Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bella BRAVA - St. Petersburgh

BRAVA Bella Brava! This restaurant got a big thumbs up from all eight of us (yes, even hubby). Bella Brava is located on the very busy corner of Beach Drive and 2nd Avenue NE across from the yacht basin, a very colorful and bustling area of town.
The service here was very good with a charming and attentive waitress that saw to all our needs smoothly. The ambiance was lively and a bit noisy but not terribly so. The floor to ceiling windows afforded sweeping views of the street and we were entertained by the passersby. We love to people watch, especially young people. Back in the bubble of Kings Point where we live we are lost in a sea of gray hair and casual clothes primarily purchased at Beall's. How refreshing to see beautiful young people dressed to impress on a Saturday night. I must say we clean up pretty nicely ourselves and enjoy stepping out and feeling like we're still 'happening'!
We ordered a bottle of Malbec but frankly thought it paled in comparison to the bottle we enjoyed at Roast last month. I did appreciate that the waitress took the initiative to split the cost of the bottle between the three of us who were sharing it and this avoided any awkwardness at the end.
Several of us started off with the Misticanza Salad, a delightful blend of romaine, radicchio, spinach, cracked olives, tomatoes, and a honey basil vinaigrette - it was delicious.
Ken gets points for finding a restaurant that not only provided a gluten free menu for Hollie, but a burger option for Mike who threw us all a curve by ordering Spaghetti & Meatballs which he praised heartily.
Hubby caught a glimpse of pizza passing by and decided he had to have one. Keep in mind that he and I grew up in NYC and we know a little sumpin' sumpin' about pizza - this one got high marks and he enjoyed it very much. One surprising menu item was the Crostata - rigatoncini, pomodoro sauce, housemade sausage, house roasted peppers, ricotta, sage, fresh mozzarella, topped with an asiago cheese bread crust. Ken enjoyed it but we all had to laugh when it was placed in front of him as it looked like a giant pie, one you'd expect a few blackbirds to fly out of.
Three of us gals went for the Chicken Giardino - a wood-grilled chicken paillard, with tomato, basil, red onion, arugula, and very creamy mascarpone mashed potatoes. This was a delightful dish, a good sized serving, and one that you could feel virtuous about as it featured healthy ingredients.
Of course all that virtue was undone when we ended the evening at Ken & Cheryl's to celebrate Ang's birthday with an amazing coconut cake (from Publix), coffee and some laughs. But hey, I only had a little piece! I'll wrap up this post with an example of why I love this part of town - check out the sassy lizard relaxing on a bench along Beach Street. These whimsical bronze statues dot the area and make me smile.
204 BEACH DR. NE, ST. PETERSBURG, FL 33701 / 727.895.5515 / Click to add a blog post for BellaBrava on Zomato

Thursday, June 4, 2015

ROAST, Sarasota

In a word - delicious! The tantalizing aroma of roasting meats greeted us when we walked through the very charming outdoor patio into the restaurant. It made my mouth water in anticipation. The ambiance was lovely, a very European feel and I could imagine myself somewhere in the south of France (or what I imagine the south of France feels like-something for my bucket list). We were seated at a square table for eight and I have to say it was perfect for easy conversation and comfort. (Photo courtesy of Roast website)
I had the Cornish Game Hen with Madeira Creamed Mushrooms, Spinach and Fingerling Potatoes – ooh la la yummy. Hubby had the NY Strip and “he liked it!” (We all know he’s a tough food critic). The special of the day was Roast Beef served with Creamed Cauliflower and String Beans – a very generous portion. Kathy had the Salmon; Hollie had Seared Scallops and Boudain Noir (blood sausage!)on a bed of cauliflower puree with red wine. And of course Mike had their signature burger (I’m going to suggest Mike write a column solely on burgers since that is nearly always his choice when we dine out and by now he’s a connoisseur.)
Our waitress was attentive and knowledgeable about the menu. None of us had ever eaten Duck Fat Fries and she heartily recommended we try them. We’re so happy we did because they were quite amazing. We ordered them well done and they were crispy perfection! For anyone wondering about using duck fat you should know that it’s a very versatile fat with a high smoke point. It’s low in saturated fat (20% less than butter) and high in unsaturated fat, making it one of the healthiest animal fats you can eat. See below for Guy Fieri’s Recipe and try them yourself.
And what better way to wash down all that good food but to enjoy it with a glass of Malbec?
We chose the Trivento Amado Sur - a deep red wine with violet hues. Aromas of strawberries and red cherries intertwined with hints of clove and vanilla. The lush red berry flavor gives way to velvety tannins and a pleasant, persistent finish. Are you impressed with my knowledge of wine? Ha, I learned all that from where you can order a bottle for about $15. All I know is it went down real smooth and Cheryl and I left with a buzz on!
We’ll definitely return to try some of the other unique dishes they offer. And by the way, from June 1-14 this restaurant is participating in the Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week event so you can enjoy a 3-course meal for about $15/person for lunch & $29/person for dinner – a great value. Dessert was at Kathy’s place where she’d organized a luscious birthday cake to surprise our birthday girl Hollie. A very nice way to cap the evening, another successful Great Escape.
Guy Fieri’s Recipe for Duck Fat Fries
4 medium russet potatoes; 8 cups canola oil; 2 cups duck fat (you can purchase at gourmet stores $6-$11 for an 11 oz. container); Sea salt or truffle salt
Peel the sides of the potatoes but leave some skin on the ends. As you peel, place the potatoes in a bowl filled with cool water. Cut the potatoes into matchsticks (1/8-inch square) and place back into the bowl of clean cool water. Allow the potatoes to sit for 1 hour, changing the water as it becomes cloudy to remove the starch.
Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven or deep skillet to 325 degrees F.
Drain the potatoes and dry well with paper towels. Carefully add the potatoes to the oil, in batches if necessary, and cook until they just lose their opaque look and are starting to firm up, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain well on paper towels.
Heat the duck fat in a heavy saucepan to 375 degrees F; ideally you want the duck fat 3 to 4 inches deep.
Carefully add the fries to the duck fat and cook until crispy and evenly golden, about 8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and season with the sea salt or truffle salt.
Cook's Note: Strain the duck fat through a fine mesh strainer and transfer to a glass container. Keep refrigerated or frozen for up to 6 months. 1296 1st St, Sarasota, FL 34236 941.953.1971
Roast Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato