Peaceful piano music drifts and flutters along the warm exhales of an almost-summer breeze, bumble bees buzz languidly amongst the drip of the slow-moving stone fountain, all the while the clink of forks and spoons and at-ease laughter sets the low-pitched tone. Tucked away without even a sign to mark its existence, Shoogie Boogies gives you a taste of what Marie Antoinette must have felt at Le Petite Trianon, her idyllic country retreat, escaping the woes of her royal counterparts pacing through the halls of Versailles, attempting to quell a revolution.

Built as a game for customers who couldn’t decide on what to order, the menu allows you to pick two dishes that arrive together, with foods that you can come back to frequently and not feel guilty about. Owner Kathryn Kittinger, originally a photographer who intended to use the space only as a photo studio, says each dish “has to be photo-friendly, both visually pleasing and tasty.” The food reflects a bucolic ideal, each simple, just-picked or just-caught item bursting with deep colors and placed on glass pedestals.

You wouldn’t know it, but Kittinger’s residence in the restaurant business came from sheer happenstance. After quitting a corporate job in Silicon Valley, Kittinger found an unlikely break in a pumpkin patch in California’s Carmel Valley, photographing a friend’s baby. In the years that followed, she photographed 3,000 babies between California and Florida, ultimately deciding to bring her business to Sarasota to be closer to family. In 2001, Kittinger bought the property she would come to call Shoogie Boogies, her grandfather’s nickname for her growing up. It remained closed to the public for four years, exclusively used for Kittinger’s photo clients. Locals first began to trickle in when she took a stab at a gift shop; she soon realized people wanted to linger and appreciate the garden, and began contemplating opening a café. “I’ve never tried to present myself as a gourmet chef—I never really knew what I was doing,” she says. “It’s kind of a joke among my friends that I even opened a restaurant.”

Dark greens and low-glycemic foods dominate the health-conscious meals; though salads aren’t normally standout choices, Shoogie Boogies dares to change your thinking. For your side-by-side dishes, choose the Mediterranean and the Pear and Walnut—on one side mixed greens combine with sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, mushrooms, green beans, olives and goat cheese, topped with a balsamic-based dressing; on the other, dewy droplets of golden clover honey catch the midday light atop sweet pears, arugula, smoky gouda, Italian gorgonzola and crunchy walnuts. Add chicken or wild salmon for an infusion of protein. If salads aren’t your thing, appease your sweet tooth with an authentic French crêpe, stuffed simply with strawberries, pears, crème fraîche, powdered sugar and honey.

“When you walk in here, all five of the senses are focused on the pure and the lovely, so you feel transported,” Kittinger says. Like the dishes themselves, the Towles Court property (comprised of two small cottage-like buildings cupping around the narrow courtyard) reflects a balance of simplicity and pastoral beauty. From delicate lavender lisianthus flowers peeking from transparent napkin holders to unspoilt teeny secret side gardens and lush five-foot banana palms, the place takes Kittinger and chef/manager/garden maintainer Mike Rivera five hours a day to set up and tear down (all plants are potted and portable, each table set with careful flower, china and candle placement). Though the garden is reminiscent of a self-sufficient edible wonderland, Kittinger says the space revolves more around ambiance than growing ingredients, as she sources all her produce, greens and flowers from local markets with the exception of her desserts, shipped in from a secret vendor.

Kittinger says Shoogie Boogies has since evolved because of customer requests—everything on the property is for sale (potted plants, bathroom soaps and pedestals included) after customers kept attempting to purchase her personal items; almost 500 people have held parties in the space; and most recently, six couples said their wedding vows in the garden. The natural next step comes in the form of an online store, where far-flung loyalists can continue to buy from Kittinger’s vision. “Beyond the gates we have no control over what happens,” she says. “We try to make this a little oasis where people can leave their cares behind.”