Monthly Archives: July 2012

G’s Pizzaria: 7119 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

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This is another one of those “I am a NY pizza snob” type posts where I go to a restaurant to try a slice from a place that claims to be owned by a NYer. I’m always pretty skeptical when I go on these little adventures but am willing to give it a fair shot. When I first walked in and found out the the owner is actually from WAY upstate NY and not the city, I got pretty worried.

I sat down and ordered a plain slice and a side salad with blue cheese dressing on the side. The salad came out and (good first impression) was NOT iceberg lettuce! It was a mesclun mix with beautiful, thick, red tomato slices, black olives, onions and fresh mushrooms on top. The dressing was pretty darn good too. So far, so good.

A few minutes later, the owner brought my slice over, piping hot from the oven and looking an awful lot like a NY slice. BIG, flat, bubbly top, and the right ratio of cheese to sauce to crust. Hmmmm. Could it be? I took a bite. WOW. Ok. I am impressed. This IS a NY slice after all. Is it the best slice ever? Well, no, but let’s be realistic. The truth is that the classic NY slice has a lot to do with the water there, and no one outside of NYC will really ever be able to duplicate that. But this was definitely the closest to NY I’ve had since I moved here a few months ago. Ah. Good enough to evoke nostalgia. The crust was the right mix of crunchy and chewy, the flavor of the sauce was spot-on; not too sweet, the right amount, and the cheese was exactly right. I added my sprinkling of oregano and parmesan- which was on the table like it should be, and it made for a VERY satisfying lunch. BRAVO to you G’s! Bonus that it’s about 1/4 mile from where I work. I will absolutely be back. YAY!

 

Owen’s Fish Camp: 516 Burns Ct, Sarasota, FL

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I would like to suggest to all of my fellow cohabitating couples, go on dates. It’s lovely. It’s important. It’s a few hours that remind you of the beginning of your relationship when dates were still super romantic and before bills and cleaning and cooking dinner took some of that newness away. Sometimes a little bickering will bring these dates on, and that is just fine. Whatever the reason, do it.

Gabriel took me on a date to Owen’s a few nights ago and it was a wonderful night out. We sat outside under the fans, and even though it was a little too hot to eat out there, it was a better option than inside which was kind of on the noisy/crowded side. We had a very friendly and patient waitress who had no issues with the fact that we turned her away about 5 times before we finally stopped talking and looked at our menus. We started with some garlic/cheese bread (which later proved to be redundant since many of the dishes we ordered came with the same thing) and I ordered a southern sangria (fresh fruit, sprite and peach juice if I remember right) that was incredibly light and refreshing. It was a bit odd that the only drink choices were sangria, wine or beer as I really woud have enjoyed a cocktail. A mojito perhaps, or something else summery- and outdoor friendly.

We decided that rather than get entrees, we’d share a bunch of smaller plates. There were many appealing options on the menu so that enabled us to try more of them. We started with a dozen Texas oysters (HUGE and seriously delicious. My first experience with oysters from Texas in fact, and certainly not my last) and a couple of salads. One was served with awesome fried green tomatoes topped with goat cheese (YUM) and the other with pecans (good, but nothing particularly exciting about it- and if we’d known it was the same as the other one minus the tomatoes and plus the pecans, we wouldn’t haven’t bothered with it..I guess we should have asked.)

We then ordered the grilled shrimp and the escargot. The shrimp were enormous and grilled perfectly. Seasoned with a little kick to them, but nothing over powering. Just fresh, hot, wonderful seafood simplicity. The escargot were served over cheesy grits in a dark, woodsy, rich gravy. I’d never had escargot prepared in anyway except the traditional parsley/butter combo, and this proved to take them to a different level. The gravy was very sop-up-able and I was glad we had all of the extra bread that came with it, with our salads, and in our basket. Suddenly the redundancy of the same bread wasn’t such an issue anymore.

Even though we were pretty stuffed after all of those apps, we found the dessert option of fresh, homemade mini blackberry pies (which were really little empanadas) with homemade vanilla ice cream to be totally irresistible. Resist we did not. When it came out, I am pretty sure a little pie gnome came out from under the table because everything was gone in nanoseconds. Hm. We better come back for more of that soon.

GREAT meal overall. Sweet, low-key, casual atmosphere. Very friendly waitstaff. Fair prices. Awesome menu choices. Bravo Owen’s, we’ll be back soon!

Ceviche: 1216 1st St. Sarasota, FL

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What an awesome place for a double date! Gabriel and I met another couple up on the beautiful rooftop bar for cocktails before venturing into the restaurant for a fun dinner. This is clearly one of the only places in the area with a real nightlife scene, and we enjoyed the atmosphere very much. The historic building itself was truly beautiful and felt like it belonged somewhere other than Sarasota. The interior was dimly lit and rustic, and the patrons there were varied in ages, styles and ‘types’.

