One of the disadvantages of being a chef and culinary teacher for so many years is that very few restaurants surprise or excite me now. After decades of cooking in all manner of venues, from small cafés to nightclubs to large resort hotels, there are few concepts I haven't experienced. If you add the years I tought international cuisine, well, let's just say I have high expectations and very little patience for restaurants that make lofty claims and fail to reach them.
A pretty restaurant doesn't equal a quality experience. That said, I do my best to check out the new hot spots in the 904, but find that most menus—especially at upscale restaurants—bore me. I hate being the one at the table who can't make up his mind about what to order. Tragically, it's usually not because everything sounds so good, but the opposite: I'm YAWNING!
Like a lot of y'all, I don't always go to restaurants for the food alone. Yeah, a shocking admission from a food-obsessed preacher of deliciousness. After attending a graduation ceremony with the fam a few weeks ago, we needed lunch and, since we were dressed rather nicely, a fancy place was in order. We chose a newish spot I'd heard about on Instagram. The restaurant was beautiful, quite modern yet still comfortable and inviting. The menu, though, was really boring. Worse, one of the few items I considered slightly interesting was no longer available, which made me wonder why it was still on the menu.
I eventually decided on a Spanish-sounding appetizer and a lobster roll. Trendy, right? But, hey, I'm a sucker for lobster once in a while. To say these items didn't meet my expectations is a huuuge understatement. The appetizer had all the charm of a '60s TV dinner, and the lobster roll was absolutely appalling. Yet these debacles gave me a moment to reflect on the creature of joy that is the lobster. I will share those thoughts in an eloquent column in the future.
For now, I leave you with a thought: If you can't do justice to an animal that's given its life for your business, then don't serve it. And while you await my brilliant lobster musings, try this delectable Mayport Shrimp Salad in your roll instead of lobster. Line the roll with lettuce, and you'll be in low country heaven.
Chef Bill's Chipotle Shrimp Salad
- 1/2 pound Mayport shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tbsp. sour cream
- 1 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup red pepper, brunoise
- 1/4 cup scallion, sliced
- 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 tsp. shallots, brunoise
- 1 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 tsp. lime zest
- 1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
- 2 tsp. minced chipotle pepper
- Court Bouillon: 5 quarts water, 1/2 cup diced celery, 1/2 cup diced carrot, 2 diced shallots, bouquet garni, 1 lemon cut in half and juiced, 2 tbsp. white wine
1. Bring court bouillon to a simmer, let simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, cover and poach shrimp until just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Chill. Dice chilled shrimp into three-quarter-inch pieces.
3. Mix all other ingredients; add enough to shrimp to moisten.
4. Adjust seasonings.
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina's Amelia Island Culinary Academy for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!