Tag Archives: drink

Shoogie Boogies, 1919 Morrill St, Sarasota, FL

Standard

600241_547384695307482_497651686_n942765_547384708640814_622905230_n 295591_547384701974148_623671765_n1467_547384705307481_1126087324_n

I was lucky enough to have a beautiful bridal shower thrown for me at Shoogie Boogies. It was the most perfect setting I could imagine, and everything was flawless. I found the owner to be extremely patient, detail-oriented, friendly and with seriously awesome taste. I’ve read a bunch of reviews of Shoogie Boogies on various websites and am honestly shocked to read anything that’s less than top notch. I’m guessing that some of the complainers are ‘bridezilla types’ who found some way to make it the restaurant’s fault if it rained, or if the strawberry wasn’t exactly the shade of red that they’d requested.

My guests and I were warmly welcomed into the flower-filled garden area with champagne flutes of elderberry water. Yummm, delightfully refreshing! We sat at a long table under giant white umbrellas, and took in the amazing presentations of tea sandwiches on pedestals, cheese and cracker plates, fresh bread and olive oil, and ginger/pear iced tea. The touches on each table setting were adorable, from napkin rings with fresh flowers, to lovely floral arrangements and quirky fairy-tale touches everywhere. You really have to see this place to believe just how girly/romantic/charming the setting is. It’s really a dream.

Soon, wonderful salads were brought out, and we all enjoyed the excellent quality cheeses and fresh fruits and veggies. When the owner noticed dark clouds overhead, she thoughtfully prepared one of the inside rooms for us, and invited us to move under cover for desserts and gift-opening. We took her up on her offer, not wanting to get soaked any more than her staff did, and moved inside to another beautiful setting. Her portrait photography on the walls is exquisite, and everyone enjoyed looking at each one in what felt like a private dining room at a gallery.

Our iced teas were refilled and dessert platters were brought out to share. Each of the sample-sized cakes were delicious, but the total amount for 12 sugar-loving women was a little on the skimpy side. That alone is seriously the only fault I can find in this beautiful day, and really not enough of one to even bother with. I do have to be honest though, and if everything I wrote was gushy, you wouldn’t believe it anyway 🙂

I can’t possibly recommend Shoogie Boogies any higher. If you have a ladies lunch, a girls outing, a bridal or baby shower or even a wedding, it’s a perfect choice. I can’t wait to go back, so please feel free to invite me!

Don Pablos: 5911 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, FL

Standard

pablo margarita pablo dip sampler pablo chips fajita sides:beans and rice pablo tortilla portobello fajitas shrimp fajitas

Gabriel and I had a ‘free dip sampler’ coupon for the longest time and finally decided to use it. When we arrived, we found a very casual but cool atmosphere in a huge space that looked like a converted warehouse or fire station. It was busy, and very family/kid friendly. We were seated immediately at a booth and the waitress took our orders for a frozen margarita to share and the dip sampler. We also placed our entree orders at that time for the shrimp fajitas and the portobello mushroom fajitas.

The dips arrived a few minutes later with our massive (way too sweet) margarita, and we enjoyed the fresh, warm chips and super indulgent dips. This is not the kind of food we’d normally order because it was probably a week’s worth of fat and carbs, but we thought it was a pretty tasty treat. Being that this was ‘moving week’ for us, we were starving, out of kitchen supplies, and totally ok with eating junk food for a meal.

The fajitas and toppings were very plentiful and the quality was so-so. Nothing to write home about, nothing to rush to go back for, but definitely filling and tasty. The shrimp were on the salty side and the mushrooms were flavored with seasonings that I didn’t love, but the tortillas were fresh and hot and the guacamole was cool and creamy.

I doubt we will be back- but not because it wasn’t a perfectly decent meal. We just really love Mi Pueblo, and the price, efficiency, atmosphere and food there all trump Don Pablos by a long shot.

State Street Eating House: 1533 State St, Sarasota FL

Standard

state st clam chowderstate st grilled lettuce state st grilled cheese

I was excited to finally visit State Street Eating House with my dad for lunch last week. I’ve walked past it a bunch of times and am always intrigued by the menu, the minimalist/industrial atmosphere and the young, hip crowd dines and drinks there. When we met on a Wednesday at 1:30, we were greeted by the owner- who I was sure (and turned out to be wrong) must be from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It felt so familiar in a New York-y way, and everything about him from his persona to his plaid shirt and bow tie made me think of the Brooklyn hipsters I left behind when I moved to Sarasota last year.

