Thinking about Paris

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Of course, I’m thinking about Paris! How could I not?

Especially since it was not that long ago my wife, Trulee, and I wandered the beguiling streets of this luminous city — thrilled to be immersed again in its endless charm, beauty and sophistication.

But when those despicable, barbaric events of 11/13 so rudely shattered the Parisian night, randomly interrupting lives and shrouding this joyous city in fear, I was overcome with sadness. And anger.

One look at Facebook and I knew I wasn’t alone.

So would Paris be different now? I keep revisiting my experiences there in Setember of last year. As you might guess, the focus was food.

And did we enduldged ourselves — thanks to a well-researched list of the most interesting tables the city had to offer. Everything from three star kitchens like Astrance to creative, new bistros trying to make a culianry mark like Clamato. And those that already have like Frenchie.

Tucked away on Rue de Nil (actually an alley) in the 2nd arrondissement, Frenchie – now one of my favorite places to dine in Paris – is a captivating little space, seating only twenty-six people and serving creative, simply-prepared plates that linger in memory long after you’ve had that final espresso. The food is beautiful, delicious, and affordable.

Thinking back on my meal at Frenchie brings me considerable comfort after the recent unspeakable events. It even brings a smile to my face.

After some champagne, a starter of seared squid with black pudding and tomatoes. Then John Dory from St Jean de Luz with green beans, fresh nuts, kalamata olives and red lemon peel. And to finish, Wild blackberries sorbet, marigold, green lemon and caramelized brioche.

But it was much more than that. It was pure pleasure teased out of simple, pristine ingredients. It was an eloquent expression of the new bistro fare that has been redefining the French dining scene.

And Chef-Owner Gregory Marchand is the one who makes it happen.

A native of Nantes, France, Marchand opened Frenchie in 2009 — after working at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in London and Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern in NYC. He’s just as charming as his food.

Yes, I’ve been thinking about Paris. But now, no more dark thoughts…

I want to think about dinner at Frenchie, my conversation with Marchand after that wonderful meal, afternoons bicycling along the Seine. Sidewalk cafes. Shakespeare & Company. Marias galleries. The Louvre. Brunch at Le Comptoire du Relais. Lunch at Septime.

So that’s what I’m doing. How about you?

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State Street Eating House — Get the Grilled Sardines

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When I can’t decide where to go for a casual dinner here in Sarasota, I usually end up at State Street Eating House — to sit at the bar for a plate of their exceptional, grilled sardines. And a few glasses of wine.

There’s something about eating at a restaurant’s bar that just feels good. (This one is no exception.) And in a town where so many places are doing too much to their food and charging too much for it, those sardines with their pleasantly-assertive taste always seem to satisfy.

Discretely listed on the menu under appetizers, the dish features two perfectly-grilled sardines, simply dressed with nothing more than a sprinkling of salt and a touch of olive oil. Keeping them company on the plate are a toss of baby arugula, some lemon and a slice of grilled peasant bread that’s most definitely addictive. To complete my rustic, yet very civilized, meal at the bar, I add an order of charred broccolini.

This little dinner would be nothing out of the ordinary in, say, Montreal. Or Barcelona. But in Sarasota, it certainly is. And when you consider those lovely sardines only set me back $11.00, it’s even more so.

But to me it’s all about taste. These are uniquely flavorful fish. Not “fishy” tasting at all. And they take to the grill like they were concieved for the fire because of their ultra-high oil content. Charred, smokey and super-savory when they come off the heat, grilled sardines are one of those simple culinary pleasures that I just can’t get enough of.

OK. I know some of you are saying, two little sardines — that can’t be enough for a meal. Well, the ones at State Street aren’t the same size as those little guys you find packed in a can. They’re a whole lot larger.

If you’re into esoteric cocktail conversation: The average weight of a fresh sardine is 3 to 6 ounces. It’s packed with protein, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. And the delicious little fish is mercury free.

Even so, occasionally my wife is up for something other than sardines. And she’s not been dissapointed here. At least, not lately. (Early on, some of the oven-roasted, fish dishes didn’t live up to expectation.)

Here are some of the stand outs we’ve enjoyed of late at this casually-cool, little “hot spot” of a restaurant — a beautifully-composed roasted beet salad, a luscious duck burger, an “entree-sized” roasted sweet potato and a variety of expertly-grilled, whole fish from local waters.

And what about the service? Just as it should be for a place like this. Professional, personable and fun. Especially the people behind the bar!

State Street Eating House / 1533 State Street – Sarasota, FL
941.951.1533 / www.statestreetsrq.com

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