By Chef Judi Gallagher –
An oasis on a Florida barrier island, The Gasparilla Inn welcomes Presidents, generations of families from Texas and Michigan to Massachusetts and Illinois, the best tarpon fishing in the world and boasts as one of the best 10 golf resorts in the world.
The resort, in the city of Boca Grande, also hosts an annual food and wine weekend. There are only 60 certified Master Chefs in the world, Executive Chef Peter Timmins holds that title making him the ideal professional to organize an extravagant weekend for foodies and wine connoisseurs.
Our weekend began by checking into a casually chic two bedroom/two bath bungalow, the perfect get away for a group of girlfriends to gather and toast a weekend of culinary bliss. There is a relaxed sampling dinner at the beach club on Friday evening. Each guest chef and the Inn’s chefs of both the main dining room and their casual sister restaurant, The Pink Elephant, (just call it The Pink if you want to sound like a local) host tastings ranging from duck confit tacos and pan seared snapper with tomato basil grits to a shooter of yellow tomato soup and coffee crusted filet, all paired with wines from the top regions of the world.
Saturday is a marathon for foodies. I recommend you start with a brisk walk and a full stack if the Inn’s ward winning blueberry pancakes (recipe to follow). Think of breakfast at the Inn as a a palate starter for the rest of the day. You also need a hearty breakfast, as the cooking classes and wine tastings offer only tiny bites before the grand dinner that evening.
Now for the Grand Dinner.
We arrive in the main sitting area to champagne, wine and passed hors d’oeuvres, such as savory macaroon with foie gras mousse and shaved truffle, and organic red bliss potato filled with crème fraiche and caviar. As we settle into wicker arm chairs by the fire, life is at its best. But then the gentle dinner bell chimes and guests are escorted to the private dining room where the seven-course dining experience peeks.
Each dish is elegantly presented but flavorful with every component of the dish achieving balance and yet surprise. This is a gluttonous experience and I yearn for yet another.
The experience of the weekend leads to new friendships from around the country, promises of meeting again next year and last toasts at BZ’s bar before we head to cuddle up next to our bungalows’ fireplace and dream of the next morning and another stack of fresh blueberry pancakes. Keep your eyes open, you just might see Laura Bush strolling by on her way to meet her husband at the beach club.
The Gasparilla Inn is registered in the National Register of Historic Places. Next year marks 100 years since the opening of The Gasparilla Inn and Club in the winter of 1913. Golf packages, Romance weekend, spa get-aways, Thanksgiving Weekend and Twelve Days of Christmas. May 2-5 Boca Grande Fishing Classic. The 2013 Food and Wine Experience is scheduled for January 13-15. Reservations and more information, call 877-403-0602. The Gasparilla Inn is closed in the summer except for weddings and special events. And Boca Grade itself is a very seasonal kind of town, geared to provide sun and fun while the rest of the country is cloaked in winter.
Executive Chef Peter Timmins, The Gasparilla Inn & Club
(makes approximately 12 large pancakes)
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds blueberries
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Place into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar. Add the eggs and about half the buttermilk to make a thick paste. Continue to whisk until it is smooth. Gradually add the rest of the buttermilk. Stir in the melted butter.
Lightly grease a large sauté pan or griddle with a little oil or butter. Heat the pan until hot and then spoon out 4 tablespoons of batter per pancake. When the Mixture has formed its shape, sprinkle on approximately 2 ounces of blueberries per pancake. Cook the pancakes until the bottom is golden brown and the bubbles on top have burst and the mix no longer looks runny about 2-3 minutes. Turn the pancakes over and cook for another minute. Serve immediately and enjoy.
# # #