Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Viento at Zota Beach Resort: Floribbean Cuisine

Nestled on the powder white sands and tranquil shores of Longboat Key and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Zota is one of the Keys newest luxury beach resorts. Opened in May 2017 on the site of the former Hilton Beachfront Resort at a price tag of $24-million, Zota was inspired by the indigenous name for the area of Sarasota — Zara Zota. Historians believe that early Spanish explorers spotted the white sands on the barrier island from a distance and were reminded of the Sahara Desert. The native origin of the word Zota is blue waters, thus the area became known as Zara Zota, the Sahara by the blue waters. Over time the name evolved to become what is known today as Sarasota. With two restaurants including the hotel's Cascades Bar, Zota's signature restaurant Viento is led by Executive Chef Jason Pellett, and features "Floribbean" cuisine influenced by Florida, Caribbean, and Mediterranean cooking techniques and flavours, with a lunch menu featuring dishes such as Zota Crab Cakes with pickled fennel, mango, arugula salad and creamy horseradish sauce, Lobster Salad with tri-color lettuce, mango, house marinated fennel, hass avocado, crisp wonton strips and citrus vinaigrette, and Luau Grouper served grilled or blackened, with caramelized onions, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and key lime remoulade served on griddled piña colada bread. Beginning with a glass of prosecco on the modern outdoor terrace of Viento, we followed with a light lunch while admiring the resort's beachfront pool with swaying palm trees and gorgeous gulf views. Quiet and sophisticated with complimentary valet parking, Viento was a lovely destination for a delicious lunch on a hot sunny afternoon on Longboat Key.

Zota Lobby reflecting pool with palm trees

Suspended wave sculpture hangs in main stairway from lobby to Viento Restaurant

Viento's wine wall and cocktail area

A glass of prosecco from the outdoor terrace dining area of Viento overlooking the pool and beach

Viento's menu of 'Floribbean' dishes influenced by Florida, Caribbean and Mediterranean flavours

View from our table overlooking the pool and white sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico

Caesar Salad with grilled chicken breast

Zota delicious Crab Cakes with pickled fennel, mango, arugula salad and creamy horseradish sauce

The seaside-themed Christmas Tree at Zota

Grilled Grouper with Risotto
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of chef Jason Pellett

12 oz grouper
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the grilled risotto:
2 tsp finely chopped shallots
2 tsp minced garlic
8 oz Arborio rice
16 oz vegetable stock
2 tbsp butter
Pinch salt and pepper
2 oz white wine
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 oz grilled artichokes
Saffron butter sauce

Sauté the shallots and garlic in the butter with the Arborio rice. Deglaze with white wine and add the vegetable stock in three parts, stirring often. Finish with butter and cheese. Top with grilled grouper, artichokes and saffron butter sauce.

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