Genesis Pop-up Restaurant Experience in Port Charlotte

A pop-up restaurant is a fantastic way to test out a restaurant idea without the commitment or extended overhead costs.

Last night, I was very excited to attend the Genesis Pop-Up Restaurant that was hosted in Port Charlotte. After being offered tickets for myself and 2 guests, including 2 tickets that were given away in our Venice Foodies Community group, I was completely hyped up.

The “experience” was promoted to be a “vegetable-forward” concept where the focus of the meals would be on a balance between the locally sourced produce and locally sourced chicken and shrimp.  

The local vendors included:

  • Circle C Farm
  • Florida Pure Sea Salt
  • Fruitville Grove
  • Geier’s Meat Market
  • Rock Creek Shrubs
  • Wiel Farm
  • Worden Farm
I invited my sister and one of my best friends to attend with me and off we went on our journey south to experience this pop up restaurant! It was very difficult to find as there were no signs showing the event and we drove past it twice before finding the location. The space was quite large with only the back end of the room set up for dining and a cash only bar at the very front of building. 

The table was set in a minimal way with a simple centerpiece and our menu for the night on the cloth napkin. Our servers were almost overly friendly, coming by every few minutes to refill our water even if only sips had been taken. Although dinner started at 5 pm, it was nearly 5:45 before we received our first course. I was shocked that the chef did not come out to tell us what the dish was, as I have been accustomed to in other similar set-ups. In fact, we did not see the chef in the 2+ hours we were there. 

This first course was presented as a wrap, but note that the lettuce pieces are not equal, and the center piece is actually used as the base for two of the wraps. The lettuce itself was dripping wet, making it impossible to consume as a wrap. I glanced at the menu to try and make some sense of what was in front of me. 

The first wrap should have been fresh pineapple, Worden Farm chili sauce and cucumbers. Instead of cucumbers, it was clearly radishes and if there was a chili sauce there, it was masked by the pineapple. 

The second wrap should have been a stuffed chicken thigh with a tamari-sesame emulsion. I’m not entirely sure what the chicken was stuffed with, but perhaps that is where the cucumbers ended up? However, the chicken was very underseasoned, cold, and seemed undercooked enough that it made me almost nervous to eat it. 

The third wrap should have been fresh herbs, carrot remoulade, citrus pickled fennel and radishes. Instead, it seems the radishes disappeared, but I can say this was the most flavorful bite in the first course. The pickled fennel had a crisp, slightly sweet and bitter bite with the crunch of the carrots. Although the event was pushing that they were using salt harvested from Tampa Bay, these dishes could have used a bit more (which is saying something as I am NOTORIOUS for under-salting because I prefer less salt in my food.)

 

By 6:30, the next seating had arrived and we were just getting our second course. It was very underwhelming. The event had been hyped up as a vegetable forward meal and yet, the first thing you notice on the plate is the chicken. The meal was described as Pan Seared Circle C Farm Chicken and a root vegetable hash with Geier’s bacon, a butternut squash puree and wilted turnip greens. 

For my sister and my friend, the plate, the chicken and the vegetables were cold. My meal was luke warm at best, but at least it had some heat. This round, the chicken was cooked well, juicy and had a nice flavor to it. The most delicious bite the entire night was the diced vegetables. Beautifully carmalized onions and bacon with perfectly cooked root vegetables, the three spoonfuls I had were amazing, I was desperately searching for more.  

I am a huge fan of pureed butternut squash, so I had high hopes for this one. However, it was simply mashed up, with no additional seasonings or creaminess that I could find. My guess is they were lost with the turnip greens which was also absent from my plate.

The strangest part of our experience was how the servers collected the silverware between courses and then polishing them at the table after setting the new set down in front of us. It was also strange that they were coming around to wipe even the smallest crumb off the table with one of those table scrapers. Service was definitely on the ball, if not over the top.

We had one other dinner companion at our table, who decided at 7 PM that she could not stay anymore. We had enjoyed getting to know her and I hope that I see her at other events in the future as she was so sweet! Unfortunately, she was the sweetest part of our evening. Our dessert arrived around 7:15 and it left all 3 of us discussing where we were going to go to get a real meal because we were starving and needing a delicious bite. 

The dessert was on the menu as “Banana Four Ways” and yet, I only found 3 on the plate. There was banana bread, spiced banana bavarois, banana-oat dust and Wiel Farm Honeycomb all with a chocolate ganache drizzle around the plate.

