In a winter that seems intent on setting records for cool temperatures, nothing is more heartening than a bowl of soup billowing steam. And a lovingly created new spot in downtown Sarasota has just the thing.
It is Cindy and John Snyder’s Star Keeper Café, located in a historic house formerly occupied by C’Arina on Bamboo Lane, a one-block, one-way street between Ringling Avenue and Main Street, east of the Post Office and right behind the Ranola Hotel. The Snyders leased the space in August, spent three months renovating and opened their tiny treasure Nov. 1.
The three soups on the menu this time of year are mushroom barley; coconut, ginger, chicken and veggies; and basil tomato with Parmesan ice cream.
“It sounds weird,” says Cindy Snyder, “but it’s really good.”
It is also simple to prepare at home, and the Parmesan ice cream requires no special equipment — you simply melt the cheese in heavy cream and freeze it.
Star Keeper is as funky as it is charming. Interior features include an old sewing machine topped with vintage Simplicity sewing patterns, a Victorian breakfront and assorted silver, glass and china treasures that once belonged to Cindy Snyder’s late mother — not to mention an oversized apothecary jar filled with homemade marshmallows. The Snyders bill their food as “fresh, healthy (but still a little Southern) ‘comfort food’ made from the memories of our grandmothers’ kitchens and church potlucks.” An example is the Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich (from the Brown Hotel, in Louisville, Ky.,): turkey, bacon, Parmesan cheese sauce and tomatoes. At $9.75, it is the most expensive sandwich on the menu. The least is PB&J at $3.75.
The ambience at Star Keeper is enhanced by an abundance of fresh flowers — a fringe benefit of the Snyders’ other business, which is wholesale flowers. The entire restaurant (which seats 30 inside and another 15 in a charming back garden, weather permitting) can be rented for private evening events.
Cindy’s basil tomato soup with Parmesan ice cream
Yield: 12 servings
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1 quart heavy cream
2 cups fresh basil, chopped
8 tomatoes, chopped
2 quarts tomato juice
Melt butter, then add rest of ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
Parmesan ice cream
1 quart heavy cream
3 cups parmesan, shredded
Combine cream and cheese in a saucepan and heat until cheese is completely melted. Let cool to room temperature, then freeze to use as needed.
Editor’s note: It would make sense to freeze this much cream in small batches. Use a couple of tablespoons per serving of soup.
STAR KEEPER CAFÉ
Address: 1734 Bamboo Lane
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Owners: Cindy and John Snyder