Avenue Sea

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We’ve
been cooking ourselves silly this last week in Apalach. Tomorrow we need to hit the road home, and
are planning on doing some shrimp smoking today, so last night we took
ourselves out on the town.

With
a permanent population of way under 3000, Apalachicola has more than its share of good restaurants, even if you don’t count the oyster
bars and fried fish houses (several of which are excellent.)

The
newest and best in my opinion is Avenue Sea, at the Gibson Inn, which I have
written about before, and will no doubt write about again.
At Avenue Sea, though there are occasional (and
sometimes dramatic) service issues, the food is always superb. The Inn is
charming, in an old and weathered way, and the restaurant fits in – tall
ceilings, wood floors, shuttered windows, and minimalist table decorations
(which pretty much amount to a votive candle set in the middle of a white
paper-covered tablecloth.)

But
the food — be still, my heart, the food! David Carrier, late of Trio (Chicago) and the French Laundry, and his
pastry chef wife, Ryanne, do an amazing job. Fortunately for them it is being recognized not just locally (the Tallahassee Democrat gives them lots of hats) but
nationally, in the form of a lovely write up in this month’s Gourmet.

The
menu is a listing of smallish courses – firsts are light and salady, seconds
are a little heavier and complex, and thirds are what you’d normally think of
as “main courses.” Last night, with a
nod to our weight loss goals, we each had two first courses and a second (no
third) and then split dessert.

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We
started with salads of local greens dressed with the incredible cabernet
vinaigrette we have had there before. Then I had a super composition of roasted golden beets with a very thin
slice of cabrales (a tangy Spanish blue cheese) and a heap of nicely dressed
arugula. Sweet earthy beet + sharp musty
cheese + acidic, biting arugula salad = bliss. Jerry had the iced soup – luminous orange musk melon soup poured over
bits of melon wrapped in Benton ham, salty and sweet. This was really, really great, but so far every Carrier soup I have tasted
has been a liquid masterpiece. (I still dream about the sunchoke cream….)

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Next
I had tagliatelle with  Oregon morels  and baby spring vegetables in a pea cream sauce. It was sweet and perfect, each pea exploding
with springtime flavor and the pasta tender and toothsome. Jer had braised pork belly, on a kind of confit
of Vidalia onions and thyme, with a couple of fat fried Vidalia onion rings on
top. Succulent, sweet and yummy.

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We
had ordered a side dish that didn’t come out with any of the other dishes (one
of those service issues I mentioned) so it was like a course of its own – a
small plate of baby leeks and what I think the menu called bluefoot
chanterelles. They were sautéed with
thyme and just wonderful. I mean wonderful.

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For
dessert we had “vanilla scented hominy puddin’ with strawberries” — really
coarse-ground grits, sweetened and topped with rosy red berries and some tangy
crème fraîche. WOW. Scrumptious, and what an idea!. 

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Despite
all the food, it felt light and we felt great. Drove home in a freshening wind under scudding clouds and slept like
babes.

(Wish the photos could do the food justice.  Had to use the flash, with the usual, less-than-appetizing results.)

8 Comments Add yours

  1. It looks like you enjoyed a stellar meal. I must admit, though, I’m especially drawn to the hominy pudding. It looks so creamy and satisfying.

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  2. Susan says:

    That soup is riveting! Great photo. The hominy reminds me of spoonbread. Looks and sounds like a very fine meal.

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  3. Kalyn says:

    Wow, it sounds like really a wonderful meal. Much as I like good service, I can deal with a few service issues when the food is outstanding. And it looks and sounds like it was.

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  4. Anne says:

    the pea cream sauce sounds like the best part. i wish that came bottled and i could pour it all over my veggies.
    but then again, if it came in a bottle, it wouldn’t be the same.
    absolutely beautiful pictures.
    – anne, menuism.com intern
    and pea fan

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  5. Cynthia says:

    As usual, Christine, thanks for the trip and the meals. We enjoyed everything. 🙂

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  6. It was stellar, Susan, but like you I think the highpoint may have been the pudding. The dessert menu had many fancier choices, but something about the homey notion of a hominy pudding called to me. Now I just need to figure out how to make it.
    I don’t know spoonbread well, Susan, but it uses cornmeal, no? The texture of this dessert was different — corny but almost chewy, in a smooth way (and that makes sense, doesn’t it?)
    Kalyn, I’m with you on the outstanding food thing, which is why we keep going back to Avenue Sea, despite some really comedic service glitches.
    Anne, I wish I could figure out the sauce. It seemed almost as simple as pureed fresh peas with cream, though I am sure there was more to it than that.
    Thanks, Cynthia. Come along anytime! 🙂

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  7. Carole says:

    We just had our daughter’s wedding dinner at the Gibson Inn’s Avenue Sea restaurant. We have never had better food, or better service, anywhere. They can compete with Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, or any 5-star restaurant. My one regret [besides wishing we lived close to Apalach], is that I wish we had asked for their autographs! 🙂

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  8. Anne Lorio says:

    Hi! I was in Apalachicola yesterday for work, and stayed at the Gibson Inn. I decided to eat at Avenue Sea b/c it was in the inn. That meal was probably one of the best meals I have ever had, I felt like I stumbled upon a secret treasure! It was fantastic, and I hope to bring my husband back to enjoy it again.

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