For three years running, one of the smaller pubs in Sarasota — one that barely seats 20 patrons, with no kitchen and no tables or dining room — has become “the mecca” for great food enjoyed on a hot summer night.
After hearing nothing but accolades for The Shamrock Pub and Edible Sarasota Magazine’s “Summer Chef Jam”, I was willing to wait past my normal dinner hour for the opportunity to experience the fun and foodie camaraderie enjoyed every Tuesday evening from 8:00 and 10:00 pm during this sizzling summer foodie fest. Summer Chef Jam features a weekly tasting menu from Sarasota’s most talented guest chefs and beers from Florida craft breweries. For only $15 a person, guests enjoy endless re-fillable plates and bottomless pints, giving some an opportunity to experience restaurants they may otherwise find too pricey or too formal for their tastes. What can I say but “pure genius!”
On this particular Summer Chef Jam episode, the small plate offerings came courtesy of the uber-talents of the Ritz Carlton’s Executive Chef, Dwayne Edwards, and Jack Dusty’s Chef de Cuisine, Caleb Taylor. The beer du jour was a choice of Cigar City’s Florida Cracker White Ale, or a Green Room Head High IPA. Wait, doesn’t that mean the attendees get their full $15 worth in the first go-round? Brilliant!!
With both the taste buds and the wallet treated like rock stars, it’s little wonder The Shamrock, a Downtown Edge local fave (which describes itself as a local pub first, and craft beer bar second,) was pleasantly buzzing shortly before the appointed hour. And then – BAM – a rockin’ house party broke out within minutes after 8:00 rolled around.
The atmosphere was made all the more happening with DJ Whitney playing a perfectly eclectic mix of tunes that she personally choses to match the epicurean theme chosen by the visiting Chef. This DJ knows her music, as we enjoyed one of the most varied music mixes we’ve heard in a long time!
And the theme from the Ritz/Jack Dusty boys was “An Ode to Summer.” And what an Ode it was! Oh my, oh my, oh my!
With three generous tastings on the Jack Dusty menu, we didn’t need to follow protocol, so it was the Crab and Rock Shrimp Ceviche started things off for us. This cool dish was the ideal choice for a hot summer night. (Ok. . . the Realtor in me has to point out that Sarasota has been no where near as hot as the rest of the nation.) How does 80 degrees sound to you folks sweating out the 100 degree temps in Michigan and the eastern seaboard? (You know who you are!)
Needless to say, with the talents behind the Chef jackets, the crab and rock shrimp were marinated perfectly in a zippy citrus ‘broth’, with exactly the right amount of tartness and chew in each bite. It wasn’t lost on me that it was also an ideal choice when paired with the ice cold Cigar City brew.
The next stop on the “tasty-as-all-get-out express” was the Fried Green Tomato with Crab. Each two-bite portion featured a crispy, fried tomato with the delicate fresh crab gracing the top. a sprinkling of micro greens and a spicy mayo, making for another divine summer time treat. This dish had a little heat to it . . . not too much, mind you — but just enough to call for another beer!
Finally, while we were still raving about the first two selections, Jill and I couldn’t compliment Jack Dusty’s Watermelon Salad enough. This was our consensus blue ribbon winner of the night — by a nose. Cold, firm ripe watermelon with goat cheese created a savory and sweet taste combination seldom better than this! I can’t say what the salad was tossed with, but why should the Chef give away the secret to such a satisfying dish? Hold the beer — Seconds please! What the heck. . . .We’ll each take a third helping as well!
If you’ve never been to The Shamrock, it’s certainly worth the trip. Not only are they known for their friendly staff and ever circulating choice of beers on tap, but it’s obvious that the owner, Derek, knows how to keep both his staff and his guests happy. Just deliver above expectations time and time again. You want a small, comfortable neighborhood bar? The Shamrock is it. Then throw in Sarasota’s most popular St. Patrick’s day party and the Summer Chef Jam, and how can you lose?
The Summer Chef Jam is clearly an event that can’t-be-missed for its upbeat and festive mood, and the irresistible food offerings. And it has clearly attracted a veritable “Who’s Who” of amazing local chefs. Seriously, for fifteen bucks, this is about as cool a way to spend a hot, sultry night in Sarasota as you can find.