Let’s start with the honeycomb, as I was very excited to try it. I watched as my sister and friend both took the first bite and had an immediate, almost violent reaction to it. I have no idea how honey could be rotten, but that is exactly what it tasted like. The memory of that flavor is burned into my senses and I shivered remembering it to write this now. I did alert our server to pass along the message to the chef because something had obviously gone very wrong with that part of the dish. 

The banana bread and the spiced banana bavarois were dry, but the most palatable bites on the plate, although there was not much difference in their flavor to be able to tell them apart from the other.

I was begging for some sweetness when I dipped into the chocolate ganache. Unfortunately, it was made with an unsweetened cocoa and was just incredibly bitter. 

 

Final Thoughts

If I had to sum up our evening, I would say that for their first event, they definitely have a lot of kinks to work out before doing it again. I truly admire the vision of sourcing locally and highlighting our incredible farms and products within 100 miles of this beautiful place we call home. If a brick and mortar location were to open, I would probably go after they had been established for a bit just for that vegetable hash… lots and lots of that vegetable hash. I’ll just make sure to skip dessert. 

Have you been to a pop-up restaurant? Tell me about it!

Papa’s Meat Market in Venice

I have memories as a child of going with my grandmother to the butcher for fresh meats, cheeses and various other goods. Now that I’m an adult, I still seek out these specialty shops in Venice, especially a butcher.

Papa’s Meat Market offers a wide variety of meats, cheeses and prepared foods for sale. Jason’s favorite item is the shrimp salad and once we walk in the door, they know exactly what he wants first. (I can pretty much guarantee that the container will be gone before I have even finished shopping.)

Recently adding a new take out menu, we also grabbed teriyaki wings. I have to say that these wings are my favorite in all of Venice. Slightly sweet teriyaki sauce that is made in-house coats the outside (It is the same marinade as the tri-tips if you have had them!) Unlike so many other places, the wings and drumsticks have a lot of meat on the bone, perfectly juicy on the inside and has a nice crispy crunch on the outside without the extra carbs of breading.

Elena loves the Shepard’s pie, so we brought that home for dinner tonight. Creamy mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas and meat, it’s total comfort food! Best part is it only took 20 minutes in the oven so we could have a princess movie night instead of me cooking!

Flapjacks in Venice

After spending the morning visiting thrift stores for a treasure hunting “morning date”, Jason and I both were hungry and started hunting for breakfast options on Venice Ave.

After a recent social media contest looking for opinions on whether the delicious breakfast meat sandwich combination is called Taylor Ham or Pork Roll, I won a free sandwich to try it out for myself!

#TeamTaylorHam all the way and they are doing it right. Cooked just the way I like it and served on a Kaiser roll, it was comfort food treat. Jason went for his usual biscuits and gravy and his remark was that it was surprisingly good for a yankee. 

We were able to chat with the owner and discovered he’s from the same town as my mother in New Jersey. Like my father used to say, “It’s a small world, but I sure wouldn’t want to paint it.”

As we sat inside, (this was one of the very cold mornings) a couple who appeared to be homeless sat outside and enjoyed a cup of coffee. It was heartwarming to observe two other tables offer to pay for a hot meal for them. Venice, you never cease to amaze me.

Shark Bites Deli in Venice

Shark Bites Deli is brand new to Venice and they are off to an awesome start! Every part of the shop has a shark theme and it’s fabulous. The owners are new to Venice, moving here from Washington state and started to build a new life for their young family. That drive is what brought them to opening this deli. Extremely family friendly with play areas and plans to have family events and activities for kids, I think this is exactly what Venice needs! 

But I know what you really want to know… How’s the food? All of their meats and cheeses come from Boar’s Head. I’m a huge fan of Boar’s Head products and anyone who has tasted them can understand why. Pair that with fresh bread baked from a local vendor in Sarasota and it’s a match made in Sandwich heaven.

I ordered The Megalodon, which has pastrami, corned beef, salami and pepperoni with lettuce, pepperocinis, tomato and provolone cheese. I added mayo and horseradish sauce for a delicious bite. There was so much packed on to that sandwich, it was *almost* too big to bite! I went for the regular size and it was fantastic.

Jason went for the Mako Shark which is their take on an Italian style sub. Salami, capicola, ham, provolone and mozzarella (he skipped the veggies because… well, he’s Jason.) He went for the large sandwich and completely devoured it.

As for Elena, she got a great kids meal of The Shark Tooth which is their homemade meatballs with marinara sauce and provolone cheese. Her meal came with a GoGo Squeeze applesauce, a shark head lollipop, a little shark toy and a shark temporary tattoo! Check out the video on the Venice Foodies – Businesses and Promotions page to see her whole reaction. She declared it “The Best Sandwich ever!” (and yes, I know at almost 7, everything is the best ever, but in this instance, I have to say these sandwiches are pretty awesome.)

