Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Really Easy & Delicious Dessert

This afternoon, I prepared lunch for one of my wonderful nieces, her husband, and my sister (as well as for my wife and our daughter). The lunch included two delicious dishes I've mentioned in an earlier post - St. Simons Island Shrimp Bog and Vidalia Onion Salad. For dessert, I tried something new - Orange Cream Liqueur Dessert - a Rachel Ray recipe posted on -

The recipe has only four ingredients - vanilla ice cream, orange liqueur like Cointreau or Grand Marnier, orange zest, and orange slices. It takes only minutes to prepare and is delicious. I used Grand Marnier. I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Square 1 Burgers & Bar - Making the Customer Happy

This afternoon, my daughter, my wife, and I punctuated our Black Friday doings with a lunch at Square 1 Burgers and Bar. The food was tasty as usual. However, our experience was enhanced by the customer focus of Michael, whom I assume was the manager.

We had been seated for about 10 minutes without a server appearing at our table. Our daughter caught the attention of a waitress and informed her that we had not yet been served. She apologized and quickly informed Michael. He immediately came to our table and apologized profusely. To make amends, he offered us any appetizer on the house, and did not charge for my glass of wine.

The appetizer we chose was a tasty dish of onion rings. I won't repeat the delicious burger dishes because I've covered them in other posts.

Thanks Michael! You are a great example of what customer service is all about.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Morimoto Napa - An Iron Chef Experience

Famed Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto operates a number of restaurants in the U.S. and abroad, including one in Napa ( The cuisine is a fusion of Japanese and western ingredients. We enjoyed a superb meal there during our recent trip to California.

Morimoto was originally a professional baseball player in the Japanese major leagues. However, after a shoulder injury ended his career, he turned to cooking.

The entrance to Morimoto Napa is situated along Main St. in Napa. The restaurant features a sushi bar, lounge, large main dining room, and outdoor patio dining area. The dining room and outdoor patio front along the Napa River, with heaters to warm the outdoor area. The ambience is bright, modern, and very casual. The  restaurant is very large and it was packed. It was very lively.

The menu was great, with too many interesting choices. Every bite of our meal was wonderful. I would love to have dined there several times.

My wife started with a Tempura Shrimp Sushi Roll for $9, with tempura shrimp, asparagus, and a spicy sauce. It was fantastic.

My appetizer was pork gyoza with garlic, chives, tomato, and bacon cream for $16. It was different from traditional gyoza. The filling had the consistency of sausage. It was delicious.

 Pork Gyoza

My wife's entrée was Morimoto Pork Chop and Apple Sauce, with kimchee, bacon, and ginger apple purée for$34. The pork chop was marinated in miso sauce for 24 hours. It was a large serving and very tasty.

Pork Chop

My entrée was Seafood Toban Yaki - lobster, king crab, mussels, clams, and diver scallops, with baby bok choy in a red miso sake broth - for $39. It was seasoned with the Morimoto 7, which our server described as having 5 types of Korean chilis, cumin, and paprika. It was filled with seafood and the taste was terrific.

Seafood Toban Yaki

I had a side of Japanese-style rice for $6

We both had the same dessert - Bi Bim Bop - a sushi rice pudding with mango ice cream and tropical fruit for $12 per serving. Like everything else, it was delicious.

Our wine was a 2010 Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from St. Helena for $50. It was very nice and a perfect accompaniment for our meal.

The only minor problem with the restaurant was that it was noisy - both because of the lively crowd and the acoustics.

In view of the great popularity of this restaurant, I recommend reservations long in advance.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dinner at Roessler's - Delicious Food and Good Friends

Last night, my wife and I enjoyed a very nice dinner at Roessler's ( with three couples whose company we really enjoy. The company and food were wonderful.

Roessler's is family owned and operated. It has been at the same location since 1985. It is divided into two areas - a bistro and a restaurant. The items on the bistro menu are less expensive than those on the restaurant menu. The selections on each menu are not extensive and they are standard dishes. However, they are all beautifully prepared. Except for my wife's soup, we all enjoyed our meals very much.

My wife started with a bowl of vichyssoise soup, a "house specialty," for $7. It was so salty that it overwhelmed the other flavors. (Many think that Vichyssoise is a French soup. However, it was probably served for the first time at the Ritz-Carlton in New York in 1917 by French chef Louis Diat, whose creation was inspired by a soup his mother used to make when he was growing up in France.

I started with a different soup - lobster and crab bisque for $9. It was delicious.

My wife's entrée was Steak Diane for $35. She loved it.

My entrée was equally delicious - beef and pork meatloaf with mashed potatoes and small onion rings - for $21.

For dessert, my wife had Parfait Roessler - vanilla ice cream rolled in almond brittle with orange liqueur and whipped cream for $8. She enjoyed it very much.

I had Crepes Suzette for $11. They were delicious. This dish must be oordered by two people. Fortunately, one of our friends was also interested.

