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Archive | Winter 2013



A Local Cantina


If tequila were a movie star it would surely be Ryan Gosling. Or, perhaps, if Ryan Gosling were a drink, he would be tequila, albeit with a little less Latin flair. Either way, both are effortlessly cool, with a mouthwatering mix of one part style and two parts smoothness.

Wait. What? Smoothness? No, no—isn’t tequila much more likely to be Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, given that tequila can be rough, gritty even, with the ability to make, or more likely unmake, your day? Or how about Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, or other train wrecks that have been known to wake up on a stranger’s bathroom floor, just like that time you did during your tequila-laden Senior Trip to Cancun?

Look, if you didn’t just vigorously nod your head in agreement to the Gosling analogy, well, chances are you’ve been doing it wrong— and we have 101 wonderful ways to remedy that: Tequila Cantina. Tequila Cantina opened in March 2012 as the brainchild of Milo Milkovich, a restaurant owner who has been in the biz for over 25 years. Milo, of Serbian descent and hailing from Ohio, may seem to have an odd pedigree for a tequila expert but this man knows his stuff. “I’ve owned and operated many restaurants, but I’ve wanted to do a tequila bar forever,” he says. “When this spot became available I knew it was perfect.”

What gave him that idea? The floor, of course. The original terrazzo floors became the foundation to what would soon become a veritable cantina, complete with a 56-foot-long bar, authentic cuisine, an openair feel, and over 100 different tequilas.

Although Tequila Cantina is a relatively small spot, its high ceilings and mirrored walls make it feel almost cavernous. As does that lengthy bar, with its facade covered in ornate golden plating, it graciously invites patrons to belly up. Behind the bar stands a gorgeously crafted mahogany back bar, which made its restaurant debut in Chicago in the ’40s. It houses 101 tequilas and counting, from well-knowns like Jose Cuervo Black Medallion to the gloriously smooth Republic Organic Reposado to some extremely rare labels like Casa Dragones and Don Julio 1942. Between the two bars sits a compact stage where acoustic musicians serenade the crowd on weekdays; on weekends, DJs put patrons into the party mood with songs often not heard in cantinas south of the border.

Tequila isn’t the only item on the menu. In fact, the menu is quite extensive, mixing the usual suspects—tacos, chili rellenos, and guacamole— with a few gastronomic surprises—duck, goat cheese, cactus cumin crema—a mix Milo refers to as “mod-Mex cuisine.”

“A cantina is a comfy, unpretentious gathering spot with great food,” says Milo. “Sarasota needed something more trendy, something modern, but I still wanted to keep true to the cantina concept.”

This mix of modern and authentic is what allows you to order Alas de Pollo (chicken wings tossed in Jamaican spices and honey-chipotle with aji amarillo aioli) and a glass of 60-year-old tequila as you sit staring at that mahogany back bar from the ’40s while a DJ plays your favorite ’80s songs and diners dance on the open patio, surrounded by exposed brick from the establishment’s original build-out, beneath a grouping of beautiful metal star lights imported directly from Mexico. Oh, and P.S.: All of this goes on until the restaurant’s closing time of 2 a.m. Now, if that’s not Gosling cool….

Thankfully, today’s tequila is also mod-Mex, mixing modern practices with thousand-year-old technique, turning tequila into more of a connoisseur item than a novelty. Those who once got college drunk on cheap tequilas have now grown up, and so has the tequila they drink. The days of downing sloppy shots of fire-breathing liquid are long gone, joyously replaced by a liquor well deserving of its long, rich history.

You don’t have to be a loyal tequila fan to come to come to Tequila Cantina, as it also offers a full bar, live music, outdoor seating, and fish sandwiches. However, dare you order the sophisticated Pink Taco Martini, made with ultra-smooth Republic Organic Anejo Tequila, fresh lemon squeeze, fresh carrot juice, turbinado syrup, and a sparkling wine floater, you will most likely find yourself among the scores of others that Tequila Cantina has turned into newly minted tequila converts.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Come to Tequila Cantina on February 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. for Edible Sarasota’s “101 Bottles of Tequila on the Wall.” Tickets are $25 and are limited to 150 people. There will be a guacamole bar, big raffles, live entertainment, a special menu created just for this event, and loads of tequila tasting. But, seriously, who could turn down a guacamole bar? For more information on the event visit

Tequila Cantina: 1454 Main St, Sarasota; 941-554-8586;


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The Fungus Among Us


Earthy, nutty, fruity, woodsy—the enchanting flavors of exotic mushrooms have transported them out of the forest and into the culinary world. While many tasty varieties can only be foraged in the wild, several edible mushrooms can be cultivated right at home! Mushroom gardening—common in China for over 1,000 years—is becoming as popular as the tasty morsels themselves, producing supremely fresh mushrooms with a sustainable approach.

Lareina DePalma learned about mushroom cultivation while volunteering on working sustainable farms around the country, and now shares the secrets of growing your own mushrooms in a popular class at the Crowley Folk School. “Cultivating mushrooms is a whole realm of home gardening that many folks have never explored,” she said. “It’s really a magical process that is so interesting to watch—and the results are quite tasty!”

DePalma, who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a background in sustainable agriculture, guides participants in her class through the process of creating a mushroom log, which is a wooden log that has been inoculated with a desirable species of fungus. She provides the substrate (logs cut and cured to ensure a high sap content for mushroom food), as well as plugs of spawn (the equivalent to a “seed” for growing mushrooms). The spawn are hammered into holes drilled throughout the log, and then sealed with melted wax. Class attendees return home with an inoculated log and a wealth of knowledge on how to care for it, as well as how to harvest the mushrooms it produces.

