Sarasota and other Florida eats.

Florida spring training kind of sucks, in my professional opinion, because the sites are so far apart and several are wastelands for decent food. I found a handful of decent spots in my week there this year, along with a lot of mediocrity, but I’ll just focus on the good here, including the fact that Sarasota of all places has a decent little food and coffee scene happening.

Baker & Wife is a farm-to-table type of place in Sarasota, recommended to me by a friend who lives nearby, and I was impressed by both the vegetable dishes and, as you’d expect from the name, the dessert. I went with two starters rather than a main, a salad of roasted yellow beets with goat cheese, pesto, and pine nuts, along with crab cakes with a spicy green papaya slaw; of all of that, the only aspect I didn’t care for was the slaw, which tasted too much of fish sauce. The beets were really spectacular, although I am a fan of roasted beets in any form, but I think they pair so well with goat cheese, any kind of nuts, and the salty, bright punch of the pesto. Dessert, I had the “baker’s bannoffie pie,” and I’ll let the menu describe it: “pecan and graham cracker crust, house made banana & vanilla bean pudding, chocolate chips, caramel, cream.” It was that good and then some. It all worked so well together.

Perq is a new third-wave coffee bar in Sarasota, using beans from various artisan roasters around the country, and offering numerous cold-brew and single-origin espresso options along with the usual. It’s a sizable cafe too, unlike a lot of third-wave spots, and they appear to rotate through various roasters – they had a number of I knew from my travels and when I chatted up one of the baristas, he mentioned several other great roasters they’ve used, like heart, Sightglass, Four barrel, Counter Culture, and more.

I had half a decent meal at Selva, a Peruvian restaurant downtown, where the ceviche was very good and the entree I had was not. The ceviche isn’t truly traditional; they have numerous combinations that include various fruits, acids, and types of fish, and the tuna/watermelon ceviche I got had larger pieces of fish than I’m used to seeing in ceviche. It came with a spicy lime sauce for dipping or pouring to taste, and I would recommend using that if you end up here. But the main course was kind of a mess – a duck breast that was cooked very inconsistently, and served with a risotto that was anything but.

There’s also a tiny Buddy Brew location right near Selva, at the entrance to the parking garage downtown not far from Tamiami Trail. I would go to Perq before this, but Buddy Brew is solid.

Elsewhere in the state, I discovered the brand new Foxtail Coffee in Orlando’s Winter Park neighborhood thanks to a scout’s recommendation, and both times I went there was a line out the door. They had four coffees available from different countries; I tried their espresso one day and an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe pour-over the next, the latter of which came with a roasting demonstration from Iain, one of the owners and a baseball fan as well. It’s right near the old location of the Ravenous Pig, which has moved into the old Cask & Larder space but which I can report is still some of the best food to be had in the Orlando area.

Near the Jupiter complex is a very unassuming little coffee shop and roaster called Oceana, which does a lot of single origins as well but roasts most of them darker than I tend to like. Their pour-over options are the way to go – I had an Ethiopian the first day I was there, and I’ll be honest in that I was so in need of the caffeine I don’t remember much beyond the sheer pleasure of feeling it hit my bloodstream. Pass on the espresso as their extraction rate is way too high and the result is watery.

Merritt Island’s Cuban Island Cafe is worth a stop if you’re in that area, which I’d never visited before; I went for my standard choice, lechon asado, which in this case came with some amazing black beans, one maduro, one tostone, and well over a half-pound of pork.

I’ll also mention Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami, which appeared on a list of the best pizzerias in the U.S. a few years ago that I’ve kept on hand for my travels, hitting more than half of the 48 places they listed. The pizza itself was just average, but I had an escarole salad to start that was tremendous – lemon, anchovies, parmiggiano, and bread crumbs. It hit a little of everything, adding salty, sour, and umami notes to the slight bitterness of the raw greens. They have a few non-pizza options that might be worth trying if I ever go back to have that salad again.

Washington DC eats.

Chat today at 1 pm EDT. Baseball Tonight on ESPN Radio at 10:27 pm EDT (if your local affiliate isn’t carrying the late game).

