Monday, November 12, 2012

Gastronomic Beach Adventure

"Have you ever had one of those nights when you have a place in mind for dinner, you get there but the wait is unreasonably long, then you start driving around looking for alternatives (none of which turn out to be particularly viable)...and all the while, it's getting later and later, you're both getting hungrier and hungrier, and one of you is getting bitchier and bitchier?" ~ Sweet Polly

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, and this past Saturday evening it was déjà vu all over again. This time though, Sweet Polly and her mighty Underdog had company. The Belle of Ballast Point and I were invited by our dear friends Sweet Polly and UD to join them for a epicurean frolic at the beach.

After enjoying adult beverages and some delicious stone crabs on their balcony overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, we decided to leave their stately pleasure dome (as decreed by Kubla Khan in Xanadu) and journey out to mingle with the hoi polloi in search of sustenance. It was here that we ran into that annoying wall of déjà vu.

Just then, as the hour seemed the darkest, the French came to our rescue. There, hidden away amongst the condos, goofy golf attractions, and beach trinket shops was the Gulf Bistro, a shining star nestled in a little strip mall at 15225 Gulf Boulevard, Madeira Beach.

Bonjour! Como c'est va? We were greeted warmly at the door and after a brief few moments we were escorted to our table. We arrived at a prime time without reservations, but the charming hostess made every effort to accommodate our starving party of four.

The warmth and ambiance of the Gulf Bistro was reminiscent of some of the bistros all four of us have enjoyed on separate trips to France. It was all I could do not to leap to my feet and burst out into a few verses of La Marseillaise

But, first, le vin - a bottle of Canyon Road Pinot Noir with rich, fruit forward cherry flavors, soft tannins, a medium body and a smooth velvety finish, and a bottle of Canyon Road Sauvignon Blanc a light to medium-bodied wine with hints of ripe citrus, melon, and a refreshing crisp finish.

Moving on to our amuse-gueules, or appetizers, we seemed to head off in slightly different directions - Cuisses De Grenouille Au Beurre (frog legs in garlic butter sauce) and Foie Gras Pate with Dried Apricots. 

Said Sweet Polly, "Since foie gras is one of my favorite foods on the planet, it was a foregone conclusion that I would have it. This was absolutely the best of its ilk that I've ever eaten outside of France." We all sampled some of this heavenly treat, even the Belle of Ballast Point who normally eshews anything remotely associated with the word liver. This is a delicate, creamy 'must try' dish that was even enjoyed by my bride.

For the life of me, I cannot understand anyone's aversion to one of the choicest delicacies to ever emerge from the muck and mire of the swamp - frog legs. This was one of the best dishes of its kind since - well, the beginning of time. Only Underdog was willing to take a shot of leg - frog, that is. The ladies demurred.

Tender, tasty and oh so delicious swimming, as it were, in that garlic butter sauce.

Let us get serious now - onward to the entrées!

We will take a look at these gastronomic works of art one dish at a time. We may only assume that after more than a few glasses of wine and several days later that I remember each dish correctly. I do know that each dish that I sampled was excellent and I do not remember a single discouraging word spoken at our table.

You might want to keep a towel handy to wipe the drool of envy from your chin. Seriously, the food was that good.

Underdog the Magnificent chose the Duck leg Confit In Peppercorn Sauce:

The Good Girl (for the life of me I don't know why our server referred to the Belle of Ballