Category Archives: Manhattan

Solorzano Bros Pizza, 3604 Webber St, Sarasota, FL

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As a New Yorker who moved to Sarasota a year ago, I’m constantly on a quest to find pizza that comes close to what I know and love. Most pizza places around here, to put it bluntly, really suck. A few months ago, I found G’s Pizza (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/07/25/gs-pizzaria-7119-s-tamiami-trail-sarasota-fl/) and have been pretty happy to satisfy a craving there when the need strikes. It’s very close to work which is great, but it’s pretty far from where I live- and we are definitely NOT in their delivery zone. I think it was my review of G’s which prompted the owner of Solorzano’s to email me suggesting that I give them a try. Well, a pizza craving hit hard yesterday so Gabriel and I headed over to their Webber St. location which is less than 10 minutes from our house.

When we arrived, we found that their choice of slices was limited to plain or pepperoni only- apparently they’d had a busy day already and sold out of everything else. The boy behind the counter told us he’d be happy to make us slices of whatever we wanted anyway, which we were happy to hear. The very reasonable $6 lunch special I ordered included any slice, a house salad, a drink and 2 garlic knots. (Well, I’m actually not entirely sure that it normally includes the garlic knots or if that was something he threw in after I mentioned that I’m a food blogger. Either way, nice touch.)  I ordered artichoke and mushrooms for my slice of pizza and sat down to wait for my meal. A few moments later, a lovely salad with perfectly ripe, red, tomato slices, red onions, fresh cucumbers, romaine lettuce and a great balsamic dressing came out, along with my slice and a couple of huge garlic knots.

Everything looked awesome and I was ready to dive in. The salad was a generous portion of fresh and colorful veggies, and the slice looked VERY New York. My first bite was promising. Yes! The cheese was full of flavor, hot and bubbly and the sauce was slightly sweet and the right amount. My only gripe was the crust. The texture and taste were spot-on, but it was just slightly too thick for me. I personally like a good, thin, fold-over-able NY style crust over one that’s really bread-y.  Even so, this is pretty damn close to what I want in a slice, and I will definitely give it my stamp of approval. The garlic knots were really oversized compared to the typical NY ones, and they tasted great. Crusty outside and doughy/chewy inside. They could have used a little more garlic, but I’m admittedly a garlic freak. I am very curious to go back to try the other types of pizza- there were SO many appealing choices, like ‘Farmer’s Market made with fresh local produce, the ‘Sinatra’, a white pie with fresh tomato slices and basil, as well as the ‘Margarita’ with fresh basil and mozzarella. I’d also like to try the eggplant parmesan at some point.

The setting itself was very authentic and made me feel like I was back up north. I liked the Rat Pack music playing on the speakers and thought it added a cute touch to the old time-y Italian feel. There are plenty of tables outside which I would have enjoyed except that it happened to be a very windy day. We decided to sit atop the red stools inside and were comfortable there. We thought it was interesting that there’s another supposedly authentic NY pizza shop in the same plaza, and after seeing 4 stars on Yelp figured that now we’re gonna have to try that one too. That said, I am quite sure our next delivery order will be from Solorzano’s regardless. I’m very happy to be able to throw away the delivery menus I’ve collected and rejected so far and replace the subpar choices near me with the very good Solorzano Bros. instead. Bravo! We will be back!

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Tandoori Indian Restaurant: 3440 Clark rd. Sarasota, FL HAS MOVED TO 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd

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mango lassipappadum and 3 sauces, tamarind etcchickpea potatoes patties appnaanrotieggplant entreesaag paneerbasmati rice

I feel like I’ve said this a lot more times than I ever expected to, but WOW, great ethnic food in Sarasota?!?! Amazing! Who knew?

Gabriel and I bought a coupon deal to go to Tandoori Indian Restaurant based on a recommendation from my boss. We decided to go a few nights ago when I had a serious craving for Sag Paneer. (Fresh homemade cottage cheese cubes cooked in fresh creamy spinach gravy, very delicately spiced.) This is one of those dishes that I get intense cravings for every so often, and since I’ve recently cut meat out of my diet and am finding less options on most menus, I am so happy to say that this favorite of mine is still a-okay.

When we arrived, it was a fairly empty restaurant but we noticed quickly that a lot of their business seems to be in take-out. Quite a few people came to pick up their ‘to go’ orders while we ate. The waitress came over and brought menus and water and made some suggestions at our request. She also brought out the delicious, creamy, sweet, mango lassis we ordered, as well as some crisp popadom with the 3 classic sauces: tamarind, mint chutney and onion. My favorite is always tamarind and I always ask for extra to use on the rice and entrees as well.

We decided to try the Ragda Patties (crispy fried potato patties topped with chick peas cooked in onion & tomato paste spiced with ground spices and finished off with our house yogurt and tamarind & mint chutney) as our appetizer. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it WAS really delicious. It was mainly chick peas, spiced with really interesting flavors, and the patties it sat atop were decadent, creamy, potatoes. They didn’t really seem crispy to me- as described in the menu, but they were very flavorful and the texture contrast with the chickpeas was interesting.

For our entrees, we shared the Sag Paneer, which was perfect, and the Baingan Bharta (roasted, de-skinned and pureed eggplant, cooked with turmeric, onions and tomatoes, seasoned with herbs & lightly flavored with a hint of freshly ground fried spices) which was also really wonderful. The basmati rice that came with it and the Tandoori Naan and Roti we ordered were the perfect platforms for the complex flavors of our entrees.

Overall, I am really happy to have had a chance to try Tandoori and will definitely be back. The owner came out to chat with us to tell us that they will soon be moving to a new location in Coopers Creek off of University Drive- and we are glad to know they will be in an area that we frequent. As a New Yorker who used to think that Jackson Heights, Queens is really the best place outside of India (not that I’ve actually been there) to eat Indian food, I am VERY pleasantly surprised to find awesome, authentic, Indian cuisine right here in Sarasota, Florida. Bravo Tandoori!

 

UPDATE: Tandoori Grill has moved to 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd and is STILL awesome. Gabriel and I had dinner there last week and the food was FANTASTIC. YAY!! It’s so close to where I live now and the $9.99 buffet still has tons of vegetarian options.

Darwin’s on 4th: 1525 4th St Sarasota, FL

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Yesterday was my honey’s birthday. We searched a few menus online of restaurants that we’ve heard great things about and ultimately decided on dining at Darwin‘s to celebrate. We arrived to find a very cool looking building.  Inside was dim, with romantic lighting and beautiful attention to detail in everything from the ceiling, draped in rich colored fabrics hanging from wrought iron fencing, rustic lamps, woven placemats, all the way to the awesome open kitchen where we could watch the chefs make their magic happen.

We were warmly welcomed, first by the hostess and then by our waiter. He told us that hand-crafting beer was one of their specialties- but neither of us are really beer drinkers. That said, the descriptive menu was so appealing that I felt like I had to at least have a taste or two- and our waiter was more than happy to oblige. I tasted the pumpkin spice and their signature beer, and while I’m still not really a fan of beer in general, I can understand that there are different notes and flavors to be appreciated just like with wine.

We looked over the menu, full of very appealing choices, and had a chat with our  waiter about his favorites. Apparently, he pretty much loves everything there- and had a lot of excitement in describing a few of them. We decided to share a bunch of appetizers rather than limiting ourselves to just 2 entrees. We are always happy to share plates (just another reason why I love him) and agree on just about everything food-wise- which really isn’t difficult since we both love eating.

The bus-boy brought out a few little popover-type rolls- they were almost identical to the ones they serve at Derek’s Culinary Casuals, just down the street, so I (wrongly) assumed that perhaps the chefs were buddies from culinary school. Very soon after, our first 3 choices arrived and were presented beautifully- full of color, texture and creativity.

The first was the Yuzu butter poached lobster taco: Miso-truffle black bean puree, avocado, pico de gallo, soft flour tortilla. It had generous pieces of lobster claw meat and that bean puree was incredible- smooth and just the right amount of truffle oil. The tortillas were fluffy and fresh. It was the perfect amount for 2 people- one taco each, and just delicious.

The 2nd was the Limi chopped salad: Spring mix, romaine lettuce, tomato, onions, avocado, choclo, black beans, queso fresco, orange chipotle vinaigrette. It had been recommended to us by a co-worker of Gabriel’s so we felt we better try it. It was colorful and filled with fresh produce, beans and queso fresco to make a refreshing combination. That said, it didn’t blow us away as something all that special- but it was still a nice, light compliment to our other, heavier dishes. I could see ordering it for lunch with another app and feeling like it was the perfect light meal.

Our 3rd plate was the Octopus Tiradito: Sashimi-style tender octopus, black olive puree, onions, avocado, toasted bread. Octopus is Gabriel’s favorite so we had to try it. It was tender, but not as melt-in-your-mouth as we have had it on a few occasions. The olive tampenade was an interesting contrast that I didn’t think would work, but in reality was quite tasty in and a cool texture along with with the chewier meat and soft, creamy avocado.

