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Performing Art
The entryway and brewery at Darwin's on 4th. Courtesy.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2013 4 years ago

Tidbites: Sarasota produces food and drink winners


+ Darwin’s Wins Big at Tampa Bay Beer Week
Darwin’s on 4th, one of my favorite restaurants for great food and ambience, is also known as the Darwin Brewing Co. and it just won 13 medals at the Tampa Bay Beer Week, as well as second runner-up overall for “Best Beer in Florida” for 2013.

Brewmaster Jared Barnes has developed his recipes to match Chef Darwin’s special Peruvian flavors, so you’ll find rather unusual ingredients such as quinoa, cacao nibs and aji charapita peppers in his brews.
If craft beers are new to you, Darwin’s is offering “First Friday Firkins” at 5:30 p.m. with a special release firkin (a barrel of beer that’s one-fourth the size of a regular barrel) for just $3 a glass until the firkin kicks the bucket (or barrel).

+ Kazu’s 2.0 is Celebrating Sake, Sushi and … Craft Beer
Kazu’s 2.0, at 6566 Gateway Ave., gets started early every day with 36 new craft beers to accompany the Sushi Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. With the logo “Eat, Drink and Evolve,” Kazu’s 2.0 is rebranding itself as a destination for glisteningly fresh sushi and a variety of craft beers. And, taking it one step further, it’s presenting a rotating list of sake cocktails to pair with the food.

+ Fleming’s Raises the Bar on New Cocktail and Food Menu
Russell Skall, Fleming’s executive chef, recently came out with a quartet of menu items that include an appetizer of pan-crisped pork belly with goat cheese grits, a small plate of braised short ribs, a burrata salad and a broiled Pacific swordfish entrée.

And Maeve Pesquera, Fleming’s director of wine, has refreshed the cocktail menu with a bunch of new recipes and fresh ingredient mixers for six brand-new cocktails. “There is a new ‘cocktail generation’ of guests coming to Fleming’s,” says Pesquera. “No longer is it good enough just to shake a good martini. We are making a commitment to have the Fleming’s Bar become a destination for our guests.”

+ Beach Bistro eyes Another Important Award
Peter Arpke, who wears many toques as the innovative head chef at Beach Bistro and the executive chef for all three Eat Here restaurants, has been nominated for “Best Chef of the South” by the James Beard Foundation. We’ll keep you posted …

The last few years I spent living in New York City, I was a proud (and well-fed) member of the James Beard Foundation and spent many a happy lunch and dinner in the beautiful James Beard House in the West Village, sampling the cooking of some of the greatest chefs in the world who’d been invited to present their finest in the legendary chef’s kitchen.

Dwayne Edwards, the executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, brought a five-course dinner — plus hors d’oeuvres and dessert — to the Beard House just last week and, with it, he brought a singular taste of Sarasota that lucky New Yorkers and their guests will remember for years. Calling it “Coastal Cuisine,” Edwards and his culinary team dazzled diners with a menu that included Mote marine caviar, fried Southern oysters with Cajun remoulade and pickled shallots, Gulf flounder fagioli and “My Mother’s garden pork.”

“It was an amazing and humbling opportunity to be in the James Beard’s House and cook in his kitchen,” Edwards told us in an exclusive interview for the Observer. “I can’t help but think of all the great chefs who have and will cook in that kitchen. I felt inspired the minute I walked in the house.”

“Did you feel their spirits?” we asked. “My fryer did turn itself off in the middle of service,” he chortled but added, “it’s a cozy kitchen but certainly user-friendly.”

We wondered what makes the “Gulf Coast cuisine” he brought to the Beard House different from food we might get in the Florida Panhandle or even New Orleans. After all, they’re all on the Gulf Coast, too.

“Sarasota is a unique area of Florida, and I believe our access to local farms and fishermen gives us the ability to create exclusive meals,” he said. “Jack Dusty’s cioppino is a great example. Obviously a dish from San Francisco Italian fishermen, we make it with local black grouper, Pine Island shrimp and other local items. And My Mother’s garden pork is from a Sarasota local farm called ‘My Mother’s Farm’ that grows beautiful produce and raises pigs that are allowed to free-range graze on acorns and grass, giving the meat an amazing flavor.”

The menu, which you can see in the photo gallery, looks too good for a one-night stand. Fortunately, Edwards is considering recreating it in Sarasota. That’s not set in stone, yet, but he did tell us, “I’d absolutely love” to do that, “and we’re talking about it. We’re thinking of doing it on Beard’s birthday.”

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