Author Archives: careynote

S’macks: 2407 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota, FL



Arghhhh. TOTALLY unacceptable! I ate an awesome lunch here and completely forgot to take photos. Darn pregnancy brain. I will definitely need to go back asap to have the same meal again so I can provide the lovely, mouth-watering pics that should go with this entry. Please forgive me!

Anyway, It was a GREAT meal! My father had recently stopped in and raved about the custard. He is like me in that when he finds a noteworthy meal or food, he basically insists that you take him seriously and go try it for yourself. Luckily, I am not one to deny the man the pleasure of passing on a new and delicious discovery to someone else.

I stopped in and was pleased to find plenty of vegetarian options on the menu. I was also really pleased to see that almost all of the ingredients on the menu are locally sourced from farmers in the area. Very cool- and especially cool to see the map on the wall showing where each ingredient comes from.

I easily decided on a portobello mushroom with a slice of provolone, pickles, ‘S’macks’ sauce (which is basically a kicked up mayo), lettuce, and tomatoes all on a yummy potato bun. I also ordered a side of fries and a lemonade.

As I went to sit down to wait for my order, the owner was walking around passing out samples of their coconut custard and I couldn’t possibly turn that down. WOW. Super creamy with that hint of coconut threaded texture, just the right amount of sweet, the perfect temperature and consistency. Dad was right, it’s sooooooo good. If I hadn’t already told myself that the fries were the indulgence I was allowing myself today, I would totally have ordered a cup of the custard after I ate lunch.

So then my meal arrived at my table looking amazing. The portobello sandwich was perfect- juicy mushroom, not drowning in cheese and sauce, topped with pickles and the fresh veggies that I requested. The fries were crispy and hot, crinkle cut, and super fresh. I was going to have this with my lemonade, but the owner brought me some peach iced tea that was refreshing and ice cold and it went really well with my I alternated between the two drinks.

Even though I was stuffed at this point, how could I turn down the incredible coconut/chocolate shake he also brought over when I was done eating lunch?? I was only going to have a sip to taste it but….Well, the end of that story goes as predictably as you’d imagine.

Overall, I am DEFINITELY a fan of S’macks and will surely be back soon. Actually, today is my day off from work and writing this entry up has sparked a craving…so I may just make it over there later today. Give it a try!




Derek’s: 5516 Manatee Ave W Bradenton, FL


cheese roll thingskale, cran, goat cheese, pecans, citrus dressing   shrimp cappelini peascobia special  brusselsginger pineapple dessertsmores dessert

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:

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.


Rice Bowl Asian House: 7305 52nd Pl E Bradenton, FL


edamamesaladrice bowl veg rolltropical seafood (shrimp and salmon) bowl

After seeing 4 stars on Yelp for Rice Bowl, Gabriel and I decided to give it a shot for dinner since it’s pretty close to our house.

When we arrived, we found a sort of diner-looking restaurant with nondescript booths,  and dim lighting…but hey, what can you really expect in a strip mall asian restaurant?

We decided to each order an entree- they both came with salads and rice, and to share an order of edamame and an order of Japanese vegetable rolls. When we asked for the vegetable rolls, the waiter was clearly very confused and had not heard of that before. Huh? Really? Isn’t that a totally common sushi item? I guess not. He asked what should go in it and we told him that it’s usually a combination of cucumber, pickled vegetables and avocado. It was eh…the sushi rice was kind of old tasting and the ginger was icky…the veggies were alright, but nothing special. The edamame was fine- but it’s pretty tough to mess that up unless you really over cook it. The salad was pretty bad. Waaaaay too much mayo-y dressing over iceburg. Lame.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised when it came to my entree. I had the Tropical seafood rice bowl which was shrimp, salmon and fresh veggies in a sweet and sour type sauce. The seafood was much fresher than I expected, and the veggies were cooked perfectly. It was a generous portion and really quite good overall.

Although I wasn’t impressed with the apps, or the atmosphere, I liked my entree a lot and the price was super reasonable. I don’t think I’d go eat there again, but I would definitely do take out.


