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Archive | Summer 2014

IN THE GARDEN: BRING ON THE HEAT

Garden to Kitchen

hotPepperVin

WORDS & RECIPES BY ELIZABETH SNIEGOCKI
PHOTOS BY KATHRYN BRASS-PIPER

The words Florida, summer, and gardening should barely stand together in one sentence.…

June always starts out hopeful. I survey my hot-weather crops: the tomatoes and peppers are starting to fruit, herbs and collards grow lush, and the beans are still in the first act. Pumpkin, sweet potato, and watermelon vines are starting to creep and spread. And bright-colored zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers stand tall.

But it’s getting hot—and garden time is now restricted to early mornings and late evenings.

Then comes July, and it’s SO hot. It’s SO humid. It’s SO buggy. By mid-month, I run out into the blazing sun just long enough to harvest colanders full of tomatoes, hot peppers, and beans. I hastily clip wildly growing flowers for the table.

Come August, my dashes into the garden find me irritably tossing spent, bug-eaten plants onto the compost heap in defeat. It is then that I retreat to the cool confines of my kitchen to make the most of what’s left, and dream of leafy-green fall plantings.

Here are a couple of my summertime garden- to-kitchen staples—something to beat the heat, and something to bottle it—as well as a favorite recipe from my friend Lisa Fulk at the Bradenton-based Sunshine Canning.

RECIPES

Hot Pepper Vinegar

Dilly Beans

Garden Fresh Gazpacho

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REINVENTING THE REEL

Maggie’s Seafood

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Gary Balch, owner, setting up at the Downtown Sarasota Farmers’ Market

WORDS BY ABBY WEINGARTEN
PHOTOS BY CAT PENNENGA

An early morning haul after an evening of spear fishing in the Gulf yields the freshest possible catches.

Local entrepreneurs Maggie and Capt. Gary Balch have known this for nearly two decades. Maggie’s Seafood was built on the concept.

The Balches pick through what the fishermen bring into John’s Pass and act as direct purveyors of the high-quality wild-caught products. They peddle everything from individual fish to preparations such as salmon patties, bisques, chowders, and spreads prepared by chef Doug Vogel.

Devoted patrons know how coveted Maggie’s inventory is, so they will call 24 hours ahead (or earlier) to reserve their iced seafood before the following day’s market sale. Maggie’s sets up each week at four different farmers’ markets (Saturdays at the Sarasota Farmers’ Market and the Venice Farmers’ Market, Wednesdays at Phillippi Farmhouse Market, and Thursdays at Englewood Farmers’ Market), depending on the season.

“I’m up at 2:30 a.m. every Saturday morning, loading the trucks for the Sarasota and Venice farmers’ markets,” Gary Balch says. “We load everything on a forklift. From 3:30 to 4 a.m., we’re at the Sarasota market, and Chef Doug is heating up the chowders he made the day. During peak season, I’ll bring 400 to 600 pounds of fish, shrimp, lobsters, and more. The Venice market has about a third of that. We try to bring about 20 different varieties of fish to showcase.”

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Right Top: Filleting Snowy brown grouper for the market; Right Bottom: Tools of the trade

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Clockwise: Key West pink shrimp on ice; Eve Johnston, Maggie Balch, and Gary Balch posing outside their
office in Venice; Chef Doug’s grouper BLT

All of the company’s fish is inspected, cleaned and, packaged in a state-certified commissary. The Balches either catch the fish themselves, have local boats do the catching, or ship it in from a couple of select seafood wholesalers. Maggie’s knows the history of each fish it distributes, including the time and place where it was caught, and whose hands it touched. The majority of the seafood comes from around John’s Pass, but also Tarpon Springs, and much of the shrimp is sourced from Alabama and Louisiana.

“We buy strictly quality seafood, and we’re doing our best to support the families of the fishermen who live locally. I try to buy close to home. It’s beneficial for everyone who lives here,” Gary Balch says. “It’s so important in the current industry to know exactly where you’re fish is coming from and who caught it. We’ll never risk our customer’s health by selling seafood that can be traced to closed fishing areas.”

Maggie’s does 100 percent of its retail sales in farmers’ markets, and some of the most popular products include the shrimp, grouper, salmon, and snapper.

“We almost always sell out of what we bring to the markets. I don’t want to go back with 100 pounds of fish. One of the reasons we do as well as we do is because everything we get is caught, cleaned, and sold within about a 48-hour period,” Gary Balch says. “Sometimes we’re out of fish at quarter after 10. Every once in a while, you get a rain day and you’re stuck with stuff. Anything that comes back to the shop goes into the smoked fish spread; it all gets used in a creative way.”

That is because of Vogel. He is the kind of chef who can take leftovers and overstock and turn it into a gourmet feast. He brings one-of-a-kind, refreshing dishes to the Sarasota Farmers’ Market every weekend, and he is constantly researching trends to help invigorate his repertoire.

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Chef Doug at the Dontown Sarasota Farmers’ Market

Vogel grew up in northeastern New York and relocated to Florida in 2000. He cultivated his cooking skills at the old Alley Cat Café in Sarasota before moving onto the Helmsley Sandcastle hotel, Mattison’s, and Canvas Café. In 2009, he became a chef instructor for Aprons Cooking School at Publix, which is something he continues to enjoy when he is not crafting recipes for Maggie’s.