We sat at a table and were brought menus and asked if we wanted tap or bottled water. We asked for tap, which we quickly realized was not going to cut it. The water was notably bad, as it often is in Florida, and we ordered a ($6!!) bottle of Evian instead. This turned out to be the ONLY thing about our experience here that we didn’t both love. We did, in fact, chat with the owner about it after our lunch and he was very open to hearing the criticism. He explained that they were expanding into the space next door and planned to add a filtration system. We also discussed his ideas about charging for bread and filtered water, which my father and I cautioned him against. We both agreed that we’d rather see price increases on the menu items to cover his costs there rather than charging extra for things that our society definitely expects to be included.

Anyway, back to the meal. We decided to order a bowl of soup, a salad, and a sandwich. We asked the waiter if he would ask the chef if he would split our three choices for us to share. When our food arrived, we were both pleased to see that the splits had been made. The portion sizes were STILL so large that I was surprised it was only ‘half’ on my plate and in my bowl. I liked the simplicity of the presentation and felt that it coordinated well with the decor of the restaurant. The way the ambiance, menu, staff and food all went together showed clear attention to detail and sophistication.

Our clam chowder had whole clams, chunks of potato, celery, little puffed crackers, and a creamy, smooth, not-too-thick base. It had a wonderful flavor that could only come from the fresh clams. The semi-thin consistency made it a lovely first course instead of the heavy, filling, appetizer that most chowders are.

Our salad and sandwich came out next, looking amazing. The salad was wonderful; Grilled lettuce hearts topped with ricotta salata and fried hearts of palm. It came with a side of bread, but I chose to leave it behind since the bread on the grilled cheese was already carb-indulgent enough. Well, ok. I did have one little bite of it, but it wasn’t different enough from the sandwich bread that I could justify it. The salad was tossed in a grainy mustard dressing that added texture and a little sharp bite to this creative salad. It was my own fault that I didn’t ask for the dressing on the side. I almost always do, but forgot this time. It was overdressed for my taste, but I still ate every bite and really enjoyed it. The classic grilled cheese sandwich was served on crusty sourdough, with thin slices of tomato. It was grilled perfectly and adorably topped with a green olive. Some creamy coleslaw came alongside of it, but was also a bit overdressed for my taste. I love cabbage, so too much mayo is always a disappointment.  The cheddar cheese was awesome; gooey, sharp and exactly the comfort food I’d expected.

Overall, aside from the bad tap water and overpriced bottled water, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and restaurant. I would love to go back some evening after work for cocktails (they use craft liquors that add to inherently artsy quality) and snacks like the housemade pickles and mini lobster rolls on their snack menu. If you need a cool spot to meet a date or some friends, I think State Street Eating House makes a great choice.

Jacks on Marion: 201 W Marion Ave, Punta Gorda, FL

Standard

jacksonmarion1jacks on marion 2

I was SO excited that my old friend Betsy- who was my restaurant buddy when I lived in NYC, was here for a visit last weekend. Her parents have a condo in Sanibel Island, which is about 3 hours from where Gabriel and I live in Sarasota. We checked Google maps and found that Punta Gorda was about halfway between us and off I went to check Yelp for a place to meet for lunch. We found Jacks on Marion, took a look at their menu online, and thought it would be a great place to try.

We met there and were seated immediately. The waitress brought over water and menus and made some suggestions for us. The three of us decided to share the ‘Island Goat Cheese’ appetizer, which is described as; ‘warm macadamia nut crusted, apricot coulis served with flatbread Crostini ‘. It was okay, but not as spectacular as the description made it sound. The macadamia crust really just tasted like deep-fried breading to me. The cheese inside was warm, creamy and gooey. The apricot coulis added a nice sweet touch, but was nothing more than apricot jam as far as I could tell. The bread was fine, but not particularly fresh. It was basically just corners of pita-type bread.

For my entree I ordered the ‘Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella’ and added grilled shrimp to it. It was fairly basic greens with slices of not-very-ripe tomatoes and mozzarella on top. This is clearly not truly ‘fresh’ mozzarella as it had that sort of rubbery/chewy texture. I’ve had homemade mozzarella that melts in your mouth- like the amazing creation from Mozzerella Fella in Sarasota, https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/09/13/mozzarella-fella-1668-main-st-sarasota-fl/ and I guess it’s pretty much ruined me for any and all store-bought, not-homemade, cheese at this point. The shrimp on the salad were fresh and cooked right, and the balsamic glaze and basil were well-balanced and flavorful, but the salad overall was pretty boring and not particularly creative or high-quality.

