For our first Supper Club of 2019, the chefs of Big Fin Seafood Kitchen at the Dellagio Town Center created a feast that delighted our intimate group with each course.
Executive chef James Slattery traded in his whites for a suit and served as front-of-the-house host for our gathering. (He’s learning some managerial ropes because his restaurant group has acquired Arrabellas restaurant in Winter Haven, and he’s letting his associate chefs — Darlene Christeleit, Brie Austin and Paulo Santos — shine.)
We started with an amuse bouche of a Trio of Ceviche: Florida grouper, rock shrimp and conch. Each was served in a tostones cup, so it was easy to pick up and eat the whole thing, which we all did eagerly. It was more than a one-bite morsel one expects in an amuse bouche, but no one was complaining. An amuse bouche is rarely paired with a wine, either, but this one came with Cooper & Thief Sauvignon Blanc, which was aged in tequila barrels (after the tequila was removed). The citrusy notes played well with the ceviches.
For the official first course, we were all presented corks with stickpins. They are the appropriate tool for extracting the Periwinkles from their tiny shells. The tiny whelks were presented in a bowl into which the servers poured a smoky tomato broth. It was accompanied by a Charred Toast Plank with micro fennel salad that was delicious on its own but even better when soaked in the broth. Some Supper Clubbers proved more adept at coaxing the winkles from their shells than others, but everyone had fun trying.
The peris were paired with a Beringer Bros. Chardonnay, 20 percent of which had been aged in bourbon barrels (are you beginning to see a theme in the wines?). The rest was aged in steel with malolactic fermentation, which gave the wine — purposely served unchilled — a buttery note.
Next came a surprise course of Pear and Four Cheese Fiocchi. The little purses held grana padano, ricotta, robiola and taleggio cheeses and were served with a tangy gorgonzola sauce. It was unbilled on the menu but a favorite of many that night. (And quite possibly worth the trip to Arrabellas in Winter Haven. They’re not on the menu, I understand, but regulars know to ask for them.)
The second course — or fourth, if you’re particular — was Smoked Duck Breast, two wonderfully tender strips of meat served with collards, calico bean cassoulet and pickled hedge hog mushrooms. It was paired with Beringer Bros.’ Cabernet Sauvignon, also aged in bourbon barrels (or barriques, because you’re particular). Perhaps it was the bourbon-soaked wood that rounded out the tannins of the wine and enhanced the black cherry notes. If I had to choose just one, this was my favorite course of the evening.
Which is to take nothing away from the Pistachio Crusted Venison, served with a blackberry poblano mole, clue masa cake and baby corn elote. It was a beautiful presentation — I loved the subtle grace note of ash on the side of the plate — and the venison had an appropriate hint of game. We were back to Cooper & Thief and its bourbon barrel-aged Red Wine Blend, a smooth combination of merlot, syrah, zinfandel and other well-rounded reds.
Dessert was a Blood Orange Panna Cotta with blueberry spongecake and an almond tuile, all presented with an artistic thwack on the plate. The cool panna cotta was a refreshing finish. And the Blandy’s 5 Year Bual Madeira added a smooth and smoky note.
The Big Fin serving staff did its usual fine job of keeping the dinner flowing. It was a lovely evening all around.
Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is at 8046 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando.
Be watching for announcement of upcoming Supper Clubs. As always, eletter recipients get first crack at tickets. If you’re not already signed up, click here and join us.