Our final Weekend Brunch tasting was the Heirloom Shakshouka. This recipe heralds from North African, with a Middle Eastern twist. Succulent Heirloom tomatoes are roasted with onion, garlic, red peppers and farro, (there’s that twist!) then seasoned with a variety of spices before being topped with three poached eggs, whole capers and sprinkling of gremolata. Shakshouka typically features eggs cracked whole and braised in the tomato sauce, but Chef Nils’ version keeps them separate. While fans of typical Shakshouka may miss the flavors created when eggs are cooked the traditional way, the addition of farro makes Chef’s decision to top the dish with the poached eggs all the more intelligent. Who wants soggy farro, I ask you? This brunch dish was Mart’s favorite!
Element. The word itself is defined as a singular simplicity. A small constituent part of something much bigger.
element Modern Mediterranean Grill takes that definition and expounds on it exponentially through their cuisine, little by little expanding from the original expression of element that we witnessed when they opened two years ago, and maturing into something much bigger as they built upon their success. element’s latest unveiling on this ever evolving masterpiece is their Weekend Brunch, as in both Saturday AND Sunday.
Six of us sat down for Weekend Brunch this past Saturday to share samples from element’s Weekend Brunch menu. When I say samples, please know we shared full sized portions, so the food photos are exactly what you’ll get at your next visit, except Chef may have thrown an extra poached egg on a dish that he knew would be split three ways for our tasting!
Starting with a cocktail, (it IS the weekend, isn’t it?) the other 5 guests at the table ordered either element’s Essential Bloody Mary or the Champagne Mule. I wanted something more summerlike, so I ordered element’s Spa Day libation featuring Tito’s vodka, Prosecco, Chareau Aloe Vera Liquor, lemon and a cucumber ice cube. The Spa Day is perfect for these hotter months, cool, fresh and crisp on the palette. And I looooved the cucumber ice cube!
Helping Chef Nils Tarantik lead us through our Weekend Brunch tasting was the new Director of Marketing for American Dreams Restaurant Group, Bob DeZinno. According to Bob, our first dish is his favorite, the Eggs Benedict. Knowing Chef Nils for more than a decade, Mart and I knew there would be a Nils-twist on this brunch classic. And boy, was HE spot on! Instead of Canadian bacon, Chef Nils’ Benedict features prosciutto covered with a simply perfect hollandaise that offered only a whisper of lemon. A fresh watercress salad with shaved Parmesan was a tasteful alternative to fruit or arugula. When Bob asked if I liked it, I could only answer “Oh my God!” (with my mouth full!) Truly, I could have left the restaurant right then and there and provided glowing reviews of element’s Weekend Brunch.
While Bob DeZinno feels the Benedict is “the” star of element’s brunch, Chef Nils shared that our next dish, the Braised Duck Confit Hash is the most popular item on the new menu. The hash is composed of braised duck (surprise!) poblano peppers, vidalia onions and buttered new potatoes pan seared to a crispy crust. Three sunny side up eggs cap off the dish, which not only makes a lovely presentation, but more importantly, when you poke your fork into those lovely egg yolks they simply dance with the hash beneath them.
Chef decided he didn’t want to fill us up on brunch, so this gal . . . who was prepared to exit after trying only the Eggs Benedict, thought the tasting was over. But wait! What do I see coming?
“Since you’re trying a few of our new brunch dishes, I’d like your opinions on these new sandwiches recently added to element’s new lunch menu,” Chef offered, not once apologizing for the extra calories our opinions would require! Thank goodness we were sharing!
element’s Chopped Spice Rubbed Steak Sandwich is sure to be a “business lunch” favorite, and why not! Featuring tender steak trimmed shawarma style and seasoned with 37 spices and herbs (read:37 elements) with vidalia onion, manchego cheese, and field greens on a crunchy ciabatta roll sourced from TriBeCa Bakery in New Jersey, this is both hearty and flavor packed. On the side are some irresistible house-made potato chips dusted with Lowry seasoning salt. It was hard for me not to devour more than my share of this sandwich . . . And those chips? Gone, girl!
The real surprise was Chef Nils’ Smoked Salmon Sandwich. Chef cured the salmon in pastrami seasoning, so while enjoying the salmon itself, we all started looking for pastrami that wasn’t there! The horseradish-mustard sauce was a hit along with capers and heirloom tomato. Seriously, when was the last time you had capers on a sandwich! Leave it to a Scandinavian Chef!
Being summer in Sarasota, we couldn’t help but ask if element was extending their Savor Sarasota menu. We were given a “no but yes” answer.
Yes, they are extending Savor Sarasota through the end of July . . . BUT, they’re introducing a fresh, new Savor Sarasota menu on July 1st! So if you’ve already enjoyed element’s June Savor Sarasota menu, you can enjoy a new $16 2-course lunch menu, and their $32 3-course Savor Sarasota dinner menu while trying new elements featured on each menu. (See what I did there?)
element also offers a $55 pre-theater prix fix menu during theater season, and every August element offers a prix fix “Thank You Sarasota” menu, but this year the team at American Dreams Restaurant Group are so thankful to element’s loyal patrons that they’re extending the “Thank You Sarasota” menu to run through to the end of September! (How nice is that!!!!) Be sure to log into element’s website to keep abreast of all these exciting deals as well as join their Dining Club which offers special deals for birthdays and info about their popular wine tastings.
And if you find yourself dodging a summer shower or can’t deal with the new parking meters on Main Street, element offers complimentary covered valet parking via their First Street entrance, as well as a shuttle service servicing most neighborhoods downtown. It’s free! Just call the restaurant and let them them know when you’d like to be picked up. (Tipping is always a nice touch!)
element’s menu says it all: “Love is a luxury. No. Love is an Element. An element, like air to breathe, Earth to stand on” — Laini Taylor