Bountiful and Beautiful Bellini’s new fall dishes are highly recommended. By Jan Walsh
Kev and I like to go the “back way” to Bellini’s Ristorante & Bar. From Liberty Park we drive over Lake Purdy and are there in fifteen minutes. And as we arrive tonight, fall is in the air, and the place is already packed at 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday evening. Good thing we have reservations.
We order a blood orange martini and a chocolate martini while we look over the menu. Kev is a chocolate martini enthusiast but seldom is impressed with what restaurants pour. His chocolate martini arrives in a large martini glass, striped with chocolate syrup. The frothy, creamy, smooth, and sweet drink exceeds expectations. My blood orange martini is also generous in portion and one of the best cocktails I have ever tasted—balanced and beautiful. We share an appetizer of fried crab claws, which is a nightly special. Chef Ryan Zargo battered the large, plump claws in polenta, which made a delicate crust that did not overpower the fragile claw meat. And he served with both drawn butter and house made cocktail sauce, which we quickly discovered are the ultimate if we dip each claw in butter first and then the cocktail sauce. I have never had better crab claws.
We finally decide on two new fall dishes as entrees—Berkshire Pork Chop and Autumn Duck Pasta. And we pair the entrees with our server’s suggestion of a Tuscan wine that is new to Bellini’s, Brancatelli Toscana, which proves to be a lovely, food friendly choice. Both dishes arrive piping hot, and huge in portion. Berkshire pork is the highest quality heritage pork from a 300-year old breed. And it is in good hands with Chez Zargo. He perfectly grills the enormous, 17-ounce, bone-in chop to order (medium well). Each bite is tender and flavorful, in part due to its nice layer of back fat that both adds flavor and locks in the juices. And if, forbid, your palate for pork has been dumbed down by commercial pork, this chop will bring back memories of what pork is supposed to taste like. While the chop hogs the plate, as it should, it leaves room for a tasty serving of sweet potato hash that is spiced up with Conecuh sausage and sweetened with a maple bourbon glaze. In the delicious duck dish, a bountiful amount of moist, rich, braised duck is interlaced with ribbons of al dente pappardelle and dotted with bites of sweet potato. And a garnish of with pepitas and crisp Brussel leaves add texture. If fall were a dish instead of a season, it would be this dish.
And for dessert we share a slice of scrumptious, creamy, Pumpkin Cheesecake. From start to finish, the portions are generous, the food is balanced and beautiful, and the service is exceptional.
View Bellini’s Ristorante & Bar Profile
Crab and Grits
Catch the soft shell crab special at Bistro V.
By Jan Walsh
The soft shells are back. And I just caught a beauty at Bistro V. Chef Jeremy Downey offers a daily Gulf fish special and a daily vegetable plate. But today, they are also offering a third special of soft shell crab.
The delicate crab is fried to a golden brown and is served floating on a bed of grits, and pan seared yellow corn, tomatoes, and spinach. The crab is cooked to perfection—crisp on the outside and succulent on the inside. The grits explode with flavor and are further enhanced by the crunch and color of yellow corn kernels. And the tomatoes and spinach add a touch of acidity and color to this delectable crab dish. Highly recommended!
Bistro V is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. View Bistro V Profile