Birthdays. Thanksgiving. Christmas. These are some of the yearly milestones that are eagerly time-stamped into our lives.
For Foodies in Florida, I would humbly submit that Stone Crab Season is deserving of such recognition.
October 15th marks the beginning of our annual celebration of arguably the sweetest, tenderest, most succulent treat the coastal waters have to offer. Stone Crabs!!!! (Stone crabs are always followed by !!!!!) The best part is that we can celebrate through May 15th of next year with this sustainably delectable treat. And for those who don’t know anything about Stone Crabs(!!!!), the crab is not sacrificed during this seasonal harvest. The larger claw of a Stone Crab(!!!!) is removed and the crustacean will regrow the claw within a short time. So Woot! Woot! for Stone Crabs(!!!!)
We were invited and enthusiastically responded in the affirmative, to taste some of this year’s early harvest, as well as the always inventive fare of fruits de mer from Chef Pedro Flores of the Phillippi Creek Restaurant & Oyster (and Stone Crab) Bar. You may know Chef Pedro from The Table Creekside . . . he’s brought his talents, and Chef Rafael, over to their sister restaurant when the parking situation no longer worked for both restaurants. Suffice it to say, we were thrilled he’s still here!
It genuinely felt like a “class reunion” with all our collaborative foodie friends enjoying the restaurant’s outside/dockside seating this evening. It truly felt like we were all on vacation together as we animatedly chatted about our recent experiences and simply enjoying each other’s company. It had been too long!
Our delicious odyssey began with a house-infused Hibiscus and Ginger Rum Punch that had that sweetness you expect with a rum punch enhanced by the unmistakable spicy bite of ginger. Simply a great little palate primer.
Our first sharing course was a Grouper Spread, enhanced with crème fraîche and topped with a briny tobiko, served atop crispy tostones, (a.k.a. fried plantain crisps.) The crisp, creamy, rich seafood kaleidoscope of flavors almost disappeared before the sound of the plate hitting the table. Sooo good!
Before the Stone Crab(!!!!) made its grand entrance as the featured star of the evening, I was caught up in a seafood rapture with the Grilled Squid and Octopus dish with chorizo/potato/chick pea hash and banana pepper mignonette. I was unabashedly licking the plate on this dish. That hash was unique and flavorful . . . Wow!
Seriously, where do you go after this perfect composition? So far, this was a blue ribbon winner for me. The tender char, spice of the chorizo, and the acidic balance of the mignonette was absolutely swoon-worthy! If you can’t tell yet, I’m still swooning!
But wait! There’s more! Before the curtain-raising on 2018’s Stone Crab(!!!!) came the Alaskan King Crab Scampi with chorizo. This is the kind of thing that Chef Pedro specializes in. A riff on traditional scampi, with no discernable butter and garlic overtones, just delicate crab standing out against the back-drop of spicy and tomato-y accompaniments. Wonderful!
Knowing full well that Chef puts his own spin on any myriad of tastes, textures, and technique, I was curious to see how he might treat the already (IMHO) perfect comestible stone crab. Obviously, he respected the same, and it was presented with the simplicity it deserved, chilled in this case, but with a lovely house-made key lime mustard sauce for some added oomph. Don’t ever change Chef – you rock!
I’d be a happy camper at this point, but we weren’t nearly done!
Next up was a serving of a seafood trio of grouper fillet, lump crab, and sautéed shrimp scampi, with a side of creamy twice baked potato and grilled asparagus. What’s wrong with this picture? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Can we have a seafood trio season, please?
Jill was completely blown away by the next dish. This was a coconut crusted lobster fillet, with a smoked Gouda mac ‘n’ cheese, and a 1000 Island remoulade dipping sauce. Sounds simple enough, right? The sum is definitely greater than the parts on this. I had to agree with Jill, this was a crowd favorite ( but I’m still going with the grilled squid/octopus dish. And the stone crab. And the AKC scampi. And . . .)
Knowing that this was a marathon, and not a sprint, dueling forks at the table notwithstanding, our final taste was of a sublime lobster linguine, with a lobster cream reduction, and garlic bread. Anyone that objects to this dish cannot be my friend. Tender lobster, a luscious cream sauce, and some savory bread would win the day ordinarily if we hadn’t been incredibly feted on such a delightful evening.
Rest assured, exceptional is the norm at Phillippi Creek Restaurant & Oyster Bar. Just say yes to seafood! And welcome back Stone Crab Season!!!!