– By Shana Overhulser
GREY SALT, TAMPA, FL
Following my interview with celebrity chef and Chopped judge Marc Murphy in December 2015 at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, I was privileged to be invited to the first ‘Taste of the Mediterranean Wine Dinner’ at his new restaurant, Grey Salt, inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Tampa. I was particularly looking forward to this opportunity to discover Marc’s mastery of Mediterranean cuisine.
The first time I met Chef Marc, I was covering Grillin N’ Chillin’ in 2014, my favorite event at PBFWF where participating Food Network chefs show off their style of cooking using the Big Green Egg Grill. (www.pbfoodwinefest.com/). I had tasted Marc Murphy’s magnificent Chicken Patty adorned with pastrami, sweet onion relish, and melted pepper jack cheese. The result: pure HEAVEN for my taste buds! This set my standard for the food crusade on which I was about to embark….
Upon arrival at Grey Salt, I was escorted to the private wine room and instantly elated by the intertwining of a wine cellar, winsome decor with preserved lemons and spice jars, and harmonized atmosphere that brought forth a sophistication on its own. The hues of grey and white with pops of yellow against the blended wood was intriguing. In the open kitchen, I spotted a wood-burning oven and rotisserie.
Offered first were hors d’oeuvres; Patatas Bravas, a dish native to Spain, consisting of white potatoes, jamon serrano, and manchego cheese croquette. This was amazingly paired with Casteller Cava Brut NV from Catalonia, Spain. Nothing could prepare me for the exquisite combination in the first course: Roasted Leek Risotto, crispy shallot, and parmesan with Arneis Bruno Giacosa 2014 from Piedmont, Italy. A jewel of a wine! The risotto was cooked so perfectly it soaked in the juices from each sip of wine. What a taste explosion – è delizioso. David Lombardo, Wine and Beverage Director and Marc’s longtime friend, spoke to the origins of wine while Chef Marc eagerly described his dishes that were derived from his influences in worldly travels.
A sea of discovery!
The second course was Red Mullet, a white fish with a fine and delicate flavor commonly found in the Mediterranean Sea, East North Atlantic Ocean, and the Black Sea. A fish that was new to me. the Red Mullet was presented beautifully on the plate with potatoes, zucchini, and truffle veal jus. The dish was magnifique with subtle hints of grey salt. The wine was an earthy, old vines Pinot Noir Domaine Chauvenet-Chopin Grand Cru 2013, Clos Vougeot, Burgundy, France, a prized find for any wine enthusiast and now marrying exquisitely with the red mullet.
Pure and unprocessed: French grey salt is the one indispensable ingredient to enhance any food. A secret top chefs around the world, like Marc Murphy, know well. The grey salt is hand-harvested from the pristine Celtic seas of Guérande in Brittany, France, using skills and methods over a thousand years old. The salt obtains a natural grey coloring from crystallizing on clay.
A huge buzz surrounded the third course, which was the Roasted Duck with celery salad and dried fruit mostardo. Encouraged by a superb Merlot-Sangiovese-Cabernet blend by Tenuta Dell’ Ornellaia, “Le Volte” 2012 from Tuscany, Italy, I was transported to a Tuscan paradise. There was a pyramid of food sensations, from the succulent duck with herbed crispy skin and grey salt finish, and crunchy celery bits to the sweet dried cherries and figs. Bravo, Chef Marc!
There was no simple ending to this Mediterranean wine dinner, however cutely packaged. An espresso cup that was filled with Salted Caramel Budino was our palette cleanser. A delightful send off to an extraordinary evening ended on a dreamy note.
The standards of preparation, food and wine pairings and the unique Mediterranean cooking style brought forth from Marc Murphy are nothing short of divine. My expectations were greatly surpassed. Rock on, or as the French say; À la prochaine.
Going away gifts included a bottle of wine from the wine dinner and a jar of grey salt. I got Marc Murphy to sign his cookbook, Season With Authority, and will begin experimenting with these fastinating recipes on my own.
Grey Salt promises a mosaic of exotic dining adventures. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – and get on the list for more mouth-watering monthly wine dinners and events. Located inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, 5223 N. Orient Road, Tampa, FL 33610. Call for reservation or catering: 813.627.8100. http://www.greysalt-restaurant.com