Friday, January 29, 2016

Muse Restaurant & The Ringling Museum in Sarasota

Established in 1948, the Ringling Museum of the American Circus was the first to document the rich history of this popular entertainment, and because John Ringling had made Sarasota the Winter Quarters of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1927, many of the performers moved to the immediate area. As a result of their generosity, the Ringling Museum’s collection of wardrobes and circus memorabilia quickly grew and now includes performing props, as well as all types of equipment, including beautifully carved parade wagons, sturdy utility wagons, tent poles, massive bail rings that suspended the tent canvas and even a cannon that shot fearless performers across the big top. There's also a wealth of 19th and early 20th-century posters and props used by famous performers as well as a large collection of circus history and literature that includes newspaper clippings dating as far back as 1816. A must-see in the Museum is the film The Life and Times of John and Mable Ringling, narrated by Hal Holbrook which features the lives of John and Mable Ringling, the history of Ringling Bros. circus, the building of the Ca' d’Zan and the Museum of Art, as well as John’s influence in the development of Sarasota.

Original posters at the Ringling Circus Museum's current show — Glittering Grandeur: Spectacles Under the Big Top

While the classic circus performance is a rich spectacle in itself, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries show owners including P.T. Barnum and the Ringlings recognized that they had the ability to increase attendance by including a different kind of spectacle in their traveling shows. Circuses from a hundred years ago enhanced their programs beyond the artists of the ring by offering pageants, plays, and historic tableaus as part of the ticket price. Characterized by their richly costumed array of animals and performers, these theatrical displays, were known as 'specs', or spectacles. The largest of these productions included hundreds of performers engaged in scenes of battle and festivals of dance and song and were created on such a grand scale that they frequently rated several different poster designs each season. The grand tradition of the circus spectacle comes to life through posters created from 1890 through 1950, and gives a better understanding of both the evolving form of the traveling show, and the shifting expectations of audiences from the 19th century to today through the Circus Museum's current show — Glittering Grandeur: Spectacles Under the Big Top, which runs until February 2016.

Original poster from a Barnum & Bailey spectacle from the The 12,000-square-foot second floor that houses the archives of important collections of rare handbills and art prints, circus papers, business records and photos

Circus poster from 1900

Detail of poster featuring P.T Barnum and J.A. Bailey

Original drawings of costumes worn in old circus shows

Costume sketch of 'Oberon' from a Midsummer Nights Dream spectacle 

An interactive exhibit at the Circus Museum

The main floor of the Circus Museum features beautifully carved circus wagons and the magnificent Howard Bros. Circus miniature scale model created by Howard C. Tibbals which depicts a complete reproduction of and entire circa 1920s circus 

Handcrafted miniature circus models from the Harold Dunn exhibition

Dunn created these 1/2-inch to the foot scale miniatures and began exhibiting them in 1946  

Drawing from the rich and varied Japanese collection of the Stibbert Museum in Florence, we also visited another exhibition, 'Samurai: The Way of the Warrior'  in the Searing Wing of the Ringling Museum, which features over 80 exquisite objects related to the legendary samurai warriors with full suits of armour, helmets, swords, sword-hilts, and saddles, as well as objects intended for more personal use that belonged to the samurai warriors of medieval and early-modern Japan. Samurai translates as "those who serve," and their job was to protect wealthy landowners. Their code was known as bushido, or the way of the warrior, and focused on discipline, honor and loyalty. The samurai were highly involved in the Japanese government and rose to power in the 12th-century as a military dictatorship known as the Shogunate. They would rule until Japan was opened to the outside world in the late 1850s. The exhibit covers two time periods: the 15th to 17th centuries, when Japan was internally at war, and a second 200-year time period when Japan, which at the time was completely closed to the outside world, enjoyed domestic peace. Thus, many of the objects in the collection may have been designed for warfare, but were used and worn ceremonially. The samurai class was abolished in 1868, and the warriors turned to civil service and sometimes education and the arts for employment. Joining a docent-led tour the day we visited the museum was enormously informative and gave us a better perspective on this spectacular exhibition.

