Monday, January 16, 2017

Beach Bistro: The Ultimate Gulf Coast Cuisine

Relaxed and sophisticated, Beach Bistro’s relentless pursuit of culinary and service excellence has earned owner Sean Murphy regional and national acclaim. One of Zagat’s “Top Restaurants in America”, Beach Bistro has been the island’s most romantic, fine-dining destination for more than 30 years, and its spectacular waterfront location makes it the perfect place to catch a spectacular sunset and enjoy some of the best cuisine in South Florida. And the cuisine is always consistently excellent, from their Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon on Parade with capers, caviar and key lime crème fraiche, outstanding Bouillabaise with lobster tails, jumbo shrimp, shellfish and calamari with garlic toasts and aioli, Herb Rubbed Pan Seared Rack of Lamb finished with a port rosemary demi-glace to the over-the-top 'Food Heaven' — Beach Bistro's rich marriage of Colorado lamb, butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster and Hudson Valley foie gras, all on a brioche bread pudding and served with a port, demi-glace and a sip of Essensia, which Sean christened — "a Dionysian vision from the end of a pier in Maine."

With it's spectacular setting overlooking Holmes Beach on beautiful Anna Maria Island, Beach Bistro is like a painting, complimented by the finest food in the area, an extraordinary wine list and dedicated professional staff that have been with owner Sean Murphy for years. White tablecloths, a rose on each table and romantic sunset view sets the scene for an outstanding menu that celebrates coastal cuisine at the highest level. Sean’s ambition has been the same throughout Beach Bistro’s history — to provide his guests with one of the best dining experiences they've ever had, and he's definitely succeeding, reflected in all of the glowing accolades that Beach Bistro consistently receives, and his dedicated following that return over and over again. Our family has been making a culinary pilgrimage to Beach Bistro over and over again since it opened in 1985, and it's definitely one of our favourite gastronomic traditions. Sean’s ambition has been the same throughout the Bistro’s 30 year history — to provide patrons with one of the best dining experiences that they've have ever had. Mission accomplished.

The cozy beachfront interior

Even a simple glass of water gets the royal treatment with lemon and rosemary

Complimentary cocktail with vodka, St Germaine elderflower liquor and lime juice over ice

Amuse-Bouche of "Helluva Tomato Soup" and grilled focaccia with tapenade, 
basil pesto and oven roasted tomato

2014 Nebel Rheinhessen Riesling

Orange blossoms and summer peaches perfume this delectably fruity wine

Bella Roma Tomato Salad with heritage plum tomatoes, warmed with an herbed vinaigrette, and garnished with baby greens, herb toast and Parmesan crisp

“One Helluva Soup” seasoned with Parrish plum tomatoes, sweet cream and Maytag blue cheese

Grouper Cooper with Gulf Coast grouper, pan-seared and crowned with a butter poached lobster tail then kissed with aurora cream

American Ranchland's Rack of Domestic Lamb from Colorado: Herb-rubbed, pan-seared and oven-roasted then finished with a port, rosemary demi-glace, and served with a glass of port

Grahams Six Grapes Reserve Porto

With a seductive, rich aroma of ripe plums, cherries and dark chocolate, the port was sensational

Floribbean Grouper with a toasted coconut and cashew crust caressed with a red pepper-papaya jam

Bistro Bouillabaisse: first, you hire a bunch of pros to build a killer broth, poach to order “Nova Scotia” lobster tails, jumbo shrimp, premium market fish, shellfish and calamari, served with clever asides of herbed, garlic toast and aiöli

Beach Bistro's Famous Bouillabaisse
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Sean Murphy

