Cask & Larder

565 W Fairbanks Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789(321) 280-4200caskandlarder.com

Cask-Larder-640x460

Having been to the Ravenous Pig, Cask’s sister, I sort of knew what to expect and those expectations were pretty high. Then, after some fellow foodies hyped it up even more, those expectations ballooned higher than Cheech & Chong smoking Whitney Houston’s ashes. Too soon?

The point being that Cask had a LOT to live up to, and live they did. Thrived actually. From the moment we entered I loved the gastro pub vibe with a chef’s table set amidst the beer kettles.

I also want to give a big shout out to service. Everyone was great. Not just our waiter who was actually training, but to his trainer, and to the chefs in the kitchen, who invited my son back for a tour, just because he was curiously looking in through the kitchen window. Sentimental gestures aside, after all, as a Ferocious Foodie I am immune to such ploys, the food really was great. Not all of it. But enough to plant a wow firmly on face.

The biggest wow coming from the duck ham. What? Yes. It’s duck prepared like an old school dinner ham. Served over a bed of harvest grains. And speaking of beds, I loved it so much I wanted to crawl in bed with it and make sweet, sweet love to- Getting weird? Well, it’s glazed in ecstasy I tell you! And it’s an Ultimate.

The kale salad was another superb bowl of blessedness. Garden fresh and loaded with goodies like Florida peaches, avocado and walnuts. Nowhere near as original as the duck ham, but sometimes it’s the simple things.

A hair below these two dishes I would put the grilled octopus and the strawberry angel food cake for dessert. Both are very good and very worth ordering as well.

After that would be the bread pudding for me. It’s a touch on the dryer side of things, which is not how I like to roll, but the layering of chocolate and caramel flavors makes up for a lot.

Down from there is the flounder. A bit of a snore to be honest. Almost as if it came from a different restaurant.

And worst of all were the roasted oysters. Shoulda gone with the deviled eggs. Saw a tray go by right after we ordered and the pangs of buyer’s remorse swelled inside me like tidal wave of sub-par oysters. But ohhh that duck ham… If beating a dead horse is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

4 teeth

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Elizabeth on 37th

105 E 37th St. Savannah, GA 31401 • (912) 236-5547 • elizabethon37th.net

oyster

Widely considered among the top three restaurants in Savannah it obviously became a ferocious obligation to dine here during my visit. And with hype at a steady boil, the odds were definitely not in Elizabeth’s favor as we entered the picturesque mansion.

When I say picturesque, I only mean this form the outside. Strongly. Just Google the restaurant and you are bound to see scores of exterior photos, but a meek sampling of interiors. This is with good cause. The interior is very run down and outdated. I know this is partly a purposeful homage to the historic Savannah structure, but there are droves of other historic icons all around the world that are older, and yet FAR more up-to-date. Take the Louvre in Paris for example. Esma Sultan in Istanbul. Or even the Poetter Hall right down the street in Savannah.

As a result, I found that the place fell shy of romantic, or even dressy. Service, however, was quite good. Attentive, knowledgeable and relatively good with recommendations.

As for the food, let’s start at the start, with a Prince Edward mussel amuse bouche, which definitely got things off on the right foot. This was followed by a pair of scallop oriented appetizers that we thankfully shared, because wifey’s was definitely the better of the two. Both were specials so if you don’t go soon, chances are you missed the boat, literally. The winner was a vidalia onion cream soup made with two types of the onion- the traditional Georgian ball of sweet goodness. And baby vidalia onions as well, which are a bit greener, yielding a touch of grassiness. It was awesome. As were the buttery chunks of scallop swimming amidst the onion pond, seasoned with a nice peppery kick.

With the other scallop app, it was a lone, perfectly seared mollusk perched atop a potato salad that sounds more underwhelming than it was, but still not up to the high standards set by the soup, thus it was the red-headded step child of the mollusk twins.

After that, the transgressions continued with another chef’s offering that would’ve probably done less damage to our perceptions had it remained in the kitchen. A salad sourced from the local garden with micro greens, herbs and clementines. Very pedestrian.

