Tag Archives: Bacon

Blue Star – Restaurant Review

by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie

Beachiest Kids Photo Contest

For my next Tasting Experience, I head back to downtown Vero Beach and to Blue Star!  Even if you are familiar with 14th Avenue in Vero, how many of you know that Blue Star exists and where it’s located?  Just like everyone else, I have passed by it only a handful of times because it’s at the far end of the 14th Ave, a little bit past Pocahontas Park.  With a very unassuming looking blue building, I would never have guessed that this was a fine dining establishment.  Is this place worth adding to your fine dining restaurant rotation?  Keep reading to find out!    

Parking was quite easy since this is one of the few restaurants on 14th Ave that has its own parking lot.  Upon entry, you step right into what I would describe as a very intimate, romantic, dimly lit dining room.  There is a full-service bar with 6 stools, or if you prefer, a mixture of tables and booths throughout the dining room.  They also have a couch and a few chairs if you prefer a more informal seating arrangement to just have a glass of wine or just hang out and wait for your table to be ready.  There is a grand piano in the corner and they do have live performers most evenings.  Chef Kitty Wagner runs the kitchen and began her career as a Pastry Chef.  She has traveled extensively to further her career, working at many different restaurants to gain valuable experience.  She has owned a few other restaurants around Vero and has won many Readers Choice awards.  Most notably, the Indian River Chamber of Commerce Industry Award for Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.  She also has participated in Dancing with Vero’s Stars in 2014. 

 

Now let’s jump right in and see what I had to eat!

Gazpacho – ($8.00) –  A chilled soup is a wonderful way to start your meal on a warm summer evening!  It’s made with tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, onions, tomato juice, and cubanelle peppers.  The gazpacho was slightly chilled and very refreshing.  While tomato was the predominant flavor, you could still taste all the other ingredients used to make it.

Blue Star Chopped Salad – ($14.00) – Wow, what a beautiful presentation!  This salad contains iceberg lettuce, red and yellow tomatoes, broccoli and topped with crumbled bacon.  The dressing is made with avocado and their house made Stilton blue cheese dressing.  Everything was beyond fresh.  The dressing was smooth and creamy.  You could most certainly taste the Stilton blue cheese in the dressing.

Coconut Curried Fresh Catch – ($36.00) – Fresh fish is one of the many reasons why I moved to Florida and this one confirms my decision!  Yellow Tail was the fresh fish of the day and was so moist, I had to check and make sure it was fish.  Never have I ever eaten fish that was this moist.  Middle Neck clams were served alongside with steamed Asian vegetables over jasmine rice.  The curry broth was both sweet and savory with a touch of heat on the back end. 

Gio Cato – ($9.00) – This Pinot Grigio is made from grapes hand-selected from some of the best sites along the Italian border in Slovenia. It is bright and crisp, with aromas of delicious green apple, acacia flower, and almonds. A perfect summer wine and pairs nicely with just about everything. We enjoyed the house suggestion with all of the dishes in this review.

Chinese 5 Spiced Duck Breast – ($34.00) – Duck is one of my favorite proteins, so I was happy to see this dish brought out for us to try.  The duck breast was seasoned with Chinese 5 spice seasoning and seared to a perfect medium internal temperature.  The fat was perfectly rendered and the duck was nice and tender.  The blueberry coulis sauce paired nicely with the duck.  The corn pudding served alongside was quite interesting.  It had whole corn kernels in it and had a similar texture to a Crème Brulee. 

Low Country Shrimp & Grits – ($32.00) – I’ve tasted several renditions of this around Vero, and I must say I think this is the best one I’ve had yet.  Two perfectly cooked and seasoned jumbo shrimps are placed over aged cheddar grits, then topped with sautéed bell peppers, onions, bacon, and dressed in a lemon and Sriracha glaze.  The grits were very creamy and had a bold cheddar flavor.  The peppers, onions, and bacon had a sweet, salty, and spicy flavor that we could just not get enough of.

Roasted Pineapple Brown Butter Tart – ($8.00) – I love pineapple, so my dessert choice was obvious!  Pineapple is roasted, then layered in the middle of this brown butter tart.  Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and a raspberry was served alongside.  The crust was light and flaky and flavor-wise, it reminded me of a pineapple upside down cake.  It was delicious!

