The Best Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Period.

I am breaking one of my own rules, and I don’t care.

I have always said I would not claim something as “the best I ever ate” if I had not tried enough of a particular food to compare.

Scratch that.  For now, at least.

This past week, I had the opportunity to try a local Italian restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Casa D’ Angelo.  I have wanted to try this place for a while now, but it is pretty pricey and shocking, not in my current budget.  What do you do when you really want to try a restaurant and can’t afford it?  You wait for your family to take you there.

I had family visiting from NY who suggested we all go to Casa D’ Angelo for dinner.  That’s right, I didn’t even have to debate internally whether it was rude of me to pick such an expensive restaurant because they picked it themselves.  Amazing.  The food here was so good and so authentic Italian, as judged by my relatives from Italy, that we ended up going back AGAIN before they left.  I seriously hit the food lottery that week.

One of the main persuasive forces of returning a second time was this risotto.

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

I ordered it on a whim as an appetizer for my boyfriend and I because I have never had a truly authentic risotto, and I certainly don’t have the time or willingness to add 5 sticks of butter to make this on my own.  I don’t care that I have not tried other risottos, and I don’t care that this is one of the least photogenic dishes ever- this risotto was pure heaven.  The truffle oil and porcini mushrooms added just the right amount of flavor on top of the divine creaminess of the cheese and other goodness in here.  The rice itself was perfectly al dente.  My hard to impossible to please Italian grandmother raved about this risotto.  This was seriously one of my favorite appetizers from a restaurant ever.  You can also order it as an entree, but I think the appetizer portion was plenty satisfying.

If you are ever in Ft. Lauderdale and looking for the best Italian food, go to Casa D’Angelo.  Order this risotto whether or not it is on the menu that day.  Somehow.

Every other part of my dining experience was delicious and blog-worthy as well.

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I ordered the linguine positano as my entree, which is linguine with shrimp sauteed in white wine, with garlic, fresh tomato, and arugula.  I thought this dish was phenomenal- fresh, simple yet flavorful, and filling.  The shrimp were a bit on the firm side, but I suppose that is better than overly cooked, rubbery shrimp.

So, my recommendations to you all:  1. Plan a trip to Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t live nearby.  2. Invite family to cover the bill (joking, kind of.) 3. Demand to try the mushroom risotto. 4. Order anything else as an entree 5. Drink wine to enhance good time and better tolerate family and 6. Pass out in food coma.

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Cornbread Panzanella Salad w/ Blackened Shrimp

Tonight for dinner I accomplished many things: 1) I tried a new restaurant 2) ordered something unique 3) ordered something healthy 4) ordered something delicious.  These 4 simple goals are not easy to come by, believe me!  This cornbread panzanella salad with shrimp from The Floridian in St. Augustine served all my purposes and left me one happy camper.

For those of you not familiar with Florida geography, St. Augustine is about 4.5 hours north of where I live.  I am here [by myself] for one night to attend a Board of Pharmacy conference tomorrow morning.  What is a girl to do who is alone in a new city with only a few hours to spare?  Three things come to my mind: eat delicious local food, explore, and shop.  Shopping was out of the question because besides the fact that I am broke, I have no interest in buying “colonial” hats, I <3 St. Augustine t-shirts, or magnets with a lighthouse on them.  I explored as much of the historic town as I could, but I arrived at 4:30 and was limited to the few sites still open.  By 7 pm, I was left with one option and one option only: EAT!

After performing a very thorough search of St. Augustine restaurants and eateries, and consulting Yelp, Urbanspoon, and the like, I decided to try this restaurant called The Floridian.  This place was totally my kind of spot: cozy, homey, outdoor seating available, and decorated with local beachy trinkets in the cute, not tacky way.

This place is known for lots of gluten free and vegetarian options, as well as their seafood, but they have plenty of things for everyone on the menu.  Everything here is made with locally grown/raised/made  produce/meats/cheeses, which I find so wonderful.  I had a hard time deciding what to get, but I was in the mood for something on the lighter side, so I opted for the Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp.

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

Cornbread Panzanella Salad with Blackened Shrimp

If you are not familiar with a panzanella salad, it is typically made with croutons (preferably home-made), tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and mozzarella cheese with a vinaigrette type dressing.  The main caveat  being that there is no lettuce or leafy vegetable included.  The panzanella salad I got tonight had many twists to it.  They used cornbread to make the croutons, there was fresh arugula included, I opted to add blackened shrimp, and they served it with a homemade basil-buttermilk dressing.  Additionally, the salad included heirloom tomatoes, strips of red bell pepper, and freshly made tomme cheese.

The salad was really great.  Everything, from the produce to the cheese to the bread, tasted so fresh!   The cornbread added such a sweet taste and comforting aspect to the meal.  The only downside to using cornbread is that it naturally does not get as crispy as other bread types.  Not to say that it was soggy, but it was definitely softer than expected.  The shrimp was a bit on the salty side in my opinion, but still tasty.  Lastly, I prefer the traditional vinegerette to the buttermilk dressing they used (and I forgot to ask for it on the side), but that is just my personal preference.

Because this was a “me” night (did I mention the glass of wine I enjoyed?), dessert was a requirement.  I knew from the moment I walked in and spotted the homemade pecan caramel bars that I would be ordering one, and that is exactly what I did.

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

Pecan Caramel Bars with Whipped Cream

My foodie experience at the Floridian in St. Augustine was wonderful.  It made this undesirable, lonely trip way better.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone in the area, as well as the specific dishes I ordered.

Now, it’s off to bed for an early conference in the morning.  If only the complimentary breakfast were half as exciting as my dinner tonight.  A girl can dream!

XO