Michael’s On East (Piano Bar)

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It’s not every day we celebrate the latest book launch of a close friend, but when that friend is business woman Kimberly Martenez, it’s not than unusual.  So when her second book, Women Who Mean Business, hit Amazon and raced up towards the Best Seller’s List of Amazon.com, we couldn’t wait to get out and celebrate while waiting for the good news from her publisher.

A celebration like Kimberly’s deserves a “better than average” happy hour location, so we headed to one of Sarasota’s finest; the Piano Bar at Michael’s on East, where good, good, good, good libations are accompanied by the music of local piano man, Joe Micals.   And while Michael’s on East deserves a blog of its own, this night we’ll focus on Michael’s Piano Bar, which is well worth a foodie run of its own.

We arrived before Kimberly, giving us a chance to chat with Bonita, holding court behind the bar.  She introduced us to the extensive list of classic and exotic cocktails, so Mart ordered a Blood and Sand cocktail, if only because he loved the name.  I ordered a round of Prosecco so a glass of bubbly would be at-the-ready for Kimberly’s arrival, and then we both went nuts over the bar nuts!

Such a simple thing, bar nuts . . . nothing you’d normally spend time blogging about, but these free tidbits speak for the attention to detail at Michael’s on East.  The chef makes these!  Featuring a blend of Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts and cashews grilled in rosemary oil, with crumbled bits of rosemary and sea salt, a handful full of these bar nuts are ahh…dic…tive.  Bonita provided a decent size bowl when we sat down, and within minutes we were guiltily trading it for a fuller one a few seats down the bar.  Diet? What diet?

Once Kimberly and her friend Brett arrived, we settled down at a four-top in the piano bar when Joe Micals started to play since we knew to grab a table before his regulars showed up.   We decided to focus on a variety of appetizers from the dinner and bar menus and our foodie fest began.

We started with the salmon crostinis, with fresh salmon sitting on a quenelle of goat cheese, with capers and watercress.  Yum!  The toast was crunchy and held up to the mound of salmon and cheese.  More than a mouthful!

From there we reached for the beef carpaccio, wonderfully presented in bit sized roll-ups on a plate with olive oil, arugula and pepper.  Kimberly and I ordered another Prosecco, Brett a daiquiri, and Mart got adventurous, ordering the Dinner in a Glass Martini Flight.  This delightful combination featured one martini with basil and mozzarella, a ahi tuna martini, and a cherry martini.

Every epicurean adventure has a stand out, and for us it was the Lobster and Escargot appetizer, found on the main menu.  This wonderful dish was large enough to share, and features sautéed Maine lobster, delicious bite sized escargots, fennel confit, thyme-roasted cherry tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, curry and goat cheese crostini.  This was a dish that each of us would be willing to order again, if only we could keep it to ourselves.   

As we finished up our apps, we were happy to sit back, visit and enjoy Joe Michal for a couple sets before we headed  home.  But not before we each perused the main menu and discussed what we’d order for dinner the next time we come back to Michael’s on East and make it past the delights of the Piano Bar.  Can’t wait!

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