“A shiitake log will typically produce three to five pounds of mushrooms per year, and has an average lifespan of about five years, all depending upon environmental and climate conditions,” said DePalma. In her classes, she works with various mushroom varieties conducive to the local environment, such as shiitake, oyster, and reishi.

Home-cultivated mushrooms can be eaten fresh or dried, or made into medicinal tea. They are low in calories, sodium, fat, and cholesterol, plus offer surprising nutritional value. Mushrooms are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins C, D and B6, folate, iron, zinc, potassium, selenium, and more.

Additionally, research is finding value in the medicinal use of mushrooms for preventing and treating health issues including immune disorders, viral diseases, high cholesterol, coronary disease, liver disease, and cancer.

For more information, or to register for the mushroom cultivation class held twice monthly at Crowley Folk School, visit


Oyster Mushroom & Goat Cheese Frittata


Want to try cultivating your own mushrooms? DePalma recommends three varieties suited for growing in our region, all of which can be cultivated on hardwood logs:


Shiitake mushrooms boast a rich, smoky flavor and a dense, meaty texture that makes them ideal for strong-flavored dishes. Try sautéing shiitakes with onions and garlic for a side dish, or as a topping for meat. Or add them to soups and stir-fries. Shiitakes also dry well.


Oyster mushrooms offer a delicate, earthy flavor and a soft, chewy texture. A nice complement to seafood and chicken, try sautéing oyster mushrooms in butter or olive oil. Add them to eggs, or to pasta with a light cream sauce. Oyster mushrooms can also make a hearty chowder.


The most renowned of all the medicinal fungi, reishi mushrooms are not culinary mushrooms, as they are woody and bitter. They are thought, however, to offer a wide variety of health benefits, including boosting the immune system and treating viral infections. Try making a tea with dried reishi mushrooms.


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Roll Reversal


Oy Punyahotra broke the rules when she opened Drunken Poet Café. She was supposed to remain a doctor, to play life safely, and to follow what Thai culture and her parents told her was the standard recipe for success.

But there came a day when the Bangkok- born Punyahotra decided it was time to trade convention for true passion. That day was Dec. 5, 2006, the 79th birthday of the king of Thailand (Bhumibol Adulyadej). It was Drunken Poet’s first birthday. In a way, it was also Punyahotra’s birthday.

“I’m a pharmacist; that’s what I studied to become. I have always loved food since I was little, but in my family and in Thailand, the mentality has always been: If you’re not a doctor, you’re good for nothing,” Punyahotra says. That mentality did not work for Punyahotra; she had something else in mind.

She would create a fun, edgy eatery in the heart of downtown Sarasota with a wild name and sexy entrée titles. The locale would showcase her personality, her heart, her gumption—sides of herself she could never reveal during her 30 years behind the pharmacy counter and white lab coat.

“My dad was here when I opened, and he was still telling me, ‘You’re crazy at your age for doing this. I told you not to do it,’” Punyahotra says. “So I said, ‘Dad, I raised my kids and I did what you wanted me to do. Now I want to do what I want to do.’” She did, and it has been intense, love-every- second work. To uphold her “Friendly Café, Sexy Sushi” pledge, Punyahotra puts in 11 to 13 hour days, driving an hour from her North Port home to the restaurant at 11 a.m. daily and closing every night (at 10 p.m. during the week and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays).

She incorporates her grandmother’s recipes into the menu and imports exotic spices from Thailand, always introducing patrons to new flavors.

“Sometimes I just kind of force people to try new things. For example, we have Pad Thai here. In Thailand, you have a piece of lime that you normally squeeze on top of the dish. Here, people don’t do that. The flavor is sweet and has a tiny bit of a tangy, salty flavor, but the lime separates all those flavors. It’s so good that way,” she says. “So I always walk around to my tables and say, ‘Did you try it with the lime?’ One customer finally said to me, ‘You keep telling me so many times, so yes, Mom, I did.’”


Steady favorites include the Sexy Man Roll with tuna, avocado, tempura eel, and “sexy sauce”; the Pinky in the Blanket with shrimp wrapped in rice paper and served with homemade plum sauce; Tom Kha Gai, which is a mild coconut soup with chicken, mushrooms, lemongrass, galangal (blue ginger), and kaffir lime leaves; and Som-Tum (papaya salad) with fresh papaya, carrots, asparagus, bean salad, and a spicy sweetand- sour dressing. On the drink menu are lychee, Fuji apple, raspberry, and plum sakes, which come as cocktails in crooked-stem martini glasses, garnished with purple-and-white Thai orchids.

“I wanted to do something not boring, because food can be boring if it isn’t presented right,” Punyahotra says. “I try to use funny names for the food. I like to go to a place where there’s good food but also some kind of character. People know us for our Sexy Man Roll and, of course, for our Lobster Roll, which is served inside the lobster shell.”

That creative presentation is due, in part, to Punyahotra’s 38-year-old son, Pan, who works and cooks in the restaurant. Punyahotra has two other sons, Vincent (34) and Marc (28), as well as three grandchildren. Punyahotra first came to Sarasota for a visit at age 10, then went to college, met her now-ex-husband, lived in France and returned to Southwest Florida in 2004. She finished pharmacy school at Butler University in Indianapolis in 1977 and worked at a pharmacy in Caen, France, until 2004, when she came to Sarasota to help her brother with his Thai restaurant in Clearwater. The culinary experience prompted her to completely switch career paths.

“Almost everybody in my family is in the medical field. My dad is a plastic surgeon. That is just what you do,” she says. “I had been trying to tell my dad since I was a kid that I wanted to go to Switzerland and go to culinary school, but my dad just looked at me like, ‘No.’ Now, he’s proud of me.” And for good reason.

