Even though my birthday was ten days ago, I’m still raving about Mart’s choice to celebrate it with me at Louies Modern.
It’s not like we hadn’t been to Louies at least a half dozen times since it opened last spring. I’m a huge fan of their delicious small bites at happy hour, their sexy craft cocktails and the equally beautiful people who flock to Louies at the end of the day a scant couple of blocks from our office. But while we could have written about Louies Modern soon after any one of those previous visits, I found that we’d pretty much had dinner on just the small plates and snacks part of the menu, and when it came to Louies Modern, I wanted this to be all about “doing” dinner instead.
However . . . some small plates and apps at Louies are so spectacular and delicious, I have to comment on them before I tell you all about our delicious dinner.
Case in point — easily the star of the small plate menu IMO — is Louies’ Burrata, a local tomato salad with bite sized pickled cippolini onions, boiled egg and focaccia sticks served on a eye catching salt plate. Whenever a server walks past with a Burrata, count on heads turning and other diners asking “WHAT was THAT!” What it is is something you probably wouldn’t make at home, no matter how sublimely simple it is to make. The salt block plate is the key here, the crisp, fresh vegetables taking a hint of their flavor from the plate itself. Here’s a hint – don’t allow your Burrata to sit too long, as the more porous vegetables will soak up the salt. Don’t let this concern you too much – the locally grown tomatoes are exquisite with that hint of salt and olive oil, and amazing when served this way.
Another can’t miss small plate is their Lamb Meatballs. There are four of these luscious meaty bites, that are (for me) two bites each – probably enough why we’ve not made it past the small plates on our numerous visits to Louies in the past. The photo above is the meatballs when I ordered them during the spring, when they were accompanied by a light spring salad with corn and cucumber. During the cooler months, Louies’s culinary wizards in the kitchen shake things up a bit, and ditch the summer salad for preserved lemon, almonds, olives and couscous.
Which brings me to an important detail everyone should know about Louies Modern – the menu changes. A lot.
I don’t profess to know how much of it changes, or how often, but every time I’ve been there, the menu is stamped with the current day’s date — so expect to be served only what’s freshest and appropriate for the season. After all, it was 80 degrees and “winter” in Sarasota when we went out for my December birthday, so this blog may be covering their fall or holiday faire. Just sayin’!
So back to my birthday dinner . . .
Knowing that the small plates section of the menu is where we’ve gone amok in the past, Mart and I focus on our main courses first, then we both order a salad. Mine was the Artisan Romaine Wedge, a robust serving of romaine with brown sugar nueske bacon, crispy cippolini onion, chocolaty colored heirloom tomatoes and a buttermilk Roquefort dressing. Let me tell you, this was almost a meal for me! I was over the moon in love with the crispy deep friend onions. I thought I was biting into a crouton, so you can imagine how nice it was to taste a soft, juicy cooked onion instead.
Mart was also excited about his Organic Shaved Salad, which I’d bet money is a fall or winter specialty. Lovely swirls of carrot, fennel, beet, and celery root are lovingly dressed with a vanilla white balsamic vinaigrette. While I decided to save some of my salad for lunch the next day, Mart couldn’t resist scarfing off his within minutes. In a refined sort of way, I might add.
My main course is a favorite of mine, and one I hope remains on Louies Modern’s menu — even if the side accompaniment change now and then. The Cuvee Short Rib delivered hearty flavors that I surely want to enjoy again. Sitting alongside a gorgonzola polenta, with a red cabbage confit and oven-dried grapes resting on top of the short ribs. Cuvee refers to a French wine term derived from cuvée , meaning wine stored in vats or tanks to ensure uniformity of flavor. Whether these ribs were marinated in wine, or the recipe gives homage to the famed Cuvee Restaurant in Napa Valley, I don’t know. . . What I can say is this is one of the most tender, most luscious cuts of beef, and Louies Modern put it on a pedestal with their take on short ribs.
Mart had narrowed his choice down to the Rosemary Citrus Lamb Shank or the Modern Cioppino until our server described the Two-Day Pork Chop. “It’s called Two-Day because it is slowly cooked for two days,” he explained, “but it’s also called tw0-day because most guests take two days to eat it.” Mart’s all in with that! That, and the side serving of brussel sprout confit are enough to get him to drop all interest in anything else on the menu. Served with a green peppercorn glacé and sprinkled with mustard seeds, this dish should come with a doggy bag. I don’t want to see anyone finish this off in one setting. After all, we have birthday cake coming!
Louies Modern was kind enough to provide a free desert on a guest’s birthday, and though I was tempted by the choices on the menu, I wanted a cake over Crème Brule or Potted Lemon Curd, so the Warm Black Forest Cake it was! Candle is optional for those of you not celebrating a birthday or not wanting any attention. Again, large enough for us to share, the black forest cake included crème Chantilly, black cherries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Thank you, thank you Louies for making birthday foodie wishes so memorable!