Date: January 8, 2014
by: June LeBell | Contributing Columnist


+ ‘Downton Abbey’ comes to town
The “Downton Years” are being celebrated at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17 with a glorious four-course wine dinner in the traditional English style at the magnificent Powel Crosley Estate, 8374 N. Tamiami Trail. Love the TV series? Eat like a Downton lord and lady with smoked duck breasts on puff pastry (with cranberry and mint relish, of course), leek and Stilton cheese soup and a choice of several other sumptuous dishes, including a classic beef tenderloin and Guinness stout demiglace served with a puff pastry crust that will have you untying your corsets and loosening your knickers for a few days to come.

Be sure to make a resy, deah, at localwineevents.com/events/detail/511731/sarasota-taste-magazines-downton-abbey-wine-dinner or 366-7950, or the butler won’t let you in.

+ Sarasota wins coveted awards
We’re sure you’ve heard that Business Insider recently named Sarasota as the No. 1 city, for its size, in music and nightlife. Now we’re pleased to report Florida Trend magazine honored 10 Sarasota restaurants with accolades in its annual Golden Spoon Awards, which recognizes the culinary and dining leaders in Florida.

Writing about Louies Modern’s Best New award in Florida Trend, Chris Sherman said it “… is hip casual and slamming. Bang into short rib burgers, 48-hour pork chops, wood-oven duck or ease into sweet potato taquitos or spaghetti squash pomodoro. Very smart drinking.”

Meanwhile, LM’s older sister, Libby’s Café + Bar, also earned a top honor when it was awarded its fifth Golden Spoon. Writing about Libby’s, Sherman said it is “the (Hillview) neighborhood’s staple for nouveau comfort foods, from sliders of Kobe meatloaf and Velveeta, truffled fries and pork filet mignon, to Gulf grouper and Mote caviar.”

We weren’t aware there was a “nouveau comfort food,” being old-school comfort, ourselves, but we’re certainly willing and happy to try it. Perhaps everything old really is new again.

About Shore Diner, another Best New restaurant, Sherman wrote, “St. Armands gets a colorful shot of hip Southern California retro and a fresh take on shop-n-chew retail. Sip ruby-red cocktails and eat quinoa salad and lobster LGBTs à la Malibu on the patio after eying/buying harem pants, jams, tees and fedoras.”
In addition to Libby’s, Derek’s, Mozaic and Selva Grill also received Golden Spoon awards. After receiving numerous Golden Spoon awards throughout the years, Michael’s On East earned the Hall of Fame award. And Carmel Café, Fleming’s and Roy’s, which all have restaurants in Sarasota, were named Best Brands.

+ The Blue Rooster crows
One of Sarasota’s newest and trendiest restaurants, The Blue Rooster, at 1525 Fourth St., started a Sunday gospel brunch a few weeks ago and, between its authentic Southern food and the live, traditional and contemporary spirituals and gospel music, the place is really rocking. Fried chicken, brown-sugar glazed ham, sweet catfish fingers, biscuits and red-eye gravy, cheesy grits and fried green tomatoes are just a few of the tasty treats you’ll scarf down while you wrestle with TBR’s signature brunch cocktail, the “Hail Mary,” and swing to the beat of Sister Tsa and the Spirit Singers.

If Sunday brunch ain’t enough, ya’ll, remember there’s Southern comfort food and more music — blues, jazz, bluegrass and soul — seven nights a week. Again, make a reservation at blueroostersrq.com or those low-country shrimp and grits will be kissing you bye-bye.

+ A special New Year's treat for our readers
In this new year, as we all scramble resolutions and eggs with equal ardor, I thought I’d share with you part of an email my friend and WQXR colleague, Robert Sherman, sent to me last year. Although Bob loves food, he’s not what you’d call a seasoned chef. Here’s what happened when he attempted what he thought was a fairly simple recipe for banana bread by his late wife, Veronica, who was a fabulous cook.

“I warmed up the lemon juice and milk, set it aside, and then put the bananas, eggs, sugar and butter (I only had 3/4 of a stick, but who’s counting?) in the food processor. ‘Whirl for five seconds,’ it says, ‘adding soured milk through spout.’ The food processor, however, has no ‘whirl,’ only ‘pulse’ and ‘dough.’ Dough didn’t sound right, so I pulsed, but the thing kept turning on and off, so I couldn’t pour in the milk. Eventually I managed to do it, except nobody told me that there was a tube inside the spout preventing all but a few drops going through. I had to spoon out the soured milk, which by now looked rather curdled, and dump it in.

“I then read further: ‘Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and sift over batter. That stumped me, since I assumed the batter was the glop still in the processor, and I had no idea what sifting meant. I intuited that it must mean putting the flour through some sort of strainer. So I used a pasta drainer, shaking the flour through it into a pie dish, and (tried to) put it into the processor. Maybe 2/3 of it went in, the rest landing on the counter, floor and my shirt. The next line said, ’Add fruit and nuts.’

“Whoops, I had already done that. So, I panicked, and seeing the remaining walnuts, threw those in. Next, it said, ‘Turn into a well-buttered loaf pan,’ but I couldn’t because I used up all the butter. So I sprayed some vegetable oil in the pan, instead, and started ladling in the goop from the processor, removing some globs of flour that had somehow escaped my sifting.

“I won’t bore you with the ghastly details of the mess I left behind, but I took the pan out of the oven, only burning myself slightly in the process, and it looks OK, except for being burned, and I’ll have to figure out how to remove another glob of unsifted flour at the top, that looks like a half-opened eye glaring at me. Maybe I could cover it over with whipped cream (if I had the cream).”

We don’t recommend you follow the above, but it works for a really good belly laugh and reminder that not everyone who loves to eat also loves to cook. Hooray for great Sarasota restaurants. Happy New Year!

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