Ahhh! Dining out on Valentines Day, one of the busiest restaurant nights of the year. You have to book your reservations weeks in advance, and depending upon how popular the restaurant is, sometimes service is off. . .
Not for your SarasotaFoodies, who enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at the highly acclaimed Maison Blanche.
After taking me out for Valentine’s dinner in years past, this year I decided to treat Mart, and I couldn’t have picked a better place than Maison Blanche. With its dramatic decor, impeccable service and unimaginably delicious food from the kitchen of Michelin Star award winner and James Beard Award nominee Chef Jose Martinez, I knew Maison Blanche was the place to really spoil a loved one.
After being seated right away, we were introduced to our server, Jerome, and selected to start the evening with a bottle of Puligny Montrachet Boucha, a delightful white wine that paired perfectly with our dinner menu. Settling in with our wine, we were presented with two hot and fresh from the oven, miniature loaves of french bread that set the stage for a wonderful meal. We both tore into the warm, crunchy crust and slathered on the fresh butter. . . ignoring any concern about diets and such.
Next up was the first delight of the evening, Chef Martinez’ Green Asparagus Soup. Warm and creamy, with little hearts painted on the surface with beet juice, we knew we were in for a epicurean feast once we had our first spoonful of the soup.
Like so many other restaurants, dinner on Valentines at Maison Blanche was a special prix fixe menu. After perusing the menu d’aujourd’hui, we were intrigued on how these various tastes would go together. Having just enjoyed the Asparagus Soup, I was curious how crawfish and baby spinach in a coconut and curry sauce with micro greens on top would follow the tastes of the soup. However, once we dived in, we both agreed that the James Beard Foundation and those who awarded the Michelin Star to Chef Martinez knew more about his talents at flavor combinations than we did. I was happy that the crawfish had been shelled and the sauce had worked itself into all the nooks and crannies of the shell fish. This appetizer almost defied desciption of how truly wonderful it was!
The next course featured one of my very favorite tasting fish, Chilean Sea Bass. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed true Chilean Sea Bass because at one time they were being over fished, and so restaurants started pulling the entree off their menu. But now, we can find it again in limited quantity at notable restaurants like Maison Blanche, who give the Chilean Sea Bass the respect that it deserves. Roasted so that the exterior is slightly browned, while the meat is still moist and succulent, the Chef’s chose to top the Sea Bass with a meunière sauce of brown butter, chopped parsley and lemon, a rustic taste that complements this delicate white fish. Mix in a few capers, onions and cherry tomatoes in the sauce, and you have a heaven-sent combination. Add a side of ratatouille and I’m in love.
After serving us three artfully plated dishes, the next course took me back to the love-filled meals mom used to make while I was growing up. Visually, this plate appeared “plain Jane”. But one bite, and I was reminded — never judge a book by its cover. There’s a reason Chef Martinez chose chicken for the menu instead of duck, veal, pork or red meat. Each course complemented the next, and having the impossibly moist, with a ribbon of crispy skin, chicken breast follow the flavors of the Sea Bass was ideal. And the mashed potatoes were as silky smooth as any I’ve ever had. Definitely not your mom’s mashed potatoes. Plated with a dreany mushroom suace, this plate, once we were done, was returned to the kitchen wiped clean by both of us.
And what dinner, especially Valentine’s dinner, would be complete without something sweet for your sweetheart? Maison Blanche is known for their artful desserts, and on this night it was exceptionally inspired.
Arriving just as we finished our wine, was a fresh and beautiful Raspberry Napoleon, featuring fresh raspberries and vanilla cream topping layers of a flaky pastry with a sugar crust. On the side of each place were more painted hearts, these a mango and raspberry coulis. Mart and I decided to finish our final course with a dessert wine, opting for a glass of Sauternes, with Mart following that with a cup of coffee that he said was perfectly balanced that he didn’t want to add cream, as he normally would.
After the Napoleon, at which point we were sated and happy as could be with our meals, Jerome arrived at our table with a sequel to our dessert!
How does two servings of mango custard topped with a blueberry coulis, and plated alongside a coffee marshmallow, and a bite of house-made chocolate caramel sound?
Exactly! We thought so too.
Now, normally when enjoying a coursed feast such as this, there’s a tendency to have a “favorite” dish. On this occasion, with the courses so seamlessly served, and with the rainbow of flavors, I can only describe the experience like that of a music “concept” album.
Only this is one album that we won’t hear the end of, as it will linger on forever in our memories.