Drunken Poet Café: 1572 Main St, Sarasota; 941-955-8404;

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A Growing Achievment


Gravel roads, a night sky flickering with constellations, and citrus trees stretching for acres. This is Brown’s Grove, a respite miles from the Sarasota-Bradenton cityscape, where couple Tim and Heidi Brown cultivate sweet fruit and family traditions.

It is its own galaxy here, way east on Fruitville Road past I-75 at a dead-end street called Winburn Drive. A log cabin–style home with wooden rocking chairs on the porch hearkens back to a simpler American lifestyle, one the Browns have lovingly passed on to their children.

“My dad told me when I was younger, ‘There are easier ways to make a living,’” Tim Brown says. “He actually discouraged me from going into the citrus business because he knew what a hard life it was. But if you’ve got it in your blood, you’ve got to do it.”

That bloodline dates back to the founding of Brown’s Grove in 1915, when “Grandpa” Edward Brown Sr. moved from Brownsville, Florida, to Sarasota’s Bee Ridge Road area. Edward Brown Sr.’s sons, Bobby and Edward Jr., continued their father’s trade by planting groves on the corner of Sawyer and Ashton roads.

Today, Tim and Heidi Brown (the third generation of the Brown clan) own and operate the groves, which have since been relocated to the Winburn property. They also have a second Hardee County plot, and at both addresses the Browns and their staff grow, pack, and ship citrus.

“We definitely know what hard work is. For the first 20 years of our marriage, Tim went straight from work at his fulltime job to his mom and dad’s place and worked, and then he worked the grove,” Heidi Brown says. “I get teary-eyed just thinking about how hard he worked.”


He still does. They all do. Tim and Heidi Brown, who have been married for 31 years, now have about 100 trees to manage on each of their 50 acres of land. Amassing those trees has been a labor of love, which began post-wedding, the year after Heidi Brown graduated from Riverview High School in 1980 (Tim Brown preceded her in 1979).

“I was the cheerleader and he said he used to follow me around but he was afraid to talk to me,” Heidi Brown says. Tim Brown has since harnessed his courage, of course, and with the help of his wife and three children, he built a thriving venture. The Browns’ son, Travis, 22, works full-time at the Grove as the packinghouse manager, and his wife, Sarah, runs the farm market in Parrish. Trevor, 19, is a certified firefighter and grove worker, and 25-year-old Tressie is married and living in Alabama. Ed and Darla Blanks, Heidi’s parents, contribute, too. The Browns also employ two full-time and 10 seasonal workers outside the family.

“We don’t grow any juice that goes to a juice plant. Some groves, all they grow is processed fruit, but ours is all fresh,” Tim Brown says. “We stock some of our citrus at Yoder’s and other farmers’ markets. In the wintertime, we are running several hundred bushels of citrus a week.”

The Brown’s Grove Packinghouse is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday. Brown’s Grove Farm Market on Highway 301 in Parrish invites visitors from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Brown’s Grove produce is available at the Sarasota Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and the Phillippi Farmhouse Market on Wednesdays.

From January to April, the Browns churn out about 27 varieties of citrus, including Sugar Belles (a University of Florida–patented rare hybrid which Brown’s Grove received a coveted license to grow three years ago), honeybells, ruby red grapefruits, navel oranges, Hamlin oranges, Orlando tangelos, sunburst tangerines, honey tangerines, Minneola tangelos, and Valencia oranges.

The grove ships gift fruit, fresh juice, jams, jellies, honey, Wisconsin cheese, free-range brown eggs, handmade soaps, candles, and homemade ice cream. And the Browns have big plans for the years ahead.

“We want to make a citrus museum called the Brown’s Grove Family Heritage Museum of Citrus, and we’ll have some of the old antique tractors and equipment in there that we’ve collected over the years,” Tim Brown says. “We hope to have that up and running by January 2014.”

But first things first. On January 26, the Browns will be at the second annual Farm Fest, an event that promotes agriculture and farmers from all over Florida. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Brown’s Grove Farm Market, 12255 Highway 301, Parrish. The Browns look forward to supporting their fellow farmers, and to applauding the hardworking, reap-the-rewards way of life they have come to adore.

“I have experienced other types of living and I don’t think I could ever go back to living in the city. I love this lifestyle. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it,” Heidi Brown says. “There’s no rush. There’s such a peace. And it’s so much about nature and family.”

Brown’s Grove: 16015 Winburn Dr, Sarasota; 941-322-2835;


Orange-Soy Scallops


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Mark Nodeen


“Instead of having a regular
menu that’s hung or printed,
there’s just something nostalgic
about chalk. If the board is
built right and the writing
is done well, the effect is
extremely eye-catching,”

Everybody there has their own niche and I was just trying to find mine,” says Mark Nodeen of his job at Sarasota Architectural Salvage (SAS), where employees are known for creating masterpieces from items that most would deem scrap—or, God forbid, trash. “About a year ago, I decided to make a couple of chalkboards out of plywood and trim. I took them into the store and they sold and I thought, ‘Well, that’s cool.’”

Very cool, Mark. Very cool indeed. In fact, everything about Mark Nodeen is cool, from his previous life as a musician to his current job of slinging sweet salvage pieces at SAS to his burgeoning career at 390 Design as Chalkboard Maker Extraordinaire. So, what’s so great about chalkboards?

If you got yours from Walmart, probably nothing. Even if your drawing skills could rival M. C. Escher, if you are working on some pre-fabricated, plastic-lined, subpar chalkboard, your efforts are going to fall flat. However, if you are using a 390 Design creation, made from bits of stained glass or pieces from the old John Ringling Hotel, well, even a blind baby zebra with a broken arm would be deemed the next Picasso.

