Tag Archives: martini

Brasserie Belge: 1990 Main St. Sarasota, FL

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When we lived in NYC, Gabriel and I used to use Groupon-type deals ALL the time. It was a way that we could go out to try new restaurants without spending a fortune- and the opportunities were endless as we got new offers at least daily from Groupon, living social, yelp deals, buy with me, KGB deals etc. When we moved to Florida, it was one of the things I knew I’d miss- in fact, we even included it on our ‘will miss’ list on our blog: byebyeny.wordpress.com . The offers here are few and far between, and usually for activities and spa services as opposed to dining.

Imagine my excitement when, after our first month of living here, we finally received a Groupon offer for a restaurant we’d been wanting to try called Brasserie Belge in downtown Sarasota. Most of the offers I see are up near Tampa or St. Petersburg, so I was really happy to get a local one, for a great deal, just 20 minutes from where we live. I jumped on it and called for a reservation. My father, who had strongly recommended the mussels here, also gave us a great tip that if you sign up for emails on their website, you can print out a coupon for a free crepe dessert. Score!

We went for date night last Saturday and were seated right away outside, as requested. Our waiter came out right away to offer sparkling or flat water, tell us the specials and take our drink orders. I decided on a ‘Hot and Dirty Martini‘ which was absolut peppar vodka, dry vermouth, olive juice and blue cheese stuffed olives and hot peppers (which were AMAZING) I loved my cocktail and could probably have really spoiled my dinner with a few more of those delicious olives. Fresh, soft bread and butter was brought to us soon after. It was fine- but nothing special and fairly unremarkable. This was actually a good thing since we had lots of food coming and I’ve definitely been known to fill up on bread before the meal arrives.

For our apps, we shared the Salade Brussels; Iceberg lettuce, shredded parmesan cheese, hard-boiled egg, croutons, Caesar dressing. I was fairly disappointed with it, but it was really my own fault for not noticed the ‘iceberg lettuce’ part. I was expecting a classic Caesar, but it was really boring. The dressing had almost no flavor, and the personality-less lettuce didn’t help things at all. The thinly shaved parmesan was plentiful, but couldn’t really support the rest of the salad. Even the croutons were sadly bland and I really would have really liked some anchovies or lemon to make it come alive. Oh well. Our other app totally made up for the first one. We ordered the special which was sauteed calamari and shrimp with olives in a creamy tomato sauce. It was outstanding. The shrimp were huge and cooked perfectly and the calamari was fresh and not at all chewy as it often is. The kalamata olives still had a nice bite to them and the sauce was creamy and warm and served as mature comfort food. Total winner.

For our entrees, we shared the Mussels Tomate and the Meatballs “simmered in a sweet liège sauce of reduced fresh apples and pears”. It, like the mussels, were served with Belgian fries. The fries were served with a mayo-y sauce that was delicious and the twice-fried fries were awesome- super crunchy and just the right amount of salt. The meatballs were amazing- the sweet sauce they were served in reminded me a bit of Swedish meatballs– but were uniquely seasoned in way that was both sweet and savory. The mussels were fresh and cooked perfectly- and the portion was very generous. It’s understandable why most of the menu consists of different flavors of mussels and meatballs- they know what they do well and have made a great niche for themselves doing it.

For our complimentary crepe dessert, we were brought a thin, hot crepe topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. It was tasty, but kind of boring. The chocolate that topped it was fantastic though- a dark, semisweet chocolate that was obviously of very high quality

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal. Our waiter was friendly, knowledgeable and very attentive. The prices were reasonable, made even more so by our Groupon and our free dessert. The atmosphere, including a talented pianist/vocalist, was lovely  and sophisticated. We’ll definitely plan to go back!

 

MacAllisters Grill & Tavern: 8110 Lakewood Main St. Lakewood Ranch, FL

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Gabriel was teaching yoga until pretty late last night so we’d decided to go out for dinner when he got back. We had a $10 coupon to MacAllisters since we’d moved to Lakewood about a week ago and the info/welcome center gave us our choice of restaurant gift certificates. We’d heard it was one of the only places close by that serves dinner until 10pm, so this was the perfect opportunity to try it.

We were seated right away and were surprised to see that it was fairly crowded. Apparently, Tuesday night is trivia night and a bunch of people were there to play and drink $1.99 beers.

We noticed right away that they also offer $3.99 martinis (!!!) so we decided to have a toast to our new Florida Driver’s Licenses and our 11 month-i-versary. I ordered a dirty martini with extra olives and I must say, it was excellent. The olives were gigantic and delicious and the martini was super dirty, just like I like it.

Our waiter Chris was extremely personable and friendly and we enjoyed chatting with him throughout the meal. He made some recommendations and took our orders and then our rolls and salads were brought out quickly.

I ordered the chicken marsala which came with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and a side salad with blue cheese to start with. The dressing was SO good with a little spicy kick to it that’s unusual in blue cheese. The rolls were warm and fresh- but we found it odd that they only brought 3 of them for the 2 of us.

I asked for more broccoli and less mashed potatoes so as not to have the carb-loaded side tempting me. He happily took care of that for me and the portions were perfect. The chicken was cooked nicely, tender and very flavorful in it’s marsala sauce, but I would have like a few more mushrooms.

Overall, for about $15 I had a hearty and filling meal and a great cocktail. Add that to the friendly service and late hours and we will surely be back soon.

