Friday, December 30, 2016

Maison Blanche: Haute French Cuisine on Longboat

Longboat Key’s elegant home to outstanding contemporary French cuisine by critically acclaimed Master Chef-Owner José Martinez, Maison Blanche embodies the ultimate in sophistication. Featuring perhaps the finest cuisine on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Chef Martinez began his culinary career by seizing an opportunity to apprentice with the legendary French chef and restaurateur, Joël Robuchon at Restaurant Jamin in Paris. He then continued at Lucas Carlton in Paris with Alain Senderens, a founder of New French cuisine, and followed with Chef Michel Guerard at Eugénie les Bains, which earned 3 Michelin stars. Chef Martinez finally opened his own restaurant Maison Blanche in Paris in 1990, where he was awarded his own Michelin star, before opening his restaurant on Longboat Key in 2010. Featuring the most local, fresh, nourishing seasonal and suitable ingredients, Maison Blanche uses long-time suppliers with whom Chef Martinez has excellent relations with, and also draws from present generation producers and local artisanal growers committed to the chef's locavore philosophy. Superlatives flow with ease when describing this spectacular dining destination located in Longboat Key. The luxurious décor and sensational menu bring the Maison Blanche dining experience to life. Bathed in white with accents of deep grey and decorated with festive Christmas cheer, the dining room sets the stage for a truly memorable gastronomic experience, with every dish a work of art. 

Chef-Owner José Martinez of Maison Blanche features some of the finest cuisine on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Chef Martinez's award-winning Sea Urchin with Caviar

Every dish is a work of art

Elegant and sophisticated, the glamorous white-curtained dining room of Maison Blanche was designed by architect Franck Hammoutene

The sensational menu of Maison Blanche

Selection of warm house-baked breads made fresh every day

Buttery Rosemary Focaccia - warm, squishy and outrageously delicious

Small mini sourdough baguette 

Individual pats of butter set at each place setting

Amuse-Bouche: Silky Asparagus and Vegetable Purée with tiny croutons and chives

Rock Shrimp, Braised Eggplant and Ricotta Cheese

Mesclun Salad with Field Greens, Fresh Herbs and Shaved Parmesan

Ravioli Stuffed with Fresh Herbs

Tart of Cherry Tomato Confit with Basil and Shaved Parmesan

Suckling Pig baked in the oven with braised eggplant and vanilla jus

Braised Lamb Shoulder served with mashed potato

Oven Baked Red Snapper with crushed potatoes and lemon

Braised Short Ribs with Potato Purée

Baba au Rum with vanilla iced cream and Chantilly whipped cream

Chocolate Soufflé with Creme Anglaise

Apple Tart

Cheese Course with Roquefort, Brie de Meaux and Asiago

Dessert "Amuse Bouche" of Chocolate and Salted Caramel Mousse

Dessert "Amuse-Bouche" with Mousse, Madeleines and Marshmallows

Roasted Sea Scallops with Butternut Squash & Lettuce Cappuccino
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of chef José Martinez

2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped into 2-inch pieces
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 shallots, sliced
2 tbsp Sauvignon Blanc
1 small head of lettuce, sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed
16 sea scallops

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the butternut squash in a baking dish and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir to coat. Roast until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes, then transfer to a food processor and add the butter. Purée until smooth, then season with salt and pepper and set aside. Keep the oven temperature at 400ºF.

Add the shallots and wine to a medium pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the wine has cooked off, about 2 minutes. Add the lettuce and cream and cook for 20 minutes, then transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Strain through a sieve and reserve.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and sauté until tender and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes, then set aside.

Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and place them in a baking dish. Roast until the scallops are opaque and just beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. To serve, spoon some butternut squash purée onto a plate, top with some Brussels sprouts and 4 scallops then drizzle with lettuce cappuccino.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Mar Vista: Old Florida Charm on Longboat Key

