Sarasota's 10 Best

By staff April 1, 2007

Nick Bergbauer, an eighth-generation Bavarian baker and owner of Bavarian Bread, satisfies bread devotees (and top food stores and restaurants) with daily offerings of whole-grain artesian breads made from all-natural ingredients and unbleached flours. His Tuscan-style loaves spiked with fresh rosemary are a favorite. Get there early, though; he shuts his doors at noon. 5900 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 926-2692.

What’s more quintessentially French than the baguette? Thanks to C’est la Vie, the Gallic ritual of procuring the daily loaf of bread has made inroads in Sarasota. Three hundred crispy baguettes are baked fresh every morning "by authentic French bakers on authentic French equipment," says chef/owner Chris Coutelle. He urges Francophiles to get there in the morning because "there’s nothing like a fresh baguette to keep you happy for the rest of the day." 1553 Main St., Sarasota (941) 906-9575.

Casa Italias fastest-selling bread is the classic ciabatta, or "slipper" bread, named after its rectangular, slipper-like shape. This hearty, rustic Italian bread with a soft inside and a crunchy crust is perfect for sandwiches or for tearing apart and dipping in olive oil. Originally from India, proprietors Raj and Nita Mathur also offer classic Indian breads, including nan and paratha. 2080 Constitution Blvd., Sarasota (941) 924-1179.

Who can resist the tantalizing aroma of fresh-baked bread? The bakery at Whole Foods seduces with its vast selection of muffins, scones and breads. Choosing one beatific loaf over another is tough. Baker Ross Caputo suggests starting with the seeded Prairie bread, made with flax, sesame, pumpkin, poppy and sunflower seeds—substantial fare to fuel your day. 1451 First St., Sarasota (941) 955-8500.

For something completely different, try Southgate Gourmet’s savory cheddar flat bread, made in-house with artesian cheddar cheeses. With its pie-crust flakiness and creamy, cheesy taste, it serves as the perfect base for one of the house specialties: cave-aged cheddar and chicken, served with an organic fruit and almond spread. "People love this bread," says chef/owner Cliff Whatmore. "One bite produces instant satisfaction." 2157 Siesta Drive, Sarasota (941) 954-2280.

We could call the scrumptious bread at The Table "cheese buns," but their Spanish name is pan de yucca. These addictive mini-biscuits are made with yucca flour and mozzarella cheese and baked in bite-size rounds. Chef Rafael Manzano calls this traditional Columbian staple "bites of heaven." When his customers gobble them down, they do seem to be divinely inspired. 1934 Hillview St., Sarasota (941) 365-4558.

Like bread? The Ritz-Carlton’s Beach Club Grill caters to you with a bread basket laden with a selection of freshly baked exquisite treats you won’t find elsewhere. There are sweet plantain muffins flavored with dark rum and vanilla, and blue corn muffins made with real corn, along with crusty sourdough and poppy-seed rolls. Enjoy them plain—or slathered with Key lime butter seasoned with fresh cilantro. 1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota (941) 309-2000.

There’s bread and then there’s bread pudding—made with croissants. Chef Cris Covelli of Cru Bistro and Wine Bar created his signature croissant and Grand Marnier bread pudding for last year’s Winefest. Fortunately for bread pudding enthusiasts and croissant fans, he’s added it to Cru’s menu. Despite its complicated preparation, it’s a simple, heartwarming end to any great meal. 1377 Main St., Sarasota (941) 951-6272.

Betsy Nelson of Metro Coffee & Wine is so serious about bread she spent weeks choosing the ciabatta used for Metro’s paninis. Although she used to use focaccia for these traditional Italian sandwiches, she switched to ciabatta because it "has such a nice bite to it." Their most popular panini is the Kanega, named after a defunct Sarasota watering hole, featuring buffalo mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil—grilled to perfection. 711 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota (941) 365-1800.

Todd Morton, the general manager at Morton’s Gourmet Market, doesn’t mess around when it comes to breakfast. He skips the bagels and grabs a thick slice of Bavarian multigrain bread. Made with oats, millet, cracked rye, and sunflower and sesame seeds, this hearty, dense loaf is positively crackling with wellbeing. Morton spreads smoked salmon and cream cheese on his, but even alone this bread’s a winner. 1924 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota (941) 955-9856.

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

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