“I love being a part of Maggie’s and the farmers’ market, because I’m a huge proponent of local fishing and using local seafood. I also like fish from other regions of the world, as long as the seafood is cost-effective and fished properly,” Vogel says. “You have to know what you’re buying. I wouldn’t pay $28 a pound for Pacific halibut when I could have wonderful $15 local cobia.”

The Maggie’s staff is consistently reminding its Southwest Florida clients that the waterfront landscape in which they live deserves to be exalted—from the creatures in the sea to those who responsibly fish them. By doing things the old-fashioned way, Maggie’s continues to remain ahead of the seafood-purveying curve.

Maggie’s Seafood: Sarasota Farmers’ Market, Venice Farmers’ Market, Englewood Farmers’ Market, and Phillippi Farmhouse Market; maggiesseafood.com

RECIPE

Chef Doug’s Fish Taco’s

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FARMERS’ MARKETS SUMMER 2014

Your Guide to Community Farmers’ Markets

To plant a garden is to
believe in tomorrow.
—Audrey Hepburn

BRADENTON

Bradenton Farmers’ Market
Old Main St (12th St W)
Saturday 9am–2pm
October–May
bradentonfarmersmarket.com

Bridge Street Market
Historic Bridge St
Sunday 10am–3pm
November–April
bridgestreetmerchants.com

ELLENTON

Ellenton Farmers’ Market
6750 US 301(Rocky Bluff Library)
Saturday 9am–2pm
Year Round

ENGLEWOOD

Englewood Farmers’ Market
Historic Dearborn St
Thursday 9am–2pm
October–May
englewoodfarmersmarket.org

NORTH PORT

North Port Farmers’/Craft Market
14942 Tamiami Tr
Saturday 8am–2pm
Year Round
northportfarmerscraftmarket.com

PUNTA GORDA

Punta Gorda
Farmers’ Market
Taylor St
Saturday 8am–1pm
Year Round

SARASOTA

Central Sarasota Farmers’ Market
4748 S Beneva Rd
Saturday 8am- 1pm
Year Round
centralsarasotafarmersmarket.com

Old Miakka Farmers’ Market
Old Miakka United
Methodist Church
1620 Myakka Rd, Sarasota
Saturday 10am–2pm
Year Round

Phillippi Farmhouse Market
Phillippi Estate Park
Wednesday 9am–2pm
October–April
farmhousemarket.org

Sarasota Farmers’ Market
Main St & Lemon Ave
Saturday 7am–1pm
Year Round
sarasotafarmersmarket.org

Siesta Key Farmers’ Market
5124 Ocean Blvd
Sunday 8am–2pm
Year Round
siestafarmersmarket.com

VENICE

Venice Farmers’ Market
Nokomis & Tampa Ave.
Saturday 8am–12pm
Year Round
thevenicefarmersmarket.com

*Farmers’ Market hours vary from season-to-season. Check market websites for more information

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SEASONAL KITCHEN: SUMMER 2014

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Placemats courtesy of Chilewich® | chilewich.com

WHAT’S IN SEASON

July – September

Avocados
Bananas
Barbados Cherry
Basil
Coconut
Eggplant
Guavas
Hot Peppers
Limes
Longans
Lychees
Malabar Spinach
Mangos
Muscadine Grapes
Okra
Passion Fruit
Peanut
Pineapple
Seminole Pumpkin
Southern Peas
Star Fruit (Carambola)
Sugar Apples and other
Anonas
Surinam Cherry
Yard-Long Beans

RECIPE

Pineapple-Shrimp Cocktail

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EDIBLE JACKPOT: LIVIN’ THE DREAM

Blue Marlin

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Eric Jones preparing the Cortez boil.

WORDS BY KATE WIGHT
PHOTOS BY JENNY ACHESON

Long before the Blue Marlin was a restaurant, it was a dream. Every weekend, Adam and Marianne Ellis hosted casual gatherings in their home revolving around food, family, and friendship.

Adam (who has spent 20 years in the restaurant industry working at prestigious local restaurants the Beach Bistro and Sign of the Mermaid) would prepare fresh seafood caught by his fishermen friends. Then he would join in as everyone whiled away the evenings talking and laughing and playing music.

And, as every weekend wound down, Adam and Marianne would look at each other and say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could open a restaurant and have it be just like this?”

Then, in 2011, an opportunity came up that they couldn’t ignore. Marianne’s family had owned a building on historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach for years. They had rented it out to an eclectic assortment of tenants including a tattoo parlor, a welding shop, and a hair salon. Suddenly, the historic 1920s cottage was available and Adam and Marianne hoped that, with some serious work, they could make their restaurant dream a reality.

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Blue Marlin a hidden gem in Bradenton Beach

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Clockwise: Rusty Moore of the Blue Echo Bluegrass, one of the many artist that perform at the restaurant;
Georgia peach & tomato salad; Owner and Chef Adam Ellis hanging out.

The couple tackled the task of refinishing the cottage sustainably. They retained the original wooden floors and wainscoting, and built tables and benches from recycled dock wood as well as out of the very walls they took down to open up the dining area. The brilliant blue walls that remain hold artwork for sale by local artists, and decorative nautical touches like sailing flags, antiques, and black-and-white photos of their fishermen friends and family are everywhere you turn. The effect is a space that is airy and chic but as comfortable as stepping into someone’s living room.

Family and friends are a key ingredient in this restaurant’s success. Adam’s sister works at the restaurant, and Marianne’s nephew Morgan Greig buses tables part-time and plays music out back in The Trap Yard on the weekends with family friends like Trevor Bystrom. In fact, Morgan and Trevor have recorded an album together and the Blue Marlin will host their CD release party in July.

