Marchand’s Debuts Farm-to-Fork Menu
Located inside the gorgeous Renaissance Vinoy in downtown St. Petersburg, Marchand’s Bar & Grill is a restaurant that has captivated my taste buds since my first visit almost two years ago. I have been longing to return, and had the opportunity this past week.
I was invited to an intimate dinner for bloggers to be some of the first to taste their new Farm to Fork menu which showcases seasonal dishes made with the freshest produce, naturally raised meats and fish produced from local farms. You didn’t have to twist my arm, as nothing is better than dining with fellow food lovers in a gorgeous establishment.
The Renaissance Vinoy was built in 1925 by Aymer Vinoy Laughner. During its heyday, it was a popular spot for celebrities such as Babe Ruth, James Stewart and Herbert Hoover. During World War II, the hotel was taken over by the U.S. Army and used as a training school. After the war, the hotel was sold to Charles Alberding and continued to prosper until 1974 when it closed and became a haven for vagrants. In the early 1990′s, it was purchased in a partnership between Vinoy Development Corporation and Renaissance Hotels and Resorts. After a $93 million renovation, the Vinoy reopened as a replica of its self in the late 1920′s. I love the history of this hotel, as it reminds me of the Hotel De Anza, which is a boutique hotel located in my hometown of San Jose, CA. Much like the Vinoy, the Hotel De Anza was a prominent hotel in the 1930′s and by the 1970′s had become rundown and nearly demolished. After renovation in the early 1990′s, the De Anza was restored as almost a mirror image of its former self and remains one of the best hotels in downtown San Jose. I spent my last six years in California working as a bartender in the swank Hedley Club Lounge at the De Anza and to this day, it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of my life. Although the Vinoy is much larger, the two hotels have many of the same characteristics and similar decor.
As we all gathered in the cozy lobby of the Vinoy, we were greeted with Florida Orange Mojitos served in mason jars. This was the perfect cocktail to begin our evening as it truly reflects retro Florida charm. Refreshing and light, I actually had two of these before dinner.
Florida Orange Mojito
After a brief tour of the ballroom, we headed into Marchand’s for dinner. I had been reading up on the local farms that would be featured in our dinner:
We started off with a savory duo of Mangalitsa “Croque Madame” (with Georgia Red, Fried Quail Egg) and a Silk Onion Soup Shooter. Served on a butcher block, it was a delicious way to begin our six-course meal. Deriving from a “croque-monsieur” (grilled ham and cheese sandwich originating from French cafès) a “croque madame” is a croque-monsieur served with a poached or fried egg on top. “Mangalista” is a curly-hair hog descended directly from wild boar populations. Thus, our ham came from Pasture Prime Family Farm in Summerfield, Florida. This was my first time tasting Georgia Red Cheese which is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a creamy, earthy flavor. The Silk Onion Shooter (made with Florida sweet onions) was just divine. Together, these two were the perfect pair. With this, we enjoyed a glass of Acrobat Pinot Noir.
Mangalitsa “Croque Madame” Georgia Red, Fried Quail Egg, Silk Onion Soup Shooter
I simply could not get enough of the Croque Madame. The ham and cheese melted together in perfect harmony on the toasted brioche and as I bit into it, the yolk from the egg blended with the ham and cheese and yielded pure yumminess. This would make a fantastic brunch item.
Our second course was Golden Tilefish with Romanesco Cauliflower, Sunchoke Hush Puppies and Rock Shrimp Nage. I discovered tilefish when I first moved to Tampa while working at Bonefish Grill. Love at first bite, this fish won me over with its delicate texture and flavor similar to lobster. Our dish tonight was elegantly prepared with some items that were new to me, such as romanesco cauliflower (Worden Farm) which is a visually striking Italian vegetable. Almost a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, it yields a nuttier taste. Sunchoke was the other item I was unfamiliar with and it is also known as Jerusalem artichoke. Similar to a potato, it has a slightly sweeter taste and I really enjoyed it in the form of a hush puppy. Nestled underneath the tilefish were a few rockfish which were caught off the coast of Florida. This course was paired with Hahn SLH Estate Chardonnay.
Golden Tile, Romanesco Cauliflower, Sunchoke Hush Puppies, Rock Shrimp Nage
Our third course was another favorite…..Pork Cheek with Murcott Tangerine BBQ, Fried Mac & Cheese and Smoked Bacon Collard Greens. As of lately, I have been obsessed with Southern cooking and this was an excellent combination of some of my favorite flavors. The gorgeous pork cheek rested atop a glorious ball of fried mac & cheese and as I dug into the fried piece of heaven, the smoked bacon collar greens (Hunsader Farm) were snuggled underneath. The plate was drizzled with a tangy tangerine BBQ sauce and I enjoyed dipping a fork full of everything into the succulent sauce. This would end up being my favorite course of the night and it was paired with Trivento Amado Sur, a Malbec Blend. This wine was fantastic!
Pork Cheek, Murcott Tangerine BBQ, Fried Mac & Cheese, Smoked Bacon Collard Greens
I was thoroughly impressed with everything so far and ready for the next course, which was Key West Yellow Tail Snapper atop a Chorizo Black Bean Cake with Warm Yellow Tomato Vinaigrette. This was a nice contrast of flavors, as I found the yellow tail to be mild and the chorizo black bean cake a tad spicy. The tomato vinaigrette beautifully blended the two flavors. This was served with the Trivento Amado Sur, Torrontes, which is a unique blend of Chardonnay and Viognier and perfect pair with seafood.
Key West Yellow Tail Snapper, Chorizo Black Bean Cake, Warm Yellow Tomato Vinaigrette
We had one course left before dessert which was Braised Rabbit (Seelys Ark), Savoy Cabbage and Gold Creamer Potato Puree with a Pinot Noir Reduction. While rabbit is often gamey, I found this to be mild and with a hint of sweetness. I LOVED the potato puree (Jones Potato Farm) and the savoy cabbage. Paired with Four Vines Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel, this was a great way to end our tasting before dessert.
Braised Rabbit, Savoy Cabbage, Gold Creamer Potato Puree, Pinot Noir Reduction
For the grand finale, we enjoyed a dessert trio of S’mores Hazelnut Ganache torte, Caramel Oatmeal Pie and Tiramisu. Since it was my birthday eve, they brought my dessert out with candles. The trio was fantastic and it was paired with what would be my favorite wine of the night, Santa Margarita Brut Rose. Hands down, this was the best birthday dinner I have had in years.
Dessert Trio S'mores Hazelnut Ganache Torte, Caramel Oatmeal Pie, Tiramisu
I would like to thank Executive Chef Mark Heimann and the staff of both Marchand’s and the Vinoy. Service was impeccable and I had a fabulous time. I am anxious to go back and explore more of this gorgeous establishment.[?]