Monthly Archives: January 2013

Anna Maria Oyster Bar: 1525 51st Ave E Ellenton, FL

Standard

yucky tomato saladana maria oyster bar lobster bisqueburger fries pickle cole slawanna maria oyster viewshrimp and gritsceasercuc dill salmon

If you look at the heading of my blog, you will see that one of my mottos is “I will try anything twice”. Anna Maria Oyster bar proves that point. Gabriel and I had a pretty poor experience the first time we went. As regular blood donors, we were given a $25 gift certificate to A.M.O.B and went to check it out for the first time about 2 months ago. We arrived to find a totally dated and tacky atmosphere, and a crowd of patrons whose average age was probably around 75. We sat in a booth with plastic-y, pastel cushions in the back, and noted the weird painted mural on the walls, the horrible lighting and the feeling that we were in 1967.

We ordered a small salad (mixed greens with tomatoes, toasted almonds, strawberries, blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette), a bowl of lobster bisque, and a cheeseburger with fries, a pickle and coleslaw. Our salad consisted of slimy strawberries, tomatoes that were wrinkled and shriveling on their way to rotten, lettuce that was browning and the most overly-sweet, jelly-like raspberry dressing I’ve ever had. Gross. We immediately alerted the waiter to our total disappointment about the salad, asked for a new one with different dressing, and moved on to the soup. The bisque is raved about on the website and described as award winning on their menu. It was not good. It was so salty, I really couldn’t eat it. It was mostly cream and salt and just enough lobster (or maybe lobster juice) to make it pink. Really not good. Definitely not about to win any awards in my book. The burger was fine. I know it’s weird to order a burger in seafood place, but having just donated blood we needed an iron fix. It was ok, not bad, not great. The fries were pretty darn good, as is just about anything when it’s deep-fried to a crispy golden color. The floppy pickle and over-mayo’d coleslaw wasn’t really worth finishing.

The meal was really just a total let-down and we let the waiter know. Maybe the tables packed with elderly folk have tastebuds that don’t really discriminate food like this, but we don’t pretend it’s good when it’s not. The manager came over shortly after and said the whole meal was on him. He told us to please keep our $25 gift certificate and come back another time. Well, ok. It definitely wasn’t something I would have done otherwise, but a free meal and deep apology warrants chance #2.

So, a couple of months later, the opportunity to go back presented itself when we were in that neighborhood again. We took a deep breath, parked in the lot with as open a mind as possible, and asked for a table outside. We were led to the side of the building and a choice table facing the lake. It was a gorgeous day, with a lovely view and already this experience was way better than the first. A very friendly waitress named Delilah told us the specials, and her description of the grilled shrimp with cheesy grits sounded too good to pass up. We ordered that to start with, plus a Caesar salad, and salmon with dill sauce, french fries and green beans. The app came out fast and looked amazing. The grits were ok but the shrimp were incredibly salted. Gabriel agreed, but ate them anyway, but I really couldn’t manage them. I worried that this meal was going to be worse than the first. The salad and the salmon, thankfully, were actually very good. The dressing was homemade and just fishy enough, the salmon was fresh, cooked well and it’s dill sauce was creamy and delicious. The green beans were fresh and not overcooked- there is nothing worse than mushy green beans, and the fries- like last time, were great. The view definitely made everything taste a little better, and the avoidance of the inside of the restaurant helped to change the feel of our experience to a more positive one.

Overall, I am glad we gave it a second try. It was still not outstanding, but had our first experience been like the second one, we might have gone back by choice and not because we got our meal comped and had a gift certificate to use. I’m still not sure I’ll ever return…but in all fairness, I probably should go back one more time to have the oysters. After all, it’s what they do and what they are named for…and I DO love oysters. Maybe the third time will be the charm. What do you think?

Veg: 2164 Gulf Gate Dr. Sarasota, FL

Standard

veg kale saladUpdate! I felt that it was important to add an undated entry for Veg. I actually go there pretty frequently on my lunch breaks from work and decided that my first review of it really didn’t do it justice- especially because at that point, I’d only tried take-out. This photo is of the amazing 2164 Salad: chopped kale, shoestring carrots, shredded raw beets, purple cabbage, toasted sunflower seeds, avocado, organic pea shoots; papaya seed citrus dressing. This salad has become my favorite at Veg and I can’t seem to stop ordering it. It makes me feel SO healthy and tastes seriously amazing. As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes first, and the beautiful colors of the beets, carrots, avocados and kale make for an incredibly tasty display of color. There are tons of awesome choices on Veg’s menu, and I still have a long way to go before I’ve tried them all. I find it very difficult to move on to new choices when I get so easily hooked on the ones I’ve had so far. Bravo Veg! Thank you so much for giving me such a great place to go to for lunch. See you again soon!

