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Southeast Florida and the Keys


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Try El Siboney for an authentic Cuban family restaurant - it's moderately priced and the real deal

Thanks for the suggestions on this forum. My family had excellent Cuban mix sandwiches and yucca frita at El Siboney during our visit last week. Other Key West dining highlights were Cuban sandwiches from 5 Brothers Grocery and an excellent fish sandwich from Caroline's on Duval.

If you're in town, I also heartily suggest swinging by Peppers of Key West - a "hot sauce" shop that sells a vast array of items. One of my long time favorites is Earth and Vine's Red Bell Pepper and Ancho Chile jam. Serve this with a mild goat cheese on crackers. A great twist on a Southern classic.

Other suggestion - the Key Lime pie from the Blonde Giraffe. Truly delicious with a mile-high meringue :raz:

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  • 4 weeks later...

In mid-August (14-21), we'll be in Longboat Key, Florida (near Sarasota). We'd like to dine at an exceptional restaurant while we're down there -- something equivilent to a 4- or 5-star -- or as close as we can get.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Edited by vogelap (log)

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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In mid-August (14-21), we'll be in Longboat Key, Florida (near Sarasota). We'd like to dine at an exceptional restaurant while we're down there -- something equivilent to a 4- or 5-star -- or as close as we can get.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Might this fill the bill?

Euphemia Haye

Some of the awards the place has been given:

Nestled away in a lush tropical setting, on the barrier-island of Longboat Key, near Sarasota-Bradenton is one of the finest and most romantic restaurants in the country. Awarded 10 consecutive Florida Trend Golden Spoons, also The DiRoNa Award of Excellence and Dining By Candlelight's America's top 200 Most Romantic Restaurants. Highly rated by ZAGAT, and known for "world-class dining". Dine in a charming and friendly atmosphere where service is attentive.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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AH! Euphemia Haye does, indeed, fit the bill! That's quite close to where we're staying, as well.

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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vogelap - I'll second Euphemia Haye. Another one of my favorites is the Beach Bistro located on Anna Maria Island which is the next barrier island north of Longboat. Link to info here: http://www.beachbistro.com/. Great food and a beautiful location.

I have a second residence in Sarasota and spend about a week a month there (in fact, just returned from there last night). Since I cannot recall the last time that I "ate in" there, I'm very familiar with Sarasota's dining scene. Sarasota has some excellent restaurants and more than a fair share overrated ones. If you'll provide a little more guidance on what you're looking for (cuisine, location, max. driving distance, etc), I'll be glad to make additional recommendations.

If you have not done so already, you may want to check out the lisitngs in the restaurant section of the Sarasota magazine at this link http://www.sarasotamagazine.com/Pages/dining/dine.asp

It's not all inclusive but it's about the best there is available.

One thing to watch out for - You're going to be there in mid-August which is the peak of Sarasota's "off season". Since it is so slow at that time, many of the better restaurants are closed for the month.

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If you'll provide a little more guidance on what you're looking for (cuisine, location, max. driving distance, etc), I'll be glad to make additional recommendations.

One thing to watch out for - You're going to be there in mid-August which is the peak of Sarasota's "off season". Since it is so slow at that time, many of the better restaurants are closed for the month.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my request. Also, thanks for the endorsement of Euphemia Haye and Beach Bistro. They're both now on 'my list'! I'm aware that August is a 'down' month for a lot of places, too... If you can mention which restaurants you think are likely to be closed, I'd appreciate it.

A bit of explaination as for what we're looking for... I'm a dyed-in-the-wool 'foodie' and a near-graduation Culinary student (chef-wannabe!, though I cannot afford a career change!). My family (mom & dad and my brother & his wife) are joining my wife (the darling Wendy) & me in Longboat Key Aug 14-21. Longboat has been our family vacation spot for almost 20 years, though I've only been there one time since my big-time 'culinary awakening'. We're looking for places of three distinct types:

* A foodie destination -- amazing food, great wines, truly passionate chef, outstanding service. (Foie gras is a plus. :D ) A chef-owned restaurant is preferred over a chain (of course!). Price is no consideration. My wife and I will dine there on our 'date' night out. We'd probably drive 45-60 minutes one-way to get there.

* A nice place for a good family dinner. Variety is good -- my family will eat most things that they recognize. Within 30-45 minutes of Longboat Key... Are there any places on St. Armand's Circle that you recommend? My mother simply adores Columbia Restaurant.