Many of our town’s Who’s Who have become loyal 390 Design clients. The Hyatt, one of Mark’s first projects, proudly displays several of Mark’s custom boards in the hotel’s Currents Restaurant. Coyne’s Pier 28 and local favorite Eat Here also boast his oneof- a-kind chalkboards, which are not only visually pleasing to staff and guests alike but will certainly generate much more interesting table talk than the weather.

“Instead of having a regular menu that’s hung or printed, there’s just something nostalgic about chalk. If the board is built right and the writing is done well, the effect is extremely eye-catching,” explains Nodeen. Chalkboards aren’t limited to restaurants alone. Mark recently made boards for Lotus and Simply Spoiled Boutique, two shops known for leading the trends in this town.

But you don’t have to be a business owner to get “boarded”: 390 Design boards are available at SAS for you impulse buyers. Others who want custom chalkboards can contact Nodeen directly. His pieces range all the way from small boards, made with plywood and trim, to huge eight-footers, made with salvaged pieces like old screen doors and carved table legs from the 1800s, to productions lined with hidden framed lights behind colorful glass adornments.

“Some people think it’s just a matter of buying wood and slapping some chalk paint on it, but it’s a much more complex process. I’m using unique recycled material built to custom suit a client,” Nodeen says proudly of his technique. “And you know by getting one of my pieces that you aren’t only helping the environment by using salvaged material, but you’re also getting an exclusive piece that was made locally and purchased locally.”

Pretty cool.;

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It’s a crisp, cool morning punctuated by a strawberry-scented breeze. Sunlight shines upon rows and rows of juicy red jewels. Together, many sets of hands—big and small—work to harvest baskets of sun-ripened fruits, sweet as candy. It’s strawberry season, and the local pick-your-own farms are bustling! A trip to the U-pick promises a bounty of freshfrom- the-farm berries, plus a wholesome experience that’s fun for the entire family. Before you head out to the fields, read our strawberry picking guide for tips and ideas to help make the most of your day, and your harvest.


A little advance planning will make your U-pick experience most enjoyable and successful.

  • Plan your outing for early in the day. Strawberries harvested in the early morning are at their peak of firmness and flavor, while berries picked in the heat of the day tend to become soft and bruise easily.
  • Call ahead to inquire if the growers provide or sell containers, or if you should/ can bring your own. If you plan to use your own, bring shallow baskets, or even pots or pans. Keep in mind that piling berries over five inches deep can cause the bottom berries to bruise.
  • Consider making a day of it. Some pick-your-own destinations have children’s play areas, petting zoos, picnic facilities, and more. You may wish to pack a lunch to enjoy in the shade, or plan to purchase food on-site, where available.


For the freshest, most flavorful fruit, follow these berry-picking tips:

  • Pick strawberries that are fragrant, firm, and bright red. There should be no white or green around the stem, and no soft spots. (Unripe berries will not ripen once picked.)
  • To pick the berries, grasp the stem just above the berry and pull with a slight twisting motion. Alternatively, some farms provide kid-friendly scissors for snipping the berries from the plants.
  • Be sure to place the fruit gently into containers to prevent bruising. And avoid overfilling your containers, or trying to “pack down” the strawberries.
  • If you’re planning to stay at the U-pick after harvesting, find a cool, shady place to tuck your berries until you leave.


For maximum flavor and freshness, plan to process, refrigerate, or freeze your strawberries immediately upon returning home.

  • If you plan to use your berries right away, do not refrigerate them.
  • Strawberries will keep fresh in the refrigerator for two or three days before losing their bright color and fresh flavor. Do not rinse or hull the berries (cut off the green tops) until you’re ready to use them, as they become more prone to spoiling.
  • To freeze your berries, rinse and hull them, then freeze them in a single layer on parchment-lined baking trays. Once frozen, transfer the strawberries to a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Store in the freezer for up to one year.


Fresh-picked strawberries are delicious just as they are, as well as

  • on yogurt or cereal
  • in smoothies and pops
  • dipped in whipped cream or chocolate
  • baked into muffins or sweetbread
  • processed into jam or syrup
  • sliced onto salads or pancakes


1 quart of strawberries = 2 pints, or 4 cups, and weighs 1.25 pounds to 1.5 pounds


Honeyside Farms:
8276 Ibis St, Sarasota; 941-405-0015;

Hunsader Farms:
5500 County Rd 675, Bradenton; 941-322-2168;

Eden Farms:
11608 Upper Manatee River Rd, Bradenton; 941-405-5207;

O’Brien Family Farms:
16505 State Rd 64 E, Bradenton; 941-896-4811;


Quick-Strawberry-Jam Hand Pies

Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

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January thru March

Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Celeriac (Celery Root)
Chinese Cabbage
English Peas
Green Onions
Snap Or Snow Peas
Swiss Chard
Sweet Onions



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9 Reasons to Set Your Alarm


We believe the reason breakfast is the most important meal of the day is because it sets the tone for everything that follows. Here we highlight some spots that are worth skipping your usual bowl of cereal for. From fine dining in the sunshine to country cooking in Grandma’s living room, from authentic French cuisine to inventive American fare, we’ve got you covered from omelets to pancakes. You’ll soon see that breakfast at any one of our favorites is worth the trip.