The Savannah Red Rice, while not as lackluster as the other misses, still didn’t make the grade by reputation. And when you’re a top restaurant in the South, one expects a pretty dazzling jambalaya. This was passable at best, mostly because it was very lacking in heat.

But then Elizabeth showed she was “woman, hear me roar,” serving up the best pork chop I’ve ever had. Cooked to grillmaster standards with a crisp char on the outside, tender and moist on the inner, and served up with one of the best slaws I’ve ever had, along with a five cheese mac that brought a creamy decadence to every bite. And when all three of those were on your fork at once, it was like a holy trinity of porky delectableness. You simply must get this. If you don’t, quite frankly you should be arrested.

And speaking of misdemeanors, the worst miss of the night came on the heels of such a soaring high. The Savannah Cream Cake is soooo over explained and complicated that it tricks itself into thinking it’s something more than it tastes like, which is angel food cake with strawberries. If I could have only one do-over it would be this. And I’d probably use it to get a second order of that friggin’ chop!

So, while the soup and the chop were definitely dishes for the books, the misses were one too many to go five knives and the decor inside was too dated to go four. So guess that leaves us with…

3 teeth

 

The Gander

15 W 18th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 229-9500 • thegandernyc.com

Sea+Trout+Tartar

The restaurant has the dubious distinction of being the product of two former failures combine. The space is in the gravesite of the restaurant formerly known as Alison 18 (RIP) and some of the key players behind it are from Manzanilla (RIP) which was a wonderful restaurant that caught a kiss of death one star review from the NY Times. Such a crime, because their reviews are about as accurate as Yelp half the time. Manzanilla was a gem that shined far brighter than scores of other places in the city that boast an embarrassment of adulation, undeservedly so if you ask me. Babbo, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park and Union Sq. Café are among the first to come to mind.

So as a result of my deep love for Manzanilla, I was REALLY pulling for these guys to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and send a big “Fuck You” to the sycophant at the Times.

Well, sadly I did not get my way. The Gander, while it has its moments, is no Manzanilla. The décor, is appointed nicely here and there, but feels a bit barren and cavernous somehow in the main dining room. As though they aren’t quite done decorating just yet.

The service was also a bit sloppy. One of the bus boys spilled oil on my sport coat and tried to slink away as though he didn’t notice. So definitely off to a bad start comparatively to the past. The service at Manzanilla was excellent and the décor was beautiful. So now I shifted all of my hopes toward the food, which had been getting rave reviews from people at work.

Well, I have since fired those people. KIDDING! But the food was very hit and miss. Not a total disaster. There were some highlights. The fist being my blood orange tea cocktail. Another being the Sea Trout Tartar, beautifully presented, loaded with brightness and acidity. But the runaway success of the night was the suckling pig, prepared in a very traditional Mediterranean sauce of herbed olive oil and lemon. So good.

The angel food cake dessert wasn’t bad either, but it shouldn’t exactly make the highlights list, or the lowlights for that matter. It really falls somewhere in the middle.

Now for the lowlights. I personally would skip the much touted Buffalo sweet breads. They taste like fried batter with Buffalo sauce. You get absolutely nothing of the gland itself, so what’s the point? I mean even with Buffalo wings you at least get the chicken meat!

Another highly acclaimed miss was the Brisket Tots. Their issue was dryness. And truth be told, not very flavorful either. The only saving grace for the dish are these tiny shaved coins of apple when eaten together with a tot, brings the much needed moisture back to the dish, making them in fact worthy. The problem is that the apple to tot ratio is not is not a favorable one.

And last but not least, my biggest gripe of the night, the Brown Butter Ravioli. This dish is SO small it is laughable that of all the pastas on the menu this is the only one that isn’t offered as an app portion. Only as a main. But I defy anyone to tell me that this is an entrée. Literally comprised of three underwhelming dumplings for 14 dollars. It’s basically 5 dollars a bite! You’d think it had truffles or something. So overpriced and underwhelming. They should be embarrassed to serve a dish like that, that’s how bad it was for the money.

Sorry Gander. I wanted to love you so bad. Hopefully third time’s a charm.

2 teeth