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup vertically sliced onion
1/4 cup julienne-cut leek
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup diced plum tomato
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried tarragon
Dash of crushed saffron threads
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp Pernod 
1 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 littleneck clams
4 oz grouper, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 medium mussels, scrubbed and debearded
6 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 5-oz lobster tail, split in half lengthwise
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, celery and garlic and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato, fennel seeds, thyme, tarragon, and saffron and cook 1 minute. Stir in the wine and Pernod, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the clam and tomato juices and freshly ground black pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the clams and grouper and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until the clams begin to open. Then add the mussels, shrimp, and lobster, and cook for 4 minutes or until the mussels open. Discard any unopened clams or mussels and garnish with fresh parsley and thyme.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Post-Christmas Culinary Journey to Longboat Key

A Culinary Journey to Longboat Key, Florida
January 13 - 22, 2017

Scrumpdillyicious will be touring the Longboat Key area along Florida's Gulf coast from January 13-17, 2017. Join me online each day as we journey through Longboat Key to Anna Maria Island and Sarasota, capturing the cultural and culinary pulse of this little corner of paradise, renowned for it's sugar-sand beaches, fabulous cuisine and sensational restaurants. 

Our Culinary Journey will take us up to Anna Maria Island, home to West Florida's Top Restaurant, Beach Bistro, owned by Canadian Sean Murphy, Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key and Michael's on East in Sarasota, as we explore the diverse culinary influences and regional ingredients of 'Floribbean' cuisine, including unique regional specialties such as stone crab claws, key lime pie and Sean's famous Bouillabaisse. So grab your appetite and sun hat as we head south for 9 days of sun, sand, culinary snooping plus a surprise 50th for a special friend!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Braised Short Ribs With Porcini-Port Wine Sauce

Tender, succulent and meltingly tender, Braised Short Ribs are one of the ultimate comfort foods. From the perfect pot roast to the fragrant complexity of a classic coq au vin, there's really no food more satisfying than a well-braised dish. The magic of braising is that it relies on heat, time, and moisture to successfully break down the tough connective tissue and collagens in certain meats, transforming the dense, well-marbled texture of short ribs until its fall-off-the-bone tender and creating a rich, velvety and deeply flavoured sauce along the way. In this recipe, slowly braising the short ribs in a combination of red wine, port, dried porcini mushrooms, beef broth, tomato paste, a bouquet of aromatic herbs and chopped vegetables gives the meat a deep, dark colour and sumptuous flavour. Braised for three hours then served over sautéed spinach and a mound of mashed potatoes surrounded by a puddle of satiny sauce, these short ribs are exquisitely tender and absolutely delicious. 

Dried porcini mushrooms soaked in hot water for 30 minutes give a rich earthy flavour to the braise

3 1/2-pounds Bone-In English-Style Short Ribs

Short ribs browned on all side in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Diced carrots, onion and celery sautéing in left over drippings from ribs

Tomato paste, Port and red wine are added to the vegetables with the porcini and liquid 

Beef broth is added to the sauce along with 3 bay leaves, fresh thyme and the browned short ribs. then brought to a boil, covered and set in the oven for 3 hours

Braised Short Ribs With Porcini-Port Wine Sauce
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Jennifer Olvera/Serious Eats

1 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms

2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, about 4 to 6 large ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped large, about 2 cups
1 small onion, finely chopped, about 3/4 cup
1 medium stalk celery, diced medium, about 1 cup
2 tbsp minced garlic, minced 
1/2 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup ruby port
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium beef broth
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary, plus more for garnish
3 sprigs thyme

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the porcini mushrooms and 1 cup of hot water in a small bowl. Place a paper towel over the surface of the liquid to keep the mushrooms submerged. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, generously season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven medium high heat until the oil ripples on the surface, and working in 2 batches, brown the short ribs on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. When done, transfer the browned short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the drippings from the pot. 
Add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook stirring until softened and barely beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring continually, until the tomato paste takes on a brownish hue and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.

Add the port and red wine to pan, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, drain the porcini mushrooms through a strainer to get rid of any grainy residue, then roughly chop and add them plus their liquid to the pot, along with chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme and browned short ribs.