After those first 3 dishes, we wanted something salty and crunchy and were excited to see tostones on the ‘sides’ menu. (So sorry that we dove into these and polished them off before I remembered I hadn’t taken a photo!) They are one of my favorite snacks when done right and these absolutely were. Wow. Hot, crispy, just the right amount of batter and with a wonderful, herby, chimichurri-type dipping sauce alongside. These were really awesome, and as a classic, authentic Peruvian dish, I’m sure that Darwin has had these under his belt for a while. Finding genuine, ethnic food in Sarasota never ceases to amaze and surprise me. I should really stop doubting how many fantastic restaurants hosted by talented chefs this area offers.

We wanted one more small dish to end this awesome meal and so we asked our waiter one more time for a recommendation. He told us that the Tuna Tiradito was not to be missed. It is Darwin’s signature Sashimi-style tuna, ginger soy sauce, cubes of fresh watermelon, leche de tigre. I’m SO glad that we listened to his advice because this ended up being my favorite of the night. The sweet, cool, juicy watermelon was a fantastic contrast to the tender, fresh, raw, tuna and the lemony sauce that came alongside was a tart compliment to the whole dish. It was beautifully presented and tasted even better than it looked.

We were about to ask to see a dessert menu when our attentive waiter, Enrique, showed up with a surprise ‘Happy Birdday’ dessert for Gabriel. Yes, birdday. Ummm. Cute mistake. The dessert was the Lavender Poached Pear with Goat cheese ice cream, black pepper caramel sauce. Not something I’d really ever order, but definitely enjoyable and very different. The black pepper, caramel sauce was especially unique and neither one of us hesitated in coming as close to licking the plate as is socially acceptable.

Overall, this was a very different dining experience than I have had in a while. Very NY. Very sexy. Very delicious. We will most certainly be back again soon. Thank you Darwin!

Blue Dolphin Cafe: 470 John Ringling Blvd Sarasota, FL

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I loooooove a good breakfast. I met my dad at Blue Dolphin and was charmed to find out what a ‘regular’ he is there. Everyone knows his name and treated us both really well. It has the feel of the NY diners I miss so much, and a menu with tons of great choices at fair prices. I ordered a 2 egg omelette (they are usually 3 eggs but 2 was plenty for me) with broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms and half the amount of swiss they’d normally use. It came with fresh, thick, rye toast and a fruit salad and it totally hit the spot. Everything was cooked perfectly, exactly the way I would do it myself- except probably a bit prettier if I’m being honest about my omelette cooking skills.

🙂

Mozzarella Fella: 1668 Main St Sarasota, FL

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As a recent NYC transplant, when I read excellent reviews about a new sub shop in Sarasota, I do not take it lightly. When I find out that the owner is from Brooklyn, I take it even more seriously. When I see mouth-watering pictures posted on their well-maintained Facebook page, I start making my plans to go. Everything I’ve been reading about Mozzarella Fella has been a rave, and I am very happy to report that I agree. It’s a fantastic new addition to Main Street.

My father (who is also a Brooklyn native) and I met up yesterday for lunch and arrived to find a packed house. Apparently it has not taken long for people to catch on to the new hot spot for lunch, but the line moved quickly and they were actually ready to take our order sooner than we’d made up our minds. Everything on the menu was appealing, and the case of lasagna, meatballs and various prepared salads was gorgeous, with each dish looking better and better. I was in the mood for eggplant and had (If I remember right) 3 different eggplant-based subs to choose from.  I settled on the eggplant parmigiana sub and a half iced tea/half lemonade. My father was quickly sold on the special sub-of-the-day: veal cutlet with fresh mozzarella and marsala sauce. We placed our orders and went to sit at a 2-top to wait for them to be brought out to us.

About 10 minutes later, our sandwiches arrived wrapped in deli paper. My drink was forgotten and I decided to just go grab a bottle of water from the fridge instead of re-ordering it. I came back to unwrap my sandwich, which turned out to be a mozzarella, arugula, tomato and basil oil sub instead of the one I’d chosen. It actually DID look pretty awesome, but it was not what I’d ordered so I brought it back to the counter and told the owner, who was very apologetic and said she’d correct it right away. A little while later, she brought my correct sub along with the mistaken one- and it definitely made up for the error that she let me keep it to bring home for my honey. (who, incidentally, was quite pleased) In the end, I decided to eat half of each which was a great consolation. More to try! Both subs were excellent. The mozzarella is definitely the standout ingredient- SO creamy and somehow light and rich at the same time. The eggplant was crisp and not overly breaded. The bread has the most perfect consistency- both chewy and soft with a toothsome crust.

All that said, one bite of my dad’s sub and it was quickly obvious that the special of the day is no joke. Seriously. Next time, I’ll let the chalkboard decide what my order will be. WOW. This was unbelievable. The veal (which I don’t normally order) tasted so incredible that any animal-cruelty-related guilt quickly subsided. Sorry vegetarian friends. Sorry cute little baby cows. I’m sorry that you are so delicious.

