This was the third and final stop on my father and my Gulf Gate area foodie tour today and the only one that didn’t blow us away. The case of goodies looks simply awesome when you first walk in, but I should have trusted my initial instinct about bakeries who put sprinkles on rainbow cakes. It’s just not right, and usually indicates that they don’t really know what they are doing. Beautiful cakes and cookies are nice, but if they don’t taste as good as they look I won’t be back.
We ordered rainbow cakes, (wrong consistency and flavor of the cake, chocolate that was too thick and kind of weird tasting, and the sprinkles, ugh) biscotti (totally wrong texture, not hard or crunchy enough), an almond macaron (which was spelled incorrectly as a macaroon, which it definitely was not) and a raspberry linzer tart that was very sub par.
So yes, maybe I’m just a spoiled NYer with parents from Brooklyn who was lucky enough to grow up with access to some of the best cakes and cookies in the world, and maybe I should have turned and left when I saw the sprinkles (which, by the way I DO love on my ice cream but don’t want anywhere near my beloved rainbow cakes) but I didn’t. Oh well. Two out of three ain’t bad.
And yes, I will be eating salad for dinner tonight.
Stop #2 on my father and I’s little culinary adventure in Gulf Gate led us to Jim’s Small Batch Bakery and WOW this was the highlight of the day for me. This tiny little shop tucked away in the corner of Gulf Gate is just awesome, with a staff who clearly has a ton of integrity about what they do. Jim was on hand to chat and give us some samples of his sorbets and ice creams and I simply couldn’t resist. I ended up with a scoop of coconut sorbet and a scoop of strawberry sorbet and they were both so incredibly delicious. Smooth, creamy and very natural with nothing but the fruit, a little sugar and a binding ingredient. Some of the best sorbet I’ve ever had actually. I couldn’t help topping my cup with a lemon sand dollar cookie that was super thin, crisp and delicate. I also tasted my father’s vanilla ice cream which was equally outstanding.
The case full of treats was extremely tempting, and I’m lucky that I work pretty close by. I will absolutely be back for lunch soon- as they had a wonderful little menu of sandwiches, soups and quiches in addition to their baked goods. The almond croissant was LOUDLY calling my name and I promised it that I’d come back for it soon. The lemon bar, breads and cakes also looked amazing and I’m sure I’ll eventually try them all.
YUM. I will be back within a week, I’m sure of it. Thanks Jim!
I spent some time wandering around and exploring the Gulf Gate area with my father today. I’m still pretty new in Sarasota, and heard that this area was full of great culinary discoveries. A few people I know have specifically mentioned this spot as the source for the best pierogis around, so we made it one of our destination goals. It ended up being the first one that we happened upon.
We walked in to find an assortment of Polish specialty items ranging from blintzes, to herring, to farmer’s cheese and pickles. The menu on the 2 small tables in the middle of the store consisted solely of different flavored pierogis and a few beverages. I asked and was told that yes, these are the same ones that they also sell frozen. We decided to split a plate of the potato pierogis which come with sauteed onions and sour cream. Sounds good to me. No need to load other ingredients in the way of my carby treat. Our plate came out a few minutes later with 6 small pierogis, hot out of the pan. They smelled wonderful and tasted even better. Smooth filling, perfect texture of the dumpling outside and the cool, creamy sour cream that one expects with this dish. I would also have loved some apple sauce, but that’s just because I grew up eating them together. The onions were a nice touch, and the flavors were so indulgent and awesome together. It’s a good thing my half was only 3 small pierogis because I think it’s quite possible to go dangerously overboard with them otherwise. I definitely recommend sharing one plate. I am curious to try some of the other flavors they offer like mushroom and potato with cheese.
Overall, this is definitely a great place for a starchy snack. I wish they had salads so that I could have made a whole meal out of it. Then again, they know what they do well and don’t stray from that, and that fact in itself is really quite charming. YUM.
The novelty of a menu on an Ipad instead of paper is certainly amusing, but my first impression was that it was probably going to end up as the only impressive part of Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar. I’m happy to say that I was wrong with that assumption, and that the food was better than expected.
Gabriel and I went in for a late night dinner after yoga class when there’s not much open and restaurant choices are limited. We were seated right away and given our Ipad to browse through. After scanning through pages of options for small, sharing plates, we decided to ask our waitress for some suggestions and advice. She told us that the flatbreads, salads and a few other dishes were the standouts, and that we should start with one or 2 two plates with intent to order more as we went along. We took her advice and started with the Grilled Lemon Chicken & Artichoke flatbread with arugula and parmesan (deliciously chewy, crisp and full of flavor. I especially liked the candied lemon peel on top) as well as the Red & Yellow Roasted Beets with goat cheese, watercress, arugula, toasted pistachios and a vinaigrette on the side. I adore beets, so this was an obvious pick, and it didn’t disappoint at all. The roasted beets were slightly sweet, not over-cooked at all, and beautifully colorful with the greens. The combo of lettuces and nuts with the cheese and beets was wonderful- both in their flavor and texture.
When were near the end of those 2 plates, we sent our next order via Ipad to the kitchen. I must comment that the turnaround time is super fast, and you really can order plates and expect to get them in 5 minutes or so. It makes me wonder if everything is precooked and just reheated when you order, which isn’t great, but still- the food tasted pretty darn good. Our next order was the calamari & cannellini with herb marinade, pomodoro, and pancetta and the meatball lollipop pomodoro with fresh pomodoro sauce. The calamari was ok- but I didn’t love it. I do adore calamari in general, but somehow, even with the nice assortment of herbs, this lacked flavor. The meatballs were also kind of boring, nothing special- even though the waitress had recommended them as a favorite. We were still a bit hungry after finishing those 2 plates and decided to order one final one. We settled on the chickpea fries with tomato jam (YUM) and curry aioli. I have to say this was a big hit for me. What a cool concept to have crispy, crunchy fried outside with a creamy, melty, hot, inside of chickpea puree. I really loved the sweet and tangy tomato jam that it came with and the adorable Jenga-like stack it was presented in. I polished off more than my fair share of this plate.
Overall, this was a fun experience with better-than-average food. It’s a great option when you want a meal later than most places are open. We have yet to try the wine pairings and the desserts, but intend to soon. The atmosphere is also very cool and hip- especially for Florida. (sorry Florida) The one thing we struggled a bit with was what to tip. The waitstaff definitely have it pretty easy here and tipping the full 18% that we usually do didn’t feel right. We went with 15% instead and hope that was ok. Fun place for a date or a meal with a big group- these are definitely sharing plates and that’s one of the main reasons I really enjoyed it.