Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zest Exciting Food Creations

FLO was enthusiastically searching for some place to unwind after a stressful day and have a great meal. Zest came to mind after remembering several stellar reviews so we checked out the website. The menu made our decision for us...brie cake, "steak" 'n eggs, asiago "fried" chicken, crab patties...the descriptions were all we needed to jump in the car and make our way asap. We even called ahead to make sure there were options for the wee ones, and we received an exuberant, "of course!"

Located off the beaten path, Zest rests in a strip mall off of 54th and Carvel Ave. FLO is unfamiliar with the area, but discovered Mama Carolla's was close by and a cute looking breakfast place whose name escapes us. Definitely an area we will be returning to one way or another.

Zest provides some outdoor seating, has a small gourmet shop inside and has a higher end interior design, but not too elite, just nice. There weren't many patrons at the time we arrived and we were seated in a low lit dining area just off the entrance.

As the server approached, Ozzy immediately asked, "Do you have any mac 'n cheese?" To his delight, she responded positively. This was surprising to Fred and Libby as the kid's menu did not mention mac 'n cheese, so was this a special order? We decided to start with the Pommes Frites with roasted pepper aioli, wasabi cream, & sea salt and vinegar for dipping. Fred went with the Pan-Blasted Pork, rosemary roasted pork tenderloin with fig & port sauce with roasted garlic smashed potatoes & the night's veggie, which was green beans. Libby decided to go for the Asiago "fried" chicken, crispy asiago-crusted chicken breast with wild mushroom ragoƻt, roasted garlic smashed potatoes, & the same green beans.

The frites arrived nice 'n hot, well seasoned and a welcome site to Ozzy! Very nice. The sauces were very good, especially the garlic aioli, and the dish really wet our appetite for more. (Although, sorry to say, still doesn't come close to Brugge...they have the blue ribbon in pommes frites and sauce!!!) The entrees came soon after and Ozzy immediately balked at the mac 'n cheese. It was covered in something(potato chips!) and had a definite air of bacon. Sounds awesome to Fred and Libby, but Ozzy has the most unexciting preference in the mac...Kraft or something close to it...he occasionally enjoys the pasta interpretations at many Italian places, but sadly, this was a no go. He did try it, but did not enjoy the porky goodness.

Libby was faced with quite a large portion of lovely mushroom smothered chicken. It was wonderful. A light crisp on the chicken and the ragout was very tasty...mushroomy with lots of herby tomato overtones. It went very well with the chunky, skin in, flavorful, garlic mash. The green beans did nothing for the dish.

Fred's pork was perfectly cooked with a very thick sauce, heavy on the cinnamon and fig...perhaps fig butter? And Fred could not get enough of the smashed potatoes. His seemed extra heavy on the white pepper, which drove him wild! More than making up for the lackadaisical green beans.

As if we weren't full from the ample portions for dinner, we decided to gluttonously try a dessert. The carrot cake called to us! It was very, very good. Different from the typical cake, it appeared to be steamed, as it was so incredibly moist. Large chunks of carrot, dried fruit and nuts were accompanied by the most lightly sweetened cream cheese frosting we have ever tasted. A large portion as well, it put us over the edge. It was a heavy dessert and we should have gone with a lighter option, but it was soooo gooood! Unfortunately, Ozzy sifted out the healthy parts of the cake and would only eat the icing on his slice. Is anyone surprised?

Wrap Up
Price- $$-$$$$, This was the one downside. Perhaps, a bit on the higher side than we would've liked, but we'll still return.
Atmosphere-***, More laid back outdoor seating with fancier indoor accommodations.
Service-****, Accommodating, fast, friendly, and understanding of Ozzy's insistent request for mac 'n cheese followed by the "I don't like it" complaints.

Fred -B+, Everything I ate made me wonder what other creations I can expect when I return for brunch!
Libby -B+, Impressive menu that delivers. I am biased, but Fred's own pork tenderloin recipes put his dish to shame. And yes, brunch is a must in the near future!
Ozzy -B, He loved the frites, and we're sure would dig something else from the kid's menu. He just ordered the wrong thing...happens to all of us.

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