Author Archives: careynote

Sal’s Pizzeria & Pasta House: 6582 Gateway Ave Sarasota, FL

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saladsals pizzaEither I’ve lived in Florida for long enough that I’ve forgotten what real NY pizza tastes like, or I just found a GREAT place for a slice here! Given that it’s still less than 2 years since my big relocation, and factoring in the total number of slices I ate while living in NYC for 5 years, I’m pretty sure that I can still consider myself a fair pizza critic, and this passed with flying colors. This is not a gourmet, fancy, brick-oven slice, this is a true, NY style, fold-over, crispy crusted, melty cheese slice. Just a good, no-frills, plain, classic cheese slice- and exactly what I wanted.

The salad was nothing particularly exciting, but did include a fresh veggies (carrots, lettuce, tomatoes)  and olive slices, and my side of blue cheese dressing was above average with decent sized chunks.

For $4.99 to get a slice of pizza, a soda and a salad for a quick lunch was a great deal.

I will absolutely be back! Thanks Sal’s!

UPDATE August 1 , 2017!

I’ve been continuing to go to Sal’s whenever I’m in the area for the last few years and was SO excited to find out that they are now making cauliflower crust pizza. It’s a real pain in the ass to make at home, and I don’t have a pizza oven to really give it the perfect texture. Well, this did NOT disappoint. At around $13 for a small/personal size, I wasn’t even able to finish half on my own so I would say, for the amount of effort that has to go into making it, it is WELL worth the price.

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Lavanda: 1938 Adams Ln Ste 105 Sarasota, FL

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The setting of Lavanda is lovely. The restaurant‘s wrap-around porch in the Towles Court Arts District is one of the most peaceful places to eat in Sarasota. It’s almost charming enough to not notice that we are, by about 35 years, the youngest people dining here. It was my birthday, and Gabriel had taken me, by request, to this restaurant that I’d heard so much about.

For someone who reads and writes reviews as frequently as I do, it is no one’s fault but my own that while the overall ratings for Lavanda are excellent, I ignored the fact that it’s simply not my taste. My favorite meals are inventive, exciting, unique. The food at Lavanda is classic, traditional, boring, bland. As soon as I looked over the menu I was concerned. Nothing on this list sounded at all inspired or new. This is the kind of food that feeds (and impresses!) the over 70 crowd who remembers old New York eateries for it’s dimly lit, stodgy, upper crust predictability and not for it’s cutting edge, melting pot, thrilling creativity.

I started with a half-size appetizer. (something worth noting is that I really appreciate half-sizes as an option. I often want a taste and not a filling first course) Steamed large shrimp over baby spinach, artichoke hearts, mandarin slices and toasted pine nuts drizzled with tahini tamarind dressing. The shrimp were large and fresh and the salad itself was a nice mix of flavors and textures- especially the fresh mandarin orange wedges and creamy dressing. There was nothing wrong with this salad- but I did not expect that it would be the best part of my meal. Gabriel had the warm mozzarella with tomato sauce started and I was not particularly impressed. This was not fresh, homemade mozzarella from what I could tell- and if it was, they should really take some brush-up lessons from the amazing owners at Mozzarella Fella on Main St. The tomato sauce was fine- but nothing special. The extra bread they brought us after we’d finished the 2 warm rolls they’d allotted us, was cold.

For my entrée, I had the scallops sautéed with cream, Amaretto and almonds with mashed potatoes and an odd spinach/chick pea side. Who puts chick peas with spinach on the side of scallops and mashed potatoes? That was just a very weird choice that really didn’t go with the meal at all. The scallops were fine- the mashed potatoes were good, the spinach side was just nothing but strange. Overall, it’s not that the food was bad, it was just so totally hum-ho, boring, sleepy, uninspired.

For dessert, we shared the lemon souffle and frankly, it was not worth it. I am VERY much a dessert person, so when a dessert makes me say ‘meh’, you know it’s pretty bad. The souffle was denser and wetter than it should have been, the flavor was more bland, than lemony, and the whole thing had nothing at all interesting about it. Just total blah. Let’s go home to have some ice cream instead.