The Searing Wing of the Ringling Museum featured a new exhibition,
 'Samurai: The Way of the Warrior', which was on loan from the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy

Traditional Byobu screen from the 18th-century Japanese Tosa School of design was constructed out of painted fabric, coloured inks and gold leaves, and depicts a famous Samurai battle

Used to exemplify status and to strike fear in the enemy, this samurai helmet dates back to 17th-century Japan,  is made of steel, gilded copper, lacquer, gold, Japanese foxglove tree, silk and Japanese deerskin

Full suits of Samurai armour from the early 18th-century

After a full morning of exploring the Ringling Museum, it was time for lunch at Muse, the new rebranded restaurant that took over from Treviso in June 2015, and now managed by the Seidensticker family that operates Libby's Café + Bar and Louies Modern in Sarasota. Open for lunch and dinner, the new space is modern, bright and cheerful with lovely alfresco dining on the restaurants outdoor terrace overlooking the Ringling pond. The new culinary face of the museum, Muse has undergone some creative changes with chef Francis Casciato's new menu that features upscale local cuisine and creative twists on American classics, such as The Muse Burger with bacon-jam brie and onion frites, "KFC" Korean Fried Chicken with kimchee caramel soy glaze, unique appetizers like Goldfish Pretzel Crusted Crab Cakes, and delicious healthy entrées such as the outstanding Seared Farroe Island Salmon Salad with a 'rainbow' of vegetables, house salad and shaved beets with a butternut and gogi berry dressing. Relaxed and inviting, Muse confirms that the Ringling has now turned the museum into a total sensory experience — both culinary and cultural.

Muse Restaurant's outdoor terrace overlooking the pond

The inside entrance to Muse Restaurant from the Ringling Visitors Pavilion

The revamped purple-hued interior of Muse

The new menu at Muse, which is now a sister restaurant of Louies Modern of Sarasota

Glass of Antinori Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio from Venenzie, Italy

Nieto Malbec from Medoza, Argentina

Caesar's Devilled Eggs garnished with shaved garlic crumbs and julienned romaine 

The Devilled Eggs sit on a pillow of tangy Caesar Parmesan dressing

Muse Crispy Calamari with Giada's hot tomato sauce and pepperoncini aioli

Muse Grilled Cheese with Amish cheddar and Danish gouda with an American bacon-jam served on grilled brioche

Seared Farroe Island Salmon Salad with "Rainbow" vegetables, house salad and shaved beets with a butternut and gogi berry dressing

Patrick Seidensticker, Manager of Muse 

Raw Vegetables & Faroe Island Salmon Salad
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Francis Casciato 

Artisan greens of your choice
Julienne vegetables: beets, zucchini, yellow squash and baby bell peppers
Purple cabbage, shredded
Cubed watermelon 
Grated feta cheese
4 4oz herbed seared salmon

Citrus dressing:
1 cup malt vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 lemons, tested and juiced
2 oranges, tested and juiced
2 limes, tested and juiced
1/4 cup shallots
2 cups grapeseed oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Selva Nuevo Latino: Inspired Peruvian Cuisine

Located the heart of downtown Sarasota, Selva’s 'Nuevo Latino' cuisine is a culinary marriage of exotic flavours from Latin America and the United Sates, with special emphasis on Peruvian dishes which recognize the contribution of Asian immigrants to Peru, who have deliciously fused their cuisine and techniques with that of the locals. Famous for their ceviches de la casa, each with their own distinct character and flavour profiles, Chef Ysaac Sanchez brilliantly showcases the influence of Japanese culture on Peruvian cuisine with his Tuna Tiradito Nikkei, which is sliced like sushi rather than diced like ceviche, the tiradito looks and tastes like a tiny work of art. Selva's rich selection of appetizer tapas pique the palate, such as the Aji de Gallina Spring Roll, a delicious wrap of creamy spiced pulled chicken and pecans with a decadent avocado aioli for dipping, Chino Beef Ceviche, slices of seared rare sirloin with panca sauce, citrus juice, avocados and red onions, and Wild Corvina Ceviche with fresh lime, onion, cilantro, plump Cusco corn and roasted camotes "that tastes like the first day of summer." 

Entrées range from the finest 'frutas del mar' to such favoritos 'de la tierra' as lamb, pork, beef and veal, prepared with exotic salsas, herbs, fruits and vegetables, each exquisitely presented and expertly prepared including the rich and satisfying Seafood Paella with shrimp, mussels, calamari and a jumbo sea scallop, Arroz con Pato Grilled Duck Breast served over cilantro and green pea beer risotto, with a roasted red pepper salsa, and New York Strip topped with truffle butter and served with truffle parmesan frites, port demi place, garlicky chimichurri and marinated tomato salad. Selva's modern, colourful interior with beautiful mural along one wall and sexy ambiance sets the tone for the restaurants's innovative, intricately prepared dishes, whimsically plated and presented as works of art. Quite possibly the best food in Sarasota, Selva is a culinary destination worth exploring over and over again.

