- December 19, 2018
“Summer” is often a sigh-inducing word for the restaurateurs of Florida’s seaside tourist hubs.
The sweltering months of June, July, August and September bring significantly fewer tourists to Sarasota, and local restaurants take notice via the drop in customer count.
That’s why Visit Sarasota created Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week. From June 1-14, the culinary event consists of more than 90 restaurants serving multicourse meals for a fixed, discounted price. Lunch will be $16 per person and each three-course dinner is $32.
This two-week span of deals gives locals and any tourists braving the heat the chance to sample several restaurants throughout the greater Sarasota area — from Lakewood Ranch down to Englewood — at an affordable price.
We caught up with three Savor Sarasota chefs and a few restaurant owners to learn what they’ll be cooking and what makes the perfect dish.
Shore Executive Chef Dylan Elhajoui says when it came time to plan for Savor Sarasota, his wife would say sleep took a backseat.
“I started jotting down ideas, endlessly researching recipes,” he says. “I would often stay up all night doing so.”
Elhajoui takes Savor Sarasota seriously because he considers it the perfect opportunity to attract new diners and treat his regular customers with fun, surprising dishes. He loves the challenge of pushing the Shore brand while never straying too far from the restaurant’s goal of producing cool, eclectic cuisine, he says.
His favorite dish on this new menu is Sichuan pepper seared white Pekin duck breast with miso sauteed baby bok choy, pickled kohlrabi, crystallized ginger coconut sticky rice cake and hoisin jus. He’s wanted to put duck on the menu for a long time, he says, and the fresh ingredients and East Asian feel of this dish provided the perfect opportunity.
As for his secret ingredient, Elhajoui says no successful dish is possible without fresh, seasonal and flavorful ingredients that work well together.
“I love to work on the balance of flavors and add the element of surprise without the dish being weird for the sake of being weird.”
Savor Sarasota Dinner
Myriam and Jean Dandonneau’s Shoppes at UTC location of C’est La Vie opened just a year and a half ago, and they’re excited to transport even more customers to Paris through their second Savor Sarasota menu.
Most people know them just as a breakfast and lunch place, Jean says, so he hopes this menu can help give their authentic French dinner entrees the exposure they need.
French chefs Michael Deshayes and Arnaud Wallet went back to their roots to create this menu, which features classics already popular in the U.S., such as French onion soup, as well as some lesser-known dishes that are representative of true French cuisine, such as coq au vin.
Coq au vin is chicken stew made with red wine sauce and served with fettuccine pasta. Deshayes says the chicken is marinated for 24 hours with carrots and onions before it’s taken out and cooked for 45 minutes.
His secret? It’s all about the wine.
“The better the wine you put inside, the better the dish will be,” Deshayes says.
Savor Sarasota Dinner
Chef Pedro Flores has been with The Table for about 14 years, since before it moved from Hillview Street to its Phillippi Creek location. He calls the cuisine globally inspired, but notes his team likes to include several local items to highlight what the area has to offer.
The item perhaps most representative of this on The Table’s Savor Sarasota menu, Flores says, is the stuffed Florida grouper filet. The dish features a creamy pecorino risotto, summer vegetables and grouper stuffed with baby scallops, crabmeat and butter shrimp to create a dynamic entree starring the fish for which Sarasota is most known.
It’s the California vegetable stir fry with baby green beans and red seedless grapes, along with the citrus-flavored sauce, he says, that makes this the perfect dish for summer because it’s refreshing and lighter than it looks.
The way the dish is cooked is what makes it unique, he adds.
“We sear it and bake it very lightly with just a touch of butter, so it keeps all the flavors inside of the fish.”
As for his secret ingredient, Flores says it’s the same for all his dishes: collaboration.
“The way we come up with the menu is always through teamwork,” Flores says, noting that everyone is involved in tasting and offering their opinion — from the dishwasher all the way to the manager. “If you don’t have a good team, you have nothing.”
Savor Sarasota Dinner