Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wishing you a Scrumpdillyicious New Year!

For many, New Years Eve offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start. But instead of leaving everything up to fate, why not enjoy a meal to increase ones good fortune? There are a great variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and improve the odds that next year will be a great one. Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what's consumed in different areas of the world: The six major categories of auspicious foods are grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes guaranteed to make for a happy new year, or at least a happy tummy. Whatever your favourite recipe, wishing you all a Scrumpdillyicious New Year!

New Years Champagne Cocktail
Serves 2

6 drops bitters
2 sugar cubes
2 oz Cognac
8 oz chilled Champagne

Drop the bitters onto each sugar cube and let soak in, then place each sugar cube into a Champagne flute. Add the Cognac, and top up with Champagne, and wish all a Nouvelles Années Heureuses!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Café L'Europe: Christmas Dinner on St Armands

Celebrating almost 40 years as one of St. Armand's more elegant and relaxing restaurants, Café L'Europe continues to be a charming and popular culinary destination for many along Florida's sunny Sarasota coast. Established in 1973 in John Ringling's original real estate office, which was the oldest building on St Armand's, Café L'Europe is one of the best seats on the 'Circle'. Having built its reputation on continental cuisine, Café L'Europe strikes a balance between the traditional and innovative, with some popular menu items that have been served since the restaurant first opened. Some of the dishes are even prepared table-side, adding an old world elegance and time honoured drama to the delight of many of the restaurant's rapacious regulars. The restaurant's charming original brick walls enhanced with featured artwork from the Café Collection, fresh flowers, stained glass and Spanish terra cotta tiles provide a warm, relaxing old-world ambiance, with an attractive outdoor terrace for long languorous lunches after shopping on St Armand's Circle. Each Christmas, they also feature a full seasonal menu such as Roast Turkey and Prime Rib of Beef with all of the traditional yuletide accompaniments. For many along Longboat Key, that means less time in the kitchen, more to spend with family, and of course no washing up!

Gulf Shrimp Cocktail with fresh Lemon and Cocktail Sauce

Gulf Oysters Rockefeller topped with spinach, bacon, onion, hint of pernod and hollandaise

That didn't take long to finish...

French Onion Soup Gratinée served in a whole onion

Buffalo Mozarella Salad with fresh mozzarella, sliced vine-ripe tomatoes, fresh baby greens and house-made balsamic dressing

Prime Rib of Beef with Yorkshire Pudding, Potatoes Dauphinoise, asparagus and sweet potatoes

Roast Turkey with stuffing, whipped mashed potato, green beans and gravy

Southern Pecan Pie with whipped cream

Monday, December 29, 2014

Casa Antica: A Southern Italian Romantic Gem

Cas'Antica is the perfect description of this charming Italian culinary landmark located on picturesque Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota. As you step into this elegant historic home, you're immediately immersed in Cas'Antica’s seductive charm. Host and Master Chef Pietro Migliaccio’s desire was to reproduce a familiar atmosphere bringing him back to the beginning of his career, when he learned to cook at home with his mother Lucia. Pietro and his wife Susan sold their critically acclaimed restaurant, Café Gabbiano on Siesta Key, a number of years ago, opting for a smaller downtown venue in Sarasota. The small, two-story home built in 1926, was renovated to provide intimate dining spaces with traditional antiques blended with classic modern accents. Comprised of six small rooms, the atmosphere is warm and inviting with a lovely front patio for those who like to dine under the stars, and a fireplace in the front dining room for romantic evenings on cooler Sarasota nights. 

Casa Anitica's dinner menu

The restaurant is absolutely charming and full of character, with exquisite attention to detail. Crisp table linens, crystal glassware and warm candlelight provide a gracious ambiance for fine dining. The extensive menu features both Southern and Northern Italian dishes such as bone-in Veal Chop with truffle oil, fresh porcini mushrooms and brandy cream sauce and sea bass in rock salt or classic meuniere presentation. Pietro's award-winning Veal Mamma Lucia is also on the menu as well as house-made pasta choices including Fettuccini Alfredo, Spaghetti Carbonara, Linguine con Vongole, Linguini Cas'Antica with mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari in a light tomato sauce and much more. For a delightful evening of excellent Italian cuisine and exceptional service, Cas'Antica is one of the most romantic choices for sophisticated dining in Sarasota.

Our server uncorked the special wine selected by my Dad for our family dinner at Casa Antica

Brunello di Montalcino

Olive oil with Balsamic vinegar, pesto, parmigianno and red pepper

Warm sliced bread

Carpaccio Di Manzo with thinly sliced raw beef, baby rucola and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano

Antipasto Rustico

Sliced Tomato with Burrata and Prosciutto di Parma

Sliced Manzo: Medium-Rare Rib-Eye with Roasted Potatoes, Mushrooms and Arugula


Linguine Boscaiola with fresh mushrooms in a light brown sauce

Vitello di Nonna: Deeply fried Veal Chop thinly prepared with bread crumb based coating topped with special mushroom sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese

Linguine with Mussels and Asparagus

Linguini Cas'Antica with mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari in a light tomato sauce

Cas'Antica Tiramisu

"Leave the car...take the cannoli"

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Lazy Lobster: A Longboat Key Seafood Treat

Known for warm and friendly service, great food and good prices, there's nothing lazy about the atmosphere at The Lazy Lobster on Longboat Key, the perfect place to go for a well-priced lobster infused menu. Nestled away in Café on the Bay’s former location in the Centre Shops on Longboat Key, The Lazy Lobster has been a popular favourite for Sarasotans since 2009, when co-owners Michael Garey, former manager of Café L’Europe, and Bob Fracalossy, former chef at Café L’Europe and Café on the Bay, took over the space and launched their new restaurant. Festooned with nautical accents and tropical Floridean flair, the outdoor garden terrace is a special treat in the warmer weather, with colourful umbrella topped tables and gurgling fountain. 