We would be remiss to feature the top breakfast spots in Sarasota and not include the Blue Dolphin Café, which is so popular that there is almost always a wait for a table. Standing in line on St. Armand’s Circle chatting with other diners is not a bad way to spend a sunny morning and inevitably you’ll end up talking to an impassioned Blue Dolphin fan with a menu recommendation, simplifying your choice once you’re called to your table in the small, packed space. Fluffy omelets and sublime Eggs Benedict are staple choices as is the Blue Dolphin Special, which features perfectly cooked eggs, crispy bacon, light pancakes, and home-fried potatoes.

470 John Ringling Blvd, Sarasota;



With locations in Lakewood Ranch, south Sarasota, and Siesta Key, local landmark The Broken Egg is aiming for total breakfast domination and they’re doing so with a friendly smile and a menu that features everything from six different kinds of Eggs Benedict to yummy gluten-free goodies. Local celebrity, Dick Vitale (affectionately known as ‘Dickie V’) has his own table designated at each location and he’s teamed up with The Broken Egg to fight pediatric cancer through the sales of his book Getting a W in the Game of Life.

140 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key; 941-346-2750
4031 Clark Rd, Sarasota; 941-922-2868
6115 Exchange Way, Lakewood Ranch;



Eric Le Glas presents authentic French cuisine in a charming two-story storefront on Venice’s main drag. A spiral staircase in the center of the room and low ceilings in the main dining area give the restaurant the feel of a true French bistro, intimate and romantic, and the delectable food has us questioning whether we’re in Venice or Paris. Take the deceptively simple “Sweet and Sour ‘Buck’” which offers a traditional sweet crepe alongside a savory buckwheat crêpe stuffed with your choice of eggs, meats, and mozzarella cheese. The sweet crêpe is an airy confection while the buckwheat crêpe offers a complex flavor and texture that perfectly complements the fresh mozzarella and scrambled eggs.

218 W Tampa Ave, Venice; 941-488-8484;




Seated at a blond wood booth in Millie’s Restaurant, looking at the hearts carved into the seats and the distinctive blue and white antique plates hanging from the walls and the white lace curtains covering the windows, one is transported to a simpler time in a simpler place where people are friendlier and food is served to comfort and sustain. The owner, George, rings up customers, clears tables, and runs food all the while greeting regulars and newcomers with genuine warmth as bustling servers deliver generous portions of near-perfect French toast.

3900 Clark Rd, Sarasota; 941-923-4054;


It’s a family affair at the Oasis Café, with Mom baking confectionary treats, Dad whipping up seriously delicious made-from scratch Hollandaise and truly “incredible” potatoes, and the kids serving food and greeting customers. There’s a feeling of nostalgia in the air from the mismatched coffee mugs to the old-school tunes and it’s easy to see why people have followed the Palermo family from restaurant to restaurant. The Palermo family is something of an institution in the Sarasota dining scene, and they show their love for their customers by serving up comforting, breakfast favorites utilizing the freshest ingredients and sourcing locally whenever possible.

3542 S Osprey Dr, Sarasota; 941-957-1214


Chef Eric Bein prides himself on his commitment to quality. His ingredients are so fresh that it’s not uncommon to see Farmer Phil of P&P Farms traipsing through the dining room with a crate of just-picked heirloom tomatoes. Station 400 has quickly established itself as downtown’s go-to breakfast spot for local foodies, tourists, and luminaries—most recently a visiting Vice President Joe Biden. The food is inventive, whimsical, and intensely flavorful. Station 400 has expanded to a location in Lakewood Ranch and the beautiful new spot includes a private dining area, dark wood booths, and sparkling white subway tile. Like the menu says: Station 400 will “start your morning on the right track.”

400 N Lemon Ave, Sarasota; 941-906-1400
8215 Lakewood Main St, Suite P103, Lakewood Ranch; 941-907-0648;



Sun Garden Café is located on Siesta Key, which is fitting because the best beach in the country deserves the kind of breakfast spot that can only be described as fine dining in the sunshine. Sun Garden Café is known for its sweet potato pancakes, which are a creation of culinary magic managing to be dense and light at once with the texture of a bread pudding sponge cake and topped with pecan butter. We love the Baba O’Riley omelet, which showcases fresh broccoli, spinach, and turkey, melt-y boursin cheese, thick slices of avocado, and homemade basil pesto.

210 Avenida Madera, Sarasota; 941-346-7170;



The Toasted Mango Café is the brainchild of Kimberly Duffy and Sandi Wagner and if their formula for success includes offering good food, in a friendly environment, at reasonable prices, then these ladies are well on their way. The butter-yellow walls of Toasted Mango Café showcase local art and a large window shows off the open kitchen. Try the Toasted Mango Waffle and enjoy a perfectly cooked waffle covered with toasted coconut, thick slices of ripe mango, and dollops of whipped cream. The restaurant is small, cheerful, and busy so be sure to come early.

430 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-388-7728;

worthTripBrekkie8WORD OF MOUTH

Word of Mouth’s location in downtown Sarasota feels like a coffee shop in Berkeley or Seattle with eclectic local art, funky music, and a menu featuring healthy and delicious options like the Greek Breakfast Wrap, a tomato basil wrap stuffed with scrambled eggs, black olives, spinach, tomatoes, onion and feta cheese and served with your choice of grits or home fries. The home fries are garlicky, tender yet crispy, perfectly seasoned and quite addictive. The service, atmosphere, and food at Word of Mouth’s downtown location will make you want to tell your friends—which we think might just be the point.

711 S Osprey Ave, Sarasota; 941-365-1800
6604 Gateway Ave, Sarasota; 941-925-2400
3981 Cattleman Rd, Sarasota; 941-377-0239

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Carmel Café


Diners at Carmel Café & Wine Bar never have to dismount from taste bud heaven to wave down a server.

