New Sensations at Tasters Grille in the Florida Keys
January 12th, 2012
At first glance, Tasters Grille & Market in Tavernier (halfway between Key Largo and Islamorada) offers no hint to the gastronomic delights that lie behind its non-descript frontage in a strip shopping center. Encouraged by rave reviews from an ardent local following, I found myself at their doorstep, flanked by a post office and a movie theater. Co-owner and sommelier Tom Smith, an affable sort with a goatee and wire-framed glasses, takes me down a small hallway, which opens up onto a verdant wooden deck overlooking a lagoon. Tiki torches flicker in the night, as I start with a tasty Australian Chocolate Box Sparkling Shiraz aperitif.
Chef George Patti, who owns Tasters with Smith, pops out of the kitchen in his chef's whites to recommend his specialty: pan-seared foie gras. I admit, even though I consider myself a fledgling foodie, I’ve never been able to eat any dish with the word liver in it, even if it's in French. However, faced with the chef's persuasive argument, I relent and take a tentative bite. The outside of the foie gras is seared into a caramelized sugary crust, which gives way to a luscious creamy center. It’s like velvet melting in my mouth. Patti layers it with a sweet fig jam and crispy brioche toast, and I savor the textures.
A medium-bodied 2010 Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier blend from California is served to accompany the rest of my meal, which is equally creative. I sample jumbo sea scallops over a beet-soaked Israeli couscous and pork belly fried rice topped with a fried organic egg. Dessert is a perfectly light and zesty homemade yuzu and watermelon sorbet. Satisfied, I gaze down into the water, where tarpon swim beside a glowing green light, and know I will never forget this night when I fell in love with foie gras.
Tags: dining | Florida Keys | Islamorada | Key Largo | wine
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