* A good 'general grub' restaurant where we can grab lunch or a light dinner... The pizza place Beachfan mentioned in another thread (Il Panificio) sounds great... There's a breakfast place just north of Longboat that we like, too... I think it's called Gulf Drive Cafe.

Edited by vogelap (log)

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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As a bonus (and a longshot)... Can anyone recommend any good scuba diving shops and/or diving destinations near Longboat Key? Wendy & I are advanced certified scuba divers, and want to get into the water while we're there.

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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* A foodie destination -- amazing food, great wines, truly passionate chef, outstanding service. (Foie gras is a plus. :D ) A chef-owned restaurant is preferred over a chain (of course!). Price is no consideration. My wife and I will dine there on our 'date' night out. We'd probably drive 45-60 minutes one-way to get there.

* A nice place for a good family dinner. Variety is good -- my family will eat most things that they recognize. Within 30-45 minutes of Longboat Key... Are there any places on St. Armand's Circle that you recommend? My mother simply adores Columbia Restaurant.

* A good 'general grub' restaurant where we can grab lunch or a light dinner... The pizza place Beachfan mentioned in another thread (Il Panificio) sounds great... There's a breakfast place just north of Longboat that we like, too... I think it's called Gulf Drive Cafe.

Though Sarasota has some very good restaurants, there are none that I would consider "life altering". With that in mind....

Foodie Destination: In addition to previously mentioned EH and BB, another excellent choice on LBK that I just remembered is Maison Blanche (French). I've dined there several times and it has always been excellent.Could not find a website but a review at the following link http://www.4sarasota.com/review/maison_blanche.html

For "date night", I would rank MB and BB a tie for first (both excellent - just different styles) and EH a close second.

A bonus is that they are all well within your driving limits.

Family Dinner: A few suggestions on LBK would be Pattigeorge, Mattisons, and Cafe On The Bay. A little further north on Holmes Beach, DaGeorgio is a good pick. In downtown Sarasota, better choices include Divino, Uva Rara, Mediterraneo, Bijou Cafe, Zak's and Zoria. In South Sarasota, 2 places that I've eaten at recently that I enjoyed were Selva Grill and La Parigot . On Siesta Key, there's Ophelia's.

General Grub: Il Panifico, IMO, is more of a take out deli and food shop than it is a restaurant. Maybe I missed something. Not familiar with Gulf Drive Cafe. On the north end of LBK, there's Moore's Stone Crab. A the south end, there's a real funky place called the New Pass Bait & Grill. On some weekends, a fellow by the name of Bahama John pulls in a grill and smoker for some very good barbeque. In downtown Sarasota, there are a lot of options, mostly on or around Main Street. One that comes to mind is a little French place on known as C'est La Vie.

Finally, I've eaten at most of the restaurants on St Armands and honestly cannot think of one that I would want to return to. Foremost among the group is the Columbia. It's gone straight downhill over the past few years. Wife, daughter, and I had lunch there a couple months ago and after about 3 bites of our respective meals, we decide to just pay the bill and leave. Many others, especially the locals, share my opinion.

Many of the places mentioned have websites. I'll leave it to you to do the research. A pretty good site for independent diner reviews can be found at www.4sarasota.com.

Can't help re scuba diving. Does not seem to be a popular activity in Sarasota. More sailing, general boating,and fishing.

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Though Sarasota has some very good restaurants, there are none that I would consider "life altering". With that in mind....

Foodie Destination: In addition to previously mentioned EH and BB, another excellent choice on LBK that I just remembered is Maison Blanche (French). I've dined there several times and it has always been excellent.Could not find a website but a review at the following link http://www.4sarasota.com/review/maison_blanche.html

For "date night", I would rank MB and BB a tie for first (both excellent - just different styles) and EH a close second.

A bonus is that they are all well within your driving limits.

Family Dinner: A few suggestions on LBK would be Pattigeorge, Mattisons, and Cafe On The Bay. A little further north on Holmes Beach, DaGeorgio is a good pick. In downtown Sarasota, better choices include Divino, Uva Rara, Mediterraneo, Bijou Cafe, Zak's and Zoria. In South Sarasota, 2 places that I've eaten at recently that I enjoyed were Selva Grill and La Parigot . On Siesta Key, there's Ophelia's.