Here’s the original post:

I had take out lunch from Veg a few days ago and it left a great impression on me. The menu had so many wonderful sounding, healthy and reasonably-priced options that I wasn’t sure what to order. When I called to place my order for pick up, I decided to ask if the women answering the phone had any recommendations and was told that the special of the day was looking excellent. I took her word for it and ordered the shrimp/lobster cake sandwich. It had a definite seafood taste, but was not filled with chunks like I was hoping for. It really could have been shrimp, lobster, fish, crab or anything else- but for under $10, I had a VERY filling and flavorful lunch on a hearty roll with a side of great cole slaw and a little slice of watermelon. Great deal, easy, peasy, done. I will definitely be back soon.

Goichi Sushi Cafe: 4562 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL

Standard

sushi1goichi sushisushi 2

 

On my way home from work last week, I was at that stage of hunger where I couldn’t seem to decide what I was in the mood for. I called my honey and had him do a quick search for what was a good in-between spot for us to meet at. With a sushi craving (well, that’s pretty much every day for me) and not a ton of money to burn, we were lucky to find Goichi Sushi Cafe. The website advertised a ‘3 roll combo for $10.95’, and had reviews that were good enough to warrant giving it a shot.

I was lucky that he had called ahead because when I arrived, there were people waiting outside because the restaurant is tiny, and all the tables were taken. The little one on the end had a ‘reserved’ sign on it, which I came to find out was actually for us. Yay! The waitress clearly had her hands full waiting on all of the hungry patrons, and we patiently waited along with them. She arrived with menus and water within a few minutes and we ordered a seaweed salad to share to start with. After looking over our options for the 3 roll combos, we each ordered 3 different ones so we could share them all. We also ordered a bottle of sake to share- and were impressed by the very fair price.

I would be lying if I said the food came out quickly. We came to find out that there is only one chef, and he had been extremely busy trying to keep up with the orders that kept rolling in. It probably took at least a half hour to get our food. That said, it really was all quite good and fresh, with the seaweed on the outside as we requested. The waitress was very personable and apologetic about the long wait.

Overall, I happen to really like the minuscule size of this cafe. It feels intimate and personal, and I got the feeling that most of the people in there were regulars. It’s pretty much on my way home from work, so it’s very convenient for me. With incredibly reasonable prices and an awesome selection, I think it’s safe to say that I will most likely become a regular too. I just may choose to call ahead and pick up my orders in the future to avoid the long waiting time.

 

 

 

 

Via Napoli: Italy Pavilion at Epcot World Showcase, Orlando, FL

Standard

via napoli 1 via napoli 2vn3vn5 vn4

My honey and I went to Epcot to celebrate New Year‘s on January 1st. We did not expect to have good food there. We did not even really expect to have halfway decent food there. Imagine our total surprise when we ended up having an outstanding meal. WHAT? Amazing pizza, delicious bread, a great salad AND some of the best tiramisu I’ve ever had? WOW. I am still a bit in shock.

I had read reviews of Via Napoli– a lot of people rave about it. It’s the newest restaurant in the Epcot World Showcase and should have been impossible to get into. I read that the pizza in the take out stand in the Italy pavilion was absolutely NOT the same as what they serve in the restaurant and that it was worth the wait if possible to get a table. As luck would have it, we waited in line for maybe  a total of 10 minutes before a lovely indoor/outdoor (right on the edge of the outdoor section) table for 2 opened up.

A very friendly waiter straight from Italy came over to greet us and take our order. We joked with him about the irony of moving to the U.S. from Italy to work in a fake Italy. He explained that it was a great job where he had lots of friends who were also transplanted here from Italy to work there, and that he really loved being close to home in a sense, even though he was so far away. He also told us that he thought very highly of the food they served and that he felt it was quite authentic.

After a glass of wine and some delicious fresh bread and excellent olive oil, we ordered a salad and a pizza with artichokes, truffle oil and fontina. The salad was quite lovely with marinated mushrooms, green olives, plenty of fresh veggies and a balsamic dressing. The pizza was, dare I say, AMAZING. The crust was chewy, crisp and pretttttttty perfect and the toppings were perfectly proportioned. We polished it off so quickly and sort of regretted getting the tiny sized one even though it really was plenty for a meal along with the salad.  It also, as we came to realize, left enough room to share a wonderful tiramisu for dessert. I also had a fantastic cappuccino, complete with a delightful heart of foam on top.