The owners’ teenaged son also ferries diners from the restaurant to farther-away parking areas in a courtesy golf cart. His name is Marlin, by the way, and the restaurant’s moniker is largely a tribute to him.

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The Blue Marlin tiki bar is a great way to spend an evening;

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Adam serving his grandma’s sweet cornbread to patrons.

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Front of the house, Max Burke-Phillips

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Local art fills the walls

Even non-related employees are considered part of the family, and it shows: They’re professional and well-trained, but also warm, friendly and personable.

Three years in, Adam continues to support his local fishing buddies. He buys fresh fish daily from the local Cortez fishing fleet and pairs his super-fresh seafood with seasonally appropriate produce. Because he works with such high-quality ingredients he prepares them simply to really let the flavors shine through. Adam’s shrimp and grits is incredibly popular for good reason: He makes, quite simply, the best grits I’ve ever had (and I am from the South, so I have had all of the grits). I also tried a pecan-crusted grouper from the specials menu and I don’t think I’ve ever had a more perfectly cooked piece of fish.

Since it opened, the Blue Marlin has continued to build an increasingly devoted following. This is due not just to the impeccably prepared food but to the welcoming atmosphere this family has created. Even if you’re a stranger when you walk into the Blue Marlin, you’ll be treated like a friend. After all, you’re living the dream right along with them.

Blue Marlin:
121 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach;
941-896-9737;
bluemarlinami.com

RECIPES

Cortez Boil

Grandma’s Sweet Cornbread

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WORTH THE TRIP: HIP HOPS

Local Breweries Hit the Big Time

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Jeremy Joerger- Founder/ CEO JDubs.

WORDS BY MEGAN GREENBERG
PHOTOS BY KATHRYN BRASS-PIPER

Remember when the term “beer drinker” conjured images of Homer Simpson—or whatever his human version might be?

Beer. That’s all it was. When people spoke about beer they simply just said “beer,” as though that singular term could adequately describe an entire genre of beverage. If you wanted to talk about flavor profiles and aging processes, you bought a bottle of cabernet and discussed its vintage at your friend’s cheese party. Now, however, wine is on the decline as those with the nose for aromatics and a penchant for pleasing their palates all have bellied up to the bar for a nice cold brew.

And wouldn’t ya just know it, turns out our little town is churning out the good stuff. Lucky for us, it’s by the barrel.

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AT THE BREWERY
Clockwise: Beer flight at Darwin’s Brew House; Pouring a pint at Big Top; Mike Bisha / CEO and Josh
Wilson / COO and Brewmaster showing American pride at Big Top Brewing Company; Vintage brewey
signage at Motorworks Brewing; Motorworks Cascade IPA; Hops and barley; Brewer Chris Lexow
tasting a new batch at JDubs; Circus City IPA at Big Top.

JDubs Brewing Company

“Life’s too short to not enjoy beer,” says Tom Harris, head brewer at JDubs over a smoked porter that tastes like everything that is right in this world. His T-shirt-worthy sentiment doesn’t quite define the depth of his passion or his ability to not just enjoy beer but to make downright enjoyable beer for their patrons.

“The three cornerstones of our philosophy,” he says after I prompt this kind and reserved man with a series of questions about what made JDubs an overnight success, “is quality, innovation and culture. We never skimp on making creative beers that will help put Florida breweries on the map.”

And creative they’ve got cornered. New tastes and techniques are always in rotation as Tom and the owner, Jeremy, work to create the city’s most flavorful brews.

There’s a great vibe at JDubs as folks sit sipping the flagship Uptop IPA, eyeballing the dog-friendly brew garden outside, replete with cornhole and Connect Four games, while scents of cheesy, hearty goodness waft in from the food truck parked right outside.

JDubs Brewing Company:
1215 Mango Ave, Sarasota;
941-955-2739;
jdubsbrewing.com

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Big Top Brewing Company

This charming brewery is tucked away east of town, and it boasts a load of local flare. Four local gents came together to build (literally: If you can see it, they built it) a brewery that Sarasota can be proud of with hints of history peeking out from local Ringling College art or the 70-year-old railway ties they’ve made into tables.

You true craft lovers would be impressed with Big Top’s approach to traditional IPAs and lagers, while the rest of us can get excited about the research and development barrels they keep trying out or the—get this—Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Porter or Jalapeño Honey Pale Ale, both of which were dee.lish.ous. Check ’em out on weekends for live music and food trucks and a flight of cold ones.

Big Top Brewing Company:
6111 B Porter Way, Sarasota;
800-590-2448;
bigtopbrewing.com

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Signage at JDubs

Motorworks Brewing

“You had me at Watermelon Kolsh,” I mumble out to Motorworks’ production manager Dave Byrn, while trying not to full-on gulp down what might be the most refreshing beverage I’ve had in years, as he tells me about their unique approach to brewing—which includes everything from on-premises-roasted coffees to the berries infused into the brews.

This place is deceptive. At first glance it appears to be a cool place to try out a bunch of beers and an open bar, but a chat with Dave and Denise, who owns Motorworks along with her husband, made it quite clear that this place has chops. The brewers bring a ton of experience to the table while also honoring new methods of going green, sourcing locally, and trying new techniques. The building is all at once modern, with new finishes and shiny mirrors, and also decidedly historical, as the structure has been standing since 1923 and used to be the home of a Hudson car dealership— hence the name Motorworks.

