Where can I wear sunglasses at night? Rosebud's would be the place. Baby, it's bright in there. Recessed ceiling cans plus the track lighting aimed at artwork conspire with wall sconces and pillar oil lamps on each table to make every line in your dinner companion's face appear, how shall we say-glaringly clear? The upside is that you'll have no difficulty reading the menu, and that's probably what matters most with the Rosebud experience.
Rosebud's is a family-owned and operated restaurant with six members of the Mike Kodra family on the premises. This family has been in the restaurant business since 1959, and it shows. The 250-seat Rosebud's is a model for how a medium-priced (the average entrée runs around $16), comfortable eating establishment should be run.
Bread, butter and water appear when you sit down. The servers (in red bow ties and tuxedo shirts) recite the nightly specials and divulge the price. I'm finding a lot of places don't, leaving consumers with "special" sticker shock when the bill arrives. Servers frequently check tables and make sure guests have what they need. The server presents the bill in a timely fashion and whisks away payment. People appreciate a speedy end game.
Steak and prime rib are the menu stars. Prime rib cuts range from 10 to 16-ounce servings, and the kitchen will cut you an even bigger piece if you can handle it. Pair top sirloin, filet mignon or New York strip steak with lobster or shrimp for generous surf 'n' turf combinations or enjoy on unrelated plates.
Going beyond the American penchant for Angus beef, the menu even has some Mediterranean flair with veal piccata, Italian sausage, chicken marsala, veal parmigiana, shrimp scampi and Rosebud's Mediterranean chicken-a half chicken, broiled and seasoned with herbs and lemon butter. Cooked to order, it requires 40 minutes. A side of linguine with marinara sauce is an alternative to baked potato or French fries. Rosebud's is also the place to indulge in oysters. Order them raw, baked as Rockefeller or fried, either as a meal or part of a fisherman's platter.
A tossed salad or Caesar (too mild but admirably fresh) are included with each entrée. For a dollar more you get anchovies, so why not go for it? Food presentation is straightforward, no mile-high constructions or carefully engineered off-center art work with modernistic swirls of reduction sauce. A thick slab of prime rib sits in a shallow puddle of au jus on a white plate. A toss of chopped parsley rims the edge, and that's it.
Wines are mainly domestic and familiar. Turning Leaf, Kendall-Jackson, and Mondavi are typical, but the Lalonis petite sirah Orpheus ($30) was a surprise. The markup is relatively modest by American restaurant standards. Expect a sprinkling of French and Italian-e.g., Bouchard et fils, Gevrey-Chambertin ($49), Amarone Bertani, Valpolicella ($75), Dom Perignon ($!30), and an Antinori chianti classico riserva ($30). Our choice was a '97 Chateau Greysac Medoc (Bordeaux) at $25. Since we sampled red meat entrées (beef and veal), it was a good pairing at a reasonable price.
Rosebud's pays homage to the flower, and it's not in the cryptic style of Orson Welles' symbolic rosebud in Citizen Kane. Heady bouquets of dark-red faux roses are everywhere, including a few buds on each table. The decor is fussy-Victorian with white lace curtains framed by heavy crimson swags. The carpet is rose-patterned and rolled burgundy cloth napkins hold the silverware.
Tables are bare dark wood and armchairs with upholstered seats encourage a leisurely stay. No banquettes or booths, but there is a separate function room beyond white French doors that can be rented for private parties of about 65. In spite of the acoustic ceiling and plenty of wall-to-wall carpet, Rosebud's is noisy at peak hours, but not so boisterous that conversation is impossible.
Because of its diverse menu, high comfort level, and reasonable prices, Rosebud's attracts families celebrating a special event from a birthday to just being together for a Florida vacation. A children's menu pleases tykes under 10. We also saw some date-night younger people and plenty of senior couples alone or dining with friends. Many seem to be regulars. The interior illumination may be too strong for some, but it's a bright idea to choose Rosebud's for a reliable, relaxing meal that provides excellent cuisine value.
