I know the title’s a bit dramatic. If I lived in Post-Katrina Ninth Ward, with its nice new pastel townhouses but no market for miles I’d certainly have something to complain about. But I’m going to complain anyway because I live in a town that’s supported by tourism and apparantly tourists are too busy enjoying the beach, the arts, whatever else Sarasota has to offer to have discriminating taste buds. The only reason I can think of for the lack of good food in restaurants here in Sarasota.
(Note: There are probably several fine-dining establishments in town who have the best chefs and staff who serve up good and consistent food to people willing to throw down 150 bucks. I am not smiting you here. I just think that all food should have the same excellent standards and should be something special and yummy and not something that pisses you off. Pisses me off, I mean, it appears that no one else cares.)
Every time I travel and return home, something food-wise changes in me: years ago when I returned from Ireland and England, I could no longer stand the taste of weeks-old, trucked-in grocery store eggs and butter. To this day I buy these staples locally. They still aren’t as good as in Ireland but it’s the best I can do.
When I returned from Costa Rica, I prepared arroz con pollo with black beans for months.
When I returned from the Dominican Republic, I swore off hormone-pumped giant chicken chests in favor of the little organic breasts, which taste more like the crispy yard bird I’d had over in the DR.
But now, after the week I spent in San Francisco and Sonoma, I’m having serious, unfixable trouble. All the wonderful, wholesome, fresh food prepared with such care and attention to detail during that week in wine paradise has sliced through my own tourist-town-complacency and now I just can’t seem to find a meal out that I’m happy I’ve spent money on.
Since I’ve been back to Sarasota I have dined on the following:
- A nine-dollar salad consisting of warm and wilted arugula, some sliced avocado, shaved parmesan and canned hearts of palm. Oil and vinegar on the side. Warm bowl. Wow. I could envision the large, uncaring, gloved (or not-gloved) hand reaching into the box of old arugula and unloading a fistful into that warm bowl over the hot line. A nine dollar bowl of who-the-fuck-cares. Not only that, while I sat at the dining bar, I had to stare at the gaping dark hole above the exhaust hood that they were too cheap to trim out with stainless steel or painted drywall.(This was not a kitchen that I designed…) This place a busy downtown establishment with a great reputation.
- Average sushi. Kind of hard to mess this up. Good, but not spectacular. An old standby. At least the fish was cold. We were the only patrons there.
- Some pretty decent fish tacos and pork rinds at a local fast taco joint. Probably the best meal I’ve had since I returned.
- Tepid and worm-mapped leaves of a “Fire-Roasted Fresh Artichoke.” I. Just. Can’t.
- Crispy chicken wings at my local pub. I can tolerate these because I show up hungry after work and they go fine with a cold beer.
- Two fried hockey pucks on a glass plate with some long-ago-shredded iceberg lettuce. The menu had said Maryland Style crab cakes, panfried…$11.95. Once I got past the horrid presentation ––I nearly refused them when they came to me, but rolled my eyes like the food martyr that I am –– and the oily crust, they were nice and crabby. But if you’re going to toss your “Maryland style crab cakes” into the fucking deep fryer, don’t lie on the menu. We were at an outdoor tiki bar and the weather was glorious for a change, and I was with friends, so I ordered another beer and tried also not to bitch about the lack of lemon on my husband’s plate of fish and chips.
- Lots of over-cheesed, under-sauced bad pizza. How can my friends eat this crap?
I’m afraid to go out to eat now. Where can I go and not feel like such a food-snob-bitch? Where can I go and have a fantastic meal worth the money? Where can I go and not feel like I wound up in this food-stink town so many years ago and now I’m stuck here because I’m too old and therefore too connected to move? Where can I go where other people’s standards force restaurants to raise the bar? Huh? Do I hear an answer?
I had a fantastic meal once at Antoines. See blog post here. Chef Angela Georges and Christian Zebier do it up right. They just moved to over on North Tuttle. I may have to drop a buck fifty but I’m desperate for a good meal that I haven’t cooked! Save me!
(A Trip Advisor Review for Antoines: “Everything you read is true. The food is homemade and delicious. Made and served by people who care about what they are creating. sserserved by people that care” Operative word: CARE)