In Conclusion:

This place took me by surprise.  I did not know what to expect when I walked in the door since I’ve not seen any reviews about it and no one from our Vero Beach Foodie group has posted or talked about it before.  All of the food is freshly prepared from scratch and artistically plated, so it not only tastes great, but it also looks fantastic too.  If you are in the mood for something different, then head down to the Blue Star and give these guys a try, I know you won’t be disappointed!

Have you tried Blue Star?  What has your experience been with them?  Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts, or feel free to email me at thefoodguy@verovine.com with your questions or comments.

Blue Star Website  |  Blue Star Facebook Page

Address2227 14th Ave, Vero Beach, FL 32960

Phone(772) 492-9057

Hours of Operation:  Monday – Saturday, 5:00 pm till 12:00 am, Closed on Sundays

Baci Trattoria – Restaurant Review 2017

by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie

Beachiest Kids Photo Contest

As one of my all-time favorite places for breakfast in Vero, I was really excited for the opportunity to review Baci again.  Last year my friend and guest blogger, Eden Collona wrote the review and I was a bit jealous because the food and experience we had was so amazing.  The items on the menu are truly unique and tend to have funky names and a story behind them.  Getting to meet the owner, Karen Scott Fulchini was another highlight of my first visit.  Her warm greeting makes you feel like you are family and dining in her own home.  If you have an opportunity to sit down and dine with Karen, I highly recommend you do.  Her stories alone are worth the time to have a meal with her.

Located in Downtown Vero just off 14th Avenue in a strip mall, Baci is in the corner between the new VB American Bar & Grill (review) and Carmine & Lucia’s (review).  Parking is somewhat limited depending on the time of day you arrive, but there is street parking if you cannot find any spots in the parking lot.  While the inside air-conditioned space is limited, they do have an outdoor patio that has lots of space.  Even in the heat of summer, its shaded and lots of fans to keep the air moving.  The inside is nicely decorated and Italian inspired.  The staff does not seem to change that often, so it’s nice getting to know them and seeing them again each time you visit.

 

Now on to the food!  Let’s jump right in and see what I had to eat!

Insalata Antipasti – ($13.00) – As someone who follows a very low carb diet at home, it’s nice to see a restaurant offer this as an option for someone like me.  The antipasti platter includes shaved prosciutto, genoa salami, mortadella, fresh mozzarella, provolone, and fire roasted peppers.  Portion size was large and quite the bargain for the quality of meats and cheeses served.  Two of my favorites on the platter were the mortadella and the fresh mozzarella. They were both superb! The fire roasted peppers were soft, sweet, garlicky, and went perfectly with the taralli croutons served alongside.

Fried Polenta Fingers – ($8.00) – We got our first taste of these at the Bacon Festival and immediately fell in love with them.  While these don’t have bacon in them, they do have parmesan cheese and are wonderful!  They have a certain richness to them, and the more you eat, the better the flavor gets.  You get two sauce options, either the tomato basil gravy or the spicy Italian pesto dipping sauce.  We had the Italian pesto sauce and it was a perfect match with the polenta.

Shrimp Emanuela – ($13.00) – The polenta at Baci seems to be taking a starring role lately due to customer request.  I know because I’m one of the customers that have requested it several times in other dishes and not just in the Primavera Benedict.  This dish was the inspiration of Chef Amy and she insisted we try it even though we just had the polenta fingers.  It contains two of the same polenta cakes that they use in the benedict and are topped with garlic butter shrimp, served over a bed of fresh spinach, and garnished with shaved parmesan cheese.  Additional garlic butter sauce was served alongside.  Such simple ingredients, yet they work so well together.  It was so good!

Peasant Grits Pot – ($10.00) – If you are really hungry, then might I suggest you give this one a try?  The pot is filled about a 1/3 of the way with their wonderful creamy grits, then topped with sautéed spinach, bacon, pimento cheese, two eggs cooked to order, and chopped chives as a garnish.  I ordered my eggs sunny side up because I figured the runny yolk would further enhance this dish.  The grits were nice and creamy, the bacon was crispy, and the eggs were perfectly cooked sunny side up.  It was delicious!

Holy Cannoli Pancakes – ($10.00) – HOLY CANNOLI BATMAN!!!  This right here is why I say that Baci is different.  Where else can you find something like this on the menu in Vero?  It’s made with 2 pancakes, with the top one folded back and stuffed with cannoli filling.  It’s then topped with more filling, a strawberry then drizzled with some chocolate sauce, and dusted with powdered sugar.  The pancakes were light and fluffy and I was surprised that it was not as rich as I thought it would be with all the cannoli filling.  What does make it rich is the chocolate sauce, so they only put a little bit over the top for garnish and give you a side of it so you can add as much as you desire.