One couple both ordered the Wiener Schnitzel Holstein. They loved it. Both have lived in Germany and affirm that this schnitzel is genuine.

The wine list was decent. We had a bottle of Bouchard Aîné & Fils Pinot Noir for $26. I have had this wine a number of times and have always enjoyed it. It is at the lower end of Bouchard's many offerings from Burgundy. My wife and I had the pleasure of a tasting at Bouchard's tasting room in Beaune, Burgundy in 2003.

There was a mixup in the wines ordered by two of the other couples. They both ordered the same Catena Argentine Malbec and were both served an Italian wine. It turned out that the wine list had two wines with the same number. Our server quickly admitted the error and profusely apologized. He then brought them the correct wine.

(The on-line wine list is out of date. There are wines listed on that menu that are not available, and there are wines on the wine list at the restaurant that are not on the on-line list.)

Our server did a superb job.

There were a couple of clues that Roessler's may cater to an older crowd:
1. When we left at 9:30 pm, we were the last couples in the restaurant.
2. The dishes offered are very standard fare.
3. The parking spaces are nice and wide.

The restaurant is located just off U.S. 41 at 2033 Vamo Way. At night, it is not easily visible from U.S. 41. It might be a good idea to use GPS in order not to miss the turn.

Phone 941-966-5688. I recommend reservations.

Sangria Tapas Bar

The night before last, my wife and I had a nice dinner at Sangria Tapas Bar on Main Street in Sarasota ( My wife had three tapas and dessert. She enjoyed them all very much. I had four tapas and dessert. I really liked two of my tapas and the dessert. I found two other tapas nice, but unexciting.

The tapas my wife ordered were:
1. Tomate Pan y Queso, which was like a tomato bruschetta with cheese for $6.25. It had tomato, manchego cheese, and basil on garlic bread with a basil reduction.
2. Ensalada de Pollo al Curry for  $6.25. It was chicken breast, currants, and apples in a curry mayonnaise.
3. Gambas y Aguacate for $7.25. It involved shrimp, aovcados, and sweet peppers in olive oil.

My tapas were:
1. Tostada de Cabra for $3.95 - Soft goat cheese and caramelized onions on toast. This was one I enjoyed very much.
2. Aceitunas Alineadas for $3.95 - black and green olives marinaed in oregano, thyme, and rosemary. This was decent, but unexciting. The olive dishes I've enjoyed in Spain (and France and Italy) have generally been much better.
3. Manchego y Chorizo for 6.25 - Manchego cheese, chorizo sausage, and roasted red pepper salad. This dish was very nice.
4. Calamares Empanizados for $6.25 - Crispy fried squid with tomato-basil sauce. This dish was decent, but unexciting.

My wife's dessert was Delicia de Chocolate for $6.95 - Flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis.

My dessert was Pan Perdido for $6.95 - Warm bread pudding with creme anglaise.

Our wine was a bottle of Spanish red - 2010 Carchelo Monastrell for $26 - with 40% Monastrell, 40% Syrah, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was nice, but like many big Spanish reds, it took a little while to open up. I tried it once before, about 4 years ago, but did not enjoy it as much then.

During Happy Hour, from 3 to 6 pm, some of the tapas are reduced by a couple of dollars to $4, and there is a two-for-one offering of Sangria.

The service was nice, but one aspect was a bit annoying. Our server kept referring to us as "you guy."

The restaurant is located at 1532 Main St. Phone - 941-955-8272

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Roy's of Sarasota - A Wonderful Special-Menu Dinner

Our wine club recently enjoyed what we called a "HaWine Dinner" at Roy's Restaurant in Sarasota. Roy's is  chain of Hawaiian fusion restaurants started by Roy Yamaguchi. It fuses Asian cuisine with European techniques, with excellent results.

I approached Roy's last spring about having a dinner for our wine club. Sous-chef Matthew Ellis created a menu just for us - with dishes not on Roy's regular menu. The results were great. The meal comprised four courses, of which the first three were accompanied by a 4-oz. glass of wine. The cost for the meal including the wines, but excluding tax, tip, and an administrative fee, was $50 - which was very reasonable.

One creative feature of Matt's menu was that he also used the paired wines in cooking two of the first three courses.

The first course was Hawaiian Salt-Seared Nairagi fish with a fennel salad with lemon-tomato vinaigrette. It was accompanied by a Napa Valley Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay. The nairagi and salad were excellent. Although I normally do not care for Chardonnays because of their oakiness, this one was very pleasant.

The second course was Chicken Roulade with a shiitake and olive tapenade stuffing and a pinot noir poulet jus. It was accompanied by a Washington State 14 Hands Merlot. This course and its wine, like the first, were also very nice. 

The third course was terrific - Tender Braised Barbecued Beef Ribs with a Port Wine Glaze, accompanied by roasted red pepper polenta with a butter sauce. The wine was a Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.