I guess my summary of Jacks is that it’s fine. It’s okay. It’s nothing really special or worth re-visiting. There aren’t a ton of great lunch options in this sort of sleepy tourist community, but I think it’s worth a little more searching if we go back. We DID however find a fantastic homemade ice cream place that I forgot to photograph…and I would STRONGLY urge you to go eat your lunch in a cone if you are in the area 🙂 It’s called Cubby’s. Give it a shot! http://www.yelp.com/biz/cubbys-homemade-ice-cream-punta-gorda

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.

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.

Country Pancake House & Restaurant: 8205 Nature’s Way. Suite 119. Lakewood Ranch, FL

Standard

I find it rather odd that we’ve lived about a mile from Country Pancake House for the last 6 months and we only just tried it today. I also find it odd that there are so many negative reviews out there complaining about the vast number of options on the menu or the huge quantities of food. I, as opposed to a lot of the complainers, do not find large portions at a fair price to be wasteful. I find them to make an excellent second meal out of take-home leftovers which is perfectly acceptable to me.

The entire first page is covered in pancake choices. Wow. I suppose it was a bit overwhelming, but they all sounded amazing. I decided that this kind of carb overload would need to be a reward for a 6 mile run, and not just a normal Sunday morning breakfast. Note to self: make sure to go back after a 6 mile run and order the chocolate chip cherry short stack. Drool.

We ordered coffees with honey and skim (our normal way) and they also brought out a complimentary basket of homemade cornbread….because obviously mile high plates of pancakes isn’t enough bread for one meal. Ummm. Anyway, since I’d selected from the many omelette options and told them that I wanted to forego the pancakes and home fries that normally come with them, I figured I’d indulge in some cornbread. I remembered to take the pic only after I’d already eaten one and half pieces of the ones that had chocolate chips on top. Sorry Gabriel…I did not share those very well at all.

Our meals came out soon after and my omelette was HUGE. I had the farmer’s omelette stuffed with peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, ham and cheese (both of which I asked them to go light on and still got plenty). I am pretty sure that was at least a 5 egg omelette – it was so thick and covered my plate. I was stuffed after a bit less than half and happily had it boxed up to go home. It will make a great breakfast tomorrow after I re-saute it for a few minutes to heat it back up. Gabriel’s shrimp, asparagus and Monterey Jack was quite delicious. The shrimp were large and cooked perfectly and nicely complemented by the other ingredients much to my surprise. His pancakes were fluffy and beautiful and dusted with a little confectioner’s sugar. They were so tasty that they really didn’t even need maple syrup on top. His home fries were crunchy and delicious and I’m glad he had ordered them so I could at least have tastes.

I also ordered a strawberry/peach/orange juice because the page of fresh squeezed juices sounded way too good to skip. It was sweet, fresh, and somehow a little creamy. I verified with the waitress that no sugar or milk was added and she confirmed that it was purely fruit and a great juicer machine. I would have preferred it to be chilled, it was slightly warm or at best, room temperature. It had wonderful flavor, but at $3.75 I doubt I’ll do that again.

Our enormous breakfast came out to $26 total, and will absolutely feed us for another 2 meals. I really enjoyed our morning here, along with the 1.5 mile walk each way to burn some of it off. It’s really a country-bumpkin feeling place with warm staff and an eager crowd who seemed to enjoy themselves as much as we did. Now that we now how pleasant it is, we will surely return more often.

 

 

Mozzarella Fella: 1668 Main St Sarasota, FL

Standard

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!

Indigenous Restaurant: 239 S. Links Ave, Sarasota, FL

Standard

I’ve had my eye on Indigenous for a few months now, waiting for the perfect opportunity to try it. What I’d heard about this restaurant made it sound like it would surely end up topping my list of local choices. Everything from the rustic, lovely outdoor seating area, to the creative and healthy locally-sourced menu was so appealing to me. I was very excited to finally go with my boyfriend and my parents last night.

We arrived to a neighborhood I’d never been to before and I was instantly in love with the adorable, colorful, artsy houses and galleries that abound in this artist’s colony. I made a note to myself to return during daytime hours when I could explore the shops a bit to see what else this area had to offer. Parking was easy, and we were seated right away. I’d been told that sitting outside was the way to go, but it was a bit too humid to do that on this particular evening. It was really lovely out there though, and the next time I go I’ll be sure to ask for seating out there.

