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No Meat, Please! Vegetarian and Vegan Highlights of Savor Sarasota 2018

Foodies across Sarasota County are revving up their appetites for the annual Savor Sarasota Restaurant Month that features a smorgasbord of scrumptious three-course meals from Sarasota's top chefs and restaurants across the county, offered at unbeatable yummy rates — just $16 for lunch and $32 for dinner.

Nearly 90 restaurants are participating in this year's Savor Sarasota Restaurant Month, making it the largest of the annual culinary celebrations to date. As Savor Sarasota grows, so do the options for exciting and inventive meat-free dishes to delight the vegetarian and vegan set. We've picked out some of the highlights from this year's menus and have included our favorite dishes, listed in alphabetical order by restaurant name.

We're tempeh-ed to say that this is the most delicious Savor Sarasota celebration, yet!

Longtime downtown Sarasota culinary cornerstone, Bijou Cafe, is one of the few "Hat Trick" spots who also makes our lists for steak and seafood offerings during this year's Savor Sarasota — but the colorful Roasted Vegetable Galette might just be our favorite dish. Bijou's Veggie Galette (think: a crusty, savory French pancake) features phyllo dough, baby carrots, roasted cherry tomatoes, hearts of palm, zucchini and yellow squash, and is topped with a spinach-basil coulis (a French-style vegetable or fruit puree that is used as a sauce).

Nestled in a 1920s historic home on Palm Avenue, the charming CasAntica Ristorante offers up Italian favorites. One of its standout dishes is the vegetarian Garganelli Primavera: homemade Garganelli pasta (made with eggs; sorry, vegans) sautéed with mixed veggies, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and a touch of pepper. Pair it with the Bruschetta Romana or the Insalata Tricolore featuring fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes, and sliced parmiggiano with a tangy, housemade citronette dressing.

In a nod to the vegan set, Clasico Sarasota offers a delicious spicy tofu main course with sauteed vegetables and quinoa salad with sweet chili. Among the starter dishes, a salad featuring fresh roasted organic beets, mixed greens, and roasted walnuts, tossed in a strawberry vinaigrette does include goat cheese — but can be ordered without to keep the dish dairy-free.

Another restaurant who pulls off a Savor Sarasota "Hat Trick" feat is Duval's. We're including them here for the vegetarian Truffled Mac n’ Cheese dinner with a buttered panko crust and shitake mushroom crisps, as well as their vegan-friendly lunch special, the Roasted Summer Vegetable Sandwich: zucchini, summer squash, red onion, and asparagus, with sun-dried tomato pesto and balsamic reduction on a French baguette.

Libby's Cafe + Bar's farm-to-market philosophy makes this chic contemporary cafe a Sarasota favorite. For Savor Sarasota, check out Libby's vegan Tomato Bisque, "Spasta" (spaghetti squash "pasta"), and Raspberry Sorbet. Libby's Savor Sarasota special also includes four-ounce wine pairings with the first and second course that include riesling, chardonnay, merlot, and pinot noir options.

The vegan and vegetarian superstar of Sarasota is downtown's Lila, which prides itself on creative dishes that are made entirely free of animal byproducts. The majority of options on Lila's robust Savor Sarasota menu are both vegan and gluten free. This writer is obsessed with Lila's Buddha Bowl, which includes squash, sweet potato, kale, quinoa, cashew falafel, and tahini sauce, as well as the smoky red lentil dip with flaxseed crackers on the first course menu. There's simply no choosing favorites between Lila's vegan chocolate mousse and the almond-crusted lemon tart during the third course included in the Savor Sarasota deal, so bring a friend to share desserts.

Farm-fresh local ingredients take the spotlight at MoZaic, another cornerstone of the downtown Sarasota culinary scene that offers an eclectic menu every year for Savor Sarasota. Buckle in because we have a lot to say this year about the vegetarian and vegan offerings. First, we're excited for the soups offered in the starter course: Farmers Market Gazpacho with heirloom tomato, cucumber, cilantro, lime, ginger, citrus, greek yogurt, grilled crouton, and micro cilantro, and MoZaic's Thai Curry Carrot Soup: Ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime, coconut red curry, herb oil, and micro cilantro.

In MoZaic's second course for Savor Sarasota, the Zucchini Corn Fritters (pan fried zucchini with lemon soy aioli, pickled purple onion, and tomato relish) and Vegan Spring Rolls (wild mushroom, carrot, Napa cabbage, seasoned grains, ginger, soy glaze, sesame aioli, and micro cilantro) delighted our taste buds so much that we almost forgot to save room for the third course superstars: Vegan "Meatless Loaf" (seasoned nuts and grains, molasses brown sugar glaze, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, and baby vegetables, with wild mushroom soy jus) and MoZaic's Rainbow Pad Thai dish (rice noodles, zucchini, carrots, peppers, ginger, cilantro, tamarind, fried garlic, peanuts and lime).

Muse at the Ringling made its way onto our "Steaks of Savor Sarasota" list for its artfully plated Filet Mignon, but we're here today to talk about the meatless mastery of Muse's Savor Sarasota starters like the hearty Roasted Almond Butter Hummus and the Muse Supergreen Salad featuring artisan greens with frisée (a unique, curly endive variety), pea shoots, and lemon balsamic vinaigrette). Those scrumptious starters lead up to a colorful and delicious vegan main course, "Spasta": spaghetti squash pasta with garlic, kale, spinach, thin veggies, and San Marzano tomato.

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