Custom cocktails, a late night menu, and cushy couches makes Selva Lounge a lively destination for foodies and fashionistas alike, especially at Happy Hour 5-7pm every night!

Bustling and full to the rafters the night we arrived, we stopped for a cocktail before going into dinner

Selva Grill's dinner and cocktail menus

The artfully LED lit wall of swirling color adds a visual energy to the interior of Selva Grill

A traditional Peruvian Pisco Sour made with Pisco (a Peruvian Brandy), fresh lime juice, 
simple syrup and egg whites

Selva Wild Ceviche of fresh seasonal white Corvina with fresh lime, onion, cilantro, plump Cusco corn and roasted camotes (a Peruvian sweet potato)

' Aji de Gallina Spring Roll' - a classic Peruvian spring roll filled with creamy spicy pulled chicken, pecans and a decadent avocado aioli for dipping

'Chino Beef Ceviche' - slices of seared rare sirloin with panca sauce, lime juice, orange juice, avocados and red onions

A glass of Vicolo Pinot Grigio delle Venezia

Selva’s Seafood Paella with shrimp, mussels, calamari and a jumbo sea scallop served in a saffron risotto with Chorizo and topped with citrus onion slaw and towering plantain chip

New York Strip Steak topped with truffle butter and served with truffle parmesan frites, 
port demi place, garlicky chimichurri and marinated tomato salad

'Arroz con Pato' - Grilled Duck breast, cilantro and green pea beer risotto, 
with a roasted red pepper salsa

Chef Ysaac Sanchez 

Tuna Tiradito Nikkei
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Selva Grill

10 oz of sushi grade tuna, cut into 1/4-inch thick bite size steaks
10 oz of watermelon, cut into 1/4-inch thick bite size steaks
1 tbsp black and white sesame seeds, for garnish
Cilantro and chopped chives, for garnish

Asian Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup shallots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 oz ginger, peeled and chopped
1/8 cup of sesame oil
1/4 bunch of cilantro
1/4 bunch of mint
1 oz of peanut putter
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 lime, juiced 
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp Aji Amarillo paste 
1 tsp Rocoto Pepper paste
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped plus more for garnish

To make the Asian vinaigrette, purée all of the ingredients together in a blender, except the oil. Finally, add the oil slowly to emulsify then set aside. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. To serve, stack alternating slices of tuna and watermelon on a square plate, and sprinkle with sesame seeds, chopped chives and a sprig of cilantro. Garnish the plate with a drizzle of Asian Vinaigrette and marinade; fill a small cup, shot glass or sake cup with the remaining marinade, and serve with the Tiradito. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Beach Bistro: Award-Winning Coastal Cuisine

One of the finest restaurants in South Florida, Beach Bistro has received more awards for their outstanding cuisine than perhaps any other restaurant in the area, and for good reason — the restaurant’s focus from inception was perfection. Relaxed and sophisticated, Beach Bistro’s relentless pursuit of culinary and service excellence has earned owner Sean Murphy regional and national acclaim from the Sarasota Herald, Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times, in addition to being heralded one of the top restaurants in Florida and awarded the highest Zagat ratings in the state. And the cuisine is always consistently excellent, from their Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon on parade with capers, caviar and key lime crème fraiche, outstanding Bouillabaise with lobster tails, jumbo shrimp, shellfish and calamari with garlic toasts and aioli, Herb Rubbed Pan Seared Rack of Lamb finished with a port rosemary demi-glace to the over-the-top 'Food Heaven' — Beach Bistro's rich marriage of Colorado lamb, butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster and Hudson Valley foie gras, all on a brioche bread pudding and served with a port, demi-glace and a sip of Essensia, which Sean christened — "a Dionysian vision from the end of a pier in Maine." 