In Conclusion:

Why do I love Baci so much?  Because it’s different, and in this case, different is good.  While they do still have some classic Italian dishes on the menu, they also don’t follow the rules of what an Italian restaurant is expected to serve and have created some truly unique dishes.  While spaghetti may have had a hand in building this place, stuffing it into a gigantic meatball and covering it with Sunday gravy is what keeps people coming back time and time again.

Have you tried Baci Trattoria?  What has your experience been with them?  Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts, or feel free to email me at thefoodguy@verovine.com with your questions or comments.

Atmosphere – 5 Forks

Service – 5 Forks

Food – 5 Forks

Rating Scale Legend:

1 to 5 Forks – 1 Bad to 5 Excellent

Website | Facebook Page

Address1918 14th Ave, Vero Beach, FL 32960

Phone(772) 794-4747

Open Daily from 7:00am – 3:00pm

Citrus Grillhouse – Restaurant Review

 Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine

Beachiest Kids Photo Contest

My next tasting experience takes me down beachside to a restaurant that has been on my list to review for quite some time now, Citrus Grillhouse.  I’ve heard many great things about this place from several different sources, and almost all of the reviews that I’ve read online were very positive.  My neighbor and friend, Eden Colonna who guest blogged for us earlier this year, worked for them over the summer and told me how fantastic this place was, so I was excited to finally get my chance to review them.

After analyzing more than 5 million reviews of more than 20,000 restaurants across the country, Open Table chose Citrus Grillhouse as one of the Top 100 Al Fresco dining restaurants in the country in 2016.  They highlighted restaurants that have stunning views, feature local cuisine, and overall fantastic outdoor dining experiences.  Owner Chef Scott Varricchio said that being from a small town such as Vero, and to be recognized by this big player in the restaurant industry, was a very big deal to him and his staff.  Only 13 restaurants in Florida received this recognition, and Citrus Grillhouse was the only restaurant on the Treasure Coast to receive this honor.

Located next to Humiston Park on Easter Lily Lane, they share a parking lot with the park and Nino’s Cafe which is just a few steps west from their entrance.  We arrived on a Tuesday night shortly before 5:00 pm and had no trouble finding a parking spot.  As we walked up to the restaurant, there were several parties waiting outside for dinner service to start.  After checking in with the host, Will McKinnon the General Manager, welcomed us and we were shown to our table.  The restaurant interior was very nice, contemporary in design and very comfortable.  Tables and half booths lined the wall and there was a bar for those that like to sit and have a drink.  There is also an outdoor patio for those that would like to dine with an ocean view.  Chef Varricchio made an appearance to give us an overview of our evening.  All of the dishes that were presented to us were “tasting” size due to the number of dishes he had planned for us to try, so we would hopefully not be too full by the end of the experience.

Now on to the food!  Let’s jump right in and see what I had to eat!

Crab Wrap – The wrap was made with hydroponic Bibb lettuce, a lemon/jalapeno aioli, jumbo lump crab meat, minced red onion and mango.  The lettuce was extremely fresh and of exceptional quality.  The jumbo lump crab meat was sweet and tender, the aioli added a creaminess with a hint of jalapeno, the mango and red onion provided some additional sweetness and nice texture variation.

Parmesan Flan with Chilled Sweet Pea Soup – The flan was simply made with eggs, cream and parmesan cheese and the pea soup was made from petite peas, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and sugar.  The flan was light and very delicate.  It had a hint of parmesan, not overwhelming at all like I thought it might be.  The pea soup brought back childhood memories and was very creamy and smooth.  It was finished with a little bit of EVOO to add an additional flavor component.

Compressed Yogurt & Whole Grain Salad – A smear of “compressed” yogurt was first put on the plate, then a wild rice, barley, quinoa, buckwheat, dried apricots, raisins, golden raisins, cranberry whole grain salad was spooned over the top.  It was finished with a fig & vanilla balsamic and EVOO dressing was drizzled over the top, with a light sprinkling of sea salt to complete the dish.  The “compressed” yogurt is when they press it to remove all of the water in it, making it more like the texture of cream cheese.  The yogurt was very smooth and creamy, the whole grain salad had a lot of different flavors and textures going on, and the fig & vanilla balsamic dressing was tangy and sweet.