2115 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey
Dinner: Tuesday-Sunday, 4-10 p.m. Early dinner, 4-5:30 p.m.
Happy Hour: Lounge only, 4-6 p.m.
Easy parking in ample lot
Reservations strongly suggested
* * *
Q&A with Chef Paul Meyer, The Meadows Country Club
AT THE CLUBS
Talking with Paul F. Meyer of The Meadows.
Paul F. Meyer has been at The Meadows Country Club for the past six years. A native of Utica, New York, and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, 39-year-old Meyer has been at The Meadows Country Club for six years. His wife, Lauri, is the clubhouse manager there. They met on the job, and they spend 70 to 80 hours together on the job, coming to work and leaving together in one car. For the second year in a row, Chef Paul took home top honors at the Inter-Club Cooking Challenge organized by Tim Nichol of the Sarasota University Club. The competition, based on the theme of Australia and seafood, was open to country club chefs from Sarasota and Manatee counties. Chef Paul's winning recipe for Queensland Crayfish Walkabout Purses is included here.
Q. What's the best thing about being a country club chef?
A. At The Meadows, it's the variety and diversity of the members. We have 1,400 members from 19 foreign countries and 40 states. I do menus and cook in three kitchens for three very different restaurants and for special events. We do 150,000 meals a season. There are lots of ways to be creative.
Q. What's the biggest challenge?
A. The variety and diversity of the members! They're all regulars, and they have exacting standards. I have to please every single one of them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner as well as their daughter's wedding.
Q. How often do you change the menus?
A. Twice a year in the Regency, the Fountain Grill and Center Court. But all the menus have rotating features, such as prime rib night, or black-tie theme dinners. So we keep the menus fresh between the two major changes.
Q. Are there some things you can't retire from the menu?
A. Braised lamb shank. We took it off once and had to put it right back on. Salmon is the most-requested fish, and we always have it on the menu, although I like to come up with new ways to prepare it. A big favorite lately is thinly sliced salmon wrapped around blanched asparagus and steamed. We lay that on a bed of greens and top with an orange vinaigrette dressing. It's refreshing and looks pretty.
Q. What food trends do you see on the horizon?
A. Southern Mexican, Moroccan, Sicilian, and more Vietnamese.
Q. What's your take on baby vegetables?
A. I'll use the carrots and squash. I would never serve baby eggplant. It's a scientific mutant.
Q. How about garnishes?
A. I'm tired of seeing mesclun lettuce used to garnish nearly everything. It's not appropriate. And I don't use parsley. I'm more interested in pulling out some ingredient in the dish and making a garnish of it. For instance, on a mound of mashed potatoes I use a swirl of a potato crisp. It relates to the dish.
Q. How about presentation?
A. I think food generally looks best against a white plate. Here at The Meadows, I use a white plate rimmed in green.
Q. Where do you eat on your night off?
A. Lauri and I usually opt for takeout near where we live in Lakewood Ranch. Outback, the local Chinese place, First Watch, whatever. We're not picky eaters. I just don't want anything elaborate or complicated when I'm at home. When I eat out, I tend to be constantly evaluating and scouting for new ideas and thinking of how I'd change the recipe. For me that's too much like work, not relaxation.
Q. When you cook at home for friends and family, what do you make?
A. I get requests for my grilled chicken. I debone a whole chicken and marinate it in a mustard vinaigrette and grill it whole. The skin gets nice and crispy. Lauri is a terrific cook, and her specialty is baked chicken and yellow rice. It's famous among our friends and is my favorite home-cooked meal.
Q. You're a lean chef. How do you stay in shape?
A. We have a treadmill at home. Lauri and I take turns.
Q. Any hobbies?
A. When I was a boy in Utica, New York, my dad taught me to target shoot. I still do it at a local range. I don't hunt. I just shoot at paper targets with a pistol and I'm not all that good at it. But I enjoy it.
