Artful Eating At Ovation
ART OVATION HOTEL 1255 N Palm Ave Sarasota, FL 34236
With multiple big buildings clawing their way into the downtown Sarasota skyline, it’s important to remember that bigger isn’t always better. The new Art Ovation Hotel is the newest in Marriott’s Autograph Collection, boutique hotels that have the tagline: “exactly like no other.” The new art-centric hotel found a perfect home on Palm Avenue, long one of Sarasota’s art gallery destinations. In addition to showcasing and promoting local artists, the charming venue offers three different food and drink venues, each with its own special appeal.
Overture Restaurant is the magnum opus, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s immediately appealing to hotel guests, but its prime Palm Avenue locale just a few steps from Florida Studio Theatre and the Sarasota Opera should seduce anyone looking for a wonderful meal before or after a show. Experts have overseen the development of the restaurant’s menu, decor, and table settings since long before construction began. American classics were used as the starting place, but with an artistic and dramatic flare.
The American classics are clear from the menu selection: lots of favorites but with something extra or unexpected. Deviled eggs are as traditional as it gets, but Overture tops them with candied bacon and sweet pickle. Of course, there’s a hamburger, but this one is a secret blend of three different meats topped with a house-made beer cheese sauce that, as the chef says, “spoons like Velveeta” thanks to a secret, all-natural process, but is made from real cheese and real beer. It’s a marvel and a delight to consume.
The all-American inspiration goes deep in Overture’s menu, and has led the culinary team to seek out wonderful domestic purveyors of delicacies we normally think of as European. The fantastic Charcuterie Palette is a mix of cured meats and cheeses from artisans all over the US. There’s the award-winning prosciutto from La Quercia, in Iowa, along with The Fawn cheddar from Deer Creek in Wisconsin and the Humboldt Fog goat cheese from Cypress Grove in California.
American winemakers take center stage on the restaurant’s intriguing wine list as well. Overture manager Judy Cote is a sommelier with twenty years of experience. She has created a list of around 70 wines that are chosen to pair with Overture’s American classics cuisine. There are some justifiably famous heavy hitters of domestic wine on the list, but also some unusual and affordable picks as well. The Gruet Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine from New Mexico and Bonny Doon’s I Am Not Drinking Any $%&*#! Merlot are two standout examples of wine by the glass you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
The Gallery Lounge bar occupies the area of the lobby looking out over the new traffic circle at Palm and Cocoanut Avenues. The lounge serves inventive craft cocktails (including one with an orchid frozen in an ice cube as a garnish) along with a menu of selections from Overture. As the name suggests, it is also an art gallery, with a new exhibition rotating in every four months. The current exhibit just opened in August, “Reimagining Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: 2018” presents thirty pieces of art by five different local artists, all reflecting on and reacting to the massively influential work of O’Keefe and Stieglitz. In the evenings, the bar adjacent stage periodically hosts live entertainment, especially on weekends.
Take the special elevator all the way to the top and you’ll find the Perspective Rooftop Bar. During the day, the poolside bar gets pool appropriate fare, a selection of highlights from the restaurant downstairs, including that amazing burger. After 5:00 p.m. when the craft cocktails start flowing and the beautiful view of the bay at sunset takes center stage, the Perspective’s bento boxes become available. The bento boxes are meant to be a shared experience and is Art Ovation’s unique spin on bar food. Each sizable box contains a trio of treats to choose from. The vegetarian Synergy box, for example, has crispy cauliflower, fried curry paneer cheese, and the inventive and delicious blistered shishito peppers with miso butter.
Art Ovation Hotel’s artsy ambience makes time spent there feel carefully crafted but still quite comfortable. It has ambitions to be not just a destination for travelers, but a special spot for locals as well. Since its grand opening, the already distinctive and impressive locale has only improved, and there are more grand additions to come. I couldn’t pry any details from them, but the Perspective roof bar is set for an exciting upgrade soon. Fortunately, the food and drinks are already top flight and ready to please.