This spot is definitely worth the trip. Grab a Scottish Ale and kick your feet up in their brew garden, the largest one in the state.

Mororworks Brewing:
1014 9th St W, Bradenton;
941-567-6218;
motorworksbrewing.com

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Brewmaster Jorge Rosabal and owner Darwin Santa Maria
standing in front of mural painted by a local artist.

Darwin’s Brew House

Darwin has been rockin’ my socks for years, catering to our town’s culinary needs for quite some time. So, when he said he was opening up a brewery, the community was hopeful and excited to see what this master flavor maker could turn out.

Umm, he turned out Ayawaska, a Belgian dubbel that tastes of caramel, toffee and bubble gum. Say what, right? Also say, “Pour me another,” because you are definitely going to want a refill. Several interesting concoctions line the back wall at Darwin’s Brew House, boasting notes of Peruvian influence, like Amazonian peppers or plantains or cloves. The light, airy atmosphere lends itself to a lovely afternoon hangout and beer names like Chapo and Charapa put a smile on your face.

Darwin has been focusing on beer pairings at his Sarasota restaurant, carefully selecting flavors for dinner matchings that will make you swoon. Darwin earned a name in this town many moons ago as a culinary whiz kid and it looks like this heavyweight wants to keep his title.

Darwin’s Brew House:
803 17th Ave W, Bradenton;
941-747-1970;
darwinbrewingco.com

Little Giant Brewery

If you asked for Little Giant’s take on the subject, it would try and tell you that it’s a “fledgling brewery in the beer frontier of Southwest Florida,” but a sip or two of its lovely brews would let ya know there ain’t nothin’ fledgling about this craft brewery. In fact, just a couple of months ago, Little Giant poured at The Lucky Dog Beer Festival, where a patron declared, “It tastes like I’m skipping through a field of flowers on a mountaintop with my best friend.” So, yeah, that’s that.

The Brewery itself has been under construction and plans on opening its doors any day now, allowing beer lovers and newbies alike to imbibe a selection of Little Giant’s brews, like its traditional Dusseldorf-style Alt Bier and its Dry Stout. Folks can set up shop in the tasting room or even bring their loyal pups to hang out in the onsite dog park. “All beasts are welcome,” Little Giant says, “except pythons and rabid hyenas.” Forego your hyenas folks, and swing on by for a round or two of Billabock Maibock or Overlord Black IPA.

Little Giant Brewery:
301 7th St W, Bradenton;
941-962-6650;
littlegiantbrewery.blogspot.com

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Shamrock Chef Jam Series

The Summer Chef Jam Series has returned for its fifth season, showcasing some big names like the superb stylings of Chef Stephen Phelps, whom you, of course, know as the brains and the taste buds behind Indigenous. The new restaurant on the block, Louie’s Modern, will also be … Read More

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EDIBLE TRAVELS: FARMERS MARKET FINDS SUMMER 2014

WORDS BY KATE WIGHT
PHOTOS BY JENNY ACHESON

MAZZONE OLIVE OIL

travelsMazzone

If you think all olive oils were created equal, think again. When you visit Mazzone Olive Oil at the Downtown Farmers’ Market for a sample you’ll taste the difference. For generations, the Mazzone family in Puglia, Italy, has gently harvested and cold-pressed Coratina olives to create an oil that’s smooth, flavorful, and distinctively low in acidity. Their infused oils are a revelation: fresh fruit or herbs are combined with olives during pressing to create a true fusion of flavors. Give Mazzone Olive Oil a try and you’ll never think the same way about olive oil again. paneolio.net

BROOKLYN KNISH

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Bonnie Wachtler knows a good knish. Perhaps just as importantly, so does her husband. Early in their relationship Bonnie found out her future husband was a knish devotee and began making them for him using her grandmother’s recipe. He’s continued to enjoy them every day since. He was the one, eight years ago, who suggested she try selling her hearty, portable pastries at farmers’ markets. In her first outing, she had sold 500 by noon. Now Bonnie has her own knishery in Clearwater, where she makes knishes daily for farmers’ markets all over the area. While she has many devoted fans, her husband is still her best customer. brooklynknish.com

SARASOTA SUDS

travelsSuds

When you get dressed to go to the farmers’ market to pick up your local organic produce, you may be wearing the very same chemicals you’re trying to avoid eating. Laundry detergent is the most toxic of the commonly used household products but Sarasota Suds has a simple solution: soap nuts. These Nepalese berries are covered in a natural surfactant called saponin and have served as a natural detergent for centuries. When you use the whole berries or the specially formulated all-natural detergent from Sarasota Suds, you’ll experience laundry that is truly clean. sarasotasuds.com

THE PURPLE BELLE
ICE CREAM TRUCK

travelsPurpleBelle

What if you didn’t have to chase the ice cream truck? What if it came to you instead? Just call Kathy Connett and she’ll come rolling up in The Purple Belle Ice Cream Truck to your wedding, corporate event, or even your neighborhood farmers’ market. You won’t find prepackaged popsicles on her truck: instead she uses luscious Big Olaf ’s ice cream for her hand-scooped ice cream and old-fashioned milkshakes and dairy sourced from St. Pete for her indulgent, custardy soft-serve. thepurplecowicecreamtruck.com

