The first thing we noticed in the dining room last Thursday was the exquisitely set tables with Florida-inspired placemats, beautifully folded napkins and a more formal table setting than we are accustomed to. Soft jazz played in the background, creating a cool and sophisticated ambience. Reservations were encouraged for this special dining experience, with seatings at noon and 1:00 pm.
Members of the Culinary Arts team were on-point, coordinating service so that each of the four courses was served simultaneously to everyone. The meal began with fresh Florida shrimp ceviche with homegrown tomatoes, avocado purée, radish, red onion, cilantro and lime, served with crispy plantain chips. We didn’t think it could get any better than that, but we were so wrong!
Like a dance, plates were cleared away seamlessly as the next course arrived. Tender white fish was presented in hearty bowls of rich consommé with wild mushrooms and bok choy and finished with a Parmesan foam. It was as beautiful as it was deeply satisfying in textures and flavor.
Meanwhile, members in the back of house were artfully plating the entrée. Sous vide chicken looked almost too good to eat next to bright spring asparagus, a glossy pool of potato purée and a verdant drizzle of chimichurri. Servers mingled throughout the room, refilling glasses with our choice of refreshing Arnold Palmers or strawberry-infused water, making sure that our every culinary need was satisfied.
While we don’t often offer sweets, this was a special occasion and, as such, dessert was on the menu! Plant City strawberry shortcake, served on delicate buttery biscuits with fresh whipped cream and garnished with a strawberry fruit roll-up; it was playful, light and not-too-sweet but still oh so decadent.
When the last course was served, the culinary crew came out from the kitchen and were met by a round of raucous applause. This meal was a sort of soft opening for our new Fine Dining concept, and it was a big hit. The Fine Dining Day is just one of many examples of innovative ideas that come out of our team planning days. Culinary Arts knocked it out of the park with this one; we hope, the first of many.