Monday, April 13, 2015

Beach Bistro: Superb Gulf Coast Cuisine

For 28 years, Sean Murphy has owned one of the best restaurants in Florida — Beach Bistro. Tucked away in a quaint old hotel overlooking the sandy beach of Anna Maria Island, it's won just about every award available, having been voted one of the 'Top Restaurants in America' by Zagat, and the 'Top Restaurant in Florida', its wine list also regularly receives the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for “one of the best wine lists in the world.” What more is there to say? Every time I'm in Longboat Key, making a culinary pilgrimage to Beach Bistro is always one of the highlights of my trip. Sean’s ambition has been the same throughout the Bistro’s history — to provide his guests with one of the best dining experiences that 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. 

Amuse-Bouche of 'Helluva' Tomato Soup and grilled focaccia with pesto, tapenade and roasted peppers

Chris, the sommelier at Beach Bistro

Beach Bistro menu

Water is artfully served with sprig of rosemary and lemon

Cesaer Salad with extra "fishies"

Seared diver scallops in our famous Bouillabaisse broth. Finished with sweet cream and curry

Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon by Willie Krauch’s smokehouse in Tangier, Nova Scotia, on parade with capers, domestic caviars and Key lime crème fraiche

Smoked Salmon "Rose" with creme fraiche and caviar

Beach Bistro's signature Bouillabaise

The Bouillabaise is served with rouille and crisp toasts

Braised Duckling Confit garnished with roasted fruit kissed with island honey, and pepper cream sauces

Thai Bouillabaise

The Famous Beach Bistro Bouillabaisse
Serves 6-8
Courtesy of Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 leek, white parts only, finely chopped
2 tbsp shrimp or crab base
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp fennel seed
2 cups white wine
¼ cup pernod
1 quart seafood stock (can substitute clam juice)
2 cups tomato juice
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 dash Tabasco
3 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 pinch of saffron
3 pounds firm-fleshed fish — ask your fishmonger to make a recommendation
14-18 jumbo shrimp
2 lobster tails
2 dozen mussels, bearded and cleaned
2 dozen littleneck or sweet clams, well cleaned
8 ounces cleaned, sliced calamari tubes and tentacles

Heat a heavy bottom stockpot over high heat. Add the oil and garlic. Sauté the garlic for 5 minutes and then add the onion, leek, and celery. Stir the vegetables well to prevent burning and allow to cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until translucent. Next add the shrimp or crab base, dried herbs, white wine, and Pernod, bring to a simmer and allow to reduce for 5 minutes. Add seafood stock (can substitute clam juice), tomato juice, tomato puree, Tabasco, tomatoes, and saffron and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add all the seafood and cook for 6 minutes, or until the shells have opened. Discard any shells that do not open. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with a dollop of aioli and toasted French bread. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.