They can sip fresh watermelon granita cocktails and snack on Greek lamb lollipops at leisure, all while updating Facebook statuses between touch-screen menu inputs.

Here at Sarasota’s high-tech harbinger of “Mod Med” (Modern Mediterranean) cuisine, ordering items from paper sheets is no longer the ritual du jour. There is no need for it when MenuPads and FusionPrep software (think iPad-style) reign cyber-supreme. Food buffs feel futuristic with every scroll, and this new concept of dining out suits the ever-evolving times.

“This is something totally different and people are loving it. We have people of all ages coming in, figuring out how to use the MenuPads, and it’s so easy and fun,” says operating partner Andrew Grassick, who helped open the spot in June. “All the snowbirds are coming down and using the pads and the feedback has been phenomenal. They love the ability to pace their own meals. People can concentrate on each other and just enjoy their food on their own time. That’s what it’s all about.” Located at the Shoppes at University Center on Cooper Creek Boulevard, the restaurant follows the same protocol of the Clearwater, South Tampa, and Carrollwood addresses. Patrons lounge on posh red sofas and at granite tables while playing video games on handheld gadgets and drinking in-house-filtered water.

Globally renowned architect Albert Alfonso designed the 4,252-square-foot, 150-seat Sarasota space, which boasts framed art photographs by Albert Hurley. It is sleek, upscale without the pretense, and only a sprint away from neighboring Lakewood Ranch.

There are 160 recipes in Carmel’s FusionPrep database, each of which is prepared (with the utmost consistency) at lightning speed. Executive chef Steve Cook whips up Italian, French, Spanish, and Moroccan dishes, and a 60-label wine list complements the flavors. Founders Chris Sullivan, Nancy Schneid, Terry Ryan, and Alexander Sullivan helped perfect the internationally inspired menu.


“It is always something new and fresh. Our Mod Med cuisine is something you don’t see everywhere else. It has really been drawing people in, like the chickpea fries, which are totally unique,” Grassick says. “We do a fall and spring menu every year, and it just keeps getting better.”

Some things stay deliciously the same, like the Mezze Platter Trilogy with three varieties of hummus and fried feta cheese. There are five varieties of flatbread, French steak frites with béarnaise aioli, Atlantic scallops and shrimp ceviche. Price points are low, considering a plate of chickpea fries with curry aioli and tomato jam only sets regulars back less than a Lincoln. A glass of seasonal red sangria and a slice of pound cake with strawberries is a quenching combo for the sweettooth crowd.

Weekly discounts include the Tuesday Trilogy (with a trio of threeounce wine pours for $10) and Wine Wednesday (from 5 to 7 p.m., with five wines for $5 in six-ounce pours, along with $5 flatbreads). Imported bottles range from the Caposaldo Pinot Grigio from Veneto, Italy, to the Sangre de Toro from Catalunya, Spain. From 5 to 7 p.m., hedonists lap up Skinny Poma-tinis with Mini Mezze Platters (edamame hummus, goat cheese, muhammara, roasted garlic, and pita chips).

“You don’t have to spend a lot to have a delicious, fun experience with your friends,” Grassick says.

Just bring a little web knowledge, a sophisticated palate and an entourage.

Carmel Café & Wine Bar: 8433 Cooper Creek Blvd, Sarasota; 941-893-5955;


Basil Grilled Salmon


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With a team of six or seven drivers shuttling hot
meals from over 25 different local restaurants on
a given night, Ashley’s Food is a complex machine
of many moving parts.


It started out over 12 years ago with your fairly typical delivery food: pizza from Demetrio’s, wings from Hooters, Chinese from Le Chang. Take a look at the current catalogue of 30-plus pages from Ashley’s Food Delivery and you’ll see they’ve done some considerable branching out.

Nowadays, Ashley’s Food brings everything from sushi delicacies to spicy Indian cuisine to fresh-blended smoothies straight to the home or office. No matter what you’re craving for lunch or dinner, Ashley’s has it covered.

Owner Jeff Sniegocki got the inspiration for his business while working at his father’s bakery and other restaurants in South Florida. With its abundance of great eateries, Sarasota seemed like an ideal location to set up a food delivery service, and it put Sniegocki squarely in the middle of his favorite aspect of the restaurant industry.

“Seeing businesses like this in South Florida—they were big in Ohio and California as well—sparked the idea that it would be a good opportunity to still be in the food industry, but work a lot more with people,” Sniegocki says.

With a team of six or seven drivers shuttling hot meals from over 25 different local restaurants on a given night, Ashley’s Food is a complex machine of many moving parts.

“The beauty of how our system works is: When it’s starting up, it’s easy to handle one or two orders and get them knocked out,” Sniegocki says. “But once there are a lot of orders on the screen, it’s almost like a game of Tetris, where the orders and where they’re going line up perfectly when you’re in the flow and doing well.”

So who’s Ashley, you may ask? Formerly a blue-eyed blonde, Ashley is now a brunette bombshell who confidently balances atop her delivery rocket in knee-high stiletto boots. She’s the personification of a business that’s always on the cutting edge of professionalism and top-notch customer service.

“My understanding of a business is that [it is its] own entity,” Sniegocki says. “Instead of me being ‘the boss,’ we’re all co-workers working for Ashley and taking care of her. If we take care of Ashley, Ashley can likewise take care of everyone.”

The delivery service takes care of hardworking professionals in business meetings and hungry families short on kitchen time. On the other end, the restaurants also benefit from the Ashley’s high efficiency and quality of service. Ashley’s smart, modern marketing also adds a big bonus. Simply put, Sniegocki takes great pleasure in helping to spread the word about excellent local restaurants.

