Celebrating the Best Of Sarasota

Best Of

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY APR 9, 2018

Spilling from the pages of SRQ magazine and into the stunning courtyard of the Aloft Sarasota Hotel, the annual 2018 Best Of SRQ Local Competition concluded this past Friday with a shindig for all comers. Showcasing drinks, bites and goodies from a whole host of this year’s Best Of winners and finalists—and one undefeated winner of a now-retired category—partygoers and guests sipped, sampled and danced their way from booth to booth, finding Sarasota favorites at every turn. With the night’s energy in the comfortable hands of DJ Rus, the only question remaining for the hundreds of people flowing in and out of the Aloft courtyard was where to start.

At one end, Best Doughnut winner, Five-O Donuts, and Best Romantic Restaurant winner, Ophelia’s on the Bay prove themselves among the most popular of the night, with Ophelia’s crispy coconut and macadamia-crusted sea scallops disappearing as fast as they could be prepared right there over an open flame. Right next door, Christine Nordstrom of Five-O kept busy with constant interest in everything from her famous croissant donuts to classic cinnamon apple delights. One partygoer left with a whole box.

At the other end, more donuts, as Best Doughnut finalist Peachey’s Baking Company rolls its food truck up to the loading dock and starts piping in fresh glazed donuts and mini pretzels. “Just like grandma used to make,” says Sadie Peachey, and she’s not joking—the recipe comes from her Amish grandmother, and everything is still made from scratch. For a little heat to go with that sweet, Libby’s Café serves up samples of its Best Of-winning Bloody Marys, made with roasted and raw garlic, as well as lots of horseradish and more than a couple secret ingredients. Paired with some next-level deviled eggs, and it’s a match made in heaven.

For the meat-eaters, the folks at Michael’s On East and Brick’s Smoked Meats do not disappoint, with MOE bringing Andouille sausage and ground beef sliders topped with alfalfa sprouts and pickled okra, and Brick’s some of its famous Bacon Burnt End appetizers, as well as House Margaritas, made with O3 orange liqueur and a lemon-forward sensibility. “You get to meet great people,” says Brick’s Steven Warren, on giving his time on a Friday evening. “And SRQ is right here in our town. We’re neighbors, and we should be here.”

The burger kings, Patrick’s, hold court with double-stacked cheeseburger sliders in another corner, while the sushi champions of Jpan serve steamed buns with charsui pork in another. Right in the middle, Chef Joe DiMaggio, Jr, of Café BarBosso shows off an Italian classic with the restaurant’s pasta fagouli. “This is what wise guys have before they go to jail,” he says, maybe joking, maybe not. Either way, crowd reactions to the samples given suggest it may be consolation enough even for imminent hard time.

Rounding out the scene, area vendors like Pineapple Yoga and Jel Shots, a brand new venture selling vegan, gluten-free and no-refrigeration jello shots, ply their wares. Nearby, Jesse White of Sarasota Architectural Salvage hands out deals and coupons for guests who want to stop in the shop afterward. “My company is very community-based, and I love events that get the community out and recognize all the different organizations and businesses that are giving back,” he says.

“I’m here because I’m among good people.”

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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