It was tender, but with the most delicious, crispy, crust. The melty mozzarella on top dribbled down the sides and mixed into the savory marsala sauce with juicy, plump, sliced mushrooms. The crusty bread sopped up all of the extra sauce and cheese and worked both as a catchall and as a compliment. This was seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. It was, however, totally messy. My dad and I agreed that if you decide to eat there, it would be nice to have your lunch served on a plate instead of wrapped in paper. A paper plate would be fine, but the mess that eating on paper makes was kind of annoying.

Aside from the 2 little ordering errors with my overlooked beverage and my sub confusion, this place totally rocks. I am sure that they will get more and more efficient with the ordering and accuracy, but the food can’t possibly get any better. I will absolutely and positively be back, and hopefully by the time I return, reviews like mine and the soon-to-be-countless others won’t have made it completely impossible to get in.

Bravo Mozzarella Fellas! Welcome to Florida!

Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar: 8433 Cooper Creek Blvd. Sarasota

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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.

Derek’s Culinary Casual: 514 Central Ave, Sarasota, FL

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I am going to have to start with dessert. No, I did not start the meal that way, but I just can’t stop thinking about it for long enough to start my review with anything else. This is passion in a cup. No. This is what the most succulent, romantic, seductive, indicative-of-a-lasting-love type of first kiss would be if it were translated into a dessert. This is serious.

The dessert which is simply titled *S’mores is so much more than that. This is no Hershey bar. This is not a boxed graham cracker or a Jet-Puffed marshmallow (not that there is anything wrong with any of those things. The classic s’mores has always been one of my favorite treats on the planet) This is a S’mores as you knew it from childhood campfires that has been elevated to the utmost level of sophistication and indulgence. The crisp brulee topping of the homemade marshmallow shatters as you chip your way into it. Underneath the shell, you’ll find the creamiest, most heavenly, smooth, rich, chocolate you can possibly imagine. You may think, at this point, that you’ve arrived in heaven, but then you’ll dig deeper to find the crumbly, cinnamon-y goodness in the bottom layer of graham cracker that will bring you over the edge. Sigh. Yes. This is the kind of dessert that leaves you wishing you still had enough stomach space left to order another one. Or 6.

But moving on.

The rest of the meal was equally exquisite. It’s so awesome to find a creative, original, NY-type restaurant SO far from the hustle and bustle that I moved away from here in Florida. The vibe that you get from the food and the friendly chef here is low-key, fun, quirky, whimsical and casual, although the decor really doesn’t seem to match that in my opinion. It’s more subdued and traditional looking (except for a few pieces of art) and I think they’d do well to try to connect the food and feel with the atmosphere a little bit more. That said, once you start eating, you’ll be looking more at your plate than your surroundings anyway so it really doesn’t matter.

We decided to share 5 small plates. I love when a menu provides that option because as far as I’m concerned, I’d always rather try lots of little things than be stuck with one entree per person. We started with the lovely little parmesan rolls they served- which reminded me very much of miniature popovers. Although Gabriel felt they were on the dry side, I rather enjoyed the eggy cheesiness of them along with their petite size. Just enough to take the hunger edge of without putting a damper on my ravenous appetite.

Next, we had our 2 cold selections. One was the chilled cantaloupe soup with jalepenos, pickled vegetables and creme fraiche. WOW. What an awesomely refreshing combination of flavors and textures and a wonderful way to begin this journey through dinner. The smooth sweetness of the fruit paired with the crunchy spicy peppers and vinegar-y vegetables combined into the most perfect little flavor dance, and one that was new and exciting to me. We also thoroughly enjoyed the  ‘Janie’s Wedge Salad’ with
cherry tomatoes, crispy onion rings (probably the best onion rings I’ve ever had), blue cheese emulsion, and warm bacon vinaigrette. The concept of this dish is one that’s on plenty of menus, but here Derek puts his own spin on it and somehow reinvents it into something much cooler than the typical wedge.

We then moved on to our 3 warm plates, one was a special which consisted of a perfectly poached egg over roasted oyster mushrooms and peas, one was the pan seared sea scallops with white chocolate & parsnip purée (So delicious, unexpected, rich and creamy) english peas and mint, and the third was the clams with smoked pork- another special that I wish I could describe more accurately but to be honest, I forgot what the elements were- I just know it was excellent.

Overall, I can EASILY say that Derek’s is my new favorite restaurant in the area. There is no question at all that I will be back sooner than later, and probably frequently. I should add that the service was on point, and that I really enjoyed chatting with the chef when he came over to our table to introduce himself. It’s very cool to see that a superb restaurant like this (that’s not even on Main St.) has it’s tables full, even in the ‘down’ season. With food of this quality, it’s no wonder why. See you soon Derek!