Sad News at Southgate

By staff April 9, 2007




A fond farewell to Southgate Gourmet.


By Judi Gallagher


Monday morning Cliff Whatmore, owner and chef of Southgate Gourmet, called to tell me that he had decided to close the shop/restaurant to pursue other family interests. What a loss. Friends have already called to commiserate on the loss of this wonderful little neighborhood gourmet shop. In fact, it was at Southgate Gourmet, over several small plates of flavorful salads, cheese plates and side dishes, that we food editors began to brainstorm a major feature for our annual Visitor’s Issue. The issue here is not only the loss of the delicious tastes of Southgate Gourmet, but the real reason behind the closing.


For any of those who want to get on their high horses and claim that the “big chains” overrode the market—dismount now! Far from the truth. Cliff shared the difficulty in finding qualified help that he could trust to run the business for him. Having owned two restaurants and a dessert company myself, I know from where he comes. Finding quality, honest help is a challenge in any business, most often in the restaurant industry. There is not a business that I know that’s immune to the difficulties of staffing, especially with the transient lifestyle in Florida. So, next time you have above and beyond service, notice an associate of a business showing integrity and making your experience even more notable, please take a moment and acknowledge them; and when things don’t go as well as expected, take a deep breath before you confront the management. Chances are that they struggle daily to find a qualified and honest staff. And, quite frankly, if Sarasota and other counties do not begin to deal with the housing issue soon, expect the service industry shortage to continue and expect to be pouring your own coffee!


Take advantage of a great kitchen sale this week. The Chef’s Table on Cooper Creek Boulevard has drastically reduced prices due to the closing of the retail store. Fear not, the Chef’s Table has decided to close the retail portion to expand capacity for private parties and will, of course, continue to offer cooking classes and dinner with the chef.


On a lighter note, the week included both Passover and Easter meals with hints of spring. The matzo balls, I am happy to announce, were fluffy and light, and the chicken soup that they garnished tasted even better with fresh dill snipped from my kitchen window sill. Easter Sunday my neighbor Bobbi brought over her fruit ambrosia. This year’s batch was the best one yet, since she used all fresh fruits like mango, strawberries and grapes.

Pure ambrosia: My neighbor Bobbi with her fresh fruit salad.


Do you have a favorite springtime salad or side dish? Please share it with us by posting below. And I love getting e-mail from readers; you can e-mail me at [email protected].
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