POP CRAFT POPS

travelsPop

The first day Donna Tortorice sold her handcrafted artisanal popsicles from a push cart at a farmers’ market, all she really hoped for was some good feedback. Instead she sold 500 popsicles and exploded onto the local food scene. Now you can find innovative Pop Craft flavors like Blueberry Lemon Basil and Caramel Sea Salt in their storefront on Bee Ridge as well as markets and restaurants all over Florida. No matter how much they grow though, Pop Craft always focuses on using freshest and ripest fruits and the best-quality ingredients. popcraftpops.com

SHARPER THAN NEW

travelsSharper

Krystina Muller is resourceful. She began sharpening knives, scissors, gardening shears, and other blades at the Downtown Farmers’ Market in 2008, before upcycling and repurposing were all the rage. When the economic downturn left her without employment, she turned her hobby into a full-time job. Now, though Sharper Than New carries retail items like high-end cutlery, Muller still practices her craft the old-fashioned way. When she saves your favorite shears or chef ’s knife from the landfill, she does it by hand—no electric sharpeners here. sharperthannew.net

GREENLEAF CHEESE

travelsGreenleaf

Karl Nelson grew up in Wisconsin, where his family could stroll right into a factory and purchase locally made cheese. It was his dream to bring the flavors of his childhood to Sarasota. He opened a cheese shop in Sarasota in 2007, but once he began selling carefully curated Wisconsin cheeses from small family farms at the Downtown Farmers’ Market his business really took off. Now he is a distributor of premiere boutique Wisconsin cheese throughout South Florida. Greenleaf Cheese is a growing small business supporting many other small businesses. It doesn’t get much better than that. facebook.com/pages/Greenleaf-Cheese

CHEESE CAKE ME

travelsCheesecake

Lisa Glenn’s business is really sweet, and not just in the ways you might think. Cheesecake Me shares 10 percent of its proceeds from farmers markets and their online store with local schools, and fund-raises for nonprofit groups like Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue. They even use environmentally friendly packaging to ship their tasty baked goods like their Chocolate Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars and their classic New York Style Cheesecake (often topped with local seasonal fruit) all over the country. cheesecakeme.com

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BACK OF THE HOUSE: KEEPING IT SIMPLE

Piccolo Italian Market and Deli

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Antonio DiRende making his homemade sausage.

WORDS BY RANDI DONAHUE
PHOTOS BY CHAD SPENCER

Antonio DiRende learned how to stuff sausage and dry cure meats as a boy alongside his parents in their Brooklyn basement. Today his preservative and filler-free sausage is sold in his own Italian market, Piccolo, and the native Italian with a New York accent is on a mission to preserve the authenticity of his homeland’s cuisine.

“Because of a lack of the proper ingredients, a lot of Italians who immigrated to the U.S. just made something up,” he says. “That, to them, became Italian.”

Take, for example, a popular American pizza topping, pepperoni: “It does not exist in Italy,” says DiRende. “If you go to a pizzeria and ask for pepperoni on your pizza, they are gonna put cut-up bell peppers on there.”

Or Chicken Parmigiano: “It was made up here. They threw cheese on it and said ‘oh, it’s Italian.’”

DiRende maintains that true Italian cooking is simple, but the right ingredients are key—and, more importantly, keep them light.

“If you go to Italy, in any restaurant or home, none of the food is gonna be saturated or drenched with sauce, oil or cheese,” he says.

Born in San Lucido, Italy, DiRende spent the first part of his childhood on his family’s farm. When he was 7, they moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Italian ingredients were easy to come by. DiRende grew up in the New York food industry, working for his aunts and uncles. When he was 23, he opened a pizzeria, but the demanding hours of being a restaurant owner caused him to step back and make a career change into electronics.

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In 2000, DiRende took a work transfer and moved with his wife, Josephine, and the first of three children—Marco, 15; Alessia, 13; and Gianpaolo, 10—to Sarasota.

Although Sarasota reminded DiRende of his Italian hometown, the move caused him a bit of a culture shock because it was next to impossible to find the ingredients his family was used to picking up around the corner in New York.

So in 2006, when DiRende once again felt the pull of the food industry, he seized the opportunity to purchase a struggling Piccolo, located in Buccaneer Plaza. Two moves later the market’s name, which means “small” in Italian, is no longer a proper descriptor for the Gulf Gate business, having grown from 800 square feet at its first location to 3,300 square feet in its current home.

With DiRende estimating that about 75 percent of his customers are Italian, Piccolo now meets the needs of a lot of Italian home cooks, and some restaurants, in the area.

“Many of these products are considered gourmet,” he says. “But for us Italians they’re not gourmet, they’re everyday food items.”

Piccolo’s market shelves are stocked with true Italian ingredients like chestnut flour and non-enriched pastas. DiRende says non-enriched pasta has a different texture, taste, is easier to digest, and has way more protein than its enriched counterpart.

“Flavors and textures are important,” he says. “The right ingredients give the food the flavor that it’s supposed to have,” he says. “When you try to substitute it’ll be close … but not the same.”

The deli serves freshly made, authentic cuisine like signature sandwiches, stuffed peppers, and pizza. Cases are filled with imported meats, cheeses, and olives, as well as fresh mozzarella, antipastos, and hot giardiniera. Piccolo also makes its own cannoli (in season, they make about 30 to 40 pounds of cannoli cream a week).

