It’s not a simple choice. Nothing as easy as steak or fish.
Choices can be hard. It’s great to have them, but… No I’m not whining or complaining, I’m just stating a fact that becomes painfully obvious the moment you walk through the entryway and enter the spacious and beautiful Ringling courtyard. It’s Grand Tasting Day. It’s time to pull on those eating (and drinking) pants and get down to it!
Over the years I’ve waxed on about the setting, the ambiance of the venue and the general upscale feel of the days proceedings. I don’t think there is any need to go over all that again. It is Sarasota’s premier food event. Enough said.
Unlike years past, the dining masses weren’t drenched in a warming Florida sun. No, the 2014 festivities were accented by a sprinkling of liquid sunshine. It certainly didn’t dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for the delectable dishes or oaky chardonnays. Not by a long shot. It would take a lot worse to deter this hungry crowd.
There’s a reason that this years feeding frenzy sold out in eight minutes. If you’ve attended, I don’t have to tell you why. If you haven’t, the dishes below should give you a pretty gigantic clue.
Pencils and scorecards ready… It’s time once again for our 2014 Forks & Corks Best In Show. Happy Eating!
10 – Half Shell Seafood House (Chargrilled Oysters)
The cooking process was pretty dramatic. So, points awarded for style here.
The finished product had all of the elements of a well thought out dish. Down to the rock salt bottom on the platter!
9 – Fast N Fresh (Chicken Skewers with Spicy Peanut Sauce)
In past years they went with the salad bar concept. That was great. But, these delicious skewers and the accompanying sauce (choice of two) really hit the mark.
8 – Drunken Poet Thai Bistro (Chicken Larb)
Who ever said presentation was overrated had NO idea what they were talking about! A gorgeous display, highlighted by a super flavorful classic Thai dish. Eye popping!
7 – Euphemia Haye (Savory Parmesan and Gorgonzola Cheesecake)
Lots of people went for this pseudo dessert first. I’ll take savory over sweet nine times out of ten. This dish really packed in some intense taste. My kind of meal ender.
6 – Café L’Europe (Maine Lobster and Shrimp Salad)
Baby endives made the perfect carrier for this amped up seafood classic. Light and bursting with flavor.
5 – Mi Pueblo (Carne Asada Tacos)
I’ll concede, a lot of people do tacos at these types of food gatherings. Mostly because they’re easy to carry around and eat. But, this particular taco goes WAY beyond the convenience factor. Tender meat + just enough sauce + grilled tortilla = PERFECT!
4 – Harry’s Continental Kitchens (Bacon Wrapped Scallop with Brie & Fig)
WOW! Well, you can see it for yourself. This two bite bundle tasted even better than it looked if that’s even possible. I could have downed a half dozen, but, the folks in that LONG line would have had my head. Harry delivers the goods!
3 – The Sandbar (Shrimp Crudite with Asparagus Cream)
Imagine a meadow of shrimp, dill and cukes. Ahhh… The dill fragrance tied up the whole experience into a neat little package. Tender shrimp and a perfect sauce are the stars, but, it’s the visual WOW factor that takes it over the finish line.
2 – Ortygia (Stuffed Baby Sweet Peppers)
Tender, sweet, spicy, mellow, somebody stop me… The presentation was off the charts for this simple and elegant dish. If I had stood tableside for a while I could have made a serious dent in that platter. Well done!
1 – Caragiulos (Chicken Fegatini)
The best of the best. It’s a savory cannoli made from chicken livers. It’s took a wee bit of courage to serve this to the masses. Home run! Everything about this little umami bomb was on the money. The savory and intense flavor was barely able to be contained in it’s shell. It most certainly deserves another look.
That is my personal top ten for this years event. No voting, Facebook liking or politicking. Just my own stroll through the grounds accompanied by my taste buds, eyes and nose. If you were there, I’m certain you have your own list (if I missed your favorite, add it in a comment).
It’s unbelievably hard to beat a day walking the Ringling courtyard, sampling some of the best of what Sarasota’s restaurant community has to offer. It is without a doubt a special treat.
This year there were lots of brand new dishes to experience (I like that). There were some old standbys too. Taken down to its essence, Forks and Corks is a showcase. A chance to educate and entice. The opportunity to bring your culinary creations to 1,200 waiting palates all at the same moment. The possibility of making new fans and dedicated regulars to your cuisine and your craft.
Congrats to all of the restaurants, winemakers and organizers who worked hard to make Forks and Corks the must attend food event that it has become. Thumbs up, WAY UP!
Did you miss the big Grand Tasting this year? We’ve got more mouthwatering photos right here.