Ok, this has nothing to do with food…but everything to do with good taste.


quinny stroller Prezi car seat

I realize my readers are generally the type (like me) who want to hear about delicious things to eat…It’s a very rare occasion when I totally stray from the topic and use my big mouth for something else. This is one of those times.

I am so excited to be expecting my first baby July 31st and a dear friend of mine who designs for some top-of-the-line baby companies was kind and generous enough to email me asking, “So, what do you need for the baby?” Being that we had only just begun choosing products to put on a registry, and we were up to our elbows in boxes getting ready to move from a rental to our new home, my husband and I kind of laughed and said, “ummm, everything”. I figured she was going to send us some receiving blankets, cool printed bibs or the like. When she got back to me and asked if we needed a car seat and a stroller, I was completely floored.

Fast forward a few weeks and we were finally in our new house. To add to the seemingly endless pile, two more BIG boxes arrived at our front door. Still facing the daunting task of unpacking about 55 boxes, the 2 boxes got added to the pile for a few days until my curiosity took over and I stopped unpacking the zillions of boxes of kitchen utensils to open something FAR more exciting.

Inside of these 2 mystery boxes were the most gorgeous stroller and car seat I’ve ever seen. The stroller is Quinny Moodd and the car seat is Maxi-Cosi Prezi. The colors are a tasteful neutral sand and a vibrant dark blueish/purple- one of my favorite colors in the world incidentally. I pretty much squealed as we put the pieces together and took it for a spin around the house with our dog eagerly following. The stroller glides as smoothly as is possible and the car seat clicks easily into it’s base or the stroller as needed.

I seriously feel like I just won the lottery.

We would NEVER have dreamed that our baby would be so lucky as to ride in such high-style, high-quality and luxury.

A MILLION thank yous to Quinny USA, Maxi-Cosi and of course, our amazing friend Alison Stomberg Campion. Your generosity is so appreciated…words do not even begin to explain how happy we are and how lucky we feel.


Sardinia: 5770 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231




You’d think I was totally setting myself up for disaster when I ended up going to Sardinia for lunch. I was REALLY craving Thai food, so I’d intended to go to my favorite, Isan Thai, not realizing that they are closed on Mondays. I had a limited amount of time on my lunch break, so I decided to try Sardinia even though I really wasn’t feeling like eating Italian food.

When I went in, I was seated right away and the waitress brought me a menu and ice water. I looked over the lunch menu and was happy to see lots of delicious sounding vegetarian and pescatarian options and realized that my Thai craving had quickly disappeared. Most of the choices were around $10, very reasonable for a lovely selection.

I ordered the Grilled Marinated Vegetable Sandwich with a cup of Minestrone soup. When it arrived, it looked and smelled awesome. The fresh baguette was crusty and warm, and filled with artichokes, zucchini and various other lightly roasted veggies with a small amount of excellent olive oil over the top. The Minestrone was basically just a light veggie soup topped with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan.

The whole meal was very satisfying and a great value. I will definitely go back!


Happy Dragon: 11161 E rd 70 #102, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202


stale crunchy noodles happy dragon shrimp roll and shrimp with mixed veggies happy dragon

 When I opened the bag of ‘crunchy noodles’ and found VERY stale ones instead, I was worried that this was a bad sign about the meal I was about to eat. Luckily, this was the ONLY part of the meal that I wasn’t impressed with. This little restaurant has turned out to be a very pleasant surprise in Lakewood Ranch. Most Chinese restaurants around here really stink..but the food served here (except for the crunchy noodles) is SUPER fresh, cooked to order, and quite delicious. My husband and I order take-out frequently from Happy Dragon and have been consistently satisfied with everything we’ve tried. Nothing is drowning in sugary, over-seasoned sauces or oil. They take a lot of pride in serving only fresh ingredients- nothing from a can or frozen….so while you may be bummed that there are no baby corn or black straw mushrooms, I am happy knowing that the ingredients they cook with are the same as the ones I’d choose to use at home. I especially love the shrimp and eggplant in garlic sauce and the Mei Fun with vegetables. YUM. This is a great go-to place when you want Chinese food without the typical ohhh-I-wish-I-hadn’t-eaten-that feeling that usually comes an hour later. BRAVO Happy Dragon..We will see you again soon!