The pretty outdoor fountain and terrace dining at the Lazy Lobster

With an extensive menu and long wine list, there's something for everyone, including retro favourites such as Lobster Thermadore, made with mushrooms and sherry in a cream sauce, Lobster Newberg in a rich lobster brandy sauce and crowned with hot, golden puff pastry, Lobster Mac & Cheese with fresh steamed lobster meat, macaroni, and white cheese sauce topped with toasted crumbs and truffle oil, Beer Battered Fish & Chips with tartar sauce and golden frites, or the creamy classic and sinfully rich Lobster Bisque and thick Seafood Gumbo. Other sensational seafood dishes include the Lazy Lobster Wedge Salad garnished with tomato, bacon, egg, gorgonzola, sun-dried cranberries, white balsamic vinaigrette and topped with either grilled shrimp or warm lobster, and my Dad's favourite, The Lazy Lobster Kobe Beef Burger with grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms and smoked gouda served on a grilled garlic bun with sun-dried tomato aioli and warm homemade potato chips, which are delicious and completely addictive.

A basket of warm rolls and fresh cherry preserves

Sunny lemon yellow napkins set the tone for the restaurants colourful interior 

The Lazy Lobster lunch menu with soups, salads and of course everything lobster

Thirst quenching unsweetened American iced tea

Seafood Gumbo

Lazy Lobster Wedge Salad topped with tomato, bacon, egg, gorgonzola, sun-dried cranberries, white balsamic vinaigrette and grilled shrimp

Beer Battered Fish & Chips with lightly fried haddock, crunchy cole slaw, fries and tartar sauce

The Lazy Lobster Kobe Beef Burger with grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms and smoked gouda on a grilled garlic bun with sun-dried tomato aioli and warm homemade chips

Coconut Shrimp Salad with mixed green salad, diced papaya, dried cranberries, tomato, toasted coconut & gorgonzola, topped with coconut fried shrimp & raspberry dressing

Lobster Bisque with a Turkey Club Croissant with roasted turkey breast, 
crisp cherry wood bacon, sun dried tomato aioli with lettuce and tomato

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

Contrary to what many believe, Santa Claus as we know him today – sleigh riding, gift-giving, rotund and white bearded with his distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur – was not the creation of the Coca Cola Company. Although their Christmas advertising campaigns of the 1930s and 40s were key to popularizing the image, Santa can be seen in his modern form decades before Coca Cola’s illustrator Haddon Sundblom got to work. Prior to settling on his famed red garb and jolly bearded countenance, throughout the latter half of the 19th-century, Santa morphed through a variety of different looks. From the description given in Clement Moore’s A Visit from St Nicholas in 1822, through the vision of artist Thomas Nast, and later Norman Rockwell, Mr Claus gradually shed his various guises and became the jolly red-suited Santa we know today. So with very best wishes — "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a scrumpdillyicious good-night!"

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on, 
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years 
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Mar Vista: Dockside Dining on Sarasota Bay

The quaint waterside Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub, located on the north end of Longboat Key in the heart of historic Longboat Village, has the look and feel of Florida the way it used to be. Arrive by boat and moor at Mar Vista's docks or amble in by car to enjoy fresh Florida seafood, fresh grouper sandwiches and cool sangria inside the rustic dining room, on the outdoor covered deck or on one of the coveted tables by the beach overlooking picturesque Sarasota Bay. Built in 1912, Mar Vista was spared when a hurricane in 1921 wiped out large chunks of the Island, and as a consequence, this Old Florida-style restaurant is considered one of the twelve oldest surviving structures on Longboat Key. Known more familiarly by locals as 'The Pub', Mar Vista is owned by CRG - the Chiles Restaurant Group- which also owns the Beach House Restaurant on Bradenton Beach and the Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria.

The original Mar Vista, one of the twelve oldest surviving structures on Longboat Key

The menus at each of the restaurants are pretty much the same, serving a vast array of fresh seafood, sandwiches and salads, but one feature in which they all excel are their waterfront locations and spectacular views. Everything just tastes better when you can squish your toes in powdery fine white sand, soak up the sun and become mesmerized by the bright blue water. A glass of sangria or potent Rum Runner doesn't hurt either.

Gorgeous Bougainvillea grow alongside the Mar Vista 

Outdoor dining on the beach overlooking Sarasota Bay

LBK Rum Runner with Bacardi Rum, Bacardi Select, Blackberry Banana and Tropical Fruit Juices

The “Pub” Margarita with Patron Silver Tequila, Lime Juice and Grand Marnier

Mar Vista Lemonade with Absolut Raspberry Vodka, Pink Lemonade and a Splash of Soda

The “Margarona”— A Pub Margarita with a Coronita flipped end up inside

Calamari lightly seasoned and fried, then topped with Parmesan cheese and served with marinara sauce

Blackened Gulf Flounder Fish Tacos on Corn and Flour Tortillas with soy, wasabi and yuzu slaw with cilantro and onion

The Mar Vista Burger with 1/2-pound Angus Beef, Cheddar, Bacon, Onions and French Fries

One of the age-old gnarly trees that grow along the shore

A flock of wild peacocks roam freely in historic Longboat Village, 
around the corner to Mar Vista