Salmon Gravlox – House cured Norwegian salmon rolled into a rose, sitting atop of a Paniese (chickpea pancake), topped with crème fraiche.  The plate was garnished with mustard oil, salmon roe and tobiko (flying fish roe).  The salmon was of impeccable quality and had one of the smoothest textures I have experienced to date with any gravlox dish I have tasted.  The chickpea pancake had a dense bread like texture but was still easy to cut with a fork.  The mustard oil definitely had a bright flavor and the fish roe was very fresh.

Cipriani Tagliolini Truffled Pasta – Made with Cipriani Tagliolini pasta, mixed with Moliterno cheese from Sardinia,  a truffled gouda from Holland, a truffled butter from Italy, and garnished with fresh shaved Perigord black truffles.  Chef told us this was a time sensitive dish due to the fact as it cooled down, the cheeses would start to solidify and have a firmer less desirable texture.  The pasta was cooked a perfect al dente, the cheeses were wonderfully rich, and the shaved truffle added a nice earthy flavor.

Pan Roasted MS-7 Wagyu Strip Steak – The steak was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and pan roasted with a little bit of olive oil.  The side dish was white beech, brown beech, oyster, and Maitake mushrooms sautéed in-house made ponzu butter.  The steak was cooked to a perfect medium and was very tender, salty, fatty, and definitely had a very rich beefy flavor.  See the image and explanation below for more details about this Wagyu beef.

Most people in the US have heard of a type of beef from Japan called Kobe.  It’s a particular Wagyu breed named Tajima-Gyu and is raised in Kobe, Japan.  It is only available to 9 restaurants certified to carry it in the US and its some of the best quality beef found anywhere on the planet.  With such a high demand for this type and quality of beef, other regions in Japan have started raising cattle using these same strict standards as the Kobe region does in raising cattle to meet consumer demand.  Chef Varricchio from time to time has an opportunity to purchase some Japanese Wagyu beef.  As you can see from the certificate above, this breeder also takes their beef as seriously as the Kobe beef producers do and keep strict records on their animals.  So what makes this type of beef so special?  The intense marbling of fat throughout the muscle that gives it that rich flavor, while also being very tender.  While it’s expensive, I highly recommend you try it at least once and experience it for yourself.

U10 Seared Sea Scallops served over Grilled Cabbage – These scallops were pan seared and served over grilled Napa cabbage with a creamy ginger lime sauce, and topped with micro greens as the garnish.  The scallops were perfectly cooked, the cabbage still had some crunch to it and a slight grilled flavor.  The cream sauce was smooth and had a brightness to it from the citrus and ginger.

Starting from the left to the right:

Classic Key Lime Pie with Lime Crema

Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake, caramel, feuillitine, and topped with bacon and sea salt

Vanilla Macadamia Cheese Cake, topped with a vanilla Chantilly cream

Citrus Scented Chocolate Cake, topped with chocolate ice cream and a strawberry coulis

All of the desserts were in-house made and were fantastic.  It was definitely a nice way to round out an unforgettable meal.

In Conclusion:

To say I was impressed would definitely be an understatement.  Chef Varricchio has a way to take simple, fresh ingredients and work his magic with them.  These are some of the most creative and flavorful dishes that I have seen or experienced yet in Vero.  From the location, the ocean views, the simplicity of the ingredients, yet elevated flavor and artistically plated dishes, this is one dining experience I won’t soon forget.

Have you tried Citrus Grillhouse?  What has your experience been with them?  Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts, or feel free to email me at thefoodguy@verovine.com with your questions or comments.

Atmosphere – 5 Forks

Service – 5 Forks

Food – 5 Forks

Rating Scale Legend:

1 to 5 Forks – 1 Bad to 5 Excellent

Citrus Grillhouse Website | Menu | Facebook Page

Address: 1050 Easter Lily Ln, Vero Beach, FL 32963

Hours:

Monday 11:30AM–2PM, 5–9PM
Tuesday 11:30AM–2PM, 5–9PM
Wednesday 11:30AM–2PM, 5–9PM
Thursday 11:30AM–2PM, 5–9PM
Friday 11:30AM–2PM, 5–10PM
Saturday 11:30AM–2PM, 5–10PM
Sunday 5–9PM