General Grub: Il Panifico, IMO, is more of a take out deli and food shop than it is a restaurant. Maybe I missed something. Not familiar with Gulf Drive Cafe. On the north end of LBK, there's Moore's Stone Crab. A the south end, there's a real funky place called the New Pass Bait & Grill. On some weekends, a fellow by the name of Bahama John pulls in a grill and smoker for some very good barbeque. In downtown Sarasota, there are a lot of options, mostly on or around Main Street. One that comes to mind is a little French place on known as C'est La Vie.

Finally, I've eaten at most of the restaurants on St Armands and honestly cannot think of one that I would want to return to. Foremost among the group is the Columbia. It's gone straight downhill over the past few years. Wife, daughter, and I had lunch there a couple months ago and after about 3 bites of our respective meals, we decide to just pay the bill and leave. Many others, especially the locals, share my opinion.

Many of the places mentioned have websites. I'll leave it to you to do the research. A pretty good site for independent diner reviews can be found at www.4sarasota.com.

Can't help re scuba diving. Does not seem to be a popular activity in Sarasota. More sailing, general boating,and fishing.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

I appreciate your thoroughness in the list! I'm printing it out and will go over it and investigate the restaurants. Is it okay with you if I bounce our ideas off you?

I am sorry to hear about the decline of quality at Columbia Restaurant. As you might have guessed, it has been several years since I've been to LBK (and Columbia). I've got fond memories of bottles of beer on their outdoor patio and their "1905" salad.

The last time I was on LBK, I stopped at a little market in Whitney Beach (can't recall the name of the shop) for ingredients for a family dinner. I got into a conversation with a gentleman wearing a chef's jacket behind the counter that I assume is the owner. We talked food for about 45 minutes, and he loaded me down with a ton of great fresh herbs from his garden -- they added a wonderful freshness to that evening's meal! I hope that place is still there.

Another place that I really like is Harry's Continental Cuisine. When I was a kid, it was a big deal to carry-out a Beef Wellington from Harry's and (this was the cool part) cook it at the condo! We also carried-out there very good (and rich) chocolate mousse. Have you eaten there? If not, you should check it out -- it's on LBK proper.

I've dined at Pattigeorge's several times over the years. It was spotty for a while. I hope it's solidified by now. I haven't heard of Mattisons or Cafe on the Bay; I'll investigate. New Pass sounds like just the place for a nice lunch.

You've been extremely helpful, and I appreciate it very much!

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

I appreciate your thoroughness in the list! I'm printing it out and will go over it and investigate the restaurants. Is it okay with you if I bounce our ideas off you?

I am sorry to hear about the decline of quality at Columbia Restaurant. As you might have guessed, it has been several years since I've been to LBK (and Columbia). I've got fond memories of bottles of beer on their outdoor patio and their "1905" salad.

The last time I was on LBK, I stopped at a little market in Whitney Beach (can't recall the name of the shop) for ingredients for a family dinner. I got into a conversation with a gentleman wearing a chef's jacket behind the counter that I assume is the owner. We talked food for about 45 minutes, and he loaded me down with a ton of great fresh herbs from his garden -- they added a wonderful freshness to that evening's meal! I hope that place is still there.

Another place that I really like is Harry's Continental Cuisine. When I was a kid, it was a big deal to carry-out a Beef Wellington from Harry's and (this was the cool part) cook it at the condo! We also carried-out there very good (and rich) chocolate mousse. Have you eaten there? If not, you should check it out -- it's on LBK proper.

I've dined at Pattigeorge's several times over the years. It was spotty for a while. I hope it's solidified by now. I haven't heard of Mattisons or Cafe on the Bay; I'll investigate. New Pass sounds like just the place for a nice lunch.

You've been extremely helpful, and I appreciate it very much!

Feel free to bounce your ideas off me.

Not familiar with the market or Harry's Continental. I'll have to check them out on my next trip there. Had dinner at Pattigeorge a few months ago and overall experience was pretty good. I can't comment on the spottiness myself but I've heard others say the same. Mattison's on LBK is primarily a steak house. Chef/Owner has a couple of other places (different styles) including one on Main Street that's a good call for a casual lunch. Be forewarned on New Pass Bait & Grill. It's exactly that. A bait shop, a few boat slips, and a "order and pay at window 1 - pick up at window 2" type of place with a few picnic tables. Basically' it's burgers, fish sandwiches, cold beer, etc. Best when Bahama John sets up his barbeque rig on the weekends.