 

Shore Diner: 465 John Ringling Blvd, Sarasota, FL

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shore beet salad with grilled shrimpThis is definitely the most awesome atmosphere in St. Armands Circle for a drink and a meal. A young, hip crowd, healthy, interesting menu, and really cool decor make this feel like a true gem in the area. When you walk up the shell-covered stairs, the first thing you see is the green, living wall with the name of the restaurant and a giant set of utensils centered in stainless steel. This roof top restaurant has a retractable roof on one side, a covered middle and an open air front. Waitstaff is attractive and dressed in trendy attire, and very attentive.

We were just there for a light lunch, being that I’m getting married (!!!) in less than a week and didn’t want anything too indulgent. That said, there were plenty of choices to suit my tastes and I happily ordered a salad with beets, pistachios, grapefruit and goat cheese with the optional addition of grilled shrimp. It came out soon after we ordered, and was lovely to look at and to taste. The flavors all worked so well together, and it was exactly the light, refreshing, delicious lunch I was hoping for. I will be sure to tell all of my friends who are visiting from afar next weekend that this is a great place to visit in between wedding events! Fantastic! 

 

 

Rev.el.ry Pub & Grill: 3005 University Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34243

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revelry 2revelry 1revelry 3revelry 5revelry 4revelry 6 When we got a val-pak coupon for this new restaurant in our area we were really excited because on the coupon it exclaimed things like: “vegetarian options!”, “organic herbs!”, “wild caught fresh seafood!” We thought for sure we would have tons of healthy, non-meat related, locally sourced options. Sadly, once we looked over the menu we quickly realized that was not the case. There was a grand total of ONE vegetarian option on the main courses section of the menu- and it was vegetable curry. There was also ONE veggie sandwich option and 2 vegetarian pizza options. I don’t know about you, but personally, if I want curry, I’ll go to an Indian or Thai restaurant. I am not really interested in going to a ‘Rustic Pub and Grill’ that specializes in burgers and wood-fired pizzas and then ordering a curry dish. Humph. We thought, well, luckily, we are pescetarian…surely there will be wonderful fish options. There was ONE. It happened to be the one type of fish that neither of us really like, and one of the most expensive choices on the menu. Womp womp. We decided we’d be best off ordering some small apps and salads to share.

When we found out that the chef makes all of the cheeses there, we decided to try some dishes that highlight that. The 2 salads (house and jewel) we shared were both very good- even if not totally exciting. They were full of  fresh veggies, homemade cheese (mozzarella and goat) and really outstanding citrus vinaigrettes (one was lemon and the other orange and they both had bright, fresh, fruity flavors to them).  Soon after we finished our salads, our waitress brought us out some beer biscuits which were moist, crunchy, lightly sweet, and soooooo good. The fact that the rolls came after the salads was kind of odd, but better late than never.

At this point, I mentioned to the waitress that I’d love to meet the owner/chef- who is apparently also from NY. This is a new restaurant, and as a blogger who loves to hear the backstory of a vision like this, I always try to get a chance to chat with the person who dreamed it up. I was told that she was there and would be told that I’d like to meet her…but that was the last I heard of it. She was apparently hanging out in back and couldn’t be bothered to come say hello. The manager did come say hi, but honestly, meeting him really wasn’t what I was looking for. Oh well….I guess a little blogger like me isn’t important enough to greet personally.

Next, our avocado and gulf shrimp cocktail came out. It was a total disappointment, nearly drowned in a mayo-based sauce. The shrimp were plump and cooked well, but the goopy sauce totally ruined the dish. There were 2-3 tiny pieces of avocado- not the chunks that the menu description promised. The tuna tartare was similarly ruined, swimming in too much soy sauce. Raw tuna is such a wonderful consistency and covering it with the soy seemed to turn it into salty mush. The flavor that it carries naturally was overpowered by the sauce and I honestly couldn’t even eat my half. The presentation was lovely, but a dish should never look better than it tastes.

Our fifth and final dish was the redeeming factor. The homemade almond crusted brie was glazed with apricot and served with crispy ciabatta, blackberries and apple slices. It’s melty, oozy, warmth was full of flavor and creaminess. We seriously cleaned that plate in record time and kind of wished there was more- although the portion was perfectly generous.

