Fall Menus Reinvented   

LOUIES MODERN SHRIMP AND OCTOPUS COCKTAIL. PHOTO BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

Restaurateurs need to be able to read the taste-bud currents of its hungry denizens. Between the feast-or-famine snowbird population and a budding year-round contingency always on the hunt for the new big thing, restaurateurs must sniff out new and enticing paths. That’s why Louies Modern and Libby’s, TableSeide’s flagship restaurants, work so hard to keep menus as fresh as a vine-ripened tomato. Louies Modern recently unveiled a Latin-infused roster of items with a street-fare appeal. The spark came from the creative mind of Chef Jose Rojas and was fanned into a culinary fire under the tutelage of Executive Chef Fran Casciato. With Rojas’ deep roots in Mexican cuisine and Casciato’s long list of successes in the high-end restaurant business, the menu has excited even the most persnickety foodie. The jewel of the new happy hour menu is undoubtedly the Shrimp & Octopus Cocktail, an artfully rendered facelift on a bar-food classic. The dish is topped with a fish and lime mixture affectionately called leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) and is often consumed as a hangover cure in Mexico, where its apropos moniker is vuelve la vida (life returns)—craft cocktail connoisseurs take note. Rojas’ version of fish tacos has also been a crowd pleaser, featuring tempura-battered wahoo and baked-in-house tortillas. Rojas’ commitment to authenticity continues as he sources most of his raw ingredients from a local Latin market, enabling him to find flavors he can’t get anywhere else.

LIBBY'S SEOUL LETTUCE CUPS. PHOTO BY WYATT KOSTYGAN.

Continuing the small-bite street food motif is a trio of Libby’s items meant to be enjoyed with your hands. The Seoul Lettuce Cups lead the way with their complex mix of flavor. Mixed in with Korean-spiced chicken and cashews candied in-house is kim-chi, which adds a nice kick to a cool mouthfeel. For those hankering for American comfort food dressed in tailored suits, Libby’s offers a slew of life-affirming selections. Featuring an ample smear of bacon jam, regulars enjoy the Muse Grilled Cheese, a sandwich so decadent it eats like a pastry. The South Beach Sliders are a fancy bite-size spin on a meatball sub and feature a meat-a-trois meatball—Kobe beef, pork and veal drizzled with homemade San Marzano sauce. –A. Fabian


French Family

“To us, it’s all about family,” says Elodie, matriarch of the Flocard family, and also the co-owner and namesake of a charming French restaurant tucked away inside a Northwest Bradenton shopping plaza. The Flocard family is not new to the area’s restaurant scene. After relocating here several years ago from Aix-in-Provence, they owned and operated the popular French Table restaurant on Bradenton Beach. Wanting to find a more local following, they decided to sell their island restaurant and open a place in town. “We wanted to have a neighborhood place, where we see locals who become regulars,” says Elodie. “This, (gesturing to her restaurant and customers), is all we have here [in the US]. This is our family.” At their homey spot, you’ll definitely feel like you’re welcomed into their home as Elodie greets you with a cheery “bon jour” and you take a seat at one of the industrial chic tables crafted by her husband Bertrand—who also deftly runs the kitchen. On busy evenings, their two children are in on the family business as well, helping serve, bus tables and pitch in wherever needed. As you sip on a glass of modestly priced Cote du Rhone or something bubbly, you can peruse the Provençal-inspired menu. But before we get to the menu, let’s talk bread. You know that amazing French bread that you can only get certain places? That homemade bread with the hard crusty outside, that when you break open, you find a warm, soft, steaming interior? Yes, that’s their bread and they are soon to be famous for it. It’s made fresh in-house daily, and always surprises with a secret ingredient inside, like walnuts or olives. You’ll want to leave with extra loaves to stick in the freezer (and they do freeze well).

Their appetizers are creatively crafted; if you’re in the mood for a variety of Provencal bites, try the Grilled Mussels served in garlicky butter “juice”—prepared similarly to the way escargot are typically served. Elodie and Bertrand chose to use mussels rather than snails because, as Elodie says, “Fresh and local is even better.”  Bertrand offers a nice variety of local fish prepared and presented with a light, clean preparation. His selections include red snapper sautéed in a papillote (foil) with lime and pastis (a classic French beverage with flavors of anise), and black grouper served in lemon juice and vegetables. A customer favorite is the Chicken Forester—a sautéed chicken breast served with a delightful creamy mushroom sauce (perfect dipping sauce for the fresh-cut French fries that accompany the dish). When your tummy is blissfully content and it’s time to say, “au revoir,” don’t worry; you won’t be gone for too long because you’re now a part of the Flocard family and they will be so happy to welcome you back to their “home” again and again. –A. Imerman

 

Five Keys to Our Heart 

We catch up with 3 Keys Brewery, a new family-friendly pub in Bradenton. –A.Imerman 

1  Serious Research 

Jeff and Cathy Douglas always wanted to start up a small restaurant and bar, but when the family took a two-year cross-country RV road trip, their dream changed. After visiting 126 breweries from Florida to Alaska, they realized a craft brewery was really their calling. Gathering inspiration from all the places they visited, the pair ultimately chose to style theirs based on West Coast and Asheville breweries. The idea quickly developed and 3 Keys was born—a kid and dog-friendly brewery that offers rotating beer selections, only available onsite.

2  A Lot of Heart

You will fall in love with Cathy and Jeff, a military and foster family who have lots of life experience and great stories to tell. They donate 1% of the brewery’s equity to charitable causes and host  “Mission Mondays” where 10% of sales are donated to local Sarasota/Manatee charities. Don’t forget to spin the “Wheel of Awesomeness”—for $5 you might win a free pint, 
a free appetizer or a free hug. 

3 Bring the Kids

A gathering spot Mom and Dad and the kids will enjoy? How novel! This place is sure to please everyone in your squad. And when we say “squad” we mean it—there’s plenty of room for the whole gang. Whether you prefer to sit inside at an eight-seat high top table, or on the large front deck furnished with huge picnic-style tables and comfy couches. The kiddos will love the large selection of cool games (including Battleship and Chess), gaming system, Legos and the pallet swing out front. The kids or “Half Pints” menu selections are only $4 with a drink and a side including baked, not fried, chicken tenders. 

4  Mug Club 

Don’t miss becoming a part of the
“Wall of Awesomeness,” where dozens of custom beer mugs are displayed. For $75, pottery artist Eileen from eileenVLpottery will personally design your 20 oz. mug and, every time you stop in, you get 20 oz. refills for the price of a 16 oz. (that means, every 5th beer is free). High coolness factor.
 

5  Oh Yeah, the Beer

Craft beer enthusiasts will be pleased with the many options which vary by day, including the “Punchface IPA,” the “Porter? I Hardly Know Her,” the “What Mama Says Gose” and the “Sir Mixon A Lot” (a cream ale that uses fresh oranges from Mixon Fruit Farms, located nearby). But don’t plan to visit for the beer alone; the menu features fun bar bite selections, including Kentucky Beer Cheese and a “Pint of Bacon” with five pieces of thick-cut bacon, “because six would be unhealthy.” If you’re in the mood for a sandwich, try the Buffalo Chicken Waffle Sandwich with house-made IPA pickles and blue cheese crumbles served on two warm beer-batter waffles instead of a bun. Be sure to say hello to Jeff and Cathy—they’ll be working the bar and delivering your grub at this great down-home place.