Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beach Bistro - An Encore Performance


Beach Bistro's Grilled Snapper with Tropical Risotto and Sauce Aurora



Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island, overlooking gorgeous Holmes Beach, is my absolute favourite restaurant on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I waxed on about Sean Murphy and his commitment to food excellence on scrumpdillyicious earlier this week, so much so that I felt inspired to return for a second evening. This time I booked a table in the smaller Bistro Bar, aptly named — Murphy's — a cosy room with a warm clubby atmosphere. Expanded in 2006 to accommodate additional tables, the Bistro Bar also introduced a more casual menu featuring 'small plates' — a lighter dining alternative to many of the classic items on the Beach Bistro main menu, with selections such as the "World's Best Burger", "The Real Grouper Sandwich" and the acclaimed "Bistro Slider", a 'double-decker of seared prime tenderloin and Hudson Valley foie gras, thumped with creamy béarnaise and demi-glace'. 


Beach Bistro Real Grouper Sandwich


As I arrived at the restaurant, who was there, chatting with guests, but Sean Murphy himself. As I approached him, I greeted him by name, having met him a number of times with my parents. I said, "You probably don't remember me but...", and he didn't miss a beat. "Of course I do! What are you drinking?" When I answered, "Pinot Grigio", he answered, "No you're not. Italians don't even drink it. Try a Sauvignon Blanc." When I mentioned that I didn't particularly care for Sauvignon Blanc, he said, "This one you will. It's my favourite wine." With that, he disappeared and as I was seated, he brought a bottle of Sonoma Coast Hummingbird Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2006, placed it on my table and proceeded to uncork it. Pouring two glasses, he handed me one glass and he the other. We raised our glasses to one another, clinked, and then he was off, leaving the bottle on my table to enjoy! I was overwhelmed. And pleasantly surprised — it was excellent.


Sonoma Coast Hummingbird Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2006 


Still smiling, I looked over the menu while enjoying my lovely glass of wine, just as the evening's amuse-bouche arrived — a small spoon, nestled on a rose petal, of Willie Krauch’s Smoked Salmon with crème fraîche, capers, red onion and a whisper of lemon. Delicate and smoky, the small taste was nicely balanced by the velvety creaminess of the crème fraîche — the rose petal, testament to Beach Bistro's attention to the smallest of details.


The Amuse-Bouche for the evening


Smitten with the Bistro Blue Tomato Seasoned Parrish Plum Tomato Soup with Sweet Cream and Maytag Blue cheese, that I enjoyed as an amuse-bouche earlier in the week, I knew I needed to order a full portion tonight. It was divine. Full flavoured with an intensely aromatic tomato base, the Maytag blue cheese was the perfect foil to the rich creaminess of the soup. No wonder it's called "One Helluva Soup" in the menu. And for an extra few dollars, patrons can "Goose" it up with a half shot of Grey Goose Vodka.


One Helluva Soup — Bistro Blue Tomato Seasoned Parrish Plum Tomato Soup 
with Sweet Cream and Maytag Blue cheese


Fresh Snapper Filet with a Tropical Risotto and Aurora Sauce, was offered as a special addition to the menu. It sounded too good to miss. Perfectly cooked, the Snapper was nestled on a small mound of risotto, subtly accented with a hint of coconut, and dotted with a small dice of pineapple, red pepper and green onion. The sweetness of the pineapple and coconut added a light and fresh counterpoint to the wonderful richness of the risotto. Under the snapper and the risotto was a light brushing of Aurora Sauce — a bouillabaisse-based sauce spiked with cream. A little bit salty, the sauce provided a lovely backdrop to the dish. And my Sauvignon Blanc was marrying well with each of my dinner choices. Goodbye Pinot Grigio, hello Sauvignon Blanc. 




Just as I was leaving, with my camera hidden in my handbag, I gave Sean a wave to say 'Thank you' — he was busy with a full house, as always. But before I could leave, he came over, thanked me for coming and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Sean’s ambition has been the same throughout the Bistro’s twenty-three year history — to provide patrons with one of the best dining experiences that they've have ever had. Mission accomplished.