10 Best - January 2008

By staff January 1, 2008

Mozzarella di bufala, or mozzarella made from buffalo milk, has been around since the 12th century—and for good reason. This creamy, nutritious cheese is used to enliven many dishes, including insalata caprese and pizza. Now you can buy a fresh local version. Claudio Ronchi, the co-proprietor of Bologna Café, hails from three generations of cheese makers. “There’s no secret,” he says, “just experience.” You can experience this delicacy at Mattison’s, Esca, Longboat Key Club and Ophelia’s—or buy it directly from the café. 5770 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 927-9262.

Erin and Al Rosas raise organic beef, bison, pork and chicken on Rosas Farms in Central Florida’s Marion County. Ardent believers in sustainable living, the Rosas serve up seminars, weekend retreats and eco-consulting services along with their meat, cheese and egg products. Like the rest of the menagerie, their cows are raised humanely—and they’re strictly grass-fed and free of antibiotics and hormones. In Sarasota, you can feast upon the Rosas’ beef, bison and pork at Pattigeorge’s and The Colony.

Making handmade pasta is a longstanding family tradition for Marina and Adrian Fochi. As owners of Peperonata Pasta, they turn out 27 different types of pasta, stuffed ravioli (20 different fillings!), calzones, cannoli and pizza crusts. Happily, the Fochis sell their pasta creations to area restaurants, including Broccolini's, Bologna Cafe, Fred's at Lakewood Ranch, La Toscana, and Ophelia's. They also hold court at Sarasota’s downtown Saturday Farmer’s Market. 4463-F Ashton Road, Sarasota (941) 870-2729.

Sturgeon is a sought-after delicacy found almost exclusively in the cooler latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Now, thanks to Mote Marine Laboratory’s aquaculture park, which raises 150,000 pounds of this fish annually, Sarasotans can enjoy fresh sturgeon at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Michael’s On East, Rustic Grill and other area restaurants. This is more than just a great fish story; Mote’s pioneering research on water reuse technologies is influencing aquaculture nationwide. Info: (941) 234-3566.

Rosa and Antonio Fiorelli’s 10 acres in Manatee County reminded them of their native Sicily. So they did what comes naturally to wine-loving Italians; they planted grapevines. For 10 years, Rosa Fiorelli Winery has produced wines made from these grapes, including the semi-dry Manatee red and a Florida muscadine blush. Try a wine-tasting tour for a taste of what we’re talking about. Salut! 4020 C.R. 675 E., Bradenton (941) 322-0976.

“If Key lime pie is too green, it’s not the real thing,” declares Jim Renko, owner of Floribbean Flo’s, a gift emporium and “tropical bakery.” He should know. Renko turns out hundreds a week, using “tiny Key limes, which are more acidic and have a stronger lime flavor.” How does it taste? “Tart,” he says. “The sweetness follows.” Renko won’t reveal the recipe except to admit to three basic ingredients—limes, egg yolks and condensed milk. Oh, so sweet. 7644 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 922-2888.

Billy O’Brien and Heinz Clausen of Bean Stalk Market Grill take pleasure in crafting gourmet meals for carry-out and catered events. Their latest creation is a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, which they make from locally grown sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. Dribble this zesty nectar over their homemade lentil burgers and kiss the fatty fast food of the burger chains goodbye. 2324 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota (941) 927-3838.

Peter Burkard sweetens our lives with raw, unfiltered honey from his Sarasota hives. The honey is seasonal; in April it comes from the palmetto, and is mixed with the light and buttery-flavored nectar of acacia and sunflower. Summer brings a honey flavored by cabbage palm and melaleuca. In the fall, his honey has a taste of Brazilian pepper, which is often mixed with the melaleuca for a darker wildflower blend. Make a beeline to Sarasota’s downtown Saturday Farmer’s Market to add some sweet stuff to your life. For more information, call (941) 351-8297.

Our area is home to several organic produce farms, including Jessica’s Organic Farm and Stand and Worden Farm. The latter is a 55-acre certified-organic family farm that grows vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. They bring their seasonal bounty to Sarasota’s Farmer’s Market every Saturday; you can also become a member and pick up weekly supplies. Jessica’s Stand, named after owner Bill Pischer’s daughter, is where you’ll find some of the best area produce two days a week (Friday, noon-7:30 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.). Jessica’s Stand, 4180 47th St., Sarasota (941) 351-4121; Worden Farm, 34900 Bermont Road, Punta Gorda (941) 637-4874.

The rich and decadent chocolate truffle is a mix of chocolate and cream, referred to as ganache in the baking trade. But keep in mind that not all chocolate is the same, says Sarasota’s truffle queen, Kelli Kamm. As owner (and chief chocolatier) of Chocolate Nuts & More, Kamm uses only first-rate Belgian chocolate and then further tantalizes our taste buds with 20 different fillings, including crème brûlée, raspberry, pumpkin, eggnog—and even Key lime. 2114 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota (941) 925-1111.

Our 10 Best lists are not ranked in order of numerical preference.

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