When we sat down and were given our VERY extensive menus, we were a little overwhelmed and glad that our friends had been there enough times to make some suggestions. Our friendly and helpful waiter, Warren, was also more than available to give us advice and suggestions. We decided to share a half pitcher of red sangria- which turned out to be excellent, and we sipped our drinks as we discussed the many options. There must be about 100 different tapas on the menu and I must say, there were only a few that were NOT appealing. We ended up with 9 dishes (we started with 6 or 7 and then ordered a couple more when we were still a bit hungry) and the only one that I didn’t think was outstanding was the CHAMPIÑONES AL AJILLO Sautéed wild mushrooms with extra virgin olive oil and garlic, flambéed with Spanish sherry, Which incidentally, was one that I chose (oops) and was comparatively boring and lacking in flavor except for a little spicy kick. The other dishes included: ALCACHOFAS RELLENAS Artichoke bottoms stuffed with ham and shrimp, served with a sherry cream sauce, ESPINACAS (One of my favorites of the night) Sautéed spinach with figs, honey and garlic, PATATAS BRAVAS (another favorite that sounded sort of boring but was actually delicious) Fried potatoes tossed with spicy homemade aioli, PORTOBELLO RELLENO (Strongly recommended by our waiter and I can see why, although this was our final plate and I was a little too stuffed by then to fully appreciate it) Portobello mushroom stuffed with fresh spinach, shallots and Manchego cheese, drizzled with sherry, CEVICHE DE LA CASA (Yum yum yum. Fresh, bright and refreshing. Spanish sushi, If you will 🙂 Shrimp, scallops, squid and fish marinated in lemon lime juice, tossed with fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro. PIQUILLOS RELLENOS (another awesome dish. I couldn’t resist using the bread to sop up the sauce from this one, so so so creamy and amazing) Roasted red peppers stuffed with ground veal and mild chorizo sausage, served with a Spanish sherry sauce,  and ALBONDIGAS (kind of unimpressive. These reminded me of semi-decent ‘regular’ meatballs. There was nothing particularly Spanish or interesting about them) Veal, chorizo and pork meatballs in a piquant tomato sauce and finally, Gabriel’s favorite and probably the most out-of -the-ordinary, PULPO A LA GALLEGA (Sliced octopus in extra virgin olive oil and paprika, served over potatoes)

So, now you can see why I was ‘kinda’ full when we left. Full in a good way though. Full and happy 🙂

We will definitely be back!

Gyros & Seafood Express: 918 N. Washington Blvd, Sarasota, FL

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Yes, it’s true. I am writing a review for a fast food place. Is that totally ridiculous? No! Not when it’s fast food that’s actually real food! Not when it’s fast food that doesn’t mean greasy burgers and soggy fries!

I met my dad here for a quick lunch after he had told me what a great option it was and I’m very glad I did. For $6, you can have a grilled fish sandwich (I had basa, which I’d never heard of but liked), a drink (which, in my case was a 1/2 iced tea, 1/2 lemonade- one of my favs) and a side salad (just iceberg, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions- nothing special, but not bad). You get your fish on a fresh roll (and a pretty good sized piece of fish at that), and 10 minutes later, you have finished your relatively healthy meal, and are satisfied without feeling that typical post-fast-food feeling.

If you’re in a rush and starving, this is a great choice at a great price. I’m sure I’ll be back and will probably try the tilapia, the grouper, or the shrimp next time.  I also found out they are planning to open a branch in Bradenton which will definitely come in handy for me since I live near there. Thanks G & S!

The Ranch Grill: 14475 State Rd 70, Bradenton, FL

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Gabriel and I were house hunting today and found ourselves starving for lunch and in an area that didn’t have many restaurants around. We turned the corner and found The Ranch Grill and figured we’d just go there and hope for the best. We were seated right away in the mostly empty restaurant (it was a pretty odd time for a meal) and before we opened our menus, I decided to check out Yelp.com for reviews. Uh oh. 1.5 stars. Not good. We were too hungry to care and decided to disregard the poor ratings since only 3 reviews had written entries. Generally speaking, unless there are 20 of more, I don’t really take the ratings to heart. I figured I would just have to see for myself.

The menus had a lot to offer, and after asking our friendly waiter about side salads, we were informed that we could add a side garden or caesar salad for $2 to the $8 appetizers we planned to order. Perfect. We chose the chicken quesadillas and the chicken cordon bleu bites to share and each ordered a garden salad.

Everything came out quickly, and I especially liked the slope-y, lopsided bowls that the salads came in. The apps were presented in a colorful and appealing way, looking and smelling delicious. My bleu cheese dressing was noteworthy with it’s large chunks of cheese, and the salad ingredients were very fresh and crisp. The chicken bites were hot and melty and although there wasn’t a ton of chicken in them, the honey mustard dipping sauce added a nice flavor and coolness to the cheesy snack. The quesadillas had great texture  contrasted by the creamy, cool guacamole and sour cream and we gobbled every bit up, including the diced peppers that adorned the plate.