Return to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook until completely tender, about 3 hours. Remove and discard bay leaves and thyme, and transfer the short ribs to a warm plate. Either remove the meat from the bones, and discard bones, or keep the short ribs bone-in. Turn off the oven and let the short ribs rest at least 15-30 minutes in their juices — I left them for 90 minutes — and then transfer the ribs to a foil lined baking sheet to brown in a preheated 275°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, skim the fat from the top of the sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced to a sauce-like, mildly thickened consistency, about 5 minutes, then remove some of the jammy braised porcini for garnish. Conversely, purée the sauce with a hand held immersion blender until smooth. Return the meat to the pan, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately over polenta or potato purée with steamed spinach and a little braising liquid around the plate. Garnish with fresh rosemary.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Homemade Rigatoni with Bolognese Ragu

Having received a very handsome Kitchen Aid Pasta Extruder for Christmas this year from my husband, we set out to try it out for our New Years Eve dinner. An extraordinary machine, the attachment comes with six attachment for making otherwise impossible shapes of pasta, including spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni, fusilli, large macaroni or small macaroni. Our first experiment was rigatoni. Using Pino Posterior's fabulous pasta recipe from his cookbook 'Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill: A Lifetime of Excellence in the Kitchen', we set out to make our first  batch of homemade rigatoni. It could not have been easier. The next step was preparing a delicious sauce to accompany our little golden wonders. My husband loves Mario Batali's classic Ragù Bolognese, one the most common recipes in the cucina of Emilia-Romagna. Mario learned the recipe in his cookbook 'Molto Mario' from Mara Giacometti, the chef at La Volta, who was born twenty-five minutes south of Bologna, and considers her Ragu to be "just perfect".

The walnut-size balls of dough are fed through the hopper of a Kitchen Aid Pasta Extruder

The built-in wire cutter customizes the length of the noodles

Perfect homemade rigatoni is made in minutes

Diced celery, carrot, onion and garlic

1-pound each of ground pork and veal

1/4-pound diced pancetta

The ragu simmering for 1-2 hours or more if you have the time

Rigatoni with Bolognese Ragu
Serves 4
Recipe adapted from Mario Batali and Pino Posteraro

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 carrot, finely, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 lb veal, ground
1 lb pork, ground
1/4 lb pancetta, finely diced
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
1 bunch fresh thyme, for garnish

1 lb Tipo '00' flour
5 whole large eggs
2 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil

On a clean dry surface, mound the flour and make a well in the centre. In a bowl beat the eggs, yolks, salt and olive oil, then pour the mixture into the well. Using a fork or your hands, slowly incorporate the flour into the egg mixture, and mix until the ingredients are well incorporated, then knead until the dough is smooth, about 4-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Roll the dough into small balls the size of a walnut. Using a Kitchenaid Pasta Press attachment with 6 interchangeable pasta plates, position the rigatoni plate and attach the press onto the power hub of any KitchenAid stand mixer. Feed the walnut size balls of dough through the hopper and use the built-in wire cutter to customize the length of the noodles. Have a large floured baking tray ready and place the rigatoni onto it to dry. Repeat the process for the remaining pasta dough, and allow to dry for at least an hour.

In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned. Add the tomato paste, milk, and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat.

When ready to use, the cooked pasta should be added to a saucepan with the appropriate amount of hot ragu Bolognese, and tosses so that the pasta is evenly coated by the ragu. Serve with a bowl of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a sprig or two of fresh thyme.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mercatto on Toronto Street: Our Local "Italian"

Warm and welcoming, even on the coldest winter days, Mercatto serves a little taste of Tuscany and a decent bottle of wine without breaking the bank. Not only do they serve simple authentic italian cuisine all day, every day, and with an extensive list of regional Italian wines, it's a winning combination that's pretty hard to beat. The interior is as modern, friendly and inviting as the menu. Polished dark wood floors and crisp white walls meet cozy sage banquettes, polished marble tables and a long communal dining table of reclaimed wood sits front and centre, perfect for larger groups. Floor to ceiling slate chalkboards celebrate featured Italian wines and daily seasonal specials are heralded on an large board that hangs above the open kitchen. For more intimate dining, a private dining nook with a large reclaimed wood table is nestled off to the side, surrounded by an inviting wall of wine and crowned with a whimsical rustic twig chandelier, it's an ideal spot to celebrate life with close friends or enjoy a quiet dinner with a loved one. It's our local "Italian", and it's always great.

