By Judi Gallagher
Friday afternoon I felt the warning signs of an impending cold, or even worse, a bit of the flu. Maybe I was just overtired, I thought, since I’d been out to client dinners (I work as a consultant to several restaurants, and part of the job involves helping to host food and wine events) three nights in a row. The first two were at Fleming’s (I swear the rib eyes get bigger by the day), and the third night was spent at Beach Bistro. I originally thought I only needed a detox of a simple salad and steamed broccoli to cure the lethargic feeling, which I credited to too many cheesy potatoes and too much foie gras. (Every occupation has its hazards.)
But then I heard the flu was going around town. I know, I know, you immediately think “chicken soup.” So did I—thus Pho Cali to the rescue. The roasted chicken soup with rice noodles at this downtown Vietnamese restaurant is my penicillin of choice. I always request extra scallions and pea pods. Add the sliced jalapeño peppers that they provide, and your sore throat seems to dissipate with each sip. And just in case the first batch didn’t do the cure, I ordered some wonton soup for the next day, figuring that would put me back on the running block in no time.
Saturday night, I had recovered enough for my husband Paul and me to meet our friends Jerry and Nancy Kaplan, just back from their summer retreat in Lenox, Ma, at Pad Thai (www.padthaisarasota.com) in Town & Country Plaza at 501 North Beneva Road. Pad Thai is one of those little strip-mall gems that most people forget about, or for that matter, never hear about. In fact, I am concerned that that my blogging might pack this tiny Asian gem, leaving no room for this ardent fan.
The crispy garlic duck with ginger sauce is flavorful and genuine, garnished with fresh broccoli and tender sautéed mushrooms, while the Panang duck is a top choice of Paul, who craves the spicy and exotic flavors of coconut milk and Thai curry. Do not miss the crab Rangoon. Usually this fried wonton dish does not seem worth the calorie intake, but Pad Thai livens the flavors with curry and chili spice that awaken the taste buds for the rest of your meal. Of course, what would a good Thai restaurant be without its signature dish, pad Thai? The chicken pad Thai was moist and flavorful and ordered with medium spice was just enough for those with a slight zest for zing without breathing fire. Make sure that you get a side order of Thai cucumber salad, soothing and cool with a light sense of rice wine vinegar and crispness to complement the entire experience. The Kaplans declared the restaurant to be a new favorite and noticed quite a few of their snowbird friends scattered around the small dining room as well. Pad Thai is a Sarasota hit.
TAKE-OUT TIP OF THE WEEK
Have you tried the stuffed zucchini at Whole Foods (www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/sarasota/)? Often when I have a hectic week, I try to supplement the entrée, (which may be a simple piece of pan-seared trout with brown butter) with something tasty and colorful. The zucchini at the prepared foods case at Whole Foods hits the spot with flavors of feta cheese, diced tomato and olive oil. Warm in the oven for 12 minutes and hide the take-out box! They do not have it every day, but it’s worth lobbying to keep it stocked. Turn it into an elegant entrée by marinating jumbo shrimp for 5 minutes in Greek salad dressing. Grill about 2 minutes per side and serve atop the stuffed zucchini with a side of warm pita bread. Serve with a crisp white wine and a Bavarian fruit tart from C’est La Vie on Main Street (906-9575) and you have a gourmet meal in no time.
ENTER YOUR RECIPE!
Do you have a favorite warm-weather cocktail? Enter our contest soon; time is running out before we announce of our cocktail-of-the- month winner and invite him or her for their free dinner for two at downtown’s trendy Zoria. Send your recipe to [email protected]. Cheers!