To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the James Beard Foundation, the New York based culinary organization has established the James Beard Foundation Silver Anniversary Scholarship Drive. Restaurants around the country are offering special selections on their menus through September 3, 2012 and will donate one dollar from the sale of each of the special items to the scholarship fund. Scott is sampling the dishes from all of the local participating restaurants:K restaurant, Cress, Spanish River Grill, Taverna Opa, 4Rivers Smokehouse, Mi Tomatina and the Rusty Spoon. In this issue: Cress
Next up in the roster of great area restaurants participating in the James Beard Foundation Silver Anniversary Scholarship Drive is Cress. And speaking of drives, Cress, in downtown Deland, is a bit of a distance from downtown Orlando. But this is a wonderful restaurant, one that anyone who loves good food should visit.
Chef Hari Pulapaka, who, along with his wife, Jenneffer, owns Cress, has a creative touch, but he bases all of his dishes on classic culinary principles.
That’s evident in his two Beard dishes. One is the Cress seafood sampler of fresh black fin grouper, jumbo lump crab cake served with sauce remoulade, jumbo shrimp, with a sauce creole, and grits with bits of andouille sausage, mushrooms and thyme. The fish sat on al dente sauteed squash, and everything was topped with freshly made potato chips. Although the dish was comprised mainly of seafood, each component had a distinct flavor, and all of the tastes and textures played very nicely together.
I especially liked the crab cake for the buttery notes in the crisp crust that held the lump meat together. And the firm texture of the black fin grouper was very pleasant.
The other dish offered in the promotion is a breast of Grimaud Farms duck, served with an orange sauce and a dollop of blackberry sauce tinged with a bit of habanero for just a spark of spice. It was accompanied by roasted seasonal vegetables and pommes puree. The potatoes had a terrific bit of saltiness. The duck was served medium-rare and it had a delightful gaminess. And I loved the sprig of flash-fried sage with its delicate and fleeting texture.
Pulapaka used recipes from “James Beard’s American Cookery” cookbook, and even gives page numbers on the menu for those who would like to look them up.
I was also lucky enough to be treated to an amuse bouche of egg salad made with Lake Meadow Farms eggs, served on a crostini with flash-fried basil. Can’t remember when I’ve had egg salad that yummy.
Cress occupies what was likely an old storefront. There is a small bar off to one side, and the dining room is furnished with tables covered with black cloths and large, comfortably padded leather chairs. Light fixtures overhead that look as though they might adorn the head of Medusa give a bit of a modern touch. Light jass plays in the background.
Once you’ve been to Cress, it’s easy to see why others include it on the list of the area’s best restaurants -- and why Pulapaka was a semifinalist for a Beard Award. And once you know how good the food is, the drive doesn’t seem nearly as long.
Cress is at 103 W. Indiana Ave., Deland. It is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. This is a link to cressrestaurant.com. The phone number is 386-734-3740.