Fulton: 205 E. 75th. New York, NY

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My dear friend Jamie will be looking after my pets when I go away in a few weeks. To thank him, I offered to treat him to a special ‘restaurant week’ dinner. We chose Fultons, a seafood restaurant on the Upper East Side near where we both live that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. For me, it’s really too cost prohibitive to go to without a great deal like the ‘restaurant week’ menu but this special enabled us to have 3 courses for $35- a wonderful way to experience a fantastic meal.

We started with dirty martinis (with extra olives for me), and some delicious bread and olive oil for dipping while we looked over the menu and decided what to order. Everything looked so good that we asked our waiter if they’d be willing to split plates for us so that we could try more dishes, and he was more than happy to accomodate. That made our choice much easier and we picked 2, 3 course meals to share and were able to order everything on the menu that we wanted. I LOVE when restaurants are willing to do this, as I’d always rather have more to taste in smaller portions rather than big plates of fewer choices.

Our 2 starters were both summer-y, light and farmer’s-market fresh. The chilled pea soup was topped with creme fraiche, pea shoots and lobster and was truly refreshing and bright. The arugula salad with pine nuts, fennel and shaved manchego was, for something so simple, absolutely wonderful and I wished I had more than my half of that dish.

For our entrees we had the striped bass with black eyed peas and fennel and the salmon with lentils and turnips. Both of the pieces of fish were cooked to perfection, seasoned minimally and accompanied by healthy, clean sides. These are the kind of dishes that fill you up, but leave you feeling comfortably satisfied, not weighed down. I was very impressed with both.

Our desserts were incredible. Although doughnuts have become a bit trite as the super-trendy dessert of the last couple of years, these were really special. Little cinnamon-y doughnut holes with 4 dipping sauces: raspberry, bavarian creme, chocolate chile, and espresso. Each sauce was even more wonderful than the next, my personal favorites being the espresso and the raspberry. The  chocolate pretzel cake was a flourless chocolate cake with a pretzel crust that melted in my mouth, served alongside a small scoop of exquisite peanut butter ice cream and a few candied peanuts. Wow. Both of these desserts were really outstanding and a beautiful final touch to an all-around impeccable meal.

As someone who dines out a lot, I would be comfortable saying that this was a stand-out meal as of late, and I’d absolutely recommend a visit if you’re looking to impress guests, parents, a date, or a friend. PLUS as we were leaving we were handed 2 small cookies wrapped up to go by the hostess. What a lovely finishing touch. Definite bonus points in my book. Bravo.

Lure Fishbar: 142 Mercer St. New York, NY

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After my CD release gig at the Bitter End (shameless plug: http://www.cdbaby.com/careyyaruss2) Gabriel and I decided to go celebrate with a cocktail and some seafood at Lure. I’d been there a few times for their $1 oyster happy hour, but never for anything else. We arrived to a full restaurant and were seated in a quiet, corner booth relatively quickly- just as soon as they could clear and re-set the table for us. No one gave us weirdo looks when we decided to sit on the same side next to each other. I often prefer ‘next to’ instead of ‘across from’, and I appreciated that they had actually set the table that way for us.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that they were participating in restaurant week- my favorite NYC ‘holiday’ (which has apparently been extended into restaurant SUMMER and is continuing through the beginning of September!!! OH HAPPY NEWS!) where 3 course lunches are $25 and 3 course dinners are $35 at a ton of the city’s restaurants. Since it was late and we didn’t want to stuff ourselves, we decided to order drinks, one prix fixe meal to share and a side of garlic spinach.

I had a strawberry/basil martini and it was STRONG. Then again, I was drinking on a mostly empty stomach. I intended to wait until I’d eaten a little bit before having a second sip. It was so delicious though, that I continued sipping on it before the food arrived. I can safely say that one cocktail was plenty for me.

We started with a raw bar sampler which included 2 each of shrimp, blue point oysters and kumamoto oysters. All were succulent and with a squeeze of lemon hardly needed any of the vinaigrette or cocktail sauce that sat next to them on the platter. There was also a tartar sauce flavored with lemon and horseradish that was tasty, but I skipped it so as to taste the purity of the fresh seafood. Our main course was the sushi sampler, 8 pieces of sushi and one salmon/avocado roll. I have to comment on the awesome ginger that came with this. It wasn’t the standard ginger, but a little bit thicker cut, fresher, and much more flavorful than most. We finished all of it before we even finished the sushi- which was also excellent. The spinach was a great accompaniment to our meal- even though It didn’t really go with it. We wanted a little something green and it was garlickylicious and cooked perfectly- not at all soggy or buttery, just fresh and wonderful.

For dessert we had the warm chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream and popcorn brittle. Now I personally don’t care at all that little, plain, round, warm, melty, chocolate cakes are no longer considered hip or cool enough to be at fine restaurants. Apparently, they are oh-so 90’s ,but as far as I’m concerned, that is just snobby bullshit. It’s a perfectly delicious piece of heaven. How can that possibly go out of style? I guess they add the trendy salted caramel ice cream as a more current touch, and it certainly was tasty- but as far as I’m concerned, warm, melty, chocolate things are always fine by me, with or without of-the-moment ice creams. Aside our cake sat the most decadent piece of dark chocolate, with ‘congratulations’ written on the top. Our waitress was rather awesome and sweet- giving me a big, heart-felt congratulations and asking me about my music. I was really touched that she was interested. How thoughtful is my awesome boyfriend to have mentioned to the waitress that it was a special night for me? Very very sweet. Just like my yummy dessert.

 *photos courtesy of Gabriel Sanders. http://www.magicsandbox.com/enter/Magic_Sandbox.html (except for 
the one of both of us that our lovely waitress took)