“It can be a hassle for a restaurant, frankly, to be taking orders and sending out drivers. They’re focusing on making their food,” Sniegocki says. “We’re focusing on getting it out the door for them, hot and fast, to the customer.”

Ashley’s Food Service: 941-953-3663;

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The Manic Organic is the produce enthusiast’s equivalent of the ice cream truck. This mobile, organic produce stand rolls into area farmers’ markets and community locales, from Port Charlotte to Sarasota, enticing patrons with its colorful, hand-painted images of the goodies that await within—not ice pops and swirl cones, but instead a rainbow of fresh fruits and veggies. Like little kids lining up for a treat, fresh food lovers gather around (and inside) the converted school bus to make their selections of locally sourced, organic produce and hand-crafted goods. Driving the bus, and the community’s locavore movement, is owner/operator Cheri Lee, a former emergency medical technician.

“After the premature birth of my son, I needed a way to stay close and care for him, while still supporting my family,” said Lee, a single mom to the now 2-year-old, and a teenage daughter. So she decided to cultivate her love for organic produce and sustainable living, growing her passions into a small, local business that helps others eat and live “as fresh and healthy as possible.”

The resulting mobile market, which officially opened in October 2012, is partially stocked with produce Lee grows on her half-acre homestead in North Port, and is supplemented with inventory from other area growers. Beyond fruits and veggies, The Manic Organic sells a rotating variety of locally crafted products, including soaps, candles, lip balm, honey, dog treats, coffee, T-shirts, reusable lunch totes and market bags, and household cloth items (think un-paper towels and cloth napkins). Offerings are creatively displayed in wicker baskets and crates, perched about the bus that Lee remodeled and designed herself.

“Converting the bus was a labor of love,” said Lee, who purchased the used, short school bus last summer. With help from her brother, she customized the vehicle by removing seats, replacing walls and flooring, installing tables and a mini fridge, and painting the interior and exterior with a hand from local artists. Brightly colored window treatments, hand-painted details, and slipcovered seats with handmade throw pillows all make the bus warm, inviting, and just plain fun. Lee, who explains she is The Manic Organic (not the bus), is just as charming and cheerful as her solar-powered mobile market. “My mission is to share with the community my passion for locally sourced, organic food, as well as sustainable and healthy living,” she said.

The Manic Organic’s services extend beyond her “bus stops” to include weekly meal preparation for individuals seeking a simplified way to maintain a healthy diet; free and low-cost educational talks and workshops on eating healthy and fresh; and in-home and private vegetarian cooking classes and workshops. Additionally, produce gift bags and party trays are available for delivery, and the bus can be booked for events and celebrations.

Watch for The Manic Organic bus around town; and if you happen to stop behind it, don’t be surprised when the former stop sign swings out and reminds you to Eat Your Veggies!

The Manic Organic: 941-993-7384;

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“Sure, Mark’s effervescence is a crowd pleaser,
but his famously fresh and bold products
keep them coming back for more.”

“I sing all the time and I love to sing at my stand. My friend called me ‘one happy pickle’ and the name just stuck,” says Mark Webster of his somewhat-namesake company, the Happy Pickle, best known for gourmet pickles and olives that have customers lining up at Florida farmers’ markets—including our own Phillippi Farmhouse Market— in anticipation of just one crunchy, tangy, juicy bite.

“Man, it’s rewarding,” says Webster of his company, where half sours and kosher dills keep him happy to be caught in a pickle. “Once we get under that tent, we start putting on a show,” he exclaims.

But the enthusiasm you see under that tent stems back to when the process truly began for Mark. “I got into the pickle business in 2008 after many things went wrong in my life. I needed a change, so I started selling these pickles. I didn’t realize I was a salesman, but it turns out I’m generous and authentic and people seem to like that.”

People seem to like a lot of things about the Happy Pickle. Kosher dills, half sours, full New York sours, sweet & hots, horseradish and spicy kosher dills are always on the menu alongside sour green tomatoes and a plethora of feta-, blue cheese– and garlic-stuffed gourmet olives, among others. Lucky for us, Florida is one of the few states that can grow cucumbers all year around, making it easy for Mark to keep an ongoing relationship with farmers and clientele alike.

Now, before you go thinking that selling pickles is an easy task, keep in mind that each pail weighs 50 pounds, probably more than Peter Piper ever carried. Plus, cleaning and refrigeration can be massive undertakings. But it’s all worth it for Mark, who has turned the Happy Pickle into a family affair.

“My kids, Derek and Daniel, are outstanding. I can’t say enough about their help,” boasts a proud father of his sons. Even his own father had a profound effect on Mark’s etiquette, both in business and in life. “My dad was a doctor, and I’ve lived on both sides of the coin. So, I treat everybody the same. I try to be honest and never hustle. It’s not about that. It’s about selling a great product,” says Mark earnestly. It doesn’t hurt that the Happy Pickle sells the best half sours on Earth.

Go pick up your peck of pickled peppers every Wednesday at the Phillippi Farmhouse Market. Be warned though: One bite and you may be coming back for a kenning or a bushel, but that’s edible algebra for another article altogether.

The Happy Pickle:

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From “the mind of Monti,” says newly elected Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti with a smile, comes an organic and environmentally friendly line of plant products called My Garden Products. Though Monti was elected the city’s part-time mayor in November, his passion continues as inventor, developer, and vendor of plant food, grow systems, rain barrels, and compost bins. Monti still dons his blue jeans and boots, loads his truck and offers his expertise and products amid the constant chatter and lingering old-world music Saturdays at Sarasota Farmers’ Market, and also on Thursdays during the winter at Englewood Farmers’ Market.

