Sunday, May 31, 2009

Places I Eat: Mar Vista, Longboat Key

Last Sunday James and I went out to Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub on Longboat Key. Located on the Bay in a rustic former house, Mar Vista definitely gives you a taste of "Old Florida". The outside seating area is bliss. There are tables under cover with nice flans to keep you cool, and there are also tables outside under the light strung trees, feet from the shore line.
There is usually a bit of a wait. We like to put our name in and then head to the bar. While the inside does have a nice atmosphere, we like to take our drinks outside and wait out on the dock. It was quite overcast that day, but was the perfect cool down to a hot day in our pool. I had the Passion Fruit Pina Colada.
Even a 30+ minute wait is enjoyable with the massive pelicans to watch. It is probably due to the fact that you are closer to them here than at the beach, but Mar Vista's pelicans really do seem bigger than the average pelican. Or maybe it was the rum...
... either way, we could sit out for hours taking in the view, even on a cloudy day.
In addition to arriving by car, you can also arrive to Mar Vista by boat.
We were told that there would be a 45 minute wait that night, but it felt more like 15. I had the Caribbean Chicken Sandwich ($ 8.99) which was a chicken breast marinated in tropical fruit juices, blackened, and topped with Provolone cheese on a whole wheat bun. It had just the right amount of heat and was just what I was craving.
James opted for the Mar Vista Burger ($8.99) with Cheddar, Bacon, and Blue Cheese. I'm guilty of sneaking a bite, and with their thickly sliced dill pickles, think that he made a great choice.

Things for Girls to do in Lakewood Ranch

Several years ago while my friend Jane was visiting from England, we went to one of those trendy paint your own ceramic places with my mom and my friend Emily. Lucky for them I can't find the photos, but my mom and I painted mugs, Emily painted a lovely dish for her dogs, and Jane... well Jane painted just about everything she could. As a lover of Halloween, she painted a ghostly thing and to fit in with her trip to Florida, she painted a crab. Jane is coming back to visit in October, and after a recent dinner at MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, I noticed that one of these places had opened on Lakewood Ranch's Main Street. In addition to painting ceramics, you can make your own jewelry at this place. Staring at me from the window was this lovely little Garden Gnome. Could it be a sign?

Places I Eat: Sharky's on the Pier, Venice Island

Sharky's on the Pier is a super fun place to eat. Located right on the beach on Venice Island, they actually do have a pier... Complete with a shop to buy sun screen and ice cream...
... and live bait...
For us, the main draw is eating out on the Tikki Deck where they serve yummy Tropical Frozen Cocktails, have a sublime view of the beach, and live music. The night we went there the deck was closed for food due to a wedding.
This was a huge disappointment due to the fact we had driven an hour specifically to eat outside on the beach. We have so many fantastic restaurants nearby that we could have stayed close to home to have good food indoors. Still, we were able to have a cocktail outside while we were waiting for our table, and since we were there had decided to stay. I had the delectable Mango Tango.
We were very happy that we did decide to stay. The inside menu had changed since we were last there, and we thought so did the quality of the food. James had fish and chips, which he was very happy with. I opted for the Coastal Chicken: chicken breast sauteed with mushrooms, spinach, sun dried tomatoes in a white wine and lemon demi-glaze. It was the best thing I've ever had at Sharky's, and I've been going there for more years than I can remember. We were too full to have any of their scrumptious looking desserts.
We finished eating just in time to walk out to the end of the pier to watch the sun set.
This turned out to be a fantastic visit to Sharky's. We will definitely be back, and not only when we have company.

Places I Eat: The Columbia Restaurant ~ St. Armands Circle, Lido Key

Opening in 1959 on St. Armand's Circle, the Columbia Restaurant has been serving Sarasota the best Spanish/Cuban cuisine in a cosmopolitan Mediterranean setting in Lido Key. If you were coming to Sarasota for a few days, the Columbia Restaurant is a must!

Our favorite tipple to start with is always a pitcher of their Sangria de Cava. Cava, Spain's version of Champagne, makes a lighter more sophisticated version of the well loved Spanish drink.

You can order from their extensive Tapas or Entree menus, but I seem to stick to my favorite in the summertime: If eating inside, I always start with a cup of their Spanish Bean Soup. This soup has a ham/chicken broth base and is loaded with Garbanzo beans, diced potatoes, ham, and Chorizo sausage.Inside our out, I always have their signature "1905 Salad". This is an absolute must as a starter if ordering an entree, or a refreshing, very satisfying main dish salad. On a hot day, there is nothing better than to sit out on their patio and watch the world go by. While the Columbia are very generous to post some of their recipes on their website and have a cookbook (James - hint, hint) - nothing can duplicate the experience of actually dining at one of the Columbia's seven restaurants.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bodegas Berberana Rioja Viña Alarde Reserva ~ A Great Summer Red

Once the temperatures start soaring, I tend to put away red wine until Fall. The scorching Florida heat paired with extremely high levels of humidity completely put me off red and instead I search for chilled, fruitier, lighter wines. That was until I discovered Bodegas Berberana Rioja Viña Alarde Reserva (2006). Tempranillo isn't a grape that I often tried, but this bottle will definitely have me exploring other labels. Florida obviously has a strong Spanish/Latin history, and Sarasota certainly has no shortage of that flavor. I suppose it is only natural that a Spanish wine would suit our summer climes.
The predominant flavors were black cherry and plum, but had subtle notes of tobacco, which made it the perfect pairing for our evening...
We had half a Cuban cigar from a recent trip to Ybor City, so decided to finish is off on the lanai with an Uno marathon. The Latin Jazz and Salsa program on WMNF provided the perfect soundtrack for the evening.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What a Fantastic End to Spring and Start to Summer!

We've had a rotation of company since Easter, mainly my in-laws who were over from England for 3 weeks. This explains my absence from posting due to my over indulgence of food, sun, and fun. I'm slowly getting back to the land of reality, have loads of things to post about, so watch this space...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Twelve Years Ago Today...

James and I got married in Abbotts Morton, England... ... and our sweet Harry was born in Wymondham, Norfolk.
James and I have had a nice day looking back at photos from our wedding and thinking about all of the changes in our lives over the past 12 years. Now we're off to St. Armand's for dinner, and if we're lucky, will watch an amazing sunset.

We've had a revolving group of company since Easter, and while we're having a great time, I've not had much of an opportunity to post to my blog or visit those that make me smile. I've got loads of lovely food to write about, but as we still have company for another 2 weeks, probably won't get much of a chance until then. See you soon! Amy x