Friday, January 6, 2017

The Don César: The Pink Palace of St. Petersburg

Built at the height of the Gatsby Era in 1928, Florida’s “Pink Palace” has a long and acclaimed history. Exquisitely located on the white sands of St. Pete Beach, this iconic 1920s resort became a favourite among the rich and famous of the Jazz Age including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Al Capone, Babe Ruth and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Thomas Rowe purchased 80 acres of land in St. Pete's for $100,000 to begin his dream of building a "pink castle" and hired Indianapolis architect Henry Dupont to design the hotel and Carlton Beard as the contractor. The architecture is a blend of Mediterranean and Moorish styles modeled after hotels and developments that Rowe and Beard saw in Palm Beach, Coral Gables and Boca Raton, including arched openings, red clay tile roofs, balconies, stucco over hollow tile and tower like upper stories. Named after Don César de Bazan, the hero of William Wallace's opera 'Mariana', the hotel is a member of the esteemed Historic Hotels of America, and features refined New American cuisine in the elegant Four Diamond Mariana Grille, the Don César and also more casual Caribbean and Mediterranean dining in the relaxed beachfront Sea Porch and Rowe Bar overlooking the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico and sugar white sands of beautiful St. Pete Beach.

Exterior of the Don Cesar with the pool and waterside Sea Porch & Rowe Bar

Cool cocktails and coastal cuisine at The Rowe Bar

Sea Porch Chef de Cuisine Jose Cuarta III


Iced Tea

Yeungling Beer

Gulf Fish Tacos

Golden frites

Fish & Chips with homemade tartar sauce

Mahi Mahi Reuben Sandwich

The lounge area of the Rowe Bar for watching sunsets on St Pete's Beach

Sous Vide Escolar with Salsify Purée, Marble Potato, Tomato & Fennel
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Kenny Hunsberger

Salsify Purée:
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 salsify roots, peeled and diced, stored in water with juice of 1 lemon
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 potato, peeled and diced, stored in water with juice of1 lemon
1 bunch fresh thyme

Sous Vide Escolar:

2 fillets escolar, cut into 6-ounce, 1-inch-thick portions
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh tarragon


2 cups marble potatoes, blanched and halved
2 cups heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 cup shaved fennel, lightly blanched
Shaved white truffles, optional

For the salsify purée, combine the cream, wine, salt, pepper, salsify, onions and potatoes in a saucepot. Wrap the thyme tightly in cheesecloth and add. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture is reduced by one-third and the vegetables are tender, 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Carefully remove the thyme pouch and discard. Puree the mixture until smooth using an immersion blender. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper, if needed.

If using a sous vide, heat the water to 140°F. Drizzle each portion of fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each piece with 3 to 4 fresh tarragon leaves and place the fish into individual bags and vacuum seal. Cook the escolar pouches for 18 to 20 minutes, then remove from the bags and pat dry. Sauté the fish in olive oil over high heat just long enough to lightly brown the outside.

If not using a sous vide, sauté the fish in some olive oil over medium heat, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

For the vegetables, sauté the blanched potatoes until golden brown in a separate pan. Add the tomatoes and fennel and continue to sauté until the tomatoes are warmed through but not cooked.

To assemble, place a small pool of salsify purée in the centre of each plate. Spoon a small pile of the vegetable mixture into the centre of the purée, and rest the escolar atop the vegetables. Top with shaved truffles if desired.

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