The meal was not cheap, as really nothing at a Disney park is, or is expected to be. You are paying for the experience of it as much as for the food itself, but this time, I would actually say it really is worth every penny. I doubt I’ll be back at Epcot before I have a kid of my own to bring with me, but if YOU ever go, I would STRONGLY encourage you to pay a visit to Via Napoli. Total winner.

Guerrero’s Bakery & Restaurant: 3557 Webber St Sarasota, FL

Standard

guerreros 1 guerreros 2 guerreros 3 guerreros 4 guerreros 5 guerreros 6 guerreros 7

 

As I get older I’ve been gravitating toward stronger tastes, spicier spices and more flavorful seasonings. When the doctor I work for told me that this was his favorite Mexican restaurant in Sarasota, I took him VERY seriously being that he grew up in Mexico. There are so many Americanized ‘Mexican’ restaurants in this area that are more about tex-mex than authentic food, and though I have been a big fan of Mi Pueblo (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/06/13/mi-pueblo-university-walk-plaza-8405-tuttle-ave-sarasota-fl/) up until this point, I definitely have a new top pick.

Guerrero‘s has a totally no frills atmosphere. It does not have the awesome decor or waitstaff in costumes that Mi Pueblo or Two Senoritas has, but the food is awesome, and I’ll take that over looks any day. We sat right away and the waitress brought over warm, fresh, super crunchy chips and a bowl of very spicy salsa. Yum. These are already so different than most Mexican restaurants around that we knew right away we were in for some great food.

We decided to share shrimp fajitas and steak fajitas which came with rice, beans, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes with fresh cilantro (YUM). The menu said that it came with guacamole too, but the green sauce we were served was quite avocado-less. The waitress explained that it was what they call guacamole when we asked about it, but there was a language barrier that prevented us from finding out what it really was. There was also no cheese served with these fajitas- but It really didn’t need it.

The peppers and onions were caramelized slightly and served with the shrimp and steak in a sizzling pan. They were all quite good- but the standout were the REAL tortillas. What a difference to have those over the store bought ones. They were so full of flavor and texture- even though they did keep falling apart wrapped around our fillings. I guess we probably overstuffed them but we really couldn’t resist. The only criticism I had was that the rice and beans were room temperature (and that’s being generous) , not hot. I’m sure we could have sent them back, but we had enough other food that we really didn’t care that much.

Even though we were quite full at this point, we couldn’t help browsing the bakery filled with homemade Mexican breads and pastries. We each chose one to bring home and polished them off by the next morning. There is no question that we will be returning soon. We live close by and the prices are extremely reasonable- less than $10 for an entree? Wow. Awesome find. Thanks for the suggestion Dr. G!

Roessler’s Restaurant: 2033 Vamo Way, Sarasota, FL

Standard

roesslers 2 roesslers 3roesslers1roesslers 5 roesslers 6roesslers 7

I am a huge fan of living social/groupon type deals. I often buy too many at one time, and then realize that at least one of them is getting close to expiring. I bought the Roessler’s deal a while back when my honey and I were still trying to find a venue for our wedding. I had heard that Roessler’s was a really pretty setting and worth checking out, and then a few days later, I saw a $40 for $20 offered online and scooped it up. I figured it would be a perfect way to check out the setting and the food at a fair price. Roessler’s is known for being on the pricey side, so a Living Social opportunity made it a lot more doable for us.

We made our reservation for the exact day the coupon was going to expire because we literally could not find any other day that would work being the busy X-mas/New Year’s season. We arrived to find a really lovely restaurant in an unexpected place- along South Tamiami Trail among Target, Walmart etc. It was sort of off of the main street in the back, where you’d really never expect to find a pretty restaurant hiding.

We were led into a large dining room and seated by a window with a view of a garden. If we weren’t already totally thrilled with the beach front wedding venue we’d chosen, I could totally see having it here. Our waiter was a bit on the schmaltzy/theatrical/cocky side, but more or less entertaining none-the-less, and definitely efficient at his job. He brought us menus and water, and went over the specials for us. After seeing that the entrees were in the $30-$40 range, we decided on sharing a bunch of appetizers instead, and with a list of many appealing ones, the choice wasn’t easy. We settled on 2 salads; an excellent caesar and an iceberg wedge- which was described to us as having smokehouse bacon, fresh tomatoes and a buttermilk blue cheese dressing. When it came out, smothered in way too much dressing, and having one, lonely, halved, grape tomato, we were a bit disappointed. The dressing was really outstanding with it’s chunks of aged blue cheese- even though it was pretty much drowning the lettuce, but the one skimpy tomato, two sad croutons and tiny bit of crumbled bacon was sort of a let down.

Next we thoroughly enjoyed the smoked salmon appetizer. It was served with toast, cream cheese, capers, red onions and sliced hard boiled egg. The quality of the fish was clearly very fine, and we polished this plate off quickly.

