Mattison’s Forty-One

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We have a confession to make.  One we hang our heads in shame over.  So embarrassing. . .

Here goes . . . In trying to keep our readers happy, we often follow their suggestions for places they’d like to read about.  Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it?  Not a bad idea, as it has us showcasing a lot of new and exciting bistros, eateries, and events that have popped up in Sarasota over the last two years.  It’s a lot of fun, actually.  But here’s where that becomes a problem.  There are only so many days in the week, and we can only eat out so much before we miss blogging on a few of Sarasota’s absolutely best restaurants.

Today’s blog is a perfect example of this.  We have to apologize for waiting until now to write about Mattison’s Forty-One, a South Tamiami Trail institution whose blog is (embarrassingly) long, long, long overdue.  Seriously!  I met Jill at Mattison’s Grille in downtown Sarasota.  And our wedding was catered by Paul Mattison himself.  He’s like family, for goodness sake!

Add to that is the knowledge that practically anyone who has been in the area for any length of time knows, Chef Paul Mattison is not only a culinary luminary and entrepreneur, but a real philanthropist that supports innumerable causes through his restaurants.  We can’t count the number of charity events we’ve been to that feature Mattison’s culinary creations, and we’ve even attended a few at Mattison’s Forty-One’s private dining room.  Again. . . we hang our heads in shame.

But shameful procrastination aside,  on this occasion, we were once again rewarding ourselves with a much needed, intimate dinner for two.  After all, we’d had a particularly hectic work week, and we wanted, needed, absolutely had to be spoiled as only Chef Mattison and his crew can do. Breathe deep and relax.   Great food is on the way!

I conveniently made our reservations on line, which was a strong suggestion for anyone planning to dine out during “season” in Sarasota.  Mattison’s Forty-One was hopping when we arrived; most of the tables were seated, the bar was buzzing with happy patrons, and we were able to skip the waiting line –  and shown to our table right away.  Perfect.  It had been a crazy week, so avoiding the wait was ideal.  Our server, Robert, was quick to greet us with menus and a couple glasses of wine – just as the doctor would have ordered.  We had been looking forward to needing a sumptuous, leisurely dinner, and Robert’s quick service and attention let us know right away that Mattison’s Forty-One was the perfect choice on this evening.

Chef Mattison and his wizards in the kitchen are big on trying new menu items, so Robert had no trouble tempting us with the evening’s amazing specials.  But as readers of our blog know, we try to always order off the menu so our readers can find the same meals we feature on SarasotaFoodies.com.  This kinda stinks for me, since I’m the more adventurous eater between the two of us, and tend to gravitate (levitate?) to the Chef’s culinary creations du jour – but this is Mattison’s, so it’s not like I’m going to suffer either!

Crispy Pork Belly starter at Mattison's Forty One

Crispy Pork Belly starter at Mattison’s Forty One

For starters, Jill encourages me to exercise my need to try new things, so we order the Crispy Pork Belly appetizer. What’s not to like with its cucumber kimchee, marinated watermelon, puffed rice noodles all dressed in a soy-ginger vinaigrette? (The correct answer is “nothing”, in case you were wondering.)  This dish had a bit of a ‘kick’ to it, compliments of the kimchee, and the marinated watermelon was an ideal paring with the pork belly.

Steak Blue at Mattison's Forty One

Steak Blue at Mattison’s Forty One

For her main course, Jill orders the Steak Blue, a whopping-big aged rib-eye steak, crusted in Gorgonzola cheese and bacon, I have to assume her diet was thrown out the window that night! (Truth be told, she took half of it home!)  Coupled with Mattision’s herb roasted fingerling potatoes, and grilled asparagus over a port wine syrup, this dish was rich in flavor and indulging in simple deliciousness.  I took a few bites myself, and was again reminded what a stellar menu Mattison’s offers.

While I was tempted — quite tempted in fact – to order the short ribs, I kept going back to the Maple Leaf Duck Breast.  I don’t know if it’s my love of duck breast, or my being a life-long fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but this dish seemed to have my name on it.  And I was so glad I ordered it.

Maple Leaf Duck Breast

Maple Leaf Duck Breast

Again, I fell in love with my food.  The fava bean ragout with duck confit was fabulous, (though hidden under micro greens on this photo) and paired with the same crispy fingerling potatoes all sitting on a to-die-for peppercorn-red wine butter.  Fresh herbs added that flavor only fresh can deliver, and I’m in heaven.  No doggy bag for me!  This dish was GONE!

While happily indulging our need to be spoiled, Jill got a text from our dear friends, Kat and Bill, who were driving in from the airport.  “Where are you?” they asked.  “Mattison’s on the south Trail,” we texted back.  “On our way! Order us a drink!” they replied, and our dinner for two happily became a chance to spend time with friends.

Since our main courses were done by that time, we continued to indulge ourselves, ordering a dessert to share.  It wouldn’t be polite to sit and watch our friend eat, now would it?  Kat and Bill both ordered a wedge salad once they arrived – Bill’s with a side of ribeye, and they order the Mama’s Meatballs appetizer because — as Bill said, “We’re Italian!  Gotta have some balls!” And they delivered in {tasty} spades for our friends!

Mama's Meatballs at Mattison's Forty One

Mama’s Meatballs at Mattison’s Forty One

Now this is interesting, I think I’m done eating.  Jill’s even packed up a good half of her meal, and I barely have room for dessert.  But what happens when those meatballs hit the table?  Suddenly I’m salivating all over again, gazing longingly at Bill’s appetizer.  How could this be?  The aroma. . . The long stretchy strings of mozzarella cheese. . .the rich, robust color of the marinaria. . . Ok, Bill, you want me to take a bite?  Don’t mind if I do!  (insert chomping sound here. . .)

Pistachio Ice Cream with Fresh Berries

Pistachio Ice Cream with Fresh Berries

To end our night of happy indulgence, Jill and I share Mattison’s homemade pistachio ice cream with fresh raspberries and black berries.  Wow!  There is nothing quite like a pure, creamy, flavor packed ice cream to top off a great meal.  Somehow I find the room for just a few more bites.

Coffee and liqueur anyone? Yup, This is the kind of meal that you hate to see end, as we enjoy this oasis of refined dining with our dear friends for as long as we can…

As we leave, Jill asks me a question she’s been pondering all evening.  “Was it her, or the food that brought us together that magical night seven years ago?”

Being a wise man, I don’t answer such silly questions. . . yum’s the word.

 

 

 



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