Bill Shumate's career as a restaurateur began in 1964 when he opened a small burger shack that catered to the hearty appetites of University of Oklahoma students. After spending the next several decades opening and operating eateries, Shumate decided that his next venture should somehow honor his burger roots. He partnered with Joanie Corneil in 2006 and developed a concept choosing the name Square 1 Burgers to reflect this full-circle journey. Unlike that original restaurant, though, Square 1 Burgers grew over the years, eventually expanding to several locations throughout west central Florida.
Although the concept was intended to be a return to basics, Square 1 isn't constrained by traditional conventions. Patties of Meyer's all-natural red Angus beef, Kobe, lamb, ground buffalo, and portobello mushroom caps all appear between the buns, providing a wealth of options to consider before even thinking about toppings. This eclectic spirit is also apparent in the menu's selection of appetizers, which includes everything from sun-dried tomato and artichoke hummus to homemade double-dipped onion rings. Even the milkshakes made with Blue Bell ice cream seem like faithful renditions of an American classic at first. However, the grown-up versions with Baileys, vodka, and Kahlua or brandy, cr?me de cacao continue to demonstrate Square 1 Burgers' playful spirit.
“I believe that if you’re not cooking with all five senses, you’re not cooking,” declares Derek Barnes in his feature for Sarasota’s Hot Chefs. It’s this maxim that earned him a lifetime of culinary achievement, starting with a four-year stint under the expertise of Emeril Lagasse and leading to a Zagat rating for his own restaurant and the title of semifinalist in the 2009 James Beard Awards. Derek channels these achievements into the innovative dishes he creates at his eponymous restaurant, which specializes in what he calls progressive American cuisine. That “progressive” moniker can mean a lot of things, whether it’s anointing a dish of foie gras with hazelnut honey and walnut streusel or braising a savory lamb shank in the tart flavors of lime and cilantro. Unlike a time-traveling Byzantine explorer, the chef doesn’t obsess over his plentiful spice cabinet, as the menu’s simple-grill selection serves up fresh cuts of steak, fish, and poultry in a simple, unadulterated form. Each flavor note finds its ideal complement in a wine list that features 100 bottles, many of which are available by the glass.
A flash of silver glimmers in Little Sarasota Bay, mere feet from the lush, tropical patio of Ophelia's on the Bay. It could be the belly of a leaping dolphin, the petals of a water lily, or the shiny lures of fishermen as they reel in the evening's catch. No matter its source, this sparkle reminds guests that simple pastimes such as nature gazing and family dinners are among life's greatest riches. Owner Stanley Ferro has honored this sentiment by naming Ophelia's after his grandmother, an epicure who has lived in Sarasota for more than 40 years.
In the kitchen, chefs use black grouper and tuna to showcase recipes from Florida's coasts and seaside countries such as France, Nicaragua, and Japan. Maine lobster tails morph into Mexican-inspired rellenos, and New England sea scallops bask in an emulsion of caramelized shallots and dill. Within the dining room, floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the bay, where sea captains dock their boats or play Marco Polo with the nearby nesting herons. As the evening sky dims, moonlight casts a romantic glow over the patio's white tablecloths, and guests raise glasses of French champagne to a lovely evening under the stars.
At Selva, Latin America meets the United States atop plates splashed with "Peruvian cooking reinterpreted with polish and sophistication," according to the Herald-Tribune. Dubbed Nuevo Latino cuisine, the menu's signature ceviches and seafood entrees hint at eastern origins due to Peru's influx of Asian immigrants. The Ceviche de Ostras, for example, is tinged with ginger and rocoto, a Peruvian pepper, divided into "three white espresso cups…each containing oysters floating in leche de tigre, or tiger's milk." Joined by more familiar dishes such as chili-glazed Chilean salmon and bone-in veal chops, the ceviches claim a large chunk of the menu. The wine list contains exotic offerings from Argentina and Italy.
The dining room vibrates around an aesthetic centerpiece, a glass wall glazed with chunks of color that conjure imagines of a swirling mosaic. With auburn walls and plush couches, the lounge area facilitates chatter and nickel-filled pillow fights as live DJs spin tracks until 1 a.m. on weekends. Outside, water spills over a wall beside the patio seating.
By the time he was 20, Christian Zebier was serving as maître d'hôtel for a prestigious restaurant in Belgium. After a five-year stint teaching primary school, he realized that his heart lay in hospitality, and that children have terrible table manners. The first business Zebier began, Air du Temps, deployed an elite staff to serve such distinguished parties as the Belgian royal family.
Zebier stuffed his fine-tuned sense of hospitality into a suitcase and brought it to the United States, where he opened Brasserie Belge. He felt that Sarasota's open-minded, well-traveled residents could appreciate the traditional ambiance of a brasserie. The restaurant's attentive staff serves a menu of Belgian cuisine, such as Prince Edward Island mussels delivered fresh every morning and served with one of 12 styles of belgian fries. On the leather couches of the piano lounge, patrons enjoy Belgian beers, specialty martinis, and small plates.
Gwen Willhite founded Cookies by Design in 1983, when an unsatisfying brainstorming session about gift ideas led her to ponder one question: why should flowers and sweets remain separate? Her solution was to design the cookie bouquet, where custom, hand-decorated cookies are displayed on sticks and arranged like flowers in gift baskets. Her invention quickly became a popular gift among locals, particularly those allergic to real blooms or too bashful to look at naked cookies.
Twenty-five years later, there are more than 200 Cookies by Design locations across the country. Each shop's team of bakers creates cookie baskets with a degree of care that matches Willhite's original vision, decorating and arranging sweet shapes for birthdays, holidays, and any other special occasion.