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Be forewarned on New Pass Bait & Grill. It's exactly that. A bait shop, a few boat slips, and a "order and pay at window 1 - pick up at window 2" type of place with a few picnic tables. Basically' it's burgers, fish sandwiches, cold beer, etc. Best when Bahama John sets up his barbeque rig on the weekends.

That sounds familiar. I think maybe I've eaten there... Or is it Old Salty Dog that also serves the same way? Whichever it is, I'm remembering a place that is really close to MOAT MARINE LABS... Is that New Pass or is it OSD?

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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Be forewarned on New Pass Bait & Grill. It's exactly that. A bait shop, a few boat slips, and a "order and pay at window 1 - pick up at window 2" type of place with a few picnic tables. Basically' it's burgers, fish sandwiches, cold beer, etc. Best when Bahama John sets up his barbeque rig on the weekends.

That sounds familiar. I think maybe I've eaten there... Or is it Old Salty Dog that also serves the same way? Whichever it is, I'm remembering a place that is really close to MOAT MARINE LABS... Is that New Pass or is it OSD?

Salty Dog is accross the street from Mote Marine. New Pass is on the same road, same side as Salty Dog but at the corner when you turn off of Gulf Of Mexico Drive. Now that I think about it, New Pass is not on LBK. It's at the far north end of Lido Key just before the bridge to LBK.

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vogelap - While I was on the commuter train tonight, something struck me that, as a culinary student, you might enjoy during your stay in Sarasota. Not too long ago, Marcella and Victor Hazan retired and are living on LBK. Their son, Giuliano, and his family also live in Sarasota. A couple of times a month, Giuliano teaches a cooking class at a little Italian market that I frequent on Constitution Ave known as Casa Italia. Occasionally, M & V join him. You may want to check it out and see if he is doing anything during your stay - 941-924-1179. I know that the schedule is limited during the summer months but, give it a shot if you're interested.

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An excellent idea, DLS! I'll give that number a call and see if there's anything going on during my trip down. That would be fun!

I sincerely appreciate your continued input!

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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  • 1 month later...

I went to Key West a couple of weeks ago and had a truly wonderful meal at 915. They had a lovely butter lettuce salad with nectarines and a muscat vinaigrette. I swear it was a mouthful of summer in every bite. I'll be eating it daily once the nectarines show up in the farmers markets locally. Other enjoyable dishes were a warm spinach salad with carmelized shallots, pine nuts, golden raisins and serrano ham. I'm not sure where the line is between cooked spinach and a warm spinach salad, but this was marvelous -- wilted spinach with crispy ham and creamy pine nuts to pull it together. The sugarcane pork kababs were overspiced but tasty.

Also great was the breakfast at Blue Heaven. Definitely get the pancakes. We had both blueberry and pecan at my table. I liked the blueberry better -- seemed more appropriately summery.

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  • 1 month later...

I've got reservations for MAISON BLANC for Wednesday August 18. We'll let you know how we like it!

Thanks again to everyone for their input. It is appreciated.

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just made reservations to spend our anniversary weekend - in September - in Sarasota. Has anyone tried Vernona in the Ritz Carlton (I noticed that the restaurant has a famous pastry chef and that's enough for me :smile: )? Any other recommendations (big deal or little deal) would be appreciated too (took a quick look on line - and Javier's - Peruvian - looked interesting). Note that we'll be staying in Sarasota proper and won't feel like driving too much. Robyn

Edited by robyn (log)
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I just made reservations to spend our anniversary weekend - in September - in Sarasota. Has anyone tried Vernona in the Ritz Carlton (I noticed that the restaurant has a famous pastry chef and that's enough for me :smile: )? Any other recommendations (big deal or little deal) would be appreciated too (took a quick look on line - and Javier's - Peruvian - looked interesting). Note that we'll be staying in Sarasota proper and won't feel like driving too much. Robyn

Robyn - Verona is pretty good but not much different than what you would get from any RC dining room. Can't comment on the pastry chef since I usually pass on dessert.

Don't think much of Javiers. Been there a number of times because it's convenient and my daughter (11 years old) likes their ribs. That's about it. Also, it's towards the south end of Siesta Key so you are looking at about 30 minutes driving time from downtown Sarasota. To top everything off, they make some flamed dessert at table side that seems to be very popular, the name of which I cannot recall, that leaves a constant smell of propane throughout the restaurant while you're dining. A much better alternative for Peruvian in the same area, though not quite as far, would be the Selva Grill mentioned upthread. Great ceviche. No web site but you can pull up reviews on Google.

