Off The Books: Seagrape’s New Dinner Series Shines

Off The Books - Chef Max Santiago, Chef Michelle Bernstein, Chef Tony Velazquez, Chef Velazquez's girlfriend, and Chef Jeremy Ford

Seagrape, the Floridian brasserie that served us one of our favorite meals of 2016 just last month, hit another home run with another meal a few weeks later: Off the Books. The new dinner series, hosted by Seagrape’s Chef de Cuisine Tony Velazquez, is scheduled to take place the 1st Saturday of each month and brings together top local chefs for a memorable multi-course family meal.

The inaugural dinner on March 5 kicked off with quite the star-studded chef roster. Joining Chef Velazquez in the kitchen was Jeremy Ford of Matador Room — who hadn’t won the Top Chef crown yet — as well as The Salty Donut’s Max Santiago. Together, the team developed an exquisite menu that started strong and didn’t let up throughout the lively evening.

To start, the party noshed on smoked duck pate and foie gras torchon, a lobster and caviar sunchoke soup, and a salad Lyonnaise — all appetizing ways to begin the night. The salad Lyonnaise with a tasty tarragon mustard vinaigrette provided some much-needed greens to get our stomachs ready for the rich meal to ensure. Foie gras torchon and smoked duck pate were great as expected; you can’t go wrong with either (ever). Our favorite, though, was the soup. Prepared by Chef Ford, the soup was just magical with the flavors of the lobster and sunchoke, in particular, just matching so well. We’d swipe right any day.

Off The Books - Veal Loin Off-The-Books-snapper-en-croute

 In the battle of the two mains — classic roasted veal loin and whole American snapper — the former proved victorious. The whole American snapper put up a valiant effort, however. In terms of presentation, the snapper got the most attention. Hell, it even had its own photo shoot while it was still intact on the cart — everyone had their phones out. And it was delicious — prepared with just lemon, dill and confit of garlic. It didn’t need anything else.

But that veal, though. Oh Mylanta (sorry, just finished Fuller House on Netflix). Now that was a dish. No wonder Chef Ford won Top Chef. The meat was so tender and melt-in-your-mouth awesome. And that was just the veal. Once the mushroom cream sauce was poured on top, the whole table went into a collective state of shock from the heavenly flavors. Okay, not really, but we all couldn’t stop talking about the sauce. It was a hit.

Off-The-Books---DOnuts

Off-The-Books---Croqueembouche

Dessert finished the job of putting us into a delicious food coma. There’s a reason The Salty Donut commands an hour-long line during operating hours: Their donuts are the bomb dot com. Pretty sure we’ve broken the record for ’90s references in a blog post by now. Anyway, there was no waiting in line for these rings of happiness. Chef Santiago brought out the top sellers, including the guava and cream cheese, maple and bacon, and brown butter and salt donuts. Also, A #&*$#(@!*!@#$ING CROQUEEMBOUCHE. Needless to say, we ate our weight in donuts.

Paired alongside everything we just mentioned were wines from Abaco, a local wine shop and tasting bar at the Palm Court in the Design District. The evening’s grapes — a 2014 Montinore Pinot Gris, a 2013 Vajra Langhe Rosso and a Croft Tawny Port — were exceptional complements to our varied meat and fish dishes.

To be frank, this is one meal we probably won’t ever forget. From the great company to the A-list chefs to the outstanding dishes to a surprise appearance from Chef Michelle Bernstein herself, it was a blast. In fact, this Off The Books dinner was …. one for the record books. Pun definitely intended.

Veal and snapper photos courtesy of The Word of Mouth Effect