Darwin Gets No Rest
Chef Darwin Santa Maria has had himself a year. Last July, he shuttered the well-reviewed Rosemary District restaurant Darwin’s on 4th, which he co-owned, and then in the fall he announced his departure from Darwin Brewing Co., the Bradenton brewery that grew out of the restaurant.
But Santa Maria didn’t stay inactive for long. This spring he teamed with former JDub’s head brewer Tom Harris to launch the CeviChela Project, which started as a popup concept doing dinners at Cafe in the Park, the charming restaurant located inside Payne Park. The events paired Santa Maria’s seafood-centric South American cuisine with craft beers. Those shindigs in turn led to a new restaurant in the Siesta Key Village, which Santa Maria announced in late April. Details were scarce as of press time, but given the team’s pedigree, we’re confident both the food and beer will be ace.
Although Santa Maria is gone, Darwin Brewing continues to crank out a spectacular selection of beers and host a number of fun-time events.
Taps & Tapas, which takes place on the first Monday of each month, is a particular favorite. A different chef whips up a different menu each month, pairing the dishes with Darwin quaffs. The May party was masterminded by Seafood Shack chef Gerard Jesse, who not only created splendid dishes but also highlighted ingredients from Bradenton’s Geraldson Community Farm, as well as local jams and honey and bakery items from Sugar Cubed. Put the next Taps & Tapas on your calendar. Info: (941) 747-1970
And Sarasota’s Calusa Brewing Co. opened its doors in late April. The opening came a month later than anticipated, but you won’t find me complaining. Its initial offering of beers included a dry-hopped saison, a dry oatmeal stout, a coffee and cinnamon ale, a blonde and two IPAs—one hoppy, one citrusy. The spot is also offering cold-brew coffee made from beans roasted in Venice and hosts a rotating crew of food truck vendors.
The brewery is the region’s first to launch since a flurry of new operations that opened in 2013 and 2014, and its arrival shows that interest in local craft beer isn’t dying down. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Mark Caragiulo’s Veronica Fish & Oyster may be the city’s most-anticipated new eatery. The restaurant, set to open soon, takes over the old Sam Snead’s space on the corner of Hillview Street and South Osprey Avenue. We don’t know much about it, but based on the name and Caragiulo’s involvement in Owen’s Fish Camp, Shore Diner and more, it’s a safe bet the seafood will sing. As should the décor. Caragiulo’s restaurants are dedicated to a single concept, from the recipes and drinks to the glassware and bathroom design. Caragiulo told us in April that the restaurant would open in a matter of weeks. We’re excited.
In the ultra-vague department, we’re hearing that downtown’s popular French bakery and restaurant C’est La Vie! will soon come to east Sarasota. In particular, to a spot near Total Wine in the Cooper Creek shopping center. Our info comes from multiple sources, but management has not returned our calls asking for details. We’ll see.
The Power of the Press
The food news story of the year so far has to be the Tampa Bay Times’ in-depth exposé of bogus farm-to-table hype at Tampa and St. Pete restaurants. One of the restaurants spotlighted was Boca Kitchen Bar Market, a three-location eatery that claims to work with local farmers, ranchers and fishermen. But as Times food critic Laura Reiley found out, Boca’s farm-to-table claims often turned out to be misleading.
Boca is set to open a new location in downtown Sarasota, along Lemon Avenue just south of Main Street. The restaurant’s director of sales and marketing told me in April that they’ll announce specific Sarasota growers and fishermen they’ll be working with. Prompted by Reiley’s excellent reporting, we’ll be double-checking that list.