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AT THE DELI
Clockwise: “The Italian” one of Piccolo’s signature sandwiches; Alessio Bellante, slicing prosciutto
in the deli; The DiRende’s son Gianpaolo setting up for lunch; Sicilian olive oil, one of
the many Italian products sold at the market; A variety of olives ready for purchase;
Antonio’s mother-in-law, Rosario helping in the kitchen; Sprinkling sugar on fresh sfogliatelle

But the market’s authenticity doesn’t end with what it serves and sells. DiRende wanted his customers to feel like they were in Italy. His entire team is Italian.

“If you want it to be an Italian place, you need people who speak Italian,” he says. “If you have non-Italians, you lose some of the authenticity of the product and the environment.” Wife Josephine, who was born in Cosenza, Italy, is at the front-of-the-house, advising customers on what to purchase. DiRende’s mother-in-law, Rosaria Gerbasi, is a mainstay in the kitchen, cooking and helping to fill orders. Aunt Maria’s specialties are the bruschetta and many of the vibrant antipasto platters. Alestro has been with Piccolo for eight years; Antonio just moved to Sarasota from Italy; and Anthony’s dad owned a deli right around the corner.

DiRende says a large part of his own cooking knowledge was picked up from his brother-in-law, who attended culinary school in Southern Italy. But his heaviest influence, and his motivation for Piccolo, is rooted in his upbringing.

“We try to keep it authentic as possible, the way we were brought up, and hopefully it doesn’t get lost along the way.”

Piccolo Italian Market & Deli:
6518 Gateway Ave, Sarasota;
941-923-2202;
piccolomarket.com

RECIPE

Piccolo’s Stuffed Bell Peppers

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The Piccolo family

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WHAT’S SPROUTING: CENTRAL SARASOTA FARMERS’ MARKET

whatsSproutCentral

WORDS BY VANESSA CACERES
PHOTOS BY DANIEL PERALES

The Central Sarasota Farmer’s Market may still be growing, but that won’t stop you from having a culinary adventure to stimulate all of your senses.

Stop over at Brown’s Grove or Greens on the Gro for colorful in-season produce. Order from the Baja Boys Mexican Surf Grill food truck to see what new recipe owner Michelle Jett is trying out—maybe you’ll sample some of her yummy zucchini guacamole.

Enjoy a chocolate bourbon pie pop from Cheesecake Me. Smell the fragrant handmade soaps and candles at Blissful Essence. While you peruse the market, listen to the folksy sounds of guitar player James Hawkins.

The Central Sarasota Farmer’s Market, which started in January, is held year-round in the parking lot of Sarasota County Technical Institute. Its goal is to attract nearby residents with a convenient venue where they can buy local food.

“We saw a need for another market in town,” says Tim Brown, owner of the Sarasota-based Brown’s Grove. Brown worked with Mary Arndt of Blissful Essence and Todd Underhill of the Florida West Coast Resource and Conservation Council to form a nonprofit organization and get the market off the ground.

The market attracts about 20 vendors each week and plans to continue growing slowly, says Brown. Some of the other vendors include Perry’s Original Roadside Barbecue, the crepe-focused Mobile Bistro, the Purple Belle Ice Cream food truck, and Sun Crazy Gardens. Once a month, the market lets craft vendors display at the market as well, says Arndt.

“People coming here are very receptive to try new things,” says Bonnie Wachtler of Brooklyn Knish, noting that a spicy jalapeño cheddar knish is one of her popular savory options.

Market organizers have a special interest in supporting local Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters— both Brown and Underhill were members when they were growing up. So far, some funds from vendor rental at the market have gone toward sending 10 young FFA members to the state FFA convention and toward purchasing swine for Riverview High School members to use at the Sarasota County Fair.

The market is also planning a quarterly Market Ag Education Day. Their first event featured speakers on urban chicken production and the benefits of grass-fed beef.

Community response to the market has been positive, says Arndt.

“People come over on their bikes or walk over,” she says. “We’re letting the market take on its own personality.” Market vendors are supporting each other as well.

For instance, Jett of Baja Boys will get a case of tomatoes from Brown’s Grove to make her fresh salsa.

While market organizers want people to visit the Central Sarasota market, they hope this newest addition to the Bradenton/Sarasota farmers’ market scene will spark a greater general interest in supporting local growers and vendors, says Underhill.

Central Sarasota Farmer’s Market:
4748 S Beneva Rd, Sarasota;
centralsarasotafarmersmarket.com

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SMALL BITES SUMMER 2014

LEAH’S LEMONADE

smallBteLeah

WORDS BY VANESSA CACERES
PHOTO BY JENNY ACHESON

What could be more refreshing than a cup of freshly made lemonade while enjoying your local farmers’ market visit?

That’s just what you can get if you visit Leah’s Lemonade at any of five local farmers’ markets. You’ll also support the fight against hunger and help a family’s entrepreneurial spirit to continue to blossom.

The idea behind Leah’s Lemonade began after a major earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010. Leah Cole, now a sixth grader at Providence Community School in Bradenton, wanted to find a way to help those whose lives were upturned.

“She wanted to have a lemonade stand to raise money for them,” says dad Glenn Cole.

With Cole’s background in marketing and business development, he was ready to help his daughter turn her dream into reality. The family found an old tiki bar at a thrift store in Palmetto, and Leah said that’s what she wanted to use. They transformed the tiki bar into a more traditional lemonade stand. After the family researched the best options to set up a lemonade stand, they debuted at the Bradenton Farmers’ Market in 2011. Since then, the Cole family—including mom Tina and big sister Hannah, who’s a high school freshman—have expanded their lemonade business to the Phillippi Farmhouse Market, Venice Farmers’ Market, Englewood Farmers’ Market, and, more recently, the Sarasota Farmers’ Market.

