The 2017 GOLDEN FORK Awards

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

I can’t believe another year is in the books and it’s time to select the best of the best of what I tasted over the past year.  The end of 2017 also marks my two-year anniversary since I began my journey to find the best dishes that Vero Beach and the Treasure Coast has to offer.

In the fall of 2016, we created a new Facebook group called “Vero Vine Recommends”.  It was open to anyone who wanted to join and any type of local business, event, or restaurant recommendations.  We started to notice a trend and the group seemed to be turning into an extension of our food blog with mostly food posts.  We decided it was time for a change in early 2017, we changed the name of the group and Vero Beach Foodie was born.  With only a few hundred members in the group at the time, once the word got out, the group began to grow exponentially over the past year. Today, we are over 2,370+ members at the time of this writing. 

Since I use forks for my rating system, I thought it would only be fitting to have an annual GOLDEN FORK awards article to highlight the best of the best from the past year.  With so many reviews in 2017, it took me a while to look them over and choose my favorites.  Last year I created 12 distinct award categories, but this year I decided to change things up a bit.  We now have only three categories.  One for my Top 10 Dishes of the Year, Chef of the Year, and Restaurant of the Year.  There were so many great dishes to choose from that I did not want to exclude anything if I felt it was deserving of an award but did not fall into any particular category. If I had multiple winning dishes that fell into one particular category, it would allow me to recognize both of them without exclusion of the other, since both were worthy of the award.

Listed below are my Top 10 Dishes in no particular order.  The winning dishes were selected from the reviews I’ve done over the past 12 months.

Now on to the awards!  Let’s jump right in and see who this year’s winners are, and see what I had to eat from this past year!

Vero Beach Foodie’s Top 10 Dishes from 2017

Heaton’s Reef

Chilled Seafood Salad – A mixture of shrimp, bay scallops, and calamari, diced red and yellow peppers were tossed in a lime vinaigrette and served over bib lettuce.  It was garnished with chopped chives.  The salad reminded me of a ceviche, but only larger than average.  The seafood was beyond fresh and a very generous portion.  The lime vinaigrette was very fresh and quite delicious!”

Read Review

Baci Trattoria

Holy Cannoli Pancakes – 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.”

Read Review

Wood N Spoon

Southwest Chicken Sandwich – This sandwich is outrageously good!  It has sliced chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, mozzarella cheese, a spicy mayo, served on a ciabatta bun.  Now they listed the dressing on this sandwich as a “spicy mayo”, but told us it’s called “McBooha” sauce, which is a Moroccan inspired type of sauce.  Whatever they call it, I call it amazing!  It has this southwestern flavor without the cumin in it.  I think it would make just about anything you put it on good, so I recommend you try it and see for yourself!”

Read Review

Bistro Fourchette

Black Angus Burger – Wow, now that’s a burger!  Burgers are a very popular American dish that is on a lot of restaurant menus, so I didn’t know what to expect when ordering one in a French bistro.  Needless to say, I was impressed when this burger arrived at our table.  It was served on cutting board along with Bibb lettuce, slices of tomato, French fries, and ketchup.  The burger, per our request, was cooked to a perfect medium.  The bun was very fresh, the caramelized onions were nice and sweet, and I chose the Roquefort cheese to go with something different, and it was an excellent choice.”

Read Review

Cap’s Pizza

Chicken, Bacon, Spinach, and Tomato 16” Pizza –  Their slogan is “Home of the Different Pizza” and this one lives up to that claim.  This is one of the newer creations that is not on the menu, so be sure to ask them to make it for you.  It was perfectly baked, the crust had a slight crunch, and the slices held up as we picked them up to take a bite.  They are known for their spinach pizza, and this one takes it to the next level with chicken, bacon, and tomato.  Everything was beyond fresh and this is one pizza that I could order over and over again.”