The scallops in citrus sauce were probably my favorite dish. Huge scallops, cooked perfectly without a hint of chewiness. The sauce was buttery and fragrant and I admit to using bread to sop up some of what was left behind. The escargot were prepared in the classic French manner and were good, but not particularly exciting in their garlic herb butter. Again, however, the sauce made me want to ask for a refill on our bread basket, which I did.

For dessert, we decided on the chocolate mousse. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most daring or creative sounding option, but we saw a few go to the next table and it just looked so darn good. It arrived quickly and totally met our expectations. Rich and chocolatey and as light and airy as a heavy cream based dessert can possibly be.

The atmosphere (mainly the outdoor atmosphere)  is definitely the highlight at Roessler’s, even though the food is surely very good. It would probably thrill a ton of people, but my tastes tend to sway more toward very creative, original foods instead of the classics. The crowd here is definitely older and a bit stodgy, making this an ideal restaurant to take your grandparents for a fancy occasion. As far as coming back as a couple, I would doubt it.

Patricks 1481: 1481 Main St. Sarasota, FL

Standard

patricks soup patricks1 patricks2

As a fan of great burgers, Patricks has been on my ‘go have a burger‘ list since we moved to Sarasota since I’ve heard a ton of people raving about it. Gabriel and I decided to share a burger, soup and a salad instead of both totally stuffing ourselves and it worked out perfectly. It’s a great way to try indulgent food without feeling totally glutenous afterward.

The soup was a seafood chowder that was very much like a manhattan clam chowder, only with fish instead of clams. The broth was pretty good- but not outstanding, and the pieces of veggies and fish were a bit on the skimpy side. The tossed salad with grilled chicken was a very generous portion, although pretty boring with nothing except lettuce, radishes, cucumbers and carrots. The blue cheese dressing had good sized chunks of cheese but was only average- probably from a bottle and not homemade. The burger looked awesome and was cooked exactly as we requested, but the meat itself was nothing that spectacular to me. Not especially flavorful or juicy- just an average pub burger on a regular sesame seed bun, as far as I was concerned. The combo of regular and crinkle cut fries were crisp, hot and tasty and we polished them off quickly.

The service was very friendly and efficient and we enjoyed sitting outside on main street watching the passers by. Overall, our experience was pretty good- but not so amazing that I really understood why so many people gush about it. As far of a trek as it is, Burg Bar and Grill in St. Pete blows this place away, and is totally worth the drive if you are really craving a great burger. (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/11/28/the-burg-bar-and-grill-1752-central-ave-st-petersburg-fl/)  I’d love to know what other burgers in the Sarasota/Lakewood Ranch area you love…please comment and let me know!

Lazy Lobster of Longboat Key: 5350 Gulf of Mexico Dr Longboat Key, FL

Standard

After a photo shoot with my dad for engagement pictures, Gabriel and I planned to take him out for dinner to thank him. Our plans changed when my mom and step-dad called and said they’d like to join us for dinner- and ended up taking US out instead. We definitely still owe my dad a dinner, and felt lucky to have a great meal with a family who all get along really well.

Lazy Lobster is close to where they all live, and Gabriel and I had recently sampled and enjoyed some of their food at a food festival, so it was a great choice for all of us.

We were seated quickly when we arrived, and a waiter took our drink orders and told us the specials. A quick review of the menu revealed a ton of choices that sounded appealing. As a seafood lover, I’m not hard to please when it comes to fish as long as it’s not all breaded and fried.

I started with a small garden salad with excellent blue cheese dressing. The vegetables were all fresh and vibrant, and with the fresh bread and butter it made a lovely first course. For my entree, I had the potato crusted grouper. It had a crispy coating and was served with a grainy mustard sauce. It came with carrots in an amaretto sauce that were probably my favorite part of the meal. I also had haricot verts in place of the rice that normally comes with it- and they were also bright and flavorful, fresh and cooked the right amount. I hate mushy vegetables and it’s always nice to find a restaurant who really doesn’t overcook them.

For dessert we all shared (but in actually I probably ate more than my fair share) the trio of sweets that included a chocolate mousse, a strawberry shortcake, and a key lime pie (If I am remembering correctly). They were all very good- but not as exciting as I had hoped. It was nice to be able to sample 3 desserts instead of just one, but each one wasn’t really all that spectacular.

Overall, this restaurant was quite good- and has a really pretty outdoor eating area with heating lamps for when it’s chilly. The menu is fairly basic for seafood, but had lots of good options. The service was very attentive, quick, knowledgeable and polite. I would definitely go back!