For the third installment of Wild Food Dinners at Hotel Vitale’s Americano Restaurant, Chef Kory Stewart tested his sea legs with hosted a sea-to-table Oceanic Dinner week—at least that was the plan.
The concept was simple enough: the entire menu would be based on fresh, local seafood reeled in that very morning by Chef Stewart and staff. The purpose, said Stewart, was to have the guests and chefs both, “…be a part of nature.” Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather, the original agenda did not pan out as planned.
Only one of Stewart’s sous chefs braved the summer swell and showed up at 3:30am to the Half Moon Bay Harbor to brave 40-knot winds and waves for a 12 hour tour. The reward? Over 800 pounds of shrimp.
The rest of the high quality sea food, while not caught by Stewart’s staff directly, was still merely hours old, having been sourced from local fisherman by Joe Conte of Water 2 Table Fish Co.
“I’ve got salmon from bodega bay, and I’ve got halibut from guys who are fishing out of Berkeley,” Stewart said. ” It’s as nice as it gets.”
With fig-infused cocktails on the deck, guests were greeted with a corn fritter, Mendocino uni and pickled peppers. The fitter was studded with whole corn kernels and served still fluffy internally while maintaining a crispy exterior shell speckled with flakes of sea salt. The uni was delicate and flavorful, and the pickled peppers added the missing acidity to brighten up the hors d’oeuvre.
As the party made its way down to the main dining room, the amuse bouche arrived almost as quickly. Sushi-style local halibut sat atop a bed of sticky white rice with lemon and lime zest. The tender, smooth fish melded with the al dente rice to create the perfect bite, balanced with acid from lemon and lime zest.
The first course showcased the fruits of the catch: “Half Moon Bay Spot Prawns with Avocado and Chorizo, and California White Seabass with Asian Pears, Cucumber and Oil Cured Olives.” Briny, soft and sweet, the meat practically fell out of the shell at the slightest tug. Served alongside the Mumm de Cramant, this entire dish reflected the brightness and freshness of the sea.
Next came the grilled Half Moon Bay octopus with cranberry beans, heirloom tomatoes and octoriglio. Smokey, tender octopus was paired with the meaty legumes and a touch of peppery greens.
For a main course, potato crusted Marin coast king salmon with fresh corn polenta, chanterelle mushrooms, bacon and cherry tomatoes did not disappoint. The buttery fish was topped with crispy, thinly sliced potato rounds and salty bacon, while the earthy mushrooms played the “turf” role of the salmon’s “surf”—all of which hovered lightly above a pool of creamy polenta and fresh, ripe tomatoes.
Waiting to see how they could incorporate the sea into dessert, the chef did a play on a scallop: a faux shell housed a buttermilk vanilla panna cotta with peach roe and noyau froth. Silky cooked cream with specs of vanilla beans were brightened by the “jewels” of fruit, created with molecular gastronomy, and tied together with the almond flavored liquor foam.
The Americano Restaurants will attempt to do the Wild Food Dinners once a quarter, picking a different theme each time in order to celebrate the season.