Read Review

Cobalt

Scallops – This dish was a team effort on the part of Chef Daniel and Chef Ryan and was absolutely stunning!  I’ve tasted other scallop dishes that Chef Daniel has made and he definitely seems to have a flair for creating some fantastic seafood dishes.  First on the plate is a charred corn succotash, topped with the scallops, garnished with micro greens and corn tweels, and finished with a sweet corn beurre blanc sauce.  The corn succotash was crunchy, sweet and spicy, and slightly smoky from the diced chorizo sausage.  The scallops were seared perfectly and had that rich velvety texture I’ve come to expect from a great quality scallop.”

Read Review

The Crab Stop of Vero Beach

Snow Deluxe – Since it was just me at the review, they brought out a “smaller” version of this dish since the full-size one would just be too much food for one person.  The bowl had to be at least 12 inches in diameter, and it had at least a half-pound of garlic potatoes, sliced smoked sausage, peel and eat shrimp, hard boiled egg, two corn coblets, two clusters of snow crab hanging off the side of the bowl, and topped with a lobster tail fluffed on top of its shell.  This was my first time trying something like this and it was wonderful!  The aroma of the garlic coming off of this when they set it down on the table was intoxicating!  I dug in and gave it my best shot, but sadly I was unable to finish it and took the rest of it home.”

Read Review

Citrus Grillhouse

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 gravlax 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.”

Read Review

Citrus Grillhouse

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.”

Read Review

Citrus Grillhouse

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.”

Read Review

Chef of the Year – Chef Scott Varricchio

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.” 

Congratulations to Chef Scott Varricchio on winning my pick for Chef of the Year!

 

Restaurant of the Year – Cobalt

There is a distinct difference between eating and dining, and I believe that Cobalt excels at providing a superior dining experience.  From the wonderful food, the restaurant’s elegant dining room, and the ocean views, this place has the total package that exemplifies what fine dining should be.  The food here continues to impress me and Executive Chef Daniel and his team’s ability to take simple ingredients and elevate them is something that they do very well.  If you have only “eaten” lately, then might I suggest next time you chose to go out, that you “dine” with them and experience the difference.” 

Congratulations to Cobalt on winning my pick for Restaurant of the Year!

In Conclusion:

Well folks, that’s a wrap for 2017!  This past year we successfully ran four VIP Foodie Dining Experience events, we started up our monthly Foodie Meetups again (Thanks Nadia!), and the Facebook group continues to grow and is very active with lots of user interaction and participation.  What do we have in store for 2018?  We definitely have BIG plans to make your experience with us more immersive and bring you closer to the action than ever before.

Vero Beach Foodie will become the authority on what and where people are eating out in 2018.  We already have quite a few restaurant owners that are a part of our Facebook group and they are taking note of what YOU have to say.  They are interested in what food and experiences you want most, so they can accommodate your needs now and in the near future.

One final note, since my articles are written more like a “Tasting Experience” than a review, I’ve decided to discontinue my forks rating system.  Does that mean I’m giving up my annual Golden Fork awards?  Absolutely not!  It just means that we are rebranding it to better fit with the new Vero Beach Foodie image.  The awards will continue under the new name “Vero Beach Foodie Tasting Experience Awards” and will still use the “Golden Fork” as our symbol. 

Thanks for being a part of the Vero Beach Foodie movement, we’re glad you’re here!  I’m looking forward to 2018 to see where it takes us!

 

Thomas Miller
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Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller, aka "The Food Guy" is big on organic everything and very particular about his butter.He has reviewed over 125+ local restaurants in the last 3 years and is invited by Disney to review the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival every year.His food photos are devoured by 10's of thousands monthly on VeroVine.com and as a Google Maps Local Guide, his photos have been viewed over 2.5 million times.His foodie tribe is over 4,000+ people right here in Vero Beach and his VIP Foodie Dining Experiences are some of the Top Culinary experiences in Indian River County and beyond.
Thomas Miller
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Dorothy and Gerry Cantor

We knew that Scott Varricchio was a fabulous chef years ago and I’m glad to see your agreement