Vegan Fine Dining and the Opera – Date Night in Sarasota

It just so happened that my favorite opera, Puccini’s Tosca, was playing at the Sarasota Opera House. Chrissy bought tickets for a few weeks out to ensure that they wouldn’t be sold out. Sarasota, Florida is anywhere from 1 hour and a half hours to two hours to drive from our home in Clearwater depending on traffic. This trek is a beautiful drive, however as it combines Highway 60 which includes a narrow drive from Clearwater to Tampa, with the Gulf of Mexico on either side. Coming from the north, the Sarasota journey also includes the beautiful Skyway Bridge, which is lit up with colorful lights at night.

I felt like a queen when Chrissy opened the door to her truck for me. We were both dressed up and she looked fabulous. And just in case her sexy butch self wasn’t enough, I caught a whiff of her Polo cologne as she closed the door. “This is going to be a great night”, I thought to myself. A fancy dinner at an upscale vegan restaurant and the opera? What’s not to like!

Ka Papa was everything I had hoped it would be. Chrissy and I sat in the breezeway in very comfortable chairs – the kind you can sink down into. The decor was simple and elegant and I really liked that there was a mirror at our table. I don’t believe I had ever seen this before and I liked it.

I was sure to look at the menu ahead of time to make my decision effortless. I must say that choosing among incredibly- sounding options was not an easy feat and, for at least, required some extra time.

baked feta with watermelon and fresh rosemary from Ka Papa – what a presentation!

Between the two of us, we were able to sample quite a few menu items. For appetizers, I settled on the baked feta with watermelon and fresh rosemary. Chrissy ordered the “shitake escargots” in white wine with warm lime-garlic-NOOCH* ‘Butter’. For those who might not know, Nooch is a slang term (that is known by vegans everywhere) for nutritional yeast, which has a nutty cheezy flavor and it’s a great source of B12.

Shitake “escargots” in white wine with warm lime-garlic-NOOCH* ‘Butter’ from Ka Papa

What a great way to start our meal! We were blown away by each flavorful dish. The baked feta with was rich, yet light, and the crispness of the watermelon complimented it very well. The escargot was incredible with its rich earthy flavors. Both dishes easily melted in our mouths.

Spicy orange butternut soup from Ka Papa

I simply had to try the spicy orange butternut soup. Chrissy was curious about the grilled ‘Caesar’ salad with crispy croutons, ‘Caesar’ dressing, ‘parmesan’ and grape tomatoes. Again, both dishes did not disappoint. The presentation alone, was something to behold. I loved the smoothness and combination of flavors of the soup and Chrissy really liked the textures and freshness of the salad.

Grilled ‘Caesar’ salad with crispy croutons, ‘Caesar’ dressing, ‘parmesan’ and grape tomatoes from Ka Papa

By this point in the dinner, we had high expectations for the main course. I was excited to try the summer squash noodles with lemon-Alfredo sauce (made with cashews), lemon arugula and fresh green peas. Chrissy ordered the pan roasted mushrooms with fine broccoli mash and tomato salsa. The mushrooms used in this dish were organic Petrichor mushrooms, which are grown right here in Florida.

Summer squash noodles with lemon-Alfredo sauce (made with cashews), lemon arugula and fresh green peas from Ka Papa – loved those fresh peas!

Our dishes absolutely met our newly-high standards. I loved the texture of my dish and the freshness of all its ingredients. Each flavor hit my palette at a different time, making each bite a wonderful experience. Chrissy felt the same about her dish, enjoying the bold flavors of the mushrooms, the creaminess of the broccoli mash and the tanginess of the salsa. She was sure to combine all three with every bite giving it the perfect blend of intended flavors.

Pan roasted mushrooms with fine broccoli mash and tomato salsa from Ka Papa

Did we have room for dessert? Because each dish wasn’t overly filling, we did have some room. Not much, but some. Besides, we couldn’t go away without trying one of Ka Papa’s desserts. We decided to share their cake of the night which happened to be a chocolate cake. What a decedent way to end the evening! I was also intrigued by the cast iron cookie with extra creamy house-made vanilla custard. I think I will try that the next time I’m in Sarasota.

Chrissy enjoying the cake of the night from Ka Papa

We left Ka Papa feeling pleasantly satiated and drove to Sarasota’s elegant opera house. There is something about walking into an opera house, any opera house that sends an exciting overwhelming feeling throughout my entire body. It’s much like baseball fans might feel when first arriving to a baseball stadium.

Walking into the Sarasota Opera House

Chrissy chivalrously dropped me off in front of the opera house (so I wouldn’t have to walk too far in heels) and parked the car. We settled into our orchestra seats and I eagerly awaited, with opera glasses in hand, the beginning of my favorite opera.

Waiting for the second act of Puccini’s Tosca at the Sarasota Opera

The opera is in three acts and I loved how Sarasota went with the traditional production. The sets were fantastic, as was the staging. The orchestra played very well and the singer did a fine job. I was particularly impressed by Tosca’s famous aria (Vissi d’arte) in the second act and by Scarpia’s voice in general. He navigated his bass/baritone range seamlessly.

The iconic lights of the Sarasota Opera House

Our night ended with our ride back to Clearwater. We recapped our evening and discussed our impressions of the restaurant and the opera. What a great date night!

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