All right, I’ve been promising this for two weeks but playoff writing took precedence. I had two full days in DC plus a half-day, which turned into five different restaurants plus what I ate at the ballpark. All of these places but one are in the McPherson Square/Farragut area.

Breakfast both mornings was at Teaism, a tea salon that serves a full breakfast with a limited menu, although it was diverse enough for me. The best item – besides the tea, which is loose-leaf and served in ceramic pots – is the ginger scones, crumbly and faintly sweet with chunks of crystallized ginger in the scone and castor sugar on top. Two of those plus the cilantro scrambled eggs – cilantro and diced green bell pepper in eggs, little light on the salt and probably cooked 30 seconds past perfect – was more than enough food, since the egg platter comes with a small fruit salad and triangles of grilled whole-wheat naan. I also tried the tea-cured salmon, which had great flavor (a little sweet, a little savory, like a cup of a mild Indian black tea with a half teaspoon of sugar) and was obviously very fresh (they say they do the curing themselves) but had a chewier texture than good smoked salmon. Teaism’s only real drawback is that it’s not cheap, running $15+ each day including tip.

Worst meal of the trip, by far, was at Kaz Sushi Bistro, an overpriced Japanese restaurant where the focus is definitely not on the food. The fish itself was completely tasteless; the seaweed salad came with a mayonnaise-based dressing; everything was overpriced; and the two people serving as hosts were rude to each other and to at least one group of customers.

Casa Blanca is a small Peruvian (or Peruvian-plus) place on Vermont Ave that is an anti-Kaz in that the focus is on the food and definitely not on the decor or ambience. I ordered chicharrones (fried chunks of pork shoulder) with fried yucca, which was, of course, a bit on the heavy side but crispy and salty with a little bit of a peppery kick. Their homemade tamarind juice is good, a little too sweet for me but given the tangy taste of tamarind, I imagine this is how most people prefer the drink. They apparently also make great empanadas, although those appeared to be for takeout customers and weren’t on the menu. Service is a bit indifferent, and remained so even when I ordered in Spanish. Cash only.

I left the area once for lunch and headed over to Eastern Market to try Market Lunch, where folks apparently line up in great numbers on weekend mornings for pancakes. I had read that Market Lunch had one of the top crab cake sandwiches in the city, and their fries are hand-cut, which sold me. The crab cake was above-average, mostly crab, all lump, lightly seasoned so that the primary taste is of the crab meat, but the crab cake itself wasn’t fresh or even hot, just lukewarm, as if it had been sitting for five minutes. I understand they’re trying to keep people moving, but crab cakes should, at worst, be kept hot if they have to be held at all. The fries were on the greasy side. I suppose if you work in the area and need something fast, this is a great option, but I’m not sure it was worth the Metro* trip.

*Seriously, another city with a crappy subway system. Philly’s system is cash-only and is filthier than Rome’s. Washington’s takes credit cards, but the cost of your ride depends on exactly where you’re boarding and exiting, instead of the single-price system used, oh, everywhere else in the country. And is there a reason the stations are all so dark? You could grow white asparagus down there.

As for Nationals Park, it’s nice, clean, big, and kind of boring. It has forced character, not actual charm. And I’m sorry, you don’t get to put up posters of great players who didn’t play for your franchise – you can take the Senators’ history, by all means, but Honus Wagner is not yours. They get big props for Teddy’s Q stand out in right field. They smoke the meat right there, in a smoker that’s at the edge of the tent, and both items I had were solid. The pulled pork sandwich wasn’t too dry and only needed a little sauce for flavor, while the beef (short) rib was perfectly smoked with plenty of well-browned edges. I’m not sure what’s in the beef rub, but it’s sweet without any heat – a little pepper would balance out the sweetness well. Two quibbles: At $14, the rib should come with something on the side, even the tiny cole slaw that comes with the sandwich; and it seems odd that you have to go to another stand to get a starch like French fries. The Nats also get props for the kosher-food cart across the aisle from the Q. The knish was excellent, smoking hot (not just made, but they had the sense to keep it hot), and the three people working at the cart are animals – everything moved quickly, and when the line started to build up, they moved faster. I saw a little gelato stand up the first base line and wanted to try it, but I was so full from the Q each night that I never had the chance.