When Derek’s Culinary Casual announced it was closing last year, I was pretty bummed. It was my favorite restaurant in Sarasota and Gabriel and I went there to celebrate a few different occasions. My blog entry about it was one of my all-time favorites and after I posted it, a bunch of people emailed me about it requesting reviews of other favorites of mine in the area. Here’s that entry: https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/08/05/dereks-culinary-casual-514-central-ave-sarasota-fl/
When Derek finally announced that he was opening a new venue in Bradenton, I eagerly anticipated it’s reveal- and hoped to find my all-time favorite ‘All Hat, no Cattle’ vegetarian taco on the menu as well as the deeply beloved and missed S’mores dessert. Although the menu is pretty different now (My favorite taco, I’m sad to say, is not on it.), there were some familiar favs and some fantastic new options and I’m happy to say that even though it’s completely different, it’s still excellent.
Our meal began with the same gougères that they served before, and I’m not sure why I love these cheesy, biscuit-type things because they really are pretty dry…That said, I can easily eat 2 or 3 before realizing that I’m about to ruin my appetite.
We then went on to share the kale salad. This was an outstanding course and I would happily go back just to have this one dish again…maybe topped with some grilled shrimp or salmon to make a meal out of it. It consists of cranberry, goat cheese crumbles,candied pecans, shallot, and a wonderfully citrusy lemon vinaigrette. It was the perfect mix of flavors and ratio of ingredients to each other. YUM. I think this could probably turn a non-kale-lover into someone with a change of heart (and palette). Just soooooo good.
For my main course I had the Wild Pink Shrimp & Cortez Bottarga. It was a fairly simple but delicious combination of capellini, sweet peas, toasted garlic, basil, mint, lemon, and grated parmesan. Overall it was very good but not quite as interesting as I’d hoped.
I guess what I really wanted was those incredible mushroom tacos that he used to serve at the old restaurant but he explained that the market where he is now wouldn’t really appreciate them so that’s why he doesn’t have them on the menu. Sad face.
Gabriel ordered the special fish of the day which was fresh caught Cobia. He had it with sweet corn succotash, Cortez bottarga,
and Anson Mills stone ground grits. The fish and it’s sides were fantastic but the price was very expensive compared to the rest of the menu at $26. My entree was a very reasonable $17. We also shared a side of roasted brussels sprouts that were AMAZING. Why? What in the world did he do to these little sprouts?? Whatever it was, I could have easily eaten the whole plate of them by myself.
Since I’m pregnant, there was no fancy cocktail or wine for me, but I did really enjoy my homemade, tangy, sweet & sour, lemonade. Totally refreshing and satisfying.
Since I DO have an appetite that reflects the growing baby in my baby, we decided to really indulge and share TWO desserts. We really never do this…but hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. We (obviously) had to get the S’mores dessert and also wanted to take the waitress’ suggestion to try the ‘Dark & Stormy’, which she really raved about. It sounded interesting so we gave it a shot. It’s made up of ginger curd, caramelized pineapple, and coconut crumble. We didn’t love this but it was definitely different then typical desserts that we see around here. The ginger had a nice bite to it, and the sweet caramelized pineapple gave a contrasting texture and flavor. A non-chocolate obsessed person might find this a better choice, but I guess the reality is that I just simply prefer a chocolate based dessert most of the time.
As far as the Smore’s dessert goes, I’m not sure If I’d built it up so much in my memory that it set me up for disappointment, or if it really WAS different from the old recipe. Even so, when it comes to warm chocolatey creme and a caramelized marshmallow, you really can’t go too far wrong…so though it didn’t completely flip flop and rock my world, it was still pretty damn tasty.
Even though it’s a trek for us to get there, we liked the atmosphere better than before. It’s cozy, has cool art, rustic barn doors, and comfortable seating. It’s kind of a weird setting amongst Dunkin’ Donuts and various fast food joints, but I’m assuming it’s really a pre-decided destination for diners not something you just happen upon for dinner. It might be a tough neighborhood for a quirky and creative chef, but I’m sure we will go back on certain occasions and I’m sure lots of other loyal Derek fans will too…we shall see.