With it's spectacular setting overlooking Holmes Beach on beautiful Anna Maria Island, Beach Bistro is like a painting, complimented by the finest food in the area, an extraordinary wine list and dedicated professional staff that have been with Sean for years. White tablecloths, a rose on each table and romantic sunset view sets the scene for an outstanding menu that celebrates coastal cuisine at the highest level. Sean’s ambition has been the same throughout Beach Bistro’s history — to provide his guests with one of the best dining experiences they've ever had, and he's definitely succeeding, reflected in all of the glowing accolades that Beach Bistro consistently receives, and his dedicated following that return over and over again. My parents have been making a culinary pilgrimage to Beach Bistro since it opened in 1985 so it's now a family tradition.  

Rosemary and lemon infused water

Beach Bistro's menu is beyond compare with a consistently excellent selection of award winning dishes 

Due to the cold chilly week on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, the Beach Bistro was offering complimentary Hot Toddy's to every guest

A warm and potent Hot Toddy made with rum, lemon and honey

A Hendricks Martini with a twist

Kir Royale  

The amuse bouche with a small bowl of Bistro Blue Tomato Soup with seasoned Parrish plum tomatoes, sweet cream and Maytag blue cheese, and warm focaccia with pesto, tapenade and roasted peppers

'Roberto's Farm Salad' - vibrant and full-flavored, herbs and greens in company with artisanal cheeses, grilled fruit, fruit sorbet and heirloom tomatoes

Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon by Willie Krauch’s smokehouse in Tangier, Nova Scotia, on parade with capers, domestic caviars and Key lime crème fraiche

Smoked Salmon "Rose" with creme fraiche and caviar

A 2014 Adelsheim Pinot Gris from Williamette Vally, Oregon 

Beach Bistro's signature Bouillabaisse with Nova Scotia” lobster tails, jumbo shrimp, premium market fish, shellfish and calamari

The Bouillabaise is served with herbed garlic toasts and aioli

Floribbean Grouper, a Bistro original with line-caught Gulf Coast Grouper in a toasted coconut and cashew crust served with a red pepper-papaya jam

'Rack of Colorado Lamb' -  Herb-rubbed, pan-seared and oven-roasted, finished with a port, rosemary demi-glace, and topped off with a glass of Port on the side

A glass of Port is served with the Rack of Lamb

Beach Bistro's Dessert and Specialty Drinks menu 

Beach Bistro's Florida Key Lime Pie

David, the Sommelier at Beach Bistro, brought over a bottle of chilled 2006 Tokaji Aszu at the end of our meal and served us a small glass to keep us warm and cozy for the drive home

Floribbean Grouper with Red Pepper-Papaya Jam
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Beach Bistro

Red Pepper-Papaya Jam:
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced peeled papaya
1/2 tsp chopped jalapeño pepper
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

1/4 cup panko Japanese breadcrumbs
2 tbsp flaked sweetened coconut
1 1/2 tbsp chopped dry-roasted cashews
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 6-ounce grouper fillets
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp butter
Lime wedges, for garnish 

To prepare the jam, combine the first 3 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Combine the water, sugar, red wine vinegar, a dash of salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the puréed bell pepper mixture, and cook 7 minutes or until thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice then allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Begin to prepare the grouper: place the panko, coconut, and cashews in food processor and pulse 4 times or until the cashews are finely chopped, then place the mixture into a shallow dish. Place the flour in another shallow dish, and the egg whites in another shallow dish. Sprinkle the grouper fillets with 1/8 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Dredge one fillet in flour, then dip into the egg whites, then dredge in the panko mixture gently pressing the coating to adhere onto each fillet. Repeat the procedure with the remaining fillet — flour, egg whites, and panko mixture.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fillets and cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Turn the fillets over, and wrap the handle of the pan with foil. Place the pan in oven and bake at 350°F for 8 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve immediately with jam and lime wedges.

Savory Cranberry Bread Pudding
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Beach Bistro

This delicious sweet and savoury bread pudding is served with Beach Bistro's Rack of Lamb, but it would also be a great addition to the any holiday menu.

1 cup dried cranberries

Juice and zest of 1 orange

1/4 cup Armagnac, divided

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup sliced shallots

1 loaf challah or brioche, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs

1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Soak the cranberries in the orange juice and 3 tablespoons of the Armagnac for 30 minutes. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

 Drain the cranberries and combine with the bread pieces, apples, butter, and sautéed shallots in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the cream, eggs, chicken stock, cinnamon, coriander, orange zest, and remaining tablespoon of Armagnac. Whisk until well incorporated and pour the mixture over the bread and fruit, mixing until well coated. Refrigerate for an hour.

Transfer the entire mixture to a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for an hour. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for at least an hour before serving.