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Chef Judi's Top 3 Meals This Week

Chef Judi reports on her week of good eating.

By Judi Gallagher April 5, 2016

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A loaded pastrami sandwich at Sol's NYC Delicatessen.

This week I faced a  culinary dilemma: How do I choose which restaurant to write about when all three were home runs? The answer: Write about all three!

My tasteful week began with dinner at Drunken Poet on Main Street. If you've not been there since its build-out (it took six months, but was worth the wait), you'll find that the new décor is rustic and conversation-provoking, and the food remains just as good. 

I'm a longtime fan of Drunken Poet's shrimp pad Thai and shrimp curry (served in a pineapple or coconut); my new favorite is the seared pork belly with stir-fried vegetables and white rice. The pork belly is chopped into one-inch pieces and is so crispy, even when tossed with savoy cabbage, carrots and light soy sauce. Texture and flavor are everything in this dish. 

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Great food at Opa! Opa! in Gulf Gate.

While still dreaming of that delicious night, I ventured over to Gulf Gate and stopped in to Opa! Opa!, yet another restaurant I had not visited in quite some time. A sweet family-run business (open for dinner only), I had almost forgotten how delicious the herb-crusted seared lamb chops on housemade tzatziki could be. My new favorite dish, however, is the eggplant layered with saganaki cheese--it's slightly crispy on the outside and tender and oozing with melted cheese inside. Save room for the homemade baklava, which is rolled instead of layered, with cinnamon and honey oozing from the flaky pastry.

And finally, along with hundreds of people who were out to catch some films during Sarasota Film Festival's opening weekend, we ventured into Sol’s NYC Delicatessen. The restaurant was completely packed and our pastrami Reubens and cheese blintzes were incredible. The chopped liver would make my mother smile--totally authentic, with rendered chicken fat, chopped egg and just the right amount of onion. If that weren’t enough, the apple strudel is ridiculously flaky and loaded with chunks of fresh apples. And my award for server of the week goes to Joe, whose never-ending smile and eager-to-please attitude should be bottled and spread around the county.

What a week of good food. The scale at home certainly shows it, but it was worth every bite.

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