A son of an Italian immigrant, he started applying his business acumen to plants in 2007 after trading in his suits as a Boston-area CEO and moving to Anna Maria Island.

“I’ve always had an interest in growing and in plants,” he says. My Garden Products grew out of Monti’s work at a composting business in Seffner with the help of area growers; wife Heidi, who adds her artwork; and friend Sylvie, a 32-year owner of Chez Sylvie in Sarasota, who sells alongside Monti at the market.

The commute to Seffner became too long, so he researched the compost systems, gathered ideas and experimented. He started bringing his products to market four years ago, and he’s proud of his success. Seventy percent of his line is from recycled materials, including olive barrels, plastic bins, and other containers. “To see you can grow a beautiful plant in a bucket, I think it’s cool,” says Monti.

He designs accoutrements, functional in large and small spaces, indoor and outdoor.

They include decorative rain barrels and butterfly gardens, vertical hanging bamboo garden sticks, plastic stackable gardens, plant clips, grow buckets, and portable compost- barrel systems.

“And,” he pauses, “there’s Miracle Pooh,” a fertilizer that blends 10 different manures, kelp, green waste, and kickstart inoculants.

Monti’s company also offers a high-nutrition moringa plant, which his grower cultivates from Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization seed banks in Fort Myers. The November 2012 issue of National Geographic touts it as the “Mighty Moringa,” a well-known remedy for digestive and other ailments thought to hold promise to battle malnutrition and famine. Monti recommends it raw, sautéed in garlic oil, or dried into a powder to help with weight control, energy, and focus.

Monti promises even more as he zeroes in on Let Us Alone, a new company to market organically certified fresh lettuce, and another business concept, outside the farmers’ markets, in downtown Sarasota. Not too surprisingly, amongst the many issues he’ll handle as Holmes Beach’s mayor, there’s a community garden in the offing.

Ah, the mind of Monti.

My Garden Products: 941-518-0239;

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“There are no second
acts in American lives,”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
famously declared. He
might have changed his
mind if he had met the
Porter family.

By all accounts, Tom and Beverley Porter had already enjoyed a wildly successful first act. They spent much of their lives in Rochester, Minnesota, where Tom worked in technology—he spent 25 years working for IBM before becoming chief technology officer at Seagate. There, they raised two highly accomplished children: son Tim obtained one master’s degree in computer science and another in financial economics while daughter Heather obtained a master’s degree in zoology. They had also set up a philanthropic family foundation that supports, among many other causes, the Amani Children’s Home in Tanzania.

When Tom and Beverley retired to Florida in 2004 they could have rested easy while their grown children established themselves in their chosen careers. But after just a year of retirement they realized they weren’t ready for their curtain call, and a new family business was born.

Longtime wine connoisseurs, in 2005 Beverley and Tom made the trip to California’s famed Napa Valley in pursuit of the perfect piece of land. After three months they discovered a small vineyard in the idyllic town of Coombsville and decided to pursue their dream of being winemakers. Much to their delight, their children decided to join them in their new venture, and over the years the entire Porter family has contributed to the blossoming success of the Porter Family Vineyards. Heather put her scientific background to good use, becoming the vineyard’s viticulturist; her husband, Steven (an actual rocket scientist), used his engineering experience to develop technology to keep the winery running smoothly and efficiently. Tim’s business background also came in handy as he took charge of sales and marketing for the vineyard.

Porter Family Vineyards is a small operation: Currently, the Porters produce between 2,000 and 3,000 cases of wine per year, and though they are growing, they plan to cap their production at 5,000 cases. This ensures that all the varieties of wines they produce will be able to meet their high quality standards, and also enables them to stay sustainable.

But though their output is small, it is award-winning. Their 2005 Cabernet received a 91-point rating from Wine Spectator, and their 2006 Cabernet was rated the number two red by local sommeliers in a blind tasting at this year’s Forks and Corks.

Porter Family Vineyards offers an array of high-quality wines, including rosé, chardonnay, cabernet, syrah, and several blends, and soon they’ll be adding a pure malbec to their repertoire. Visit their website at to support this American family during their impressive second act.

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foodThoughtwin13“Knowing is not enough;
we must apply.
Willing is not enough;
we must do.”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Happy New Year, readers! My wish for you this year is the same as my wish for myself: to keep growing, learning, and getting better. We are excited to kick off another year full of fascinating and deserving stories about our local food community. With lots of fresh new writing, a brand new website, exclusive Edible events, monthly newsletters, and more, we will continue to celebrate things that make life just a little more delicious.

We extend a warm welcome to Charlotte Abrams, who joins the Edible Sarasota team as our new recipe editor. The Edible test kitchen has been busy testing mouthwatering seasonal recipes that will make you swoon.

In the spirit of not just knowing, but also doing, Edible Sarasota has joined forces with our friends at the Polo Grill and Bar to help fight diabetes. With an estimated 25.8 million Americans living with this disease we wanted to do our part to help raise awareness. Together we have sponsored the Tour De Cure cycling event on April 7. Dust that bike off and join us for a day full of fun and excitement where riders of all levels raise critically needed funds for diabetes research, education, and advocacy in support of the American Diabetes Association. We invite you to join our team and take the ride of your life.

And if pedaling isn’t for you, we hope you will join us on Thursday, February 7, at Tequila Cantina for “101 Bottles of Tequila on the Wall”—an exclusive Edible Sarasota event offering tequila tastings and Mexican-inspired cuisine. Learn more about this local hot spot in this issue. Here’s to a prosperous, healthy, happy—and inspiringly edible—new year!

Tracy Freeman–Editor

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