When you’re looking for that perfect diamond, there are the four “C’s” that need to be taken into account – cut, color, clarity, and carat.
When you’re looking for that perfect date night, stay-cation, or a restaurant sure to impress an out-of-towner, the crown jewel of hospitality in Sarasota, The Ritz-Carton, never ceases to impress with it’s own set of C’s – Civility, Courtesy, Class, Coastal Cuisine, and Craft Cocktails. (There’s tons more, but I didn’t want to exceed this AAA Diamond Award winning hotel’s “C” limit!)
Into its 5th year, The Ritz Sarasota’s Jack Dusty Restaurant continues to wow it’s guests with an innovative dining menu, and mind-bogglingly great cocktails.
Our recent evening previewing their Spring 2017 tasting had me swooning all over again. To wit; This Jack’s Journeys “Travels Told Through Tattoos & Tinctures” cocktail menu shows us, once again, how awesome Jack Dusty’s attention to detail accompanies their warm welcomes.
We were greeted with the Sonic Bloom cocktail, an impressive creational confluence of strawberry cordial, cognac, Combier liqueur de rose, absinthe, lemon, Bitterman’s burlesque bitters, prosecco, graced with an edible orchid. I mean, who does that?? (A: Jack Dusty’s Candice Marie, Resident Genius Mixologist.) We especially liked the way the cognac created a subtle afterglow . . . a soothing warmth on the back of your throat after you start sipping this cold, refreshing beverage. I guess that cognac surprise is what the “sonic” part of the name alludes to!
Our first bite this visit was of the Smoked White Fish Dip with a Grapefruit Gelée. This was presented to us by the erudite Sous Chef, Christopher Johnson. This was a mouth-watering spread, with the gelée adding just enough of a citrus note to play off the smoky dip that we piled high on the accompanying crispy crackers. This appetizer is worth ordering for the flavors of the gelée alone! Really unique and flavorful!
Following that came Jack Dusty’s Berry Salad . . . a salad you will dream about. Crispy, cool, hot, sweet, crunchy, and subtle – you name it, this salad has it! I wouldn’t alter the recipe on this salad one bit . . . mixed greens, champagne, honey (harvested locally at the Ritz-Carlton’s own bee hives) mint vinaigrette, blackberries, strawberries, cucumber, jalapeno, and Winter Park Tomme cheese , a crazy-good, raw milk, semi-hard, robust cheese that has me wondering “where I can buy it myself!”
We enjoyed our Berry Salad with small samples of Jack Dusty’s Ruby Slipper cocktail, which was sublime mix of hibiscus-infused London dry gin, strawberry cordial, Merlet crème de pêche, lime, lemon, cream, egg, Bitterman’s burlesque, homemade rhubarb soda, and an edible flower. This cocktail was every bit as refreshing as it looks, and that edible flower? Hardly any calories!
The Ahi Tuna creation was another culinary treat. This gift from the sea was artfully prepared with the seared tuna side-by-side on a quinoa salad, cool cucumber, jalapeno, and watermelon that had been grilled to bring on the sweetness, some watercress and a rice wine vinegar glaze to balance the dish with some acidity. We’d like to note that these were tasting samples. Your entrée will be larger than this photo would indicate! After all, who knows more about putting on the Ritz than Jack Dusty?!
Is it time for another dazzling cocktail? Heck, yeah! The Solid Wall of Sound seems to have been created just for me. This makes use of a Reserva Especial Cachaça, made from pure sugar cane instead of molasses, Matusalem rum, The Ritz’ own locally harvested honey, housemade bitters, and a smidge of grated nutmeg. (If any of that sounds too daunting for you, put me on record as saying that the Cachaça on its own would rival any bourbon or scotch as a sipping libation on its own!) Keeping all those ingredients delightfully chilled are Jack Dusty’s hand-carved block ice cube. One per glass . . . and slow melting so you can sip at leisure without melting ice affecting your cocktail. It’s all about the little details at Jack Dusty!
With so much flavor and goodness passing over my tongue, it was beyond me to guess that the best was yet to come, but everyone in attendance was buzzing about the dessert tasting. (And the envelope please…. the winner for the best dessert, maybe ever, is . . .) The Blueberry Streusel Cheesecake! Homemade crème fraiche ice cream tops the streusel cheesecake, and that’s then covered with a 4 roses blueberry compote. The big surprise was the whole chunks of blackberry discovered in the middle of the cheesecake that simply bursts with flavor. This dessert was truly off the charts!
And can you believe it, but they followed up with one more delicious cocktail sample, the aptly named Southern Hospitality. This cocktail features a premium vodka with citrus notes, using the acid from lemon juice to bind to the egg white while lavender, vanilla syrup and apple cider enhance the drink with a soft, tangy flavor. Jill doesn’t think I noticed, but I saw her taking sips from my Southern Hospitality cocktail after she’d finished hers!
As we’ve come to expect, the new cocktails and menu items at Jack Dusty were beyond delicious. They were both unique and unexpected. And, as Michael Bell, The Director of Food and Beverage put it, “Jack Dusty is not about keeping up with trends, we’re designed to stay ahead of the curve.”
Your SarasotaFoodies can’t wait to “C” what’s next!