Originally built a bait shop in 1913 but spared when a hurricane in 1921 wiped out large chunks of the Island, the Mar Vista is considered one of the twelve oldest surviving structures on Longboat Key, and currently undergoing a significant renovation to include a second floor outdoor dining area and fabulous new 4800 square foot kitchen. One of my parent's favourite spots for lunch, no trip to Longboat would be complete without a pilgrimage to this charming Old Florida dockside gem. Arrive by boat and moor at one of Mar Vista's private docks, and enjoy fresh Florida seafood, Grouper Sandwiches and cool sangria on one of the coveted tables on the beach, nestled under a canopy of majestic Buttonwood trees overlooking beautiful Sarasota Bay. Known more familiarly by locals as 'The Pub', Mar Vista is owned by Chiles Restaurant Group, which also owns the Beach House Restaurant on Bradenton Beach and the Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria. The menus at each of the restaurants are much the same, serving a vast array of fresh seafood, sandwiches and salads, but one feature in which they all excel are their sensational waterfront locations and spectacular views. Everything just tastes better when you can squish your toes in powdery fine white sand, soak up the sun and gaze longingly at the azure blue water. An ice cold beer doesn't hurt either.

Jack the blue parrot was brought ashore by one of the boats docked at Mar Vista

An iced cold Stella Artois on a hot humid afternoon - wonderful!

Burrata and Tomato Salad with fresh basil and an olive oil truffle glaze

'Tater Tots' made with mashed potato, onion, jalapeno and Monterey jack cheese, rolled into golfball size mounds, deep fried and served with a chipotle honey mustard sauce

Florida Smoked Fish Dip

1/2-pound Stone Crab Claws

The Seafood Castle at Mar Vista is new on the menu, 
a two tiered plethora of delicious, sustainable and locally sourced shellfish, crab and fresh fish

Coconut Shrimp Salad

The Mar Vista Burger topped with cheddar, tomato, red onion and lettuce and served with frites

The Mar Vista dock available for boats, kayaks and seaplanes to pull up and dine under the buttonwood trees or take advantage of the restaurants extensive tai-out menu

Capellini with Guanciale and Shaved Bottarga
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of chef George Quattromani

2 oz guanciale 
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Bottarga 
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
Fresh breadcrumbs
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 package dried capellini 

Slice the guanciale and sauté in olive oil until it is crisp around the edges. Reserve the rendered quanciale and save the oil. Boil the Capellini until al dente. Toss the hot pasta out of the pot, leaving a bit of pasta water in the bowl, and add the reserved oil and another dash of olive oil, along with a dash of red pepper flakes. Add the bottarga and Parmesan cheese, and toss. Sprinkle a little bottarga and crunchy fresh breadcrumbs on top, and serve.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Crab & Fin on St Armands Circle

The Crab and Fin is one of the most popular outdoor dining spots on St Armands Circle, especially when the sun is shining and the resident pianist is playing softly in the background, under his outdoor arbor of flowering bougainvillaea. Perfectly situated on a picturesque corner on the 'Circle' The Crab and Fin is always busy, and understandably so. The ambiance is upbeat and friendly, the menu caters to many tastes, and the food is always very good and reasonably priced. With a name like Crab and Fin, one would expect a menu that reflects all the flavours of the sea, and with a raw bar selection of fresh clams, oysters, gulf shrimp and three kinds of crab, including Alaskan Red King, Florida Stone and Dungeness crab, as well as raw tuna, the choices are always difficult to make.

The pretty outdoor patio with gorgeous magenta bougainvillia 

The Crab & Fin's fish-focussed menu

An iced cold unsweetened iced tea

Fresh warm bread rolls

Small iced cream scoops of butter

Caprese Salad with local vine ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and aged balsamic drizzle with basil oil, baby arugula and poached shrimp

Shrimp Chimichanga with monterey jack and cheddar cheese, baked in a soft flour tortilla topped with sour cream and guacamole

Lump Crabmeat Sandwich on a toasted english muffin with fresh vine ripe tomato topped with cheddar cheese and served with housemade apple slaw

Jumbo Crab Cake on wild arugula

Yellowfin Tuna Taratre with chili lime aioli, crispy filo, Aji soy marinade and
fresh guacamole with mini Caprese Salad

Crab & Fin Apple Slaw
Serves 12
Recipe courtesy of The Crab & Fin

5 Granny Smith apples, cored, shredded with peel and very well drained
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 cup currants or raisins 
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups mayonnaise
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds

In large bowl, combine apples, carrot, currants and walnuts. To make dressing, combine the remaining ingredients. Add about 1 cup of dressing to the slaw and mix well. Chill well before serving.