“Eat like a local”—that can be pretty tantalizing considering the plethora of restaurants Suncoast residents have access to. We are privy to fresh seafood and fish on a year-round basis, something landlocked diners consider a delicacy. Fresh produce is a staple for chefs who are well-versed in having common and exotic varieties of fruits and vegetables at their agile fingertips. The Sarasota-Manatee Originals is a group of over 50 locally owned independent restaurants. Their tagline, “Eat like a local” suggests that living in the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice area is a trifecta culinary jackpot and their membership list reads like a veritable “Who’s Who” among Florida Trend Award and Zagat top-scoring restaurants.
According to the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, there are more of these award-winning restaurants in a 20-mile radius of Downtown Sarasota than in any other part of Florida, and they are all independently owned. Let that set in for a moment as you search your phone for a place to make tonight’s dinner reservation. Been wanting to check out that new Thai restaurant down the road? Why not! Chances are, you could Instagram pictures of your Pad Thai and claim bragging rights for finding a Zagat winner in your neighborhood all in the same post. Now, that is a dinner with benefits.
Besides being an undeniably amazing community of restaurants representing everything from seafood and steaks to vegetarian options to contemporary Asian/sushi and continental, the choices are mouthwatering. If you want traditional Italian for lunch and a funkier global eclectic/fusion dinner, then the Originals have you covered. Great independently-owned restaurants dot our landscape from quaint seafood shacks on Anna Maria Island to timeless tourist traps on Siesta Key and upscale “it” haunts in Venice. Their members are a group of mostly locals, some who have grown up in this area for the past 20 to 30 years. They understand the seasonality of the foods they have and gratefully accept the obligation to turn the public on to amazing dishes that locals have loved for generations. In fact, their website features a revolving list of recipes inspired by local chefs and found on local menus at this moment. Can’t make it out this weekend? How fun is it to recreate a recipe from Primo! Ristorante from scratch? Add some music and candles and I call that a cheap and tasty date night.
One of the vastly popular events the Sarasota-Manatee Originals hosts is Forks & Corks held annually at Ringling. Foodies and wine enthusiasts understand this is the culinary soiree of the year. The Grand Tasting Event that will be held on January 28 at the Ringling Museum of Art has already sold out, but tickets are still available for various winemaking events scheduled January 26-28. Michaels on the Bay at Selby Gardens will be hosting a Trade Tasting on January 29 from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. Michael’s on East Ballroom will be the site of the Forks & Corks Wine University on January 27, led by a panel of prestigious winemakers. For information and ticket availability for these and other events held on the Forks & Corks weekend, along with learning more about The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, please visit their website at https://www.eatlikealocal.com/. And, do your best to “eat like a local” this year, supporting independent restaurants owned by your friends and neighbors. When you live in an area like ours which is so rich in natural foods, beautiful in taste and quality, it is easy to nourish our bodies with gifts from Mother Nature, harvested for our pleasure, daily. That is a gift.
Photos courtesy of Forks & Corks Facebook page