Mercatto's modern interior with blue dish towel style napkins and marble topped tables

Mercatto uses eco-friendly Q-water which cuts back on the waste produced by unnecessary bottles

Italian Gavi from Piedmont

Tuscan Sangiovese from Montecucco

Misticanza Salad with mixed lettuces, celery hearts, radish and aged sherry vinaigrette

Roasted beets, burrata, arugula, almonds and aged balsamic

Orecchiette Pugliese with fennel sausage, rapini, peperoncini and grana padano

Chitarra alla Carbonara with pancetta, black pepper, egg and pecorino

Monday, January 9, 2017

PF Chang's China Bistro in Sarasota: Asian Fusion

With over 230 restaurants around the world, P.F. Chang's is the largest full service, casual dining Chinese restaurant chain in the United States. Founded in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993 by Paul Fleming, the restaurants serve American Chinese cuisine from a menu originally conceived and planned by chef Philip Chiang. Interestingly, P. F. Chang's is the namesake of Paul Fleming (P.F.) and Philip Chiang, whose surname was simplified to Chang. Born in Shanghai, Chiang grew up in Tokyo before relocating to San Francisco. In the early 1960s, his legendary mother Cecilia Chiang, opened The Mandarin, one of the first restaurants in the U.S. to serve Chinese food from regions other than Canton. After graduating with a B.F.A. from the Art Centre College of Design in Los Angeles, Chiang ran The Mandarin for several years before opening an off-shoot concept called The Mandarette in West Hollywood. As a smaller, less expensive café, the restaurant served "grazing food" which became an immediate hit and attracted the attention of restaurateur Paul Fleming.

After successfully opening Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Beverly Hills, Fleming was looking for a new opportunity, and in 1992, Chiang agreed to consult on a Chinese restaurant in Arizona where Fleming had recently relocated. One year later, the first P.F. Chang’s China Bistro opened and quickly turned into an Asian food phenomenon. In his current role, Chiang acts as a culinary consultant and also oversees new dish development and is responsible for the current menu. The new P.F. Chang’s in downtown Sarasota is enormous, with a menu that starts with a selection of pan-Asian hits, from dumplings and wontons, to spring rolls and Chang's popular chicken lettuce wraps. There’s also a variety of noodle dishes, chicken, beef, seafood and fish creations, with vegetarian and gluten-free options for those with specific diets. Although P.F. Chang's does appeal to a distinct demographic with a menu that is aimed at those who are not true connoisseurs of authentic Chinese cuisine, but who are game for something different without being overly adventurous, the food is chef-driven and made from scratch every day — "from farm to wok". The dim sum rollers are among the first to arrive. They roll, fold, and stuff egg rolls, dumplings, and wontons by hand, and they are undeniably delicious. With restaurants scattered over the globe, Mr. Chang is obviously doing something right.

Co-founder of P.F. Chang’s, Philip Chiang, learned from his mother, James Beard award winner Cecilia Chiang who is founder of the Mandarin Restaurant in San Francisco

Modern interior of the new P.F Chang's in Sarasota

Server at P.F Chang's

Cecilia's Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

Hand-Folded Crab Wontons with spicy plum sauce

Steamed Pork Dumplings drizzled with a light chili sauce

Flaming Wontons in a spicy garlic and sesame soy sauce garnished with scallions

Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps 

Long Life Noodles & Prawns with roasted chili peppers, chopped black beans

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, Asian mushrooms, chopped black beans, peas, egg and green onion

Wok’d Spinach with Garlic

Singapore Firecracker Chicken with Black pepper garlic sauce, fresno peppers and onion