Monday, December 11, 2017

Café L'Europe: Continental Cuisine on St Armands

A Sarasota institution for almost 45 years, Café L'Europe has groomed some of the area’s most successful chefs and restaurateurs. Founded by Titus Letschert and Norbert Goldner in 1973, those that went on to become some of Sarasota’s top culinary stars include Michael Garey and Bob Fracalossy, of the Lazy Lobster, Harry Christensen, of Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Ray Arpke, of Euphemia Haye, and J.P. Knaggs, of Bijou Café. With a solid reputation for elegant European cuisine, award-winning wines, and professional service, Café L'Europe is a dining treasure and one of the most popular dining destinations on St. Armands Circle. Elegantly designed with old world charm, the restaurant was originally the real estate office of one of Sarasota’s most famous residents of the past — John Ringling. Under new ownership since August 2016, proprietors Ron Milton and Joe Balzano proudly continue Cafe L’Europe’s excellence, honouring the restaurant’s old world traditions, while adding their own special touches. 

One of my favourite places to enjoy an elegant lunch on St Armands Circle is the leafy outdoor patio of Café L'Europe. Starting with a lovely glass of prosecco and some fresh warm baguette and little rolled balls of butter, we decided on the Lobster & Shrimp Salad with crème fraîche, poached asparagus and hearts of palm with a citrus mayonnaise served on Bibb lettuce as well as the Salade Niçoise with fresh ahi tuna, baby field greens, haricot vert, red potatoes, grape tomatoes, chopped egg and Kalamata olives with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette and wasabi. The calibre of cuisine being put out by the kitchen, and the polite, professional and attentive wait staff, proves why this restaurant has been around for more than three decades, and promises to be around for many more years. For dog-lovers, Café L'Europe even has a special 'Doggie Dining Menu' for pampered pooches, with canine culinary treats such as Gustav's Steak Tartare for $5, Cruiser's Filet Mignon of Beef for $18, and Biscuits de Jour baked daily for the little princesses for a modest $2.50 for a package of 4, and for doggie dolce there's Dogsters Ice Cream Treats in Nutty Peanut Butter or Minté Fresh. Fresh water is provided gratis, however Acqua Panna bottled water is also available, served by Café L'Europe's smartly attired black-vested waiters — Mon Dieu!

Two glasses of chilled 'Cielo' Prosecco were a refreshing bubbly start to our outdoor lunch on St Armands 

The lunch menu of Café L'Europe features a lovely selection of fresh seafood salads and light entrées

Faux but festive poinsettia 

Fresh warm baguette

Perfect little rounds of butter

2012 Trimbach Riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Salade Niçoise with fresh ahi tuna, baby field greens, haricot vert, red potatoes, grape tomatoes, chopped egg and Kalamata olives with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette and wasabi

Maine Lobster and Gulf Shrimp Salad with asparagus, hearts of palm, citrus aioli, fresh berries, orange, grapefruit and crème fraîche

Bananas Foster
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Café L'Europe

2 tbsp butter
2 bananas, cut in bite sized pieces
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 oz banana liqueur
2 oz dark rum
2 oz Bacardi rum
Dash of cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream

Heat a pan over high heat. Add butter to melt and coat pan. Add brown sugar and remove pan from heat. Add rum and banana liqueur and flambé. Add bananas and stir being careful not to overcook. Remove pan from heat and add Bacardi rum. Flambé again. Add cinnamon and stir. Remove from heat. Serve over vanilla ice cream.

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