Chef Dean James Max, of 3030 Ocean Restaurant, proves it is possible to create a knock-your-socks-off luncheon using local Florida ingredients. With the produce of Darrin and Jodi Swank of Swank Specialty Produce in Loxahatchee, and donations from several area businesses, Chef Max cooked an extravaganza of Florida ingredient centered dishes for an audience of 60 south Florida foodies at $100 a person.
Guests were treated to a Swank Shisho Cocktail-made with Francois Montand sparkling wine (donated by Pour-A-Sip Savor) mixed with pieces of Shisho Japanese basil (grown at Swank’s) and micro-marigold flowers (Swank).
As everyone sipped, Darrin Swank explained about the different types of growing areas at the farm, and showed the products he used to grow the plants. A self-guided tour of the shade house followed. The inclusion of tables heavily laden with fresh picked Swank vegetables, and tasty dips made our tour more enjoyable.
Guests were treated to outdoor seating at long white clothed tables with fresh flower bouquets (donated by Seeds of Change). Live music added to the relaxed atmosphere.
The dishes came out a bit too fast for many who were more accustomed to slower European style meals. But we pushed through devouring each of the twelve courses offered. There was food for all palettes and persuasions.
For seafood lovers:
There was creamy grilled Togarashi Wahoo (donated by Gary’s Seafood Specialties of Orlando) served with wilted mustard greens in a citrus dressing; and grilled Mahi Mahi with a thick layer of buttery greens, finished with a Swank herb vinaigrette.
Fresh tasting farm raised white water clams from Sebastian Inlet (donated by White Water Clams Farm of Sebastian) were served mixed with smoky bacon (donated by Allan Benton Bacon of Tennessee) in a spicy tomato (Swank Farm) broth, with French bread (donated by Old School Bakery of Delray).
A lightly salted dish of plump Florida Royal Red shrimp from Cape Canaveral (donated Wild Ocean Seafood Market of Orlando) came out mixed with earthy local brown rice (donated by Sem-Chi of Belle Glade).
For meat lovers:
Flavorful Deep Creek Burgers sliders (Grass-fed beef donated by Deep Creek Ranch of DeLand) were served with pickled vegetables and basil aioli; Smoky Palmetto Creek Pork Chops (donated by Palmetto Creek Farm of Avon Park) were presented on a mound of fresh potato salad.
For vegetarians and salad lovers:
A lively Swank heirloom gazpacho, made with tomato and other vegetable scraps, was served in red wine goblets; and crunchy tempura pole beans came stacked on a platter with a spicy side of ginger aioli.
There was Swank heirloom salad made with colorful tomatoes, baby greens, dollops of Burrata cheese, Italian Salumi, fresh basil, and a splash of L’Estronelli olive oil (donated by Prime Line Distribution); and roasted rainbow beet & carrot salad, mixed with goat cheese, surrounded by fresh salad greens, and tossed in salty lemon vinaigrette.
The chili marinated, heavily charred cauliflower tossed with pine nuts in current vinaigrette was too salty for my taste. As were the deep fried Shisito peppers but their crispiness made up a little for that.
A cream cheese frosted carrot cake decorated with fresh mini-marigold buds; lady fingers cake filled with whipped cream, and topped with fresh strawberries; and sinfully rich chocolate chip cookies.
Accompanying the dishes were a choice of beers from Florida brewing companies: Native, Inlet, and Gordash (donated by Adam Fine of Fresh Beer Inc.), and donated wines from Pour-A-Sip Savor with Sommelier services by Jenny Benzie (unfortunately there were no Florida wines featured…maybe next year).
According to Jodi Swank, Whole Foods Market donated bottled water, and Old School Bakery donated brioche, bread rolls and muffins.
Part of the proceeds from the day went to Slow Foods Glades-to-Coast chapter, a non-profit organization that educates and assists farmers in the south Florida area.
The luncheon at Swank Specialty Produce farm with chef Dean Max, and staff from 3030 Ocean restaurant, was a huge success both from a culinary and a Locavore point of view. Many guests, including myself, hope this event will become an annual one. I especially look forward to see how many more local Florida businesses will be incorporated in next time.