Tag Archives: new york city

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

Standard

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.

pizza

 

 

 

 

Thai Palace: 4756 W Cortez Rd Bradenton, FL

Standard

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

Standard

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!

 

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.

Solorzano Bros Pizza, 3604 Webber St, Sarasota, FL

Standard

solorzano 1 solorzano 2 solorzano 3

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!

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

Standard

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.

Mozaic: 1377 Main St. Sarasota, FL

Standard

It’s pretty awesome that Groupon/Living Social type deals are not something we left behind in NYC as I’d guessed we would. They are actually pretty common around Sarasota and you can bet that Gabriel and I jump on them as often as we can. We had a $40 for $20 deal to Mozaic, which I had heard from multiple people was excellent. After spending the afternoon hunting around for wedding venues, we found ourselves very hungry so we gave them a call to see if they’d be able to seat us with short notice. We were told that they had a small table in the bar area for us and off we went to grab it.

We arrived soon after and were seated at a table for 2 that was perfectly comfortable. It’s a trendy, bold, colorful restaurant, and the decor and menu choices definitely had a hip/modern feel. Our friendly and highly knowledgeable waiter Jeff went over the specials and his personal favorites (at my request) and we took a few minutes to decide. It happened to be an evening with an offer of a $22 deal for an app and an entree ($27 if you are combining the deal with the Living Social coupon) and after we compared those numbers to the ‘regular’ menu, we decided it was definitely the way to go. We made our choices and ordered, and a lovely, little, refreshing, gazpacho amuse-bouche was brought out for each of us. We also quickly devoured the wonderful, warm, fresh rolls served with olive oil and balsamic. The waiter tempted us with another one for each of us and we couldn’t say no. There is just something about fresh-baked bread that is relatively impossible to refuse.

Our appetizers were next and we’d decided to share. I started with the butternut squash soup which was creamy, savory, and beautiful with it’s topping of sage pesto and walnut date crumble. I ate my half and then traded with Gabriel for his escargot with fingerling potatoes- which ended up being the only dish of the evening that neither of us were impressed by. The snails were not the chewy consistency that makes them such a fun and different delicacy. I’m not sure if they were overcooked or just not as fresh as they could have been, but they were on the mushy side and really lacking flavor in general. The potatoes were flavored with tarragon and dijon mustard, but considering that fact, they were still pretty lifeless and boring. Oh well, they can’t all be fabulous and in reality, everything else was.

Our entrees arrived soon after they cleared our appetizer plates and the presentation was very appealing. I’ve read some other reviews complaining about the sides that come with entrees all being the same, but I really have no problem with that as long as they compliment the dishes well, which they did. I had the delicious snapper served with carrot-ginger coulis and various roasted vegetables – the roasted beets and tomatoes were the standouts, fresh and cooked perfectly. Gabriel had the roast hen which was also cooked beautifully without tons of flavors covering up the meat unnecessarily. Both of our dishes were outstanding and we completely cleaned our plates.

When Jeff arrived again to tell us the desserts, we asked if he had any strong suggestions. He asked what our preferences were and I told him that we pretty much love everything. With that comment, he took our menus away with flair and asked us to trust the chef to make us something special. How exciting! I loved that and couldn’t wait to see what would be brought out for us to try. A short while passed and Gabriel’s port wine and my yummy, foamy, cappuccino came out along with a gorgeous dessert plate for us! We had mentioned that we were newly engaged, but did NOT expect such an incredible special treat with compliments of the chef. The chocolate lava molten cake was one of the best ones I’ve ever had, topped with a light berry sorbet. It was somehow light and rich at the same time. Next to it was a complex pear and walnut cake with vanilla ice cream on top. Decorating the dish were adorable chocolate hearts with centers of mango and strawberry (or maybe raspberry) coulis and a ‘congratulations’ written beautifully in chocolate. As ANOTHER treat afterwards, 2 small but incredible pieces of homemade rosewater chocolate were brought out to melt decadently in our mouths as the perfect completion to an outstanding meal.

Our evening at Mozaic was quite a special one. Everything from the last minute accommodation, to the superior service, to the exquisite food and thoughtful desserts made it a wonderful evening for both of us. I would strongly recommend a visit for a special occasion. Enjoy!

 

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!

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…

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

Standard

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!