The dining room was set in the dark, with white linen draped round tables and strings of lights hung around the dining area. A young woman, Camryn Wessner, played some light music with her ukelele and keyboard, setting a more intimate mood for the evening. I just wish I brought my boots to weather the fish processing room better!
The event was a memorable, immersive experience for the first ever Scott Joseph Pop Up Restaurant hosted at Gary’s Seafood and Specialties in Orlando.
Scott Joseph was the gracious host this evening and, after spending many, many years as one of Central Florida’s restaurant critics, learned first-hand the horrors and triumphs of running a restaurant. He even had to start washing dishes at one point after a dishwasher who was scheduled to show up, didn’t show. “I’ve always said that I would never open a restaurant,” said Scott Joseph, at the end of his debut Pop Up restaurant experience, with a smile, “And after tonight, I really, really, really never want to open a restaurant.”
Scott Joseph, owner of ScottJosephOrlando.com and restaurant critic for the Orlando area for over 20 years, worked with two highly acclaimed James Beard award-nominated chefs for Orlando’s first-ever pop up restaurant event. Chef Hari Pulapaka (2011 James Beard Award Nominee) of Cress Restaurant in Deland and Chef Henry Salgado (2012 James Beard Award Nominee) of Spanish River Grille in New Smyrna Beach, both plied their culinary skills and expertise for the courses for the evening in a very unlikely, yet rather appropriate facility: Gary’s Seafood and Specialities on Amelia Street near downtown Orlando.
Gary’s Seafood provides not just seafood to many Central Florida restaurants but also specialty items as Kobe beef, Kurobuta pork, truffles, infused salts, vinegars, foie gras, game birds, caviar and cheeses. The only thing they can’t sell, it seems, is lion and black bear due to federal regulations. Over 250 types of cheese are stored at Gary’s and over 1000 lbs of mushroom are sold each week from their store. Guests were given a chance to see where the food that many local restaurants use come from, and treated to a tour of the facility and shown the refrigeration rooms where they kept their meats and cheeses before finally being led to the expansive fish processing room where the pop-up restaurant dining area was set up.
Pop up restaurants are, much like the food truck movement, often a kind of a between point for new chefs who have yet to open their own restaurants due to financing, allowing them to open at a certain place for certain nights without having the overhead of monthly rent and staff. The Wall Street Journal recently did a story on the pop-up trend. Though Chefs Hari and Henry both have their own highly regarded brick-and-mortar restaurants, they indulged us with the pop-up experience this evening as many of the local diners in Orlando have yet to trek out to Deland and New Smyrna Beach to experience their cuisine. I would highly recommend that you make that trek as soon as possible.
The make-shift pop-up kitchen at Gary’s Seafood
Chef Hari Pulapaka of Cress and Chef Henry Salgado of Spanish River Grille, plating the Surf and Turf course
The chefs did a wonderful job working with the tiny make-shift kitchen that they set up at Gary’s, making creative, well-executed meals for the 50 attendees at the event.
Chef Henry’s “Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet” course which featured candided Kurabota Pork Belly, cider glazed Mote Marine sturgeon with black eggs, and “Migas Extremadura”
My favorite from Chef Henry included the “Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet” course which featured candided Kurabota Pork Belly, cider glazed Mote Marine sturgeon with black eggs, and “Migas Extremadura”. The sturgeon was a unique fish that isn’t featured often in restaurants, and it was interesting to serve the fish, known most for its luxurious caviar, with some of its eggs on top. The pork belly was sweet, crispy, and divine.
My favorite of the evening: Chef Hari’s Florida Gulf Coast Snowy Grouper, panko-herb crusted with cilantro and basil, with Pasture Primes Farm house-made Andouille sauce, with grilled royal trumpets, signature Cress organic grits, and a sauce creole.
Wines from the Rioja region were paired during each of the courses and included the 2010 El Coto Blanco, 2011 El Coto Rosado (the premiere of the rose in the United States), 2008 Bodegas Riojanas “Monte Real” Crianza (my personal favorite of the evening, a wonderful, sweet red wine without overly bitter tones), 2004 Bodegas Riojanas “Vina Albina” Reserve, 2004 Bodegas Riojanas “Monte Real” Reserve, and 2010 Marques de Caceres “Santinela” Semi-Dulce Blanco.
The following are photos from the event:
Buffalo Trace Bourbon whiskey with hand-made sour mix and Rioja wine
Gary’s Seafood Wild game and meats room
Local Winter Park Cheese
Gary’s Fish on Display
Chef Henry’s Local Cedar Creek Clam, steamed in Sherry tomato water, green olive-Marcona almond pesto and Chef Hari’s Darling Downs Wagyu Beef hanging tender, jerk spices, apple wood smoked Vo-Lasalle Farms onion cream, kerala green peppercorns on top of a Parmigiano-Reggiano cookie
Collaborative Savoury Course: Chef Hari’s stewed goat with papadam with Chef Henry’s spicy pickled vegetable accompaniment of carrots, cucumbers, collareds, and beet.
Chef Henry’s “Surf and Turf” with Seared sea scallop, kombu seaweed salad, sake braised wagyu beef cheek, caramelized Florida Spring Onion Puree, and roasted potato fingerlings
Chef Hari’s Tenderloin of domestic Ostrich, blackberry habenero reduction, parsnip puree, cardamom foam
Chef Hari of Cress, Gary Reed of Gary’s Seafood, Rioja Wine, Chef Henry of Spanish River Grill, Scott Joseph
Overall, the event was very much a success, featuring not only the signature wines from Rioja Spain, but also the great level of culinary skill that exists in Central Florida with Chef Hari Pulapaka and Chef Henry Salgado. The future of Central Florida’s foodie scene looks bright, for sure. Look forward to Scott Joseph’s next event by signing up for his newsletter at http://scottjosephorlando.com