Tag Archives: Olive oil

Carrabba’s Italian Grill: 5425 University Parkway, Lakewood Ranch, FL

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carrabas sangriacarrabas breadcarrabas italian salad with blue cheese crumblescarrabas chicken parm carrabas homemade pasta (penna 'franco?'')

 

I do not have high hopes when visiting chain restaurants. I think of Bonefish, Applebees, Chili’s, Olive Garden etc in a category that I like to call ‘not really worth my time or money’. I will now add Carrabba’s to the list. My mom and step-dad enjoy eating here and invited us to join them for dinner a few weeks ago. Never being people to say no to a meal out, my fiance and I met them there and we were seated in about 10 minutes.

We ordered sangria to share for the table and it was brought out along with some warm bread and herbed olive oil for dipping. The sangria was basically grape juice with some fruit floating in it. It may or may not also have had some red wine mixed in. I’m really not sure.

I started with an Italian salad with a side of crumbled blue cheese and vinegarette. The salad was fresh and had a nice mix of veggies and the cheese, though it did cost extra, was a nice addition. I probably should have stopped there as I would have been perfectly happy with a nice salad and warm bread.

For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared two. We ordered the Penne Franco and asked them to use the homemade tagliarini instead of the pennee thinking, ‘why have boxed pasta if homemade is an option?’ We also asked them to add shrimp to that one. For our other dish, we ordered the chicken parmesan with steamed garlic spinach on the side. When the pasta dish was brought out, apparently no one got (or gave?) the message that we’d asked for the tagliarini. The waiter took it back with apologies and said he’d be right back with the correct dish. We started working on our chicken instead. The chicken was totally overcooked and dry and the cheese on top was somehow flavorless. The sweet tomato sauce didn’t disguise the chicken enough to not notice how much it was lacking in any moisture content whatsoever. The spinach had so much oil on it that any nutritional benefit we’d hoped to gain from eating it was definitely lost. I love garlic, but it was too much, even for me. Just then, our pasta dish came out and we looked forward to switching over to that one. Sadly, this too was way over oiled and over-salted. The shrimp and veggies were ok, but other than that, the dish was a big fail. The answer to my ‘why not have the homemade pasta’ question was answered when we realized that their homemade pasta sucks. It’s mushy and overcooked and simply not good.

Sigh.

This meal was the night of a half marathon that I’d run that morning. I SO deserved an outstanding, carb-laden, pasta and bread filled dinner and this was a pretty big bummer. Don’t get me wrong, I ALWAYS appreciate when my generous parents take me and my honey out for meals…but usually they take us to places we love and this one will definitely NOT get another visit from me. Booooooooo.

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Chez Carey! Carrot/coconut/dill soup

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I cannot believe I forgot to take a picture of this soup but it was SO good that I thought I’d add my recipe…well, it’s really just a ‘concept’.  As many of you know, I really don’t write recipes. I don’t like to measure. I don’t like to do things the same way twice. I like to do things by taste, feel, mood and sense.

 

The carrot/coconut/dill soup:
Saute some garlic, shallots and onions in a little olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot.
Add a pound or so of carrots (I used baby carrots, but you can use chopped, peeled regular ones instead)
Add about 5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
simmer for an hour or so.
add a handful of fresh dill and some salt and fresh pepper.
Use an immersion blender to blend it all up.
Add a cup or so of coconut milk
add some more chopped dill if you’re like me and can’t get enough of it. (but don’t blend too much of it in with the immersion blender or it will turn the soup into an ugly color)
Serve each bowl with a spoonful of plain greek yogurt, chopped chives and a sprig of dill.

Enjoy!

Chez Carey! Thanksgiving contribution. Dumpling squash stuffed with veggies!

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I was in charge of bringing the vegetable to our Thanksgiving dinner this year and as luck would have it, Gabriel and I happened to stumble upon an amazing hydroponic farm a few days ago where we picked fresh produce to our hearts content. I was so inspired by all of the gorgeous vegetables there that I decided to combine a bunch of them into my contribution to our T-day feast.

I started by halving and roasting sweet dumpling squash with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper at 350 for about 35 minutes. I also sliced carrots, parsnips, beets, zucchini and summer squash and roasted them on a separate cookie sheet. Meanwhile, I sauteed the beet greens with some crimini mushrooms, garlic, red onions, olive oil, salt and pepper.

When everything was done cooking, I lined the squash halves with the colorful discs and filled the centers with the greens. I topped the greens with more roasted discs and placed them on a serving dish surrounded by the beet green stems and extra mushrooms. Beautiful AND delicious, if I do say so myself! I plan to finish them with a little fresh dill, cilantro and parsley just before serving them.

Hope you and your loved ones all enjoy a happy holiday feast tonight!

Cafe L’Europe: 431 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, FL

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On a gorgeous day in St. Armands Circle, I met my mom outside at Cafe L’Europe for lunch. Our waiter brought us fresh bread and olive oil with herbs right away along with ice water and menus and I made my decision quickly after hearing the specials.

I had the half wrap/salad special which included a delicious Bourbon Pecan salad: Baby greens, cornbread croutons, candied pecans, bourbon-maple dressing and a half wrap of seared tuna, avocado, wasabi mayo and veggies. The fish was super fresh and perfectly seared, and the wrap was a wonderful mix of flavors. The croutons on the salad were noteworthy with their crunchy, corn-bready goodness.

