Interesting evening at the Beard House. Dean James Max of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale was cooking. The restaurant's in Marriott's Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, and the corporate Marriott folks took the opportunity to invite a couple dozen of their best customers — event planners and such — to the dinner.
I generally dress up when I go to the Beard House. I was wearing a three-piece suit, so I guess I looked corporate enough to be an event planner for pharmaceutical conventions or whatever, because one of Marriott's corporate guys came bounding up to me, grinning ear-to-ear, and introduced himself.
That's not unusual at the Beard House. Restaurants invite me there a lot, as they did this evening, and the restaurant's PR folks generally greet me warmly. I go there often enough that many of the Beard House's servers know me by name.
But when I introduced myself to the corporate Marriott guy, his smile dimmed and he almost instantly turned away to talk to someone else.
Hey, no skin off my nose. I talked to one of the event planners during the cocktail hour who also is a former restaurant operator, of a steakhouse in Sugar Bush, Vermont. A real estate developer, he also spent two years restoring the Jamesport Manor Inn on Long Island. Last October they were restaining the wood and stored the rags in a plastic bag. The rags combusted and burned the building down in an hour! Can you imagine?
He was pretty daunted, but he's working on restoring another historic building and turning it into a restaurant: the Captain Hawkins House, also in Jamesport. Good for him.
I was seated at a table of journalists and such for dinner and had a good time.
As I was leaving, I struck up a conversation with one of the servers, who lamented the decline in quality of both the chefs and the guests at the Beard House. Five or six years ago, the server said, the chefs made extraordinary food and the guests ate it with respect and reverence. Now the chefs' food is of lower quality, and many of the guests gorge themselves on Champagne and are drunk by the time dinner starts.
What I ate and drank:
Soup shots of scallops, Asian pear and celery root
Florida stone crabs with watermelon radish and curry apple aïoli
Chilled oysters with Champagne shallot mignonette
Schramsburg Blanc de Blancs, 2001
Wahoo sashimi with Savoy cabbage salad, pecans, truffle aïoli, aged balsamic vinegar
Girard Sauvignon Blanc, 2004
Spicy Bouchot mussels with ginger and lemon grass broth
Chalk Hill EVS Pinot Gris, 2001
Arctic char with Brussels sprout potatoes, endive and red wine shallots.
Pine Ridge Crimson Creek Merlot, 2001
Organic beef filet with gruyère sweet onion, wild mushrooms, winter greens and bone marrow sauce
Groth Cabernet, 2002
Bittersweet chocolate crisp, roasted pear, walnut caramel
Iron Horse Russian Cuvée, 1998