It was clear to us that this chef’s real gift is in her ability to make outstanding homemade cheeses. Knowing that now, I might consider going back to try the pizza- although it really wasn’t what I was in the mood for at this visit. It also makes it’s even weirder to see a curry option on the menu, and I’d suggest to the owner that maybe that veggie offering should be reconsidered. Maybe a baked veggie parmesan dish would be a better choice where she could really show off her cheese skills instead of diving into the unrelated curry territory. Don’t get me wrong, since I didn’t even try it I realize there is a possibility that it’s great…but seeing it on a menu where it really didn’t seem to belong was just sort of off-putting.

Overall, the atmosphere really does have an upscale sports bar/pub kind of feel to it. The lounge area is cozy with couches and a fireplace, and If I liked sports and/or beer, it would have been really appealing. As it is though, I really just like food…and that wasn’t good enough to make me ooh and ahhh over Rev-el-ry. Maybe it’s worth trying one more time after they’ve been opened for a year or so…Maybe they are still ironing out the kinks since they’re pretty new. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt this time, but there is definitely quite a bit of room for improvement.

Krispy Arepas: 8196 Tourist Center Dr Bradenton, FL

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Krispy arepas, plaintains, mushrooms and garlic:cilantro saucearepas with plaintains, beans, mushrooms, avocado, tomato, cheddar and pico de gallogarlic:cilantro sauce and avo:pico de gallo saucedulce de leche cookie. dulche de leche cookie side viewWOW. Great ethnic food 5 miles from my house!?!?! I’m SO frequently surprised about stuff like this, but really shouldn’t be anymore. So far, we have found amazing Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Mexican and now Venezuelan (although apparently it was recently sold to a Peruvian owner so there will be some changes soon) food, all within 10-20 minutes from where we live in suburban, cookie-cutter, pristine, totally non-diverse, Lakewood Ranch, FL.

We were both feeling a little bored of our stand-by dinner spots, so after a hard workout, we decided to give Krispy Arepas a try. I’d read a ton of great reviews online, and it sounded like the ‘something different’ that I was craving. We walked into the neon-green painted, brightly lit, fast food restaurant. It’s got a little flair with cute, little, real and fake painted cactuses and alpaca dolls on high-up shelves.

There were a few other people in there waiting- as we were told that fresh Arepas were being made and it would be about 10 minutes until they were ready. We asked the friendly guy behind the counter to tell us a bit about what Arepas are and he explained that they are sort of like a corn flatbread that are stuffed with various ingredients commonly found in South American countries. As non-meat-eaters, we were happy to see that the choices for us were plentiful, with plantains, mushrooms, beans, cheeses, avocados and other various veggies and sauces. Seeing how hungry we were, he gave us a small plate of mushrooms, plantains and a couple of the sauces to sample while we waited for the Arepas to be ready. It was actually more than 20 minutes later that we got the signal that it was finally time. He had felt so badly about the long wait that he also gave everyone who was waiting there a cup for free drinks…very nice of him, and that along with the snack more than made up for the long wait.

We had him fill our freshly cut-opened arepas with pretty much everything non-meat that could fit in there, and realized that we’d basically made them impossible to pick up and eat. No problem, thats’s what little plastic forks and knives are for. We sat down and dug in to the little pockets of flavor and both loved them right away. Exactly what we wanted. A big step away from the norm, and an exciting blend of new flavors. The sweet, soft plantains, the creamy avocado slices, the cool pico de gallo and the AWESOME green, garlic, cilantro sauce combined with cheddar cheese, sauteed mushrooms, tomatillo sauce and black beans filled the crispy, chewy corn sandwiches with wonderful texture and flavor. These LOOK like they may be too small to fill a hungry belly but nope, not at all. We were full and happy by the time we cleared our plates.

But wait, what’s that?? A fresh powered sugar homemade cookie filled with dulce de leche? Okay. I guess we can fit one of those in too. It wouldn’t be fair to write a review without a taste. Yum. Crisp powdery cookies with a creamy, sweet, salty center? Nothing bad about that.

We will definitely pay another visit soon- most likely on a Wednesday when it’s 50% off. You really can’t beat dinner for $5 a piece ($2.50 a piece on Wednesdays!!!), especially when it tastes this amazing.