Overall, for a VERY reasonable price of $12, I had a lovely lunch, great service and an excellent experience that will surely warrant a return visit.

Lee Roy Selmon’s: 8253 Cooper Creek Blvd Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I enjoyed a fun dinner with another couple here last night. Although I’m not really a sports bar kind of person, this restaurant feels much classier and less sporty than I expected based on the reviews I’d read ahead of time. Yes, there are tons of TVs playing various games, but the feel is more upscale and less rowdy that I would have guessed.

Luckily, our friends had a couple of great tips for us. The first was that if you check-in on four square, you get a free fried-green tomatoes appetizer. Cool! We jumped on that. The other VERY important tip is that the amazing bbq-butter-topped rolls, which do NOT come automatically, ARE free and available and absolutely worth asking for. YUM.

I ordered a frozen strawberry margarita to sip and it was delicious; refreshing, sweet- but not overly so, and the perfect amount of alcohol that didn’t totally overpower the drink. The fried green tomatos were a bit slow to come out, but when they finally did we gobbled them right up. They came with a tangy ranch dressing to dip in, and the slices were thick cut and super crunchy.

For my entree, I ordered the shrimp and grits- something I would not normally choose but it sounded interesting. I also ordered a side of green beans and thought it was odd that it did not automatically come with a vegetable when just about all of the other entrees did. The grits were unreal. Super cheesy and with generous bits of bacon, it was NOT at all a light dish. I still can’t believe I ate the whole thing- it was so rich and filling, but tasted so amazing that I couldn’t stop myself. The shrimp were a bit too sauce-covered, and I think they could have used half the amount instead of drowning them in sugary flavoring that they really didn’t need. I thought my meal was excellent, but really felt that the menu was lacking. I would have ordered a healthier shrimp option if there had been one- but the choices were basically salads or super indulgent entrees and sandwiches.

The meal ended with the waiter bringing over hot washcloths to wash our hands with…Nice touch! I thought the prices were totally reasonable and I would definitely consider going back…next time, I will plan to be more mentally prepared to indulge than I was this time.

 

Burns Court Cafe: 401 S Pineapple, Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I stopped in for lunch today when we did a quick search on yelp.com and found a $5 for $10 deal. We arrived and saw a lovely case full of fresh sandwiches on baguette, quiches, pastries and other yummy looking treats. The friendly woman working there gave us some advice and time to look at the menus.

There were lots of appealing sounding salads but I decided on a Caprese baguette ( mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive tamponade, pesto, ciabatta) that came with a side salad. Gabriel ordered the Quiche Lorraine (delicious) with a side salad. He also got a chocolate/banana/prune shake that tasted a million times better than it sounded to me. We actually decided to buy some prunes to use in our at-home smoothies because they added so much healthy sweetness.

We chatted a bit with the owner who is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the area. She clearly takes a lot of pride in her business and it shows. We went to sit at a table and she brought our food and ice water over to us quickly.

Our lunches were awesome. I gobbled up my sandwich SO fast. The fresh bread it was on was SO wonderful. It had a nice bite to it- crisp outside with a doughy interior. I also really enjoyed the fresh dressing on the side salad. It’s amazing what a difference a good quality olive oil and vinegar make to some mesclun leaves and tomatoes.

Overall, this is a great cafe to stop into for lunch or some great coffee. I know that I will definitely be back- and if it’s not quite so hot outside next time, you’ll probably find me sitting at one of the cute sidewalk tables.

Thanks Burns Court Cafe! Well done! Next time, croissants! (They looked SOOOOO good)

Salute!: 23 N Lemon Ave, Sarasota, FL

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My family and I went here for dinner tonight after our first attempt had an hour long wait and our 2nd attempt was closed. Salute has a great outdoor eating area with available tables and we were seated right away. Our waiter came over with menus and went over the specials. None of us wanted to order cocktails so we just asked for flat water. I also asked if, when he had a moment, he’d bring over some lemon for the water. When he came back to take our orders and to bring us bread and dipping olive oil, I again reminded him that I wanted some lemon. When he came back a third time to bring us our appetizers, I asked him for a third time for some lemon. Finally, he came back with 3 slices of lemon (for our table of 4. Hmmm) and my water glass was, by then, empty. Big fail. The bus boy overheard me complaining about the timing of this and re-filled my glass. Ok. Better late than never.

For my app, I shared an arugula, endive, radicchio salad with Gabriel. It came with a creamy balsamic dressing and shaved parmesan. Very nice and fresh, but kind of on the boring side.

For my entree, at the suggestion of our waiter, I ordered the chicken parmesan with penne. It was a great portion sized- very manageable and not overwhelmingly large which I appreciated. The chicken, however was totally overcooked, stringy, dry and unimpressive. The sauce and cheese on top were mediocre at best. I’ve had better chicken parm at a diner.

For the prices here, I would not return. Just a few nights earlier, we went to Cafe Baci for the same price and MUCH better food. I guess you’re really just paying for the lovely outdoor seating here and not much more.

Oh well, they can’t all be winners.