With Leah’s Lemonade doing so well, the family has been able to start following a business model that allows 10% of each sale to go toward organizations that fight hunger.

One reason Leah’s Lemonade has been able to expand is because of its popular signature recipe, which focuses on natural, locally sourced ingredients, says Cole. “We want our lemonade to be wholesome and as organic and natural as possible,” he says. They use Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water, which comes from within the state. The family obtains its lemons from Joshua Citrus in Arcadia; they also use organic lemons when they can find them.

They add fresh ginger and a special blend of organic, raw, and natural sugars to their lemonade.

In addition to the lemonade, Leah’s Lemonade sells smoothies in flavors like lemonade, strawberry, and mango-pineapple. They buy as much produce for the smoothies as they can from the markets where they work.

With Leah’s Lemonade in such high demand now, the family will pair off to work at markets that are held simultaneously, says Cole. They also have worked with another family to help operate their stands.

Although it can be challenging to wake up at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning to get ready for some of the markets, Glenn and Tina Cole love seeing their daughters’ business sense blossom while also serving customers.

“When someone comes and says they’ve been thinking about our lemonade all week, that makes it worth it,” he says.

Leah’s Lemonade:
leahslemonade.com

RENATA’S FACE & BODY SKIN CARE

smallBiteRenata

WORDS BY MEGAN GREENBERG
PHOTO BY CAT PENNENGA

Hmm, how can I explain just how ridiculously unbelievably fantastic Renata Swain’s Let It Glow body lotion is without sounding like I’m about to act out the Silence of the Lambs “It rubs the lotion on its skin” scene?

Let me try straightforward fact: Let It Glow is the best lotion you will ever put on your body.

But allow me to add: Hands down. Period end. Game over.

I know this because I had the great fortune of being introduced to Renata for all my skincare needs several years ago. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, I’ve trusted Renata to be my skin savior in every condition, from waxing my brows to performing post-season peels to spraying me down with the best brown sugar tan around.

Thus, it was a total no-brainer for me to take her word when it came to moisturizing. For those who know Renata, you already know that the woman’s skin glows as though she ate a string of Christmas lights. So, when she told me she owes it all to her own creamy concoction, I bought her out of stock and promptly went home and bathed in the stuff. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

After years of slathering myself with rich creams, perfumed gels, fragrant oils, and body butters, I can assure you that no lotion has ever come close to whatever sorcery Renata has swirled together.

Let It Glow came about 18 years ago when Renata got pregnant with her son. Prone to stretch marks, she couldn’t find a lotion with a scent that didn’t offend her. So she made her own. She started with a creamy lotion-oil blend with a sweet almond-scented finish. She kept at it until she created a potion so powerful that every one of her girlfriends started to request whatever it was that made Renata glow and used it not only on themselves, but also on their babies, since the lotion is nothing but pure organic—and even edible—ingredients.

It then took off, prompting moms around the globe to contact Renata to get their hands on the good stuff. Word soon spread and non-moms, too, couldn’t get enough. Sensitive to stretch marks to tough as nails, if you have skin, you need this stuff.

It works like this: First things first, Renata makes sure she is in a good mood before she even considers whipping up a batch. “The healthier I am, the healthier the batch. I want to make sure I transfer nothing but positive energy into the lotion” she tells me.

And hey, I’ve seen the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro: If Renata wants to tap into her Brazilian roots and spread a little cosmic cheer through an absorbable lotion, I’m totally game. It seems to be working.

Next she mixes several natural oils, from coconut and almond to olive and avocado, into an organic aloe base with vitamin E and emulsifiers. She also adds a couple secret ingredients, which I’m pretty sure is just a special blend of unicorn fur and fairy dust, until she reaches a harmonious balance between luxuriously rich and smooth and spreadable.

I could have stopped at the third sentence, considering no explanation of process or inspiration will better encapsulate what I said there. To recap: This lotion is the best. lotion. in. the. world. So, try it out.

Renata’s Face & Body Skin Care:
4067 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota;
941-586-6325;
facebook.com/pages/Renatas-Face-Body-Skin-Care

 

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT SUMMER 2014

foodThotWin14I think we should have dubbed this issue of Edible Sarasota “the Seafood Issue.” Summer is the perfect season to focus on the waterfront world in which we live. I am very excited to introduce you to some of the fishermen and chefs in our community who are working together to change the sustainable food landscape using the power of connections, education, and responsible buying.

This takes me back to a few months ago. I received a phone call from Chef Stephen Phelps from Indigenous restaurant in Sarasota. Stephen asked me if I knew what Trash Fish was. I really wanted to say “yes,” but it would have been just too embarrassing if he asked me to explain. He went on to explain that Chefs Collaborative (an organization devoted to fixing our broken food system by engaging chefs to change how they source food) was hosting Trash Fish dinners in a few spots around the country. Trash Fish are the undervalued and underutilized species of fish that historically have been left off restaurant menus.

Together we reached out to Chefs Collaborative and they accepted our proposal to host a dinner in Sarasota. We have a hot lineup of chefs working with local fishermen and farmers to present what is sure to be a night to remember. There have been just a handful of these dinners across the country, so I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to be hosting one in Sarasota. We hope that you will join us on July 21 for an evening of the best seafood you’ve never tried!