Thai Spice and Sushi: 8209 Natures Way Ste 111 Bradenton, FL


thai salad thai basil wraps pad thai with shrimp When Gabriel and I arrived for dinner at Thai Spice and Sushi, there were 3 booths and one table filled. All of the other booths and tables were empty. Our host began leading us to a table for 2, smack in the middle of the restaurant and we asked to instead be seated at one of the booths for 2 people. He paused, uncomfortably, and told us he had to go check with his manager. Huh? The manager came back and said, “I’m sorry but we need to seat you at a table.” I asked, “Oh, are the booths all reserved?” and she replied “No, but we need to evenly divide the work of the waitstaff, and the other waiter already has 2 booths to wait on. ” I was a  bit taken aback by her response and pushed further asking, “What if suddenly 4 other parties come in for dinner, you will eventually seat people in those booths, right?” and she confirmed. She then told us that one of the other booths of people looked like they might be finishing up and we could wait for their table. Am I in the twilight zone? What kind of weirdo service rule is she following, especially in a fairly new restaurant where she should be trying to create a welcoming environment. Anyway, we really didn’t want the middle-of-the-room table so we decided to wait the 10 minutes it took to sit at a booth. This did not bode well for whatever was to follow.

Luckily, when we WERE finally seated, we quickly learned that our waiter was awesome. He was polite, funny, kind and knowledgeable. That *kind* of made up for it, but honestly, this manager really needs to re-think her approach.

We decided to share a few things including the basil fresh rolls (which had fresh veggies, basil and shrimp inside), the Thai salad with peanut dressing, and  the shrimp Pad Thai. I thought the rolls and salad/dressing were all awesome..The Pad Thai was so-so. It actually had kind of a ketchup-y flavor to me. I know some recipes call for ketchup, but this was just too much…and it overpowered the whole dish. It wasn’t awful- just definitely not the best example of Pad Thai I’ve had before.  When the waiter told us that the chef is actually FROM Thailand, I couldn’t help but think it was a shame that the recipe he or she learned was clearly not an authentic one.

Overall, our experience here was okay. As fantastic as our waiter was, the initial refusal to let us sit where we wanted really bugged me and may sway whether or not we go back. They do have some great sounding lunch specials on their menu and it might be worth one more shot…Have you been? What did you think?

El Lago Ranchero: 8126 Lakewood Main St Ste 101, Lakewood Ranch, FL


lago chips and salsatortillas shrimp and veggies rice and beans lago toppings We’ve lived near here for almost 2 years and had never been to El Lago Ranchero before last week. We wanted to use a coupon we had for our old standby, Mi Pueblo, but it was closed. Still craving fajitas, we decided to give El Lago a shot, despite the fact that we’d heard it wasn’t that great. We were happy to find them open on a late afternoon and were seated immediately.

Our waitress was fun and friendly, and brought us our drinks right away (including a sample taste of a margarita for Gabriel) as well as a basket of chips and salsa. We ordered the shrimp and veggie fajitas for 2, which came with sides of rice and refried beans, tortillas, and all of the typical toppings: cheese, sour cream, tomatoes/cilantro/onions, lettuce and guacamole. Everything was tasty, fresh, and was served quickly.

Granted, we didn’t order anything particularly complex, and it’s hard to really mess up fajitas too much, but we really enjoyed it. It’s definitely more Americanized Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican food…but there’s nothing wrong with that in my book. The shrimp were fresh and cooked well, the vegetables were fine, not over-seasoned or over-cooked, and the bill was very affordable.

We will surely go back!

Antoine’s Restaurant: 5020 Fruitville Rd Sarasota, FL


antoine's carrot bean souprolls with butter escargotpasta with veggies and shrimpmusselsfries

Gabriel and I lived in a condo nearby to Antoine’s for a few months, and when it opened, I put it on my short list of restaurants I wanted to try. We never got around to it while we still lived over there, but about 6 months later, we happened to snag a Living Social deal to go…and finally cashed in on it last weekend. If you notice that the building looks an awful lot like a fast food joint from the outside, you’re very perceptive. It was apparently a KFC before the new owner gutted the interior and made it into an adorable, 12 table, fine dining restaurant.

