5.33pm, The Riverview (with a view of Indian River), Flagler Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, USA
We’re back for a brief moment, before heading out to do a wine class locally, and I just want to dive back to the Metro Diner in Jax to continue the writeup of the shrimp & grits experience. The Metro was named in 1992 when it was bought by the Davoli family, but the little place has been a diner since 1938.
I’m there for Sunday lunch, and the place is packed, with a waiting list of names and folks hiding from the heat under the trees outside until their names are called. The place fills and empties as the church services finish, but I’m lucky to score the one stool left up at the counter directly on top of the open kitchen. I order the Shrimp & Grits off the specials board, as it’s about time I try this Southern speciality.
OK, now this is how it works – check the photo. “Two fried grit cakes infused with roasted red peppers, andouille sausage and cheese, topped with a green pepper, onion, andouille sausage & shrimp cream sauce, and garnished with a crumbled bacon rasher.” As I tried each part of the dish, the chef mixing up crab cakes at the kitchen bench butted up to the dining counter asked me what I thought. “Well,” I said, “I’m Italian, so grits kind of means uncooked polenta.” “Me too,” the lad said. He turns out to be the owner/chef Mark Davoli. “That was my thinking as well,” he said.
He and a regular diner put his version of the dish – apparently everyone “down south” does their own modifications – basing the idea on Italian polenta, flavoured with the ingredients that tops the dish. I have to say it’s spicy, solid, the shrimp really succulent – and worth tracking down. Two ladies came in from church, dressed to the nines, and believe me – they squealed with delight when Mark said he still had two serves of the Shrimp & Grits left. Nice place with history, nice folks keeping it going, nice food. Go visit.
Later – Sunday evening – we did our first wine dinner in Jax at BB’s restaurant. I said earlier it was a screaming success, and you can tell early how it’s going to go. Jonas had the wines, stemware and wait staff streamlined, and Carlos had the kitchen humming. We had a great night – everyone interested because most folks had never tried the wines before. I had a lovely table of medical practitioners that had 20 questions and more! Which is always good, as they get answers to all the things wine-wise that they’ve always wanted to ask. Note to folks that do wine dinners – you always make a rod for your own back when you give a good, long informative answer to the first question. It opens the floodgates!
Any rate, here’s what I thought were the two highlights:
Red curry lemongrass glazed Barramundi with green papaya salad with the Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2007. The Barramundi was flown in from Boston for the dinner and was the first time anyone had tried the fish. I explained the fresh water, Northern Territory origin of the fish and its creamy solid texture. The combinations worked out, and the lighter-middleweight red raspberry of the Grenache bounced well with the sweet & sour nature of the sauce over the top and the papaya chopped salad underneath.
The capsicum-dusted ostrich filet with parsnip yam puree and crispy poached duck egg with The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. Yep – ostrich and crispy duck! Again, it all worked. The ostrich is a pretty dense meat, but came up well with the Cabernet – really softened out the tannins and length – and the egg was good! And hey – here’s the thing. I’m going to ask my best vegetable growing mate at home – Joe (the pumpkin & potato king) can we please grow some yams!
The good news is that Barbara (the owner) and I have sorted out that we’re going to do this dinner on an annual basis – combining Florida chefs and food with Australian ingredients and our wines. So same place next year folks – se ya at BBs – “a great place to b”.