We were taken into the second little section of this house-converted-into-a-restaurant to our table, tucked away in a private, cozy nook. The wicker chairs and gentle, natura, art on the walls totally spoke to me, and I felt that it ended up perfectly coordinating with the menu (something that I felt was not quite right at my other top pick in the area, which has a somewhat similar feel to the menu https://bigforkinmouth.com/2012/08/05/dereks-culinary-casual-514-central-ave-sarasota-fl/) In fact, I found a lot of similarities between these two restaurants and was interested to find out that the two chefs will be coming together to put on an event next month…it should be awesome and I’ll have to see about going.

Our waiter attended to us quickly; bringing over yummy, crunchy, cheddar-y homemade crackers, taking our orders for wine, and going over the specials- which all sounded wonderful. As always, there was a lot of sharing between Gabriel, my mother, and I- which allowed tastes of a bunch of options. (My step-dad, historically, humorously, and much to our collective chagrin, does not share very often.) The three of us started with the following three apps.

1. Beet Tartar (Apples, radish, pea shoots, creamy horseradish) I LOVED this one. The combination of crunchy and soft textures, bite from the horseradish and radish and sweetness from the apples and beets, not to mention the beautiful presentation made it a total winner for me.

2. Watermelon Salad (jicama, watercress, goat feta, mint, pistachios, vanilla balsamic and fresh black pepper) This was a very close second to the beet tartar. Again, a gorgeous plate tastefully served as edible art. Again, the mixture of consistencies was intriguing and the fresh fruit contrasted with the creamy feta and the bite of the pepper was exciting. This one was incredibly refreshing and summery and I’d strongly recommend it on a hot day when you aren’t ravenous.

That said, we WERE ravenous and we found that overall the portion sizes for the appetizers and the entrees were on the rather tiny side. We are active people and though we do try to eat healthfully for the most part, we can put away a pretty good quantity of food and these plates all fell just slightly short size-wise. The cheesy crackers were a nice change from the typical bread that is served with dinner elsewhere, but in the long run, we felt that we could have used some to help fill us up. The good part was that it left plenty of room for dessert…but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll get there soon 🙂

3. Chilled Mango Soup (cucumber lime sorbet, red chiles, hibiscus flower) Another interesting dichotomy of tastes. The chiles had serious zing to them, and the creamy cool soup and sorbet did their part to cut that burning. I didn’t love this one as much as the other two, but not because it wasn’t delicious. I think I just preferred the ingredients of the others because there was simply more going on. This was comparatively simple and not quite as impressive.

For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared the special which was a wonderful (yet tiny) piece of arctic char served atop some shaved brussels sprouts with raisins (one of my favorite veggie/fruit combos that I make at home on occasion, incidentally) as well as an incredible dish of huge, wild-caught, gulf shrimp over lobster-edamame succotash and baked cheesy grits. WOW. This entree was the standout for me. The shrimp were out-of-this-world. Perfectly cooked and served over the most amazing, cake-like, baked grits and creamy, succotash. I would be very likely to order this one again, as much as I always try to order something new on repeat visits to restaurants. This plate was pretty much perfection for me with pretty much everything I love about food all on one plate.

When the dessert menus arrived and I was not already stuffed, I was pretty excited about it. Not that being stuffed really ever stops me, but still. Gabriel and I decided, very quickly, on ‘The Brownie‘ (toasted marshmallow ice cream, graham cracker dark chocolate brownie, belgian chocolate sauce.) My mouth is watering again just thinking about it. We thought it was interesting that both Indigenous and Derek’s have their interpretation of S’mores on the menu. Coincidence or perhaps a bit of unspoken competition? In any case, it’s just fine with me. As it turned out, they are really two totally different variations on similar ingredients and both are totally outstanding. The ice cream and caramelized marshmallows on top of the brownie (which was really a blondie as far as I am concerned) were creamy and dreamy. I’m kind of off in la la land just remembering it as I write this. The melty chocolate inside the brownie along with the crisp, graham pieces were oh-so-decadent. The dark sauce that was drizzled around the dish was the perfect icing on the cake, as it were. It’s pretty rare that I don’t love the final course of a meal, but there are certainly times like these when it’s really just as perfect as can possibly be.