We made an early reservation and were greeted by the waiter, Olivier, when we arrived. There was only one other couple there, and we felt like we got VIP service right from the start. We were told that it’s staffed by only the one waiter, one chef and a dishwasher…Impressive, and the waiter clearly had a lot of pride in what he does. Unfortunately, as the evening went on, and the tiny restaurant filled up, the service we received got worse and worse. By the end of the meal, we sat at our table waiting with empty plates in front of us for more than 20 minutes before they were cleared. When I mentioned to the waiter that he could really use a busboy or another staffer’s help, he replied, “This is fine dining and people are used to good things taking a long time.” Ummm, no. I disagree. People who are paying $80 for a meal for 2 expect 5 star service throughout the meal, not only during the times when the restaurant is mostly empty. That said, our experience was excellent anyway, the food was some of the best I’ve had in Sarasota, and for that reason I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest it to others…but I would strongly encourage going early- before the place fills up.

We started with an amuse bouche which was a carrot, bean soup that we both loved. It was just enough to make my hungry, pregnant tummy stop growling- but was thin and light…not so filling that it spoiled the courses that we ordered to follow.

Next, we were served 2 warm, freshly baked rolls that were delicious along with a pat of butter shaped into a flower that the waiter proudly announced he’d sculpted just for me…very sweet until I heard him present it the same way to every other lady who sat down. Humph. I thought these rolls were quite delicious, but didn’t ask for more since we had ordered an appetizer and 2 entrees…However, a few days later, my father and his significant other went to dine there and asked for more the waiter brought out ONE more roll, cut in half. Huh? Then, when they asked for more again, they told they’d be charged for them. WHAT? No. Not ok. Not ever ok. That is just so cheap and pathetic. At a restaurant like this, PLEASE serve your guests as much bread as they want and don’t be so tacky as to try to charge for them. That’s really just appalling to me.

For our appetizer we ordered a traditional escargot- which we both loved. The snails were fresh and the herby, butter sauce they were served in was full of flavor. If we weren’t worried about filling up before our entrees even arrived, we definitely would have asked for more bread at this point to sop that amazing sauce up with.

For our entrees, we HAD to order a pot of mussels- having loved them at Brasserie Belge (the owner’s previous restaurant) and also the fettucini with vegetables and shrimp (which we added at the waiter’s suggestion…and he was right, they were amazing). The pasta here is made to order, and it really showed. It was my favorite part of the meal. It’s touches like homemade pasta and seafood that arrives fresh daily, that make this a standout restaurant.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend Antoine’s. I think it’s a REAL standout in Sarasota purely because of the lovely, romantic atmosphere and the amazing food. That said, if you do, be warned that you WILL wait a long time for service if you go during ‘normal’ dinner hours, that you WILL spend a lot of money, and that you WILL pay for rolls if you want more than one per person, which again, I think is totally ridiculous. Other than that, enjoy…The food is truly top quality and if it wasn’t so pricey that it can’t really be a regular spot for me, I would totally go back frequently. If you go, let me know what you think!

Oasis Cafe Mediterranean Cuisine: 4246 South Tamiami Trl Sarasota, FL


oasis cafe I had a craving for falafel a couple of weeks ago, so I headed for the one place I know of to get some for lunch, a little cafe called Zante Gyros on Superior Ave. When I got there I was surprised to see it was gone. Out of business. Kaput. Bummer! I was already short on time on my lunch break and quickly checked Yelp for another choice close by. I found great ratings for Oasis, and drove over.

I arrived to find a small, casual, take-out cafe with a few tables and booths to sit at. I ordered a falafel platter with sides of Mediterranean salad and Tzatiki. It came with pita and 4 pieces of falafel.

It was all pretty good, but nothing spectacular. The pita was regular, store-bought pita. When you’ve had homemade, fresh, warm pita (like the kind they have at Pyramida in NYC), that makes just about everything else shy in comparison. The tzatiki was alright- but it was a bit tangy for my liking, and there wasn’t enough chopped cucumber in it. The falafel and salad were good and made fresh to order.

Overall, I might go there again in a pinch, but I think I’ll keep looking for another one that’s even better.