Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar has a rare authenticity. It is unabashedly and unapologetically what its name proclaims — a place to go when your stomach wants meat. Yes, there are other options on the menu — a foodie friend routinely orders and loves the ahi tuna when she is counting calories, for example. The restaurant hews to high standards in everything it serves, and it has some unique features. But handsome is as handsome does, and this is a steakhouse in the great American tradition.
Nothing makes that point more strongly than Chef/partner Charles Flint’s recommendation for what a first-time visitor should order. His appetizer recommendations are carpaccio and/or calamari. For salad, he suggests Caesar or fresh mozzarella and sweet tomatoes. Flint’s entrée choice is the New York strip steak, which he says “is by far our best steak … you can never go wrong with it.” His selections for sides are grilled asparagus or Fleming’s potatoes, described by him as “decadent.” For dessert, Flint proposes chocolate lava cake.
Fleming’s menu, however, is far from static. Regular appetizer, soup and entrée specials benefit from Flint’s creativity, as demonstrated by the soup recipe provided in the box. And Fleming’s has plenty of attributes beyond beef. Its “5 for $6 ’til 7” happy hour, for example, offers five cocktails, five wines by the glass and five appetizers plus a burger for $6 each, served at the bar until 7 p.m. Usually open for dinner only, the restaurant occasionally stages special lunches, such as one planned for April 27 to celebrate Administrative Professionals Day (Reservations accepted from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., $40 per person). Wine dinners are offered three to four times a year, priced from $55 to $100 per person, each featuring a single vineyard. And there are 100 wines offered by the glass.
And Fleming’s has a new operating partner: Dean Defebo, a native of Pittsburgh who came on as manager in January 2010 and was promoted to his present position earlier this year. He has been in restaurant management for his entire career. The Sarasota Fleming’s opened April 14, 2004, and Debbie Allen, private dining director, has been there virtually since the beginning. The three make a well-balanced team committed to delivering the consistency and quality — as well as the meat! — for which the Fleming’s brand is known.
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POTATO AND ROASTED CORN CHOWDER
Courtesy of Chef Charles Flint*
Yield: six to eight full bowls
1/2 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced onion
1/4 pound whole butter
1 1/2 tablespoons spice mix
1 tablespoon coriander
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay
Sweat vegetables with butter about 10 minutes, add spice mix and toast (two minutes).
1 cup white wine
1/2 gallon whole milk
1/2 gallon chicken stock
5 pounds peeled Idaho potatoes cut into 1-inch chunks
Add the rest of the ingredients to pot, and bring to rapid simmer, leaving covered until potatoes are completely soft. Using immersion blender or upright blender, puree until smooth and creamy in consistency.
Finish with roasted corn. (Recipe below.)
Shuck kernels from four good-sized cobs of yellow corn. Place in bowl, coat with virgin olive oil and cracked pepper and sea salt to taste. Place on a nonstick cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
+ Soup as shown is garnished with shredded cheddar and sprigs of fresh rosemary.
+ Note that servings are in bowls, typically 12 ounces.
+ Recipe can be cut in half.