Our beautifully illustrated, “Catch of the Day” piece explores 14 species of fish that can be found in our Gulf waters. Inspired by her lifelong love of fishing, we are thrilled to share the work of local artist/illustrator Diane Rome Peebles in this issue. Not sure what’s the difference between a redfish and a cobia? We have you covered.

I am very excited to
introduce you to some of
the fishermen and chefs
in our community who are
working together to change
the sustainable food landscape
using the power of
connections, education,
and responsible buying.

Don’t forget to check out the Summer Chef Jam series every Monday night this summer at The Shamrock Pub in downtown Sarasota. Each week we will be placing a local chef inside a food truck where they will prepare small plates paired with bottomless pints of a variety of Florida craft beers. Come on out and support your favorite chef and local pub!

Speaking of beer, our community has foamed from no breweries, just a few years back to an explosion of craft beers and places to enjoy them. In our “Worth the Trip” piece we visit five local spots churning out the good stuff by the barrel. Let me repeat: worth the trip!

There was once a time when our town seemed to slow down during the hot summer months. Not anymore. I hope you take time to patronize some of our story subjects and advertisers, thank them for their role in strengthening our local food scene, and please join us at one of our Edible Sarasota exclusive events.

Stay cool and remember: There are lots of fish in the sea.

Tracy Freeman–Editor

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Garden Fresh Gazpacho

gazpacho

MAKES ABOUT 2 QUARTS

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds tomatoes (about 4 large), cut into chunks
1 English cucumber, seeded and roughly chopped (not peeled)
½ sweet onion, roughly chopped
2–3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (optional)
2–3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

PREPARATION

In a food processor, purée tomato until almost smooth. Add cucumber, onion, garlic, both vinegars, oil, salt, and pepper and pulse until almost smooth. Add more vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Chill soup in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes; the longer it sits the more the flavors will develop. Store gazpacho tightly sealed in coldest part of refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Dilly Beans

dillyBeans

MAKES 4 PINTS

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds green beans
1 bell pepper
2½ cups water
2½ cups distilled white vinegar
¼ cup pickling/canning salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons dill seed
4 cloves garlic

PREPARATION

Before you begin: Sterilize 4 pint-size canning jars and prepare two-piece canning lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Trim green beans so that they will fit standing up inside the pint jars. The straighter the beans, the nicer it looks in the end. Slice pepper into strips.

In a small pot over high heat, bring water, vinegar, and salt to a boil. Meanwhile, into each pint jar, add ¼ teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon dill seed, and 1 clove garlic.

Pack green beans and pepper strips into jars. You want these to be pretty tightly packed, but with enough room for the liquid you’ll be adding.

Pour the boiling liquid into the pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust the twopiece metal canning lids.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for five minutes. Let the dilly beans stand at least 3 weeks before opening. Refrigerate after opening.

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Hot Pepper Vinegar

hotPepperVin

MAKES 1 PINT

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces fresh hot peppers
1–2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup distilled white vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

PREPARATION

Before you begin: Sterilize a one-pint glass canning jar and lid in boiling water for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let jar and lid sit in hot water until ready to fill. (Jar should be filled while still hot.)

Fill your sterilized jar with hot peppers and garlic. In a small pot over high heat, bring both vinegars and salt to a boil, stirring until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in cayenne, and ladle mixture over peppers.

Seal jar with sterilized lid. Let pepper vinegar stand at room temperature at least 3 weeks to marry the flavors. Refrigerate after opening.

PEPPERS

Summer is the time to grow and enjoy an abundance of hot peppers—any variety you like! I love the rainbow of hues you get with colorful Santa Fe Grandes and Chinese Five Color. Or spice things up with the classics: serrano, jalapeño, and habanero. For sweet peppers, the disease-resistant Carolina Wonder and heirloom Marconi bell peppers remain my go-to varieties.

When hot pepper production peaks, I go into production in the kitchen, bottling up a tangy-spicy hot pepper vinegar that is super simple to make. In case your Southern roots don’t run as deep as mine, here are a few ways you can use it: Drizzle it over cooked greens (like collards or mustard) and rice dishes; mix it into spicy cocktails, like a Bloody Mary; dash it onto eggs, pasta, fried fish, and roasted veggies; stir it into soup; or splash some on a salad!

TOMATOES

Grow a wide variety of tomatoes and you’ll be seeing red (and orange, purple, pink, yellow, and green) all summer! My favorite varieties include large Cherokee Purples; clusters of Riesentraube grapes; pink, flavorful Arkansas Travelers; basic, red Amish Pastes (great for sauce); mild Yellow Pears (lovely in salad); intensely flavored Red and Golden Currants; and I’m crazy for wild Everglades tomatoes, which are native to Florida and produce in abundance all summer long.

In my summer kitchen, tomatoes are simmered into sauces, sliced onto sandwiches, scrambled into eggs, slow roasted on trays, chunked onto salads (or sometimes they are the salad), melted onto grilled fish, and, at least once a week, puréed into a cool, no-fuss gazpacho.

BEANS

If you haven’t tasted homegrown beans lately, you don’t know what you’re missing (stop on by!). Fresh from the vine they are sweet and crisp, and when steamed they taste almost creamy. Pole beans, bush beans, and yardlong beans climb bamboo structures in both my front and back yards. Though we enjoy them mostly steamed or grilled, I also really love having a couple cans of dilly beans on hand to punch up a salad, or for an easy cold side dish or snack on a long, hot day.

The following recipe was contributed by the lovely Lisa at the Bradenton-based Sunshine Canning (sunshinecanning.com).

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