By Judi Gallagher
Dining our way through the weekend.
It certainly has been a great week for dining in and around Sarasota. First we ventured over to Main Street, Lakewood Ranch to peek at the new Morton’s Market (www.epicureanlife.com). Cheese lovers, beware: The selection is extremely tempting with large displays of imported and domestic cheeses. The new olive bar and prepared foods cases looked impressive as well.
While we thought the cookie-cutter style of Main Street lacks a bit of soulful charm, it is well worth a trip for dinner to try Astoria, the Russian restaurant that opened about six months ago.
The space is just a small room, but you instantly feel an international experience is ahead, with red and gold colors and Russian music playing in the background. Astoria’s dinner menu boasts such classics as borscht, chicken Kiev, beef Stroganoff and classic dumplings filled with ground meat and seasoning. Although the chicken Kiev was not a favorite choice, the Stroganoff is worth many more visits, and the borsht and smoked fish platter are clear home runs for flavor and presentation. Sardine fans rejoice—the smoked sardines on buttered crustini are just delightful. Make sure that you save room for a hearty walnut and dried cherry strudel as well as creamy napoleon. Astoria Fine Russian Cuisine, 8126 Lakewood Ranch, 907-3873.
NEW WORLD ITALIAN
Dining at Galileo’s is always a delight, and the other night was no exception. Chef/owner Tom Harvey, former executive chef of the United States House of Representatives, has brought his fabulous “new world Italian” cuisine to Sarasota for the past four years. When I pull into the parking lot of Galileo, I immediately crave the fresh tomato basil soup, which is made to order and not to be missed. Although my favorite entrées include the horseradish-crusted salmon with citrus beurre blanc and the Gorgonzola-crusted hanger steak, (which my hubby will order and I will snag a bite or two), I could not resist ordering the special of veal Parmesan. My friend Jerry Kaplan was delighted with this dish several months ago, and I discovered he was on the money with this dish. The veal, tender as can be with a fresh pomodoro sauce, was perhaps the best veal parm I had yet to try. A bottle of Antinori Brunello de Montepucciano sealed the deal for another perfect Galileo experience. Galileo, 1538 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota 927-9600.
To top the week off, brunch at the Ritz-Carlton (www.ritzcarlton.com/resorts/sarasota) on Sunday was every bit as wonderful as always. Brunch at the Ritz is no light matter—one must first get a good 45 minutes on the treadmill to boost the metabolism before spending three hours relaxing and enjoying caviar, fresh shucked oysters, stone crabs and freshly prepared sushi from Chef Kyoshi, (we miss him on Main Street but were delighted to hear that he and his son have a private sushi catering business…hmm, I see a themed dinner party soon).
The brunch seems endless, and perhaps my favorite part is the micro dishes, small bite-size portions that are beautifully displayed as both hot and cold selections. Of course, the Ritz offers such breakfast classics as omelets made to order and eggs Benedict, but I like to dive right into the smoked seafood station and a large slice of roasted prime rib. I have heard some people feel that the price of $65 is too high, especially when champagne or the scrumptious “Carlton’s cocktails” are extra. Although it does top the market in this area, unlimited caviar and stone crabs, chocolate fountains and French pastries, smoked salmon and roasted stuffed leg of lamb make this worth every delicious bite. I recommend avoiding the Sunday brunch on holidays, however, as the price increases to $85 and is set in the ballroom. Personally, I enjoy the intimate setting of the lobby lounge instead. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota, 34236, (941) 309-2000.
Oh, and by the way, I just heard that there is another new Asian restaurant on Main Street near C’est La Vie… trust me, fellow foodies, Judi “Scoop” Gallagher is on the scene this week, so stay tuned.
RECIPES FOR SUCCESS
Do not forget to send in those apple recipes by Oct. 31 so you have a chance to win a gift certificate to dine at one of Sarasota’s best restaurants. This month our contest winner will receive a $100 gift certificate for 5 one 6 Burns—romantic Continental dining under the Banyan tree. E-mail your recipes and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for the ultimate cooking vacation? Join me on the high seas beginning March 4th on Holland America. For more information log on to www.judigallagher.com and click on cruise with Judi.