering because of that, and maybe that’s really the crowd that they are aiming to attract. With it’s rustic, Italian interior, it has a classic feel that’s sure to please an older (and wealthier) clientele. The food is really top quality and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a hearty meal. Enjoy!

Harry’s Continental Kitchen: 525 Saint Judes Drive, Longboat Key, FL

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As a ‘Welcome to Florida’ gift, my generous father sent Gabriel and I for a celebratory dinner at Harry’s. What a wonderful treat it was! Great service, a romantic setting, excellent food and a truly special place that we probably wouldn’t have come across on our own. As a favorite of my father’s, he wanted to make sure we got a chance to try it. By sending us there as a gift, he ensured that we’d be able to see what was so lovely about the experience.

When we arrived, we were asked where we wanted to sit. We chose the corner table outside, surrounded by lit-up palm trees and flowers. It is such a cute restaurant, as you can see in the pic of Gabriel. It has a casual feel outside, and the inside room is a bit more formal. This is a combo I really love. A super casual and low-key atmosphere but with a high-end, fancy menu. This is the perfect juxtaposition for someone new to the Florida lifestyle…Someone who is really not missing the ‘suit and tie’ necessity of a NYC restaurant with a similar menu.

Our waitress was excellent right from the start. She went over the specials and brought out water and some warm bread served with butter and roasted garlic cloves (YUM). The menu made for a difficult decision. Just about everything on it appealed to me and I kept changing my mind about what to order. In the end, I decided to take my father’s recommendation which was to have the caesar salad and the duck. Duck is not normally something I order, but given his very strong feelings about it, I thought it was a great opportunity to branch out from the foods I generally gravitate towards.

The salad came out  quickly. It wasn’t the lettuce, parmesan and croutons simplicity of a typical caeser and instead was enhanced with wonderful with ripe tomatoes, anchovies and crumbled blue cheese. The caesar dressing was perfect and I was very happy with this as my appetizer. It also went beautifully with my glass of Pinot Grigio. Gabriel had the macadamia-crusted scallops in a citrus sauce, which I happily had a taste of. I thought the crust and sauce were both awesome- as did Gabriel who ended up using the leftover bread to sop up the sauce after the scallops were gone. The scallops, however, were a bit overcooked. They were tougher and drier than they should have been. That said, they were full of flavor and tasted quite good anyway.

Our entrees came out and looked incredible. My duck had a super crisp and crunchy skin and the tender meat was rich and succulent. It came in a maple/berry sauce that complimented it perfectly and I polished it off. I guess I love duck now, at least the way they prepare it here. It came with a side of squash and zucchini that lighted it up a bit. The vegetables were simply steamed and I thought they went very nicely with the duck meat without competing at all with the flavor. It also came with a side of wild rice that seemed to be undercooked. It had some very crunchy pieces that were so hard I thought I might chip a tooth on it. I liked the flavor of it very much, but the under-doneness of it was rather off-putting.

Gabriel ordered the pasta with grouper, shrimp and scallops, and the seafood on it was all amazing. The perfectly cooked scallops clarified that the scallops we’d had earlier were definitely overcooked because these were tender, moist and so full of delicate flavor. The shrimp were enormous and tasted wonderful in the light sauce. The grouper was also cooked just right, tender, flakey and light. The pasta itself was cooked more than I like it- I strongly prefer my pasta al dente and this was kind of on the mushy side. That said, the highlight of the dish was clearly the seafood and the plentiful amount of pasta was almost unnecessary.

For dessert, I ordered the key lime pie with meringue topping. It was plated beautifully and tasted SO delicious after my heavy meal. The thick meringue topping was fluffy and light with it’s wonderful crisp top. The filling was limey, springy and bright and just sweet enough. I gobbled it up and was left feeling incredible satisfied with the whole meal.

The service was really exquisite. Our waitress checked on us just enough without being overbearing. She made sure we had topped off water glasses and were happy with everything we were served. The maitre d’ also came by to check on us and we felt like we were treated with respect and courtesy, and that they really cared about how we were enjoying our evening.

I would strongly recommend Harry’s to anyone looking for a special evening out. I would love to return for brunch or lunch someday since there was so much on the menu that sounded awesome. Since it’s a bit out of my normal budget, it was really such a great gift from my father and I thank him, as well as the staff at Harry’s, for such a warm welcome to Florida.