Overall, for $20 we had a great lunch and had already planned to return…This plan was reenforced when later on in the day, when I looked at their Facebook page, I just so happened to find a dealsaver.com deal for $10 for $20. What a weird coincidence…Well, better late than never. I immediately purchased the coupon so that we could return for a repeat lunch someday soon. Very satisfying indeed- and even more so for half the price!

 

 

 

The Lobster Pot: 5157 Ocean Blvd, Sarasota, FL

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After spending a gorgeous afternoon kayaking at Siesta Key, Gabriel and I were hungry and thirsty and decided to use a coupon we had for The Lobster Pot. When we arrived, we were seated right away near the window and a waitress came over with menus. We asked for big glasses of cold water with lemon and some bread and sat back to look over the menus.

A waiter immediately brought over a basket of yummy looking cornbread and we continued to wait for our water. And waited. And waited. Finally, about 10 minutes later our waitress brought our waters over and we slurped them down like we’d been in the desert for a month. Phew. Hopefully this would not be indicative of the wait time for our meals.

We noticed that many of the items on the menu were listed as ‘market price’ and I did not hesitate to ask the waitress to run down the numbers for us. I’m glad I did, as some of the items were well into the $34 and up range and definitely curbed what I’d planned to order. We decided to start with the steamers appetizer. (market priced at $13.99) We also decided to share 2 entrees. I ordered the parmesan ranch salad topped with lobster and Gabriel ordered the Shore dinner (fried clam strips, broiled scallops/shrimp and fish- which are usually prepared with seasoned bread crumbs but we asked to go without them) and sides of garden veggies and mashed potatoes. Our food arrived quickly and we decided that the water delay was just a fluke. The cornbread was fresh, warm and tasty and we asked the basket to be cleared since we’d already emptied it.

The steamers arrived in a large pot- actually way too large for the relatively small number of clams inside. They were served with the traditional water bath and melted butter. We dug in right away and I was kind of disappointed. These were only ‘okay’. For the amount of money they cost, I would have expected them to taste much fresher than they did- and at least to be given a quantity that justified it. That said, since I didn’t really love them, I guess I didn’t really want more than were served anyway. Uh oh, so far this meal was not going very well.

Luckily, once the entrees arrived things turned around. My salad was large and beautiful, topped with a generous amount of shelled lobster and parmesan cheese. The parmesan ranch dressing on the side was excellent and turned out to be a great dip for the shrimp that came with Gabriel’s meal. The clam strips on Gabriel’s plate were crunchy, not greasy and turned out to be some of the best clam strips I’ve ever had. The broiled seafood was only so-so, as they lacked flavor. They were served in a very buttery sauce- that we’d asked them to go very light on and without seasoned bread crumbs by our request. I guess the flavor usually lives in those bread crumbs so maybe it was our fault for foregoing them- but even so, if it were really cooked right, I think the flavor should have remained. I think it was the fact that they were drowning in butter that took away from the freshness. The sides were also only so-so. As someone who usually finds mashed potatoes pretty hard to resist, these didn’t even really tempt me after the first bite. They were creamy and smooth- and I prefer chunks. The flavor was somewhat off-putting and I couldn’t identify the reason. The vegetables were fine, but nothing to write home about.

Judging from the plates on the next table over, the amount of crab legs for the price also seemed really small. I think overall, this restaurant is fine- but not great. It’s overpriced for what it is, and it’s in total tourist-trap land. I highly doubt we’ll be back…Although if I have a craving for clam strips I suppose there is a possibility.

My suggestion in general is don’t eat on Ocean Blvd. All of the restaurants are only decent, they are all over-priced and over-crowded. Yes, they are convenient if you are spending the day at the beach, but there are SO many better options if you are willing to drive 10 minutes away. Check out the great options on Gulf Gate or head downtown or to Hillview.

Peperonata Empanadas: Sarasota Farmer’s Market, Sarasota, Florida

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After realizing that there really wasn’t much seafood at the shrimp  and lobster festival at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market yesterday, Gabriel and I decided to get a couple of snacks instead. When I saw that there was an empanada vendor, I went to ask about the beef empanadas. Many years ago, my Argentinian friend made a batch of the most incredible empanadas ever and I’ve never found anything that came close. One of the big differences between the ones he made and the ones I usually see were the raisins. I LOVED the sweetness that they added to the savory beef. Well, you can guess how psyched I was when I asked if these had raisins and was told that indeed they did. YAY!

At $5 for 2, I ordered a beef empanada and Gabriel got the spicy shrimp. They were both excellent- but I was ESPECIALLY excited with mine with included beef, raisins, green olives and hard boiled eggs. Now, I realize that these ingredients don’t sound like they’d be delicious together but PLEASE trust me when I tell you that ohhhhh yes they are.

What an odd coincidence to realize that the empanada vendor was related to the pasta vendor from which a friend picked up some homemade pastas for me that I am picking up later today. If the pasta is even nearly as awesome as the empanadas, I will be a very happy foodie tonight! YUM. Thank you.