Thai Palace: 4756 W Cortez Rd Bradenton, FL

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thai palace saladthai palace pad thai with squid and shrimppanang curry with tofu rice heart

Gabriel and I were aiming for a Thai restaurant in Bradenton that had been recommended to us. Luckily for us, after getting lost trying to find it, we finally arrived to find that it was closed. We did a quick search and found Thai Palace was nearby and had great reviews. Okay, change of plans and off we went!

During lunch, entrees come with either soup or salad. We both opted for the salad and when it arrived, we worried that it would be an indication of the entree portions. The salad consisted of approximately 3 bites of iceburg lettuce, one tomato, a slice of cucumber and a few shreds of carrot. Not exactly enough to take the hunger edge off. The peanut dressing was good, the basic one that is typically found in Thai restaurants, but not exciting enough to make us very optimistic about what was coming next.

When the entrees arrived soon after we finished our minuscule salads, we were pleasantly surprised right away. The presentation was lovely with a beautiful orchid and a fish shaped dish, and the aroma from both dishes was awesome. The pad thai with squid was excellent. I can easily say it was the BEST Pad Thai I’ve had since moving from NYC to Florida, and that alone is worth the 30 minute drive it took to get there. The balance of the salty, sweet, peanut sauce and the fresh sauteed squid couldn’t be better. The creaminess of a light coating of the sauce didn’t overpower or smother the consistency of the noodles. Big yum.

We also shared a delicious Panang Curry with Tofu. The curry sauce was blended with coconut milk and peanuts. The various fresh vegetables included carrot, mushroom, snowwpea, baby corn, bell pepper, celery, and zucchini. This sauce had so much complexity to it and we both couldn’t get enough. We actually ordered a second helping of rice- something that we really never do, because we couldn’t possibly let all of the extra sauce go to waste.

I was VERY happy that the little, boring salads were not at all representative of the abilities of the chef here. Our meal, overall, was far and away the best Thai food we’ve had in a while- and we go out for Thai food frequently. Although the drive is a little far, there is no question that both of us want to go back asap. Bravo Thai Palace!

Siam Orchid Thai: 4141 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

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thai cuc saladthai ginger tofo and veggies pad thai with shrimp

Eventually I may stop being shocked about how many awesome Thai restaurants there are in Sarasota, but so far, I am still in the constantly-pleasantly-surprised phase since moving here from NYC a year and a half ago.

Siam Orchid is next door to my favorite Tuesday night yoga class (6:30 on Tuesdays at Family Tree Yoga) so Gabriel and I stopped in for a quick dinner there recently. There were only a couple of tables with people at them, so we were told to sit anywhere we liked. Menus and ice water were brought over right away by a very sweet woman (maybe the owner?) and we took a few minutes to decide what we wanted to order.

We asked if the soup that comes with the entrees was vegetarian and were told that it wasn’t, but that she would ‘take care of us’. Cold cucumber salad in a light vinegar dressing was brought over shortly and we both enjoyed it very much. It was colorful, refreshing and mild in flavor.

For our entrees we shared the classic shrimp Pad Thai and the Ginger Tofu. The portions were on the small side but SO delicious, and definitely filling enough for the two of us.

The price was a little more than we  thought it should be given the small portions, but the food was prepared so nicely- light and healthy , not drowning in sauces, and with super fresh ingredients, that we will probably return again.  Yum!

 

Walt’s Fish Market & Restaurant: 4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

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Things I love about Walt’s:

1. It’s literally across the street from my favorite 6:30pm Tuesday night candlelight power yoga class at Family Tree Yoga.

2. The market is full of super fresh, reasonably priced choices.

3. There’s pretty much always a place to sit in their outdoor section- which is open and airy. Even though it’s view is of a parking lot, it still somehow feels sort of beachy, and there is often live acoustic music.

4. Huge cups of ice cold water. (Too bad they are in environmentally unfriendly styrofoam)

5. A reasonably priced menu with tons of options that sound appealing.

6. The yummy, complimentary, smoked mullet starter they bring with loads of saltines.

7. Their blue cheese dressing is AMAZING. Huge chunks of cheese and seriously just so so so so good.

Things I don’t really love about Walt’s:

1. The food is so- so. Although everything is fresh, it’s boring and uncreative. They love to fry stuff and/or drown it in unnecessary amounts of butter and oil. The salads are mostly comprised of iceberg lettuce (boo). The veggies on the side are usually overcooked and mushy, and again, just boring boring boring. I wish they would get a little creative with what they offer, but the couple of times I’ve been there, I’ve ended up feeling like I really should have just bought seafood in their market and taken it home to cook it myself.

