Fave Rave

By staff August 19, 2007

I would have lost weight—but then we decided to go to two of our favorite restaurants.


By Judi Gallagher



Well, for those Weight Watchers out there: This was one of those weeks that I prefer to blame on the stress of being a food taster (as well as the fact that I haven’t received the darn points bible yet) instead of blaming my lack of weight loss on the fact that I spent two glorious nights dining at two of my favorite restaurants.


When in doubt, always blame it on work! Sorry, editors of Sarasota Magazine. Wednesday night we ventured over to see Chef Derek at his namesake restaurant.  Dining at Derek’s is about as creative and outstanding as one can ever hope for. In fact, buddy Chris Sherman of the St. Pete Times along with the Zagat rating, deemed Derek’s as one of THE Best restaurants in Southwest Florida —I concur.


Clearly a slow-food chef, Derek maximizes the most local and fresh products in season. Of note is Derek’s American Table Series during the summer, featuring different regions of the country. Imagine steelhead trout, with fennel and potato gratinée, oyster mushroom, apple beurre blanc…. served with King’s Ridge 2006, pinot noir, Oregon. Save the plane fare to the West Coast; Derek’s original cuisine will send you to the freshest locations with every bite.


We focused on Derek’s classic specialties such as sweetbreads—pan-seared with tomato jam, crispy prosciutto, baby beet greens and brown butter mustard emulsion (if you are a sweetbread fan, this dish is a MUST, the best I have ever had anywhere in this country or France) and braised veal, with housemade ricotta cheese, gnocchi and veal sweet breads ragout. (Hey if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?).


Better than France--sweetbreads, anyone?


Another reason to dine at Derek’s is the dessert menu. In fact, Margaret Wise along with fellow blogger, Kim Hacket, and I have specifically selected Derek’s for a lunch outing for an order of banana custard cream with ricotta doughnuts and vanilla-bean braised bananas, and, the ULTIMATE (notice the capital letters) POACHED PEAR with lavender and honey and goat cheese ice cream. (It will make you cry for its creamy sensation and black pepper caramel sauce. Quite frankly, I would arm-wrestle for the last spoonful.)  


Derek knows how to wow us with goat-cheese ice cream atop poached pear.


Next temptress: Ezra, on Manatee Ave, Bradenton. Out for a relaxing, casual dinner on Saturday night, we decided Ezra was our choice for its laid-back but attentive atmosphere. Ezra’s owner, Chef Dave Shiplett, has been a favorite of mine for years. Bistro casual, with a flair for Asian fusion—and, that crispy crackling calamari salad that is to die for. I am outright addicted to the bento box, but must say the skirt steak with smashed potatoes and onion slivers is just as outstanding! Nice to see they added a full bar for a martini or cognac to make the night all the more relaxing. Don’t miss their upcoming California wine dinner on September 19.


My own custom bento box at Ezra.

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