The 2019 GOLDEN FORK Awards

by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger 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 2019 also marks my four-year anniversary since I began the journey to find the best dishes that Vero Beach and the Treasure Coast has to offer.

The Vero Beach Foodie Facebook group was created three years ago as an extension to the Vero Vine food blog to allow our readers a place to interact and share their positive dining experiences with other members of the group. The growth we’ve seen in membership over the past three years has been nothing short of staggering. The same time I wrote this article last year, we had 4,800+ members. At the time of writing this year, we currently have 7,800+ members, an increase of over 3,000+ members in just the last year alone!

Listed below are my Top 10 Dishes in no particular order, Chef of the Year, and Restaurant of the Year winners.  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 the past year!

Vero Beach Foodie’s Top 10 Dishes from 2019

The Green Marlin Restaurant & Raw Bar

Fresh Stuffed Live Maine Lobster –WOW was our first reaction when this was brought out to our table! A whole main lobster is cooked, split, then stuffed with lobster, scallops, shrimp, and Mahi and was served over a bed of garlic spinach and was topped off with a lemon buerre blanc sauce. This thing was chock full of seafood with very little filler. Chef Lou’s seafood dishes are fresh with bold flavors and this dish did not disappoint!

Cobalt Restaurant

Cornish Hen with Collard Greens and Pepper Vinegar Jelly – A Whole Roasted Cornish Hen was stuffed with cornbread and Andouille, served on a bed of collard greens, and dressed with a Pepper Vinegar gel. My first thought when this came to the table was that this was going to be hard to eat without making a mess. On the contrary, they had deboned almost the entire hen with the exception of the wing and leg bones. I was able to remove the legs easily and spit it down the middle with little effort. The color on the skin was nothing short of exceptional. What put this dish over the top for me was the use of the pepper vinegar gel. This was the first time I tried it and it won’t be the last. It gave the hen such a rich roasted tangy flavor that I simply could not get enough of it.

Mo-Bay Grill

Blackened Sea Scallops with a Sweet Plantain Butter Sauce – This dish was so good that I cannot stop thinking about it. Chef Campbell does not usually have this dish on his menu, but let me tell you, it’s SPECTACULAR! Next time you are there, ask Chef if he has the ingredients on hand to make this dish for you. The scallops were as tender and perfectly cooked as it gets. The blackened seasoning added tons of flavor with minimal heat. They are then covered with a sweet plantain butter sauce that I can only describe as HEAVEN. Can you tell that I liked this dish? I liked it so much that it’s already made it’s way to one of my Top 10 Best Dishes of 2019 and we are only halfway through the year.

Nino’s Italian Restaurant – Lakewood Park

Banana “Dream” Pie – Every once in a while, we discover a dessert that just blows our minds, and this is one of them. The name “Banana Cream Pie” does not do it justice. We were discussing it during dinner with the owner, and we believe it should be called the “Banana Dream Pie” because it is that good! Starting at the bottom with a graham cracker style crust, it’s layered with bananas and peanut butter, then topped with a very smooth banana cream filling, and topped with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips. This is made in house daily and was actually created by accident. A few of their customers tried it, fell in love with it, kept requesting it, so now it’s a permanent addition on their dessert menu.

The Tides of Vero Beach

Pan Seared Crab Cakes –The crab cakes are served Maryland style over a roasted corn sauce, a tomatillo salsa, chorizo cracklins, and garnished with microgreens and cilantro oil. The skill of the chef was quite evident in this dish because I’ve never seen such a perfectly shaped crab cake before in my life. The crab was very fresh and minimal filler was used to keep them together. One of my favorite dishes of the night!

The Wave Kitchen & Bar

Sauteed Red Snapper –The Wave always creates spectacular seafood dishes, and as a previous Vero Beach Foodie Golden Fork Top 10 Best Dishes of 2018 winner, I could not wait to dig into this one! A red snapper filet is pan-fried till golden brown and served with rock shrimp, a sautee of wild mushrooms, sweet potato puree, and a truffle butter sauce. The snapper was served with the skin on and it was pan-fried till crispy. The rock shrimp were cooked to perfection, but that sweet potato puree was OUTSTANDING! It was smooth, creamy and the chef finished it with truffle butter which is what gave it an unforgettable rich flavor!