2. The waitstaff, though they are friendly, are super slow. It is not a place I advise dining at if you’re in a hurry.

3. Even though the prices seem fair at first glance, it still ends up costing more than it should in the end.

The moral of the story is that I have been there twice, and kind of doubt I’ll go again. If I do, it will just be for the market, which really does have some seafood worth buying. I will learn my lesson this time and next time will be my own chef.

 

 

 

 

Isan Thai Restaurant: 5758 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

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shrimp fresh rolls cucumber salad cashew nut veggies and tofucoconut mango sticky rice

Gabriel and I were hungry after class at Family Tree Yoga ( http://familytreeyogasrq.com )  on Tuesday night (taught by my hunky honey ( www.magicsandbox.com ) so we decided to check Yelp for somewhere close by with great Thai food. When Isan came up, we thought it was be a perfect idea. I actually pass it frequently since I work nearby and often go to Phillippi Creek park on my lunch breaks to read…I just had no idea that it had so many great reviews.

We walked in to find a sparkling clean establishment with pretty, carved-wood booths and smiling waitresses dressed in traditional Thai outfits. Our menus and waters were brought over promptly and we took a few minutes to decide what we wanted to order.

We started with the shrimp fresh rolls and the cucumber salad. Both were served quickly, filled with crisp, fresh, bright, ingredients and flavored simply. The peanut dipping sauce for the rolls had a creamy, rich taste, and was smoother than most peanut sauces I’ve had. I believe it had more Hoisin sauce than I’m used to, and I really enjoyed that. The cucumber salad was dressed lightly with a little vinegar and maybe some lemon and olive oil. It was a subtle dressing that allowed the flavor of the various vegetables to come through.

For my entree, I had the cashew nut tofu and vegetables. It was a generous portion of colorful veggies with a light sauce. I would have like more cashews- they were quite few and far between, but the relatively small number of them DID make for a super healthy entree and I was happy about that. The tofu was lightly pan fried- with little or no breading- exactly the way I like it. I asked for no rice knowing that the fresh mango-coconut sticky rice dessert would be calling my name. Half of that carb-y dessert would be plenty of starch for me, and I knew I didn’t need to fill up on rice with my entree also with such a plentiful plate of vegetables.

The dessert was awesome. The chunks of mango were sweet and juicy and the coconut sauce over the sticky rice was heaven. This is historically one of my favorite desserts, and though I’ve never had a version as unbelievably addictive as the one from Land in NYChttps://bigforkinmouth.com/2010/04/22/land-northeast-thai-1565-2nd-avenue-new-york-ny ) this was came pretty close and Gabriel and I demolished it in less than 5 minutes.

Both of us really enjoyed our dinners and the attentive waitresses. The setting was much prettier on the inside than we expected from the outside. My only complaint was that it was freezing inside and I really wished I had a sweater. Otherwise,  I was totally impressed with Isan Thai and will definitely return!

 

Shrink to Life!

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It’s true. My blog has not been getting the attention it deserves.

I’ve been working on my health over the last 3 months, cooking at home much more, and eating out much less.

I have become a health coach,  ( shrinktolife.com ) and have lost 16 lbs in my own journey in preparation for my upcoming wedding.

I have not lost my love of food, but I’m trying to be more in control of what I eat- which means more cooking and less dining out.

That said, I still VERY much believe in my everything-in-moderation theory. I am so happy at the weight I’m at now that I have committed to sticking with this plan. I will continue to eat healthfully and mindfully 80% of the time, and to allow myself indulgences 20% of the time.

Bigforkinmouth will absolutely and positively still hear about each and every one of those indulgences.

My waist has shrunk, but my mouth is still pretty forking big.

🙂

If you’d like help reaching optimal health, please email me at shrinktolife@gmail.com or visit my website shrinktolife.com I’d love to teach you how to lose weight, gain confidence and live the happiest life you can…and you can and will still LOVE food!

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