Other than that, just look upthread for a few suggestions. Alternatively, if you have the name of a specific place, post it by reply and I'll be glad to provide my opinion if I'm familiar with it. Also, if you let me know where you're staying, I'll be glad to pass along a few suggestions in the immediate area.

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Also, if you let me know where you're staying, I'll be glad to pass along a few suggestions in the immediate area.

Thanks for the feedback. We'll be staying at the Ritz Carlton. We've been favorably impressed by our last few meals in Ritz Carlton dining rooms - so I should be a happy camper. Too bad you don't eat dessert (that's the best part of the meal as far as I'm concerned - and I'm always a sucker for a really good pastry chef :smile: ). Robyn

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well - we have our power, phone and internet back (better than a lot of people here in Florida). Lots of tree debris. No other damage. Still under tornado warnings. Am reconsidering our trip to Sarasota. How do things look in Orlando - Tampa and points southwest? Flooding - road problems - gas problems? I already know about Ivan :sad: .

I hope all of you out there are ok - and I will share one cooking tip from this storm. I bought a 1 quart 2 handle non-stick "grill pot" from BBQs Galore before this storm. It was "guaranteed" to stand up to use on the grill - and it did. So we had hot beans with our hot dogs. Between Charley and Frances - seems like I lost a few weeks (although my husband and I are getting pretty good at moving patio furniture). Let's hope that we can all get back to normal soon. Robyn

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just a followup. We made it to Sarasota this weekend. I have to say that apart from spending some "quality time" with my husband - my favorite part of the trip was having a massage at the Ritz Carlton spa (boy - did I need that) - but the food wasn't bad either :wink: .

We had drinks the first night at Marina Jack's - good place to watch the sun set. Dinner the first night at Pino's Primi Piatti - a nice little Italian restaurant downtown. Pleasant dinner - friendly service. We ate the rest of our meals (2 days worth) at the Ritz Carlton. The breakfast buffet (included in the room rate) and dinner. The breakfast buffet was typical of a Ritz Carlton spread - more like "frokost" than "breakfast" (meats and cheeses in addition to the usual suspects - like heaps of smoked salmon and fresh berries and eggs and sausage etc.). The pastries were a couple of notches above the norm (very flakey pastry - hard to do in the Florida humidity).

Vernona at dinner was very competent. The service was excellent (e.g., in off season - our server doubled as a sommelier - and she knew the wine list backwards and forwards). I was somewhat disappointed by dessert the first night - and mentioned that to our server the second night (same server both nights). When dessert time came around - she said that the chef had prepared something special for us. And he had. Two desserts which weren't on the menu - and both were terrific.

All in all - we were pleased - and I think we would have been even more pleased had the whole town not been so stressed out. Ivan was supposed to affect Sarasota (although it didn't) - and everyone in town had jangly nerves after dodging 3 hurricanes (and some people who worked in Sarasota but lived south got whalloped by Charley). A lot of residents had simply left and gone away for a while. There were only eight people in Pino's when we were there - and the hotel only had about 35% occupancy (and I think half of those people were emergency operations and insurance people dealing with the aftermath of Charley). So I have to cut some slack for the whole town. I'm sure everything will be humming by the time "the season" starts. Robyn

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When dessert time came around - she said that the chef had prepared something special for us.  And he had.  Two desserts which weren't on the menu - and both were terrific.

So, tell us about the desserts he prepared for you!

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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  • 2 weeks later...
So, tell us about the desserts he prepared for you!

OK - I did some research on the internet - and the pastry chef describes one of the desserts as a "chocolate mousse dome". It's a half sphere of terrific mousse - enrobed with a nice chocolate coating - and then it's decorated kind of like an easter egg. Beautiful to look at - delicious to eat.

I couldn't find the other dessert - but it's a 3 layered fruit/vegetable mousse served in a cone shaped glass serving dish. Tropical fruits (I think they were mango and papaya) on the bottom and top. And the middle was an avocado mousse. The avocado was a foil for the tropical fruit - and cut their sweetness.

I noticed that both of these desserts made an appearance on the Sunday brunch spread the next day. And the chocolate mousse dome was sold separately at the "chocolate boutique". So perhaps these desserts weren't "special for us". But they weren't on the menu that evening. And they were delicious. By the way - the brunch spread looked delicious - but I am unfortunately a person who is used to eating sparingly at lunch. Robyn

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