Sebastian Sandwich Shack

The MOAB BurgerThis is called the Mother of all Burgers and this thing was HUGE!!! I assembled the burger and smashed it down the best I could and tried to take a bite! There was NO WAY I could unhinge my jaw enough to take a bite, but at least gave it a go. The burger was cooked to a perfect medium just like I ordered it. It was seasoned properly and had great flavor. A cucumber salad was served alongside.

The Crab Stop Seafood Bar & Grill

Seafood Bowls –Where do you take out of town company when visiting Vero Beach and you want to give them an Over the TOP seafood experience?  You take them to The Crab Stop!  With no particular dish being featured, we are honoring them for all their wonderful seafood bowls just chock full of snow crab, king crab, shrimp, sliced sausage, garlic eggs, and their Famous Garlic potatoes!

The Italian Cousin

Cousins VealI didn’t know what to expect on my first visit to The Italian Cousin.  Did they serve the “typical” Italian cuisine or was it something unique? To my delight, it was something different. We sampled a few “classic” Italian dishes, but the one that stood out the most to me was the Cousins Veal. The dish is made with humanely raised veal that is pounded thin to make it very tender and it lightly floured and pan fried. It’s then mixed with long cut ziti, roasted red peppers, artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, and Gorgonzola cheese.  The veal was very tender and the dish was just loaded with flavor!

Riverside Cafe

Grouper Picatta – I was really happy to see this dish up next since Grouper is my absolute favorite fish! The fillets are lightly floured and pan-fried till golden brown and topped with a citrus cream sauce with capers. Rice and vegetables were served alongside. The grouper was spectacular! It was very moist, tender, and the citrus cream sauce added a creamy, yet bright lemony flavor to the dish.

Chef of the Year – Chuck Arnold

Opening only 2 ½ years ago, this restaurant continues to pack the house each and every night. Located in a very unassuming location with only a marque sign that says “Diner” above it, once you’ve dined here you feel like you’ve discovered something special. This chef’s creative dishes and unique use of flavors and textures are what keep people coming back for more. My preferred seat is always at the counter overlooking the kitchen. Order an app, a glass of wine and sit back and watch what they are cooking and order what looks good. I’m sure by now you know which restaurant I’m talking about, so it’s my pleasure to announce my Chef of the Year Award goes to Chef Chuck Arnold of Fire and Wine!

Restaurant of the Year – Dinner Revolution

Having been open for less than 1 year, I’ve been more than impressed with this restaurant and its owners since the beginning. Their concept is brand new, something I’ve not seen before, and I think its brilliant. With a menu that rotates every two weeks, each visit is always a brand-new dining experience. This husband and wife team work hard, play hard, and are always up to try my new event concepts. South Vero has been in desperate need for a restaurant that says open late and they have been a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. It’s my pleasure to announce my pick for Restaurant of the Year goes to Dinner Revolution!

In Conclusion:

Over the past year, I’ve been extremely busy!  I “Officially” went full time with Vero Beach Foodie and started my own restaurant services company called Savourus LLC to help restaurants with advertising and anything to do with their digital foot print,.   I also created and launched on April 1st our new diners club called Treasure Coast Savor Diners Club.  We currently offer over 70+ deals on dining out at over 55+ local restaurants.   We’ve hosted 21 Specialty Dining Experiences, 39 Vero Beach Foodie VIP Meetups, and given you the opportunity to win tickets to lots of different events. As of this posting, we hosted our first Golden Fork Awards Ceremony event on Monday, February 3rd!  Two hundred people gathered together to Taste, Toast, and Celebrate my Top 10 Best Dishes and my picks for a Chef and Restaurant of the year at Walking Tree Brewery.  It was a truly amazing event and will become an annual gathering each spring.

What does Vero Beach Foodie have planned for 2020?  Big plans are underway as I write this and I’m really excited to tell you what we are planning in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for an even better experience with us than ever before!

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