The flavors of France are just a beautiful 20-minute journey away.
By Judi Gallagher
Visiting an old friend the other night, we took a wonderful car ride up Gulf of Mexico Drive to Holmes Beach. I have always enjoyed traveling a bit for a special meal—the trip is a perfect opportunity to get caught up on conversation and to slow down a bit and take in the surroundings. Our destination: Ooh La La Bistro, at 5406 Marina Drive, Anna Maria Island, (941) 778-5320. My immediate thought upon entering was why had we let several years go by since our last meal here? The classic bistro of France is only a beach town away, and I nearly forgot.
We entered the comfort of the open kitchen and settled in at a bistro table with an irresistible menu for someone like me that craves fine rustic French cuisine without any attitude if you do not speak the language. In fact, I found the service to be refreshing, relaxed yet professional, and not overdone. With us was our good friend Dan Cronin, assistant principle at McIntosh Middle School and how shall I say this?....picky eater extraordinaire.
Triple threat: Ooh La La's pate trio.
But he dove right into the duck-fat-fried French fries with truffle ketchup and lobster Bourguignonne with bubbling melted Swiss cheese to start the experience. While I could not get him to try the paté trio, I jumped into that with gusto. The three choices were creamy and classic, with small toasts and dressed greens served as compliments. If I were to have a last meal request, this would have been it.
Berry wonderful: strawberry shortcake from heaven.
Yet our tour of France kept building to new heights. The bouillabaisse at Ooh La La is abundant with lobster tails, jumbo diver scallops, large shrimp and tender clams, mussels and salmon, all in sinfully flavorful broth. This is a must-order dish. The beef Wellington was nearly perfect, with a large tender filet encased in paté and mushrooms and wrapped in a beautiful pastry. Then there was dessert. I had wished for classic strawberry shortcake earlier that day; and there it was, from heaven above. The most incredible, sliced sweet Charlie strawberries with homemade whipped cream adorned an amazing shortcake biscuit.
Picky no more: Dan gets ready to dive into duck-fat-fried potatoes.
As we pulled out into a dark and foggy night, I happily realized that you don’t have to worry about weather delays, with the impeccable flavors of France just a 20-mile drive up the coast. And make sure you visit the Web site first to enhance your experience with the sounds of strolling Parisian musicians.