IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Tasters Grille and Market, Tavernier

January 27, 2010 

Offering what the chef describes as “international and nouveau Caribbean” cuisine, Tasters Grille and Market, next to the post office in Tavernier Towne Center, mixes up the menu and keeps the selections fresh.

There are more than 75 wines and plenty of specialty beers to round out your meal.

Sommelier Tom Smith and Chef George Patti are experienced Keys cuisine specialists who joined forces to open Tasters in March 2009. They said that business has been good, even in a down economy.

“We had worked separately on other ventures over the past 20-something years,” Smith said. “We knew each other and we had a lot of similar ideas.”

Patti said he studied the culinary arts at the Johnson-Wales school in New York City and worked in the city for many years before coming to the Keys. He said he is constantly dreaming up new dishes.

“We offer probably eight or so new dishes every day, between lunch and dinner,” he said. “Every day there’s something new on the menu, as far as specials. A lot of places will run a special for a week, but we run them for just one day.”

Smith said that as the restaurant’s wine expert, he is constantly looking for something out of the ordinary.

“I bring in a lot of boutique wineries and limited edition wines,” he said. “When they are available I bring them in and when it sells out, it’s gone. We also sell wine by the bottle at the retail level, so there’s no restaurant markup. That gives people a nice wine for the same price they would find it in a wine shop.”

Tasters also is very selective about the beer they serve.

“We don’t have Budweiser or Coors or any common beers like those,” Smith said. “If someone orders one of those, we try to steer them to a lesser-known beer and they usually like it even more.”

Besides wine by the bottle, the market has a wide variety of cheeses and cakes to order for any occasion. They can also put items together for customized gift baskets.

Tasters Grille and Market is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., but is closed for lunch Sundays and dinner Tuesdays. During those times, Smith and Patti conduct wine classes or other educational events. They offer a lighter menu from 10 to 11 p.m.

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