The dessert course comprised small servings of two separate desserts:
- Warm chocolate torte
- Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Our server for the evening was excellent, and I enjoyed working with Managing Partner Andrew Mayer to make arrangements for our dinner.

I highly recommend Roy's -

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Tasty, but not "Purty" Eggplant Custard

In a Tuscan meal that I prepared for friends last night, I tried one new dish - Eggplant Custard with Tomato and Basil Sauce (Sformatino di Melanzane con Pomodoro e Basilico). The recipe is from a book called, "A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany," by Beth Elon. She found the dish at an eatery called Il Conte Matto, in the town of Trequanda, which is located a few miles northwest of Montepulciano, Tuscany.

I highly recommend Ms. Elon's book to anyone who enjoys Tuscan cuisine and travel. in Tuscany. Ms. Elon has laid out a number of interesting day trips to different parts of Tuscany. In each trip, she identifies nice little eateries and provides recipes from those establishments.

The dish was really tasty, but the eggplant gave the dish a color that was a bit gray. The recipe has two components - a custard and a sauce.

Use either a baking dish or 4 large individual ramekins for the custard. The custard from the ramekins can be emptied onto the sauce, or as I did, I emptied the ramekins onto a plate and covered the custard with the sauce.


1. For the Custard
1 pound eggplant peeled and coarsely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg plus 1 yolk
3 heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus additional at table

2. For the Sauce
1.5 pouns (about 4 large) ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
3 sprigs casil, chopped, and some additional leaves for garnish
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Put the eggplant into a colander, mix some salt through it, and leave it to rest for at least half an hour in order to rid it of any bitter juices. Squeeze it dry in a towel, then sauté gently in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft. If need be, add a bit of boiling water and allow it to cook out. Place the eggplant, cream, egg, egg yolk, and Parmesan into a food processor and blend until amalgamated.

Put the mixture into individual ramekins or a baking dish, and place in a bain marie of boiling water. Bake for half n hour if in ramekins, or 45 minutes if using a baking dish. Test for doneness by sticking a sharp knife. If it comes out clean, the custard is done. Cool well.

Blend the tomatoes and basil together, and pour into a bowl. Mix in the vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. (I used a hand blending stick for this part.) Serve the custard with the sauce, garnished with fresh basil leaves. Serve with more sauce and Parmesan at table.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Libby's in Sarasota - Yum & Fun

Yesterday, my wife and I joined three other couples to celebrate a friend's birthday and our anniversary at Libby's in Sarasota. We had a great time and a delicious meal. On top of that, we were surprised by nice gifts of wine.

As if the friends, good food, and wine gifts were not enough, one of our friends gave me a tie clasp to add to my collection of over 1,700. The tie bar he gave me was one that he had obtained at the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico when he was 14. (On the train trip from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, he met former President Harry Truman.) This tie bar is a nice addition to my collection. I value tie bars from friends much more than ones that I buy.

Back to Libby's ( I had never been there before, but I think everyone else at the table, including my wife, had dined there. I'd heard many good things about Libby's and they were true. We all enjoyed our meals.

When we arrived in the vicinity of Libby's, we found that South Osprey Ave, the street in front of Libby's was blocked off for some type of major outdoor event. It turned out to be the 12th Annual Morton's Market Firehouse Chili Cook-off - a benefit for the Sarasota Fire Fighters Benevolent Fund.

Luckily, we found a parking spot within a block of Libby's.

Libby's has tables indoors and outside. Because of the noise from the Chili Cook-off, we all decided to take a table deep inside the restaurant - so that we could talk to one another.

My wife started with a small house salad of organic greens,  cucumber, marinated grape tomatoes, ricotta salata, and golden balsamic for $6. It was nice.

She loved her entrée - Four Cheese and Pear Tortelloni with white cream sauce for $15. The one thing she found strange is that it was served in a pan rather than on a plate. She felt this delicious dish deserved a much better presentation.

I started with an appetizer of BCC Potato Fritters - with potatoes, Neuskie bacon, cheddar cheese, corn, and white truffle sauce for $9. It was very tasty.

My entrée was a Kobe beef meatloaf with bacon and bordelaise sauce and with a sunny-side egg on top. It was accompanied by a single, beer-battered onion ring and a side of green beans. The meat loaf was great.

For dessert, my wife enjoyed a huge, molten chocolate chip cookie with vanilla bean ice cream for $8.

I had pineapple upside-down cake with warm caramel glaze and Zaya Gran Reserva Rum Raisin Ice Cream for $8. It was very tasty.

Our wine was a 2009 Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel from Sonoma for $40. Like all Ridge Zins, it was very nice.

With my dessert, I had a glass of Graham's Six Grape Reserve Port for $9.

Libby's has a very creative menu (dinner menu at, and includes dishes with Korean and Japanese influences. It also has a number of gluten-free dishes.

Libby's is located at 1917 South Osprey at Hillview.
Phone 941-487-7300.