My mom and step-dad, by the way, had the lemon/thyme pound cake with blueberries by the way- which I did taste. It was light and exactly as expected. Not particularly exciting. I did, however, also ask the waiter if by any chance he’d let me have a little taste of the special ice cream offered that night which was popcorn flavor. He obliged and WOW, it was really awesome. I was really pleased that he was kind enough to bring me my little spoonful sample.

All that said, it wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t check back with reality for just one tiny second. For the most part, the service of this meal was totally on par. That said, there was just one problem at the end. When we ordered our desserts, my mother ordered a cappuccino and my step-dad, a regular coffee. My mom’s came out right away, about 5 minutes later our desserts arrived. At that point, we reminded the waiter that my step-dad had ordered a coffee and he apologized and said he’d go right back to get it. 10 minutes later, we’d finished our desserts, but still, no coffee. We flagged out waiter down again and he explained that he had to make a fresh pot. It finally came out about 10 minutes after we’d finished our desserts and had our plates cleared. Timing is definitely an important part of service, and if I’m being fair, I really do need to deduct a star for that mistake. Other than that, everything was absolutely awesome and my experience definitely lived up to the high expectations I went in with.

Bravo Indigenous. Can’t wait to come back.

 

Inkanto: 4141 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231

Standard

When I heard there was a new Peruvian restaurant in Sarasota, I was very excited about it. Longing for my NYC days of frequent meals at Pio Pio, (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2010/04/22/pio-pio-1746-1st-ave-new-york-ny/) I was hoping to find inexpensive prices, plentiful food, amazing roasted chicken, crispy/chewy tostones, solchipapas and delicious, spicy, green sauce. Aside from the solchipapas and spicy green sauce, Inkanto proved to be totally different than my beloved Pio Pio. That said, it’s unfair to go into a restaurant with such high expectations, especially in my hopes to find something to replace what I’d left behind in NY. In all fairness, this experience was still enjoyable, interesting, and seemed to be authentic. The service was excellent, the atmosphere cozy and welcoming, the food creative and tasty, and the prices reasonable for a fancy-ish meal.

When we sat down with our friends, we were given a wine list and menu, and ‘cancha’ (or basically browned, puffed corn). It was kind of like inside-out popcorn- and not too disimilar from what we know as corn nuts. It’s crunchy, salty and you are supposed to mix it up with the spicy Aji sauce (a mix of black mint, jalapenos and debatable other top secret ingredients which I think probably includes mayo, cilantro, olive oil and who knows what else). Yum! What a fun start to the meal, and potentially one that I could eat far too much of.

We decided to share 2 appetizers between the 4 of us. One was (I totally forgot what it was officially called and the website does not have it listed. Sorry!) made of sliced prawns, mashed yellow potatoes, avocados, red peppers, lettuce, topped with a creamy sauce. The combinations of flavors, temperatures, and textures was unusual and interesting and all of the ingredients were fresh and bright. The presentation of the dish was eye-catching and vibrant and we all really enjoyed it. It was just enough for about 2 bites each- perfect for a little taste. We also shared the salchipapas, because whether young or old, who can really resist a place of french fries and chicken hot dog slices? Not me- or apparently anyone else at our young-at-heart table.

For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared their specialty, Lomo Saltado (filet mignon with onions, tomatoes, and peppers) and the Pescado A Lo Macho (mixed seafood in a creamy saffron sauce). We both substituted fried yucca for french fries (since we’d already had plenty of those), and also asked for the other sauces to dip them in that were offered with the yucca appetizer. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige, and although all of them were excellent and each quite different than the one before, I ended up back where I started with the spicy green sauce that I love so much. The seafood dish was my favorite with such a flavorful sauce and a great assortment of fresh calamari, scallops, fish, mussels, and shrimp. The plain, white rice that came with it was the perfect way to mop up all of the extra sauce once we had eaten everything else on it. If they bottled that sauce, I may very well have come home with some.

Overall, the service and presentation here were standouts, and the food was definitely better than average. We spent about $35 each- which included wine, which I felt was slightly more than it should have been. The restaurant has only been open for 2 months so far, and was fairly empty on a Saturday night. Hopefully once the snowbirds return to the area ready to try something new, their business will pick up a bit. For us, it was definitely an enjoyable evening with friends, but we aren’t totally sold on going back. We’ve been to far too many area restaurants with excellent food for closer to $25-$30 per person, and the reality is that we will be more likely to return to those. I am fine with a splurge for a way-above-average experience, but this one was only a ‘very good’ in my book, not a ‘great’. We shall see…