They sent us off with key lime pie to take home with us, which had just the right flavor and a buttery graham cracker crust. The perfect sweet treat to take to the movies with us that night.

We can’t wait to go back. Let me know what you get when you go!! Shark Bites is located on East Venice Ave, closer to the roundabout in the same plaza as Word of Mouth and Allegro Bistro.

Le Petit Jardin Cafe in Venice

Friday morning, we had a busy day of errands to run that took us out to East Venice Ave and finally got over to Le Petit Jardin Cafe. It’s a cozy cafe tucked into the Galleria on East Venice Avenue. If you blink, you’ll miss it, so keep your eyes peeled! Indoor and outdoor seating available, with fast and friendly service. (They are even doing Breakfast with Santa next Saturday morning!)

Coffee for me, but Jason couldn’t resist grabbing a peach bellini, which he said was sweet, refreshing and delicious!

For breakfast, I had the Le Crepe Delacroix… ham, eggs and melted swiss cheese inside a perfectly made crepe drizzled in a champagne mustard sauce that quite honestly was the most delicious part of the whole plate.

On their special for the day was a delicious plate of biscuits and sausage gravy, which Jason jumped for, ordering it as a platter with eggs and sausage.

The best part is that the prices are low and feel like you are indulging in richness. Absolutely give them a try!

Hashtag Pizza – Food Truck!

With a rising interest for food trucks in Venice, several have popped up over the past few months.

After seeing the posts about the new pizza truck in town, located at the corner of Shamrock and 41 in between Liberty Bank and Canton Chinese across from Checkers, we decided to break Keto to try it.. (For the blog and you guys, of course) and #worthit. These 3 ladies have quite the story to tell. Each of them come from pizza backgrounds, one from Chicago, one from Detroit and one from Long Island… combined they definitely have something special. They spent 8 months rebuilding this transport van, including using welding techniques to take the entire back off to fit a real pizza oven inside of it! This isn’t just your average food truck, this is somewhere you would see Guy Fieri hanging out on his days off.

We ordered a 10″ round of the #cheese and the #CajunShrimpandGuac, and I also took home a 32 oz container of their soup of the day which was a Tomato Basil… for about $28 and that included 3 cans of soda.

The crust of the pizza has that perfectly crisp crunch to it… with the #cheese having a great flavor in the sauce with a mixture of mozzarella, asiago and sharp white cheddar. The #CajunShrimp&Guac was the star of the show though. Perfectly cooked shrimp blended with a spicy kick of cajun seasoning, creamy guacamole, blue cheese crumbles, scallions and then that expert trio of mozzarella, asiago and sharp white cheddar.

The soup, perfect for a cold night. Just the right consistency and each bite has the right balance of tomato to basil. We opted to skip the cheese nuggs as we were already pushing our carbs, but I suspect they would be incredible with this soup!

In addition, they have a Pay-It-Forward program. Add $5 to your tab and someone who can’t afford a hot meal can walk up to to the truck and eat. These ladies have a heart of gold and are a welcome addition to Venice. Go say hello and tell them I sent you! You’ll be glad you did.

*Edited to add that while some of these options are no longer available, and their location can vary, there are some spectacular flavors that are worth tracking down.

Cormicks in Venice

After a busy morning with my daughter at the pediatrician’s office, we need a quick breakfast on Venice Island before I drove her back to school.

*Side Note: If you are looking for a pediatrician in Venice, I highly recommend Sunshine Pediatrics on the island across from Venice Elementary School. The office is extremely friendly and Dr. Khan is wonderful!

Elena was really hungry by the time we left the doctor’s office and asked for a bagel. I remembered hearing about Cormicks and knew that it was close by and we drove right over. One key point to remember is that it is cash only, you will want to stop at an ATM before heading over!

As a Jersey native, my idea of bagels are much different than the ones being served at Cormicks. Instead of a harder exterior with a light fluffy inside, these bagels are more reminiscent of a croissant. Buttery, flakey and light, Elena loved it! With crazy low prices, it’s definitely a spot to check out.

Cormicks is located in the little shopping center at the corner of Tampa Ave and 41 (the building with the beautiful mural painting)

Los Portales in Osprey

After an appointment for Jason, we were searching for a restaurant in Osprey for lunch. Jason had a strong craving for Mexican food and considering where we were, we had to stop by Los Portales. You are automatically given chips and salsa, and these are not Tostitos… Thick and obviously made fresh, it was hard to resist eating more than one (for research, obviously!)

