Friday, April 24, 2015

Promises fulfilled at The Maritana Grille at the Don CeSar

I recently fulfilled a promise to my late husband, to follow through with a special dinner our daughters' 24th birthday.  It had to be a special meal because we were trying to top a cruise for her 21st, (yes, we are those parents; the back story of our life does not equal spoiled girl, by any means). The restaurant of choice was where my love proposed to me 31 years ago, not with ring but the promise of a Persian kitten.  (Okay, I'm a bit goofy).  So we went to the Maritana Grille at the Don CeSar.  We also stayed at a suite on our honeymoon at the pink palace.  His surprise to me.

Maritana Grille on Urbanspoon

The food was beyond delicious. Jeff, our server, was knowledgeable in food and wine. Service was perfect white linen service, with fresh flatware per course, chilled when necessary.  (Personal peeve, not getting fresh flatware and being chastised by the server, you need to keep it).  I was furnished a black napkin for my dark dress to prevent any white pilling,  Thank you.  There are aquariums lining the walls, not the touristy Rum Fish size, but just big enough to provide entertainment without being overwhelming. The albino unicorn fish is cool. 

The daughter and I each had a cocktail. a dirty martini for her and a blonde Cosmo for me. We were served an amuse bouche, a jellied cucumber melon caviar with tiny microflowers.

She ordered the crab bisque. "You can't eat this soup standing up; your knees will buckle." nee Seinfeld.   Jeff gave us a detailed description of how the corn stock was infused with crab shells to provide the perfect briny touch to the reduced stock that thickened the bisque without cream.  The bowl had crab, corn and chorizo that were a perfect marriage with the rich stock.  She swooned.  Jeff had a service trick that tickled her funny bone.  Maritana, match point for clever service; her look was priceless, thank you.

I had the super fresh Wahoo crudo with crab, micro green salad and avocado mousse. It was sublime. The wahoo was torched slightly with a citrus soy glaze before assembly. Four types of bread (olive, baguette, sweet buns and pumpernickle) were offered with two flavored butter squares, one herbal and one with Parmesan.

We split a Caesar salad which was a completely unnecessary course.  It was a tasty rendition but with the spectacular overload of what we were tasting, the Caesar was superfluous.  Although this notyourmomma would eat three of the Parmesan fricos in 10 seconds if challenged.

My budding gourmand ordered the rack of lamb, medium rare, with gnocchi, sauteed mushrooms and a sherry demi-glace of lamb stock. She was astonished on how good the lamb tasted. (Perhaps, because I've only made lamb shanks from the Old Country and daddy only ate lamb rare doused in mint jelly, neither a favorite for her)  This lamb was a definite knocked out of the park entree.  The depth of subtle flavors were mesmerizing.

I had the Lobster pappardelle with melted brie, leeks asparagus and shaved black truffle. It was so rich, redolent of earthy truffle, a sauce seasoned deeply with ocean goodness, fresh spring vegetables and a tender noodle. It was served in a deep bowl and every single bite spoke volumes.
You would think we would throw in the towel at that point. But no, we soldiered on. We each ordered an espresso, took a deep breath and ordered Chocolate Sin and the Reveal. My daughter had a "When Harry met Sally" moment over the huge white chocolate egg that when a hot chocolate sauce was poured over, petals opened to reveal a ethereal peanut butter mousse and a crackle toffee peanut blondie.
I had a deliriously delicious chocolate truffle with a salted caramel ice cream, a tuile and a chocolate frico. It was sinful as advertised.
 We shared a lovely bottle of red from New Zealand, a red blend, "Craggy Range" ($65,00).  Jeff topped us off with a couple of raspberry truffles candies,   The coup de grace were our snifters of Grand Marnier for me and Amaretto for the girl. This was not a cheap or even moderate dining experience but it was a necessary healing bonding meal between mother and daughter.
I'm happy I was able to give the child a special meal from her dear daddy. It was a one of a kind of meal.  Our meal and tip came to $370.00 dollars.  Meal, beverage, tax was $295.00.  As a former server and the daughter as a current server, we tip according to the service provided; Jeff was worth it. 
Maritana Grille on Urbanspoon

First genuine smile from my baby girl in months  We have decided that we can hit the Maritana Grille for the crab corn  bisque, bowl for each, share a cheese plate and get TWO Reveal desserts with a bottle of sparkling wine and celebrate life. The life we remember, the life we live and the life ahead.  Rest in Peace, my beloved.  Always in our heart and a promise fulfilled.  Promises kept.  I love you Fred, always and forever.

In a former life time I was known as "Tina, the Tourguide."  Maybe I gained my nickname because of my penchant for telling 'people where to go' or maybe not.   My former employ as a resort front desk manager allowed me to indulge in tasting, trying and then recommending restaurants for our diverse base of guests. It was the favorite part of my job....investigating what was new, what was popular and what would be a good fit for the diner.  I was not compensated then or now for my dining choices, it is purely my personal opinion on finding the best tasting restaurants, value or splurge, family or intimate, to recommend to either guests or friends.  That being said, I do have a personal bias to the old St. Pete establishments as a life long resident of the city I love.  I am drawn to visit and review the places that have been re-vitalized into something new from my recollections.