Q. What's your guiding philosophy as a chef-boss?
A. I hire attitude, not accomplishments. And I believe in continuing education for myself and my 30-member kitchen staff. If someone wants to take a course or get a certification, I encourage it all the way. We should never stop learning.
Queensland Crayfish Walkabout Purses
(Makes 6 appetizers)
1 package phyllo dough. Thaw in refrigerator overnight.
1/2 lb. butter, clarified
1 lb. crayfish (in natural juice)
1 T. Canola oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. fresh ginger, minced
3 oz. dry sherry
1 six-oz. bottle clam juice
1 t. paprika
Grated rind of a half lemon
2 c. heavy cream
1 t. kosher salt
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about a pound)
2 T. butter
1/4 c. chevre (goat's milk cheese)
2 t. kosher salt
1 T. fresh chives, minced
1 leek, green only, cut in strips, 1/4-inch by 12 inches. Drop in boiling water for five seconds and immediately put into ice water. Drain and pat dry. These strips will tie up your purses.
Drain crayfish and squeeze as much juice as possible. Reserve juice and refrigerate the crayfish. In a two-quart saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the shallots, garlic and ginger. Add sherry, clam juice and reserved crayfish juice. Reduce by half. Add paprika, lemon rind and heavy cream and reduce over medium heat until you have a nice sauce consistency that will coat the back of a spoon. Season with kosher salt. Off heat, mix just enough sauce to coat the crayfish. Pour crayfish mix into a shallow container, place a piece of food wrap large enough to cover directly on top of mix, refrigerate until ready to use. Reserve remaining sauce for service.
Wash and peel potatoes, cut each into four equal pieces. In a saucepan, cover the potatoes by two inches with cold water, bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes and return to the saucepan and heat for a few minutes to evaporate excess moisture. Mash potatoes with the butter and cheese. Season if needed, add chives and allow to cool.
Remove phyllo dough from package and carefully unfold. Cut a piece of food wrap large enough to cover phyllo dough. Keep phyllo covered to prevent it from drying out. Place one sheet of the dough on a flat cutting board and brush evenly with clarified butter. Place another sheet of the dough directly on top of the first and brush with clarified butter. Repeat three more times so you have a total of five layers. Cut phyllo into six even boxes. In center of each box place one tablespoon potato mix. Wet your fingers and spread potatoes into a three-inch circle. Place one tablespoon crayfish mix in the center of each potato. Bring the sides of the phyllo up around the mix to form a "hobo bag." Twist at the top of the mix to seal the purse. Tie each purse with a piece of the leek and place on a oiled sheet tray. This can be done one day in advance and refrigerated. Lightly cover with food wrap.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat reserved sauce. Bake purses 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Place two tablespoons of sauce on six warm serving plates and place two purses on sauce and serve immediately.
LET'S LUNCHEONETTE. You're shopping on St. Armands Circle and you want to dash into a casual place for a quick bite of breakfast or lunch. You don't want gourmet fare or big prices. You want fast and filling. Is there any such place on the chi-chi Circle? Yep-just ask shop owners, construction workers, and residents from surrounding neighborhoods about the Blue Dolphin Cafe. It's a tiny, friendly place that reminds me of the classic American luncheonette, right down to the formica tables, long counter and busy folks taking a well-deserved lunch break.
The waitstaff is informal, the grillman is speedy, and the food is your basic eggs and bacon, pancakes, burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, soup and salad. But, hey, this is a Florida resort town and so you can get key lime iced tea. The booths have a fun, tropical turquoise-dominated pattern, and your meal comes to the table on a large, dark glass shell-shaped plate.
I wish the ketchup on the table were Heinz, but that's my only whine about the food or the service at the Blue Dolphin. The big just-thick-enough burger is done up with mayonnaise, a big slab of raw white onion, lettuce and tomato and is served with dill pickle and a mound of fries that are crispy on the outside, hot and soft on the inside. $6.95 and worth every delicious bite. You go there.
Blue Dolphin Cafe
470 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands
Open daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Breakfast or lunch served all day