For lunch, I chose the Mexican chimichurri steak and Jason went with the Shrimp a la Diabla. We both chose avocado fries and fried yucca as our side dish.

We did try a tortilla, and let me tell you, resisting the carbs is difficult. It’s pretty clear that everything here is made from scratch, fresh.

My steak was a grilled skirt steak with a vibrant chimichurri sauce and queso fresco. While I found the cilantro to be a bit over-powering, I also recognize that cilantro and I don’t always get along.

Jason’s shrimp had a nice kick from the peppers, (which I kept sneaking bites of) and the acidity from the roasted lemon brought it all together.

As for the sides, the avocado fries had a very light batter. Just enough to give a crunch without taking away from the creamy avocado flavor.

The fried yucca is very similar to a thick french fry and topped with queso fresco. (I discovered later that I mistook yucca for jicama in terms of carbs). So, as far as low carb goes, we failed today, but it was still a REALLY good meal.

If you have visited Los Portales before, what is your favorite dish? If you haven’t tried it, when are you going to go? Comment below and tell us all about it!

Sweets N’ Sprinkles – Keto Desserts!

While my carb addiction focuses on bread, pasta and starchy vegetables, my husband has a perpetual sweet tooth. When our daughter looked at him with her big brown eyes and begged him to be a power ranger with her for Halloween, he knew it was time to buckle down and get healthy too, so now we are both following a low carb / keto lifestyle.

Overcoming his sweet tooth was the major challenge here. His candy addiction had reached an all time high at the time of his oath to keto… so I knew we would have to find something. One post on our Venice Foodies Community group and we received a TON of answers, so we chose one off the list, and off we went!

I met the sweet baker behind Sweets N Sprinkles, Michelle, who bakes cakes and treats out of her home. She is also following a keto lifestyle. Because of this, she expressed her frustration at needing dessert in her life. As a baker, she was determined to find keto friendly treats. I was skeptical, but she delivered in a big way.

We chose her keto sampler box, which comes with a scone, a cupcake, a muffin and 10 mini-cupcake size sweet “fat bombs” for only $15. The amount of time and money it would take to create these would amount to much more. In fact, I highly doubt mine would come out this good.

Keto Dessert Sampler Box

As if these sweet indulgences were not enough, she also calculates the macros for you! They are listed on her website so that you can anticipate what you are getting. Most treats are under 2 carbs per serving. For example, the highest treats like muffins, brownies and cakes topping out at 7 carbs per serving. (Seriously? YES!) 

The baked goods? Just as fluffy and delicious as their carb filled counterparts without the sugary guilt. We received a chocolate chip muffin, a blueberry scone and a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla icing. (The picture is off her blueberry muffins)

Check out how delicious these look!

The blueberry scone was the perfect breakfast companion to my morning coffee. The blueberries were plump and juicy with just the right balance of tart and sweet. The chocolate chip muffin had large chunks of a semi sweet dark chocolate for a guilt free indulgence. However, my daughter took one bit of the cupcake and refused to share. Even my little princess knows when a treat tastes amazing! (And if it’s low on sugar, that’s a mom win.)

I’m telling you, if you need a low carb sweet treat, this is the woman to call. She knows her stuff and does it really well!

Click HERE to view her website for ordering details and more information!

Cafe Longet in Venice

Nestled in at the end of the Miami Avenue shops, sits Cafe Longet. A delightful French restaurant in Venice.

Upon walking in, the restaurant was bright and welcoming. We were seated and given menus which had a number of delicious descriptions of dishes. We decided to start with the naughty french fries and for entrees, I went with the CAB (chicken, apple and brie on a baguette, my husband and sister went for the Marseille Crepe and our friend went for the BCB (Angus burger with swiss and bacon).

The fries were unlike any I have had in the area. They are cut like thin steak fries so that they are crazy crispy and served with melted raclette cheese and thinly sliced prosciutto.

The CAB was a deliciously seasoned grilled chicken breast with thinly sliced apples, bites of brie and sweet honey mustard with lettuce and tomato on the best baguette I’ve had in the area. The bread is all made in-house. For those that understand the difference between northern bread and bread here, the crust was spot on and the interior was light and fluffy. I chose the house salad on the side; mixed greens with their house dressing and a delicious seed mixture.

The Marseille Crepe is a buckwheat crepe stuffed with a scrumptious creamed leek and topped with perfectly pan-seared scallops. I almost regretted not ordering it myself.

Our friend ate in silence, just in awe of his burger. He said that it was cooked well with caramelized onions and a secret sauce.

I don’t know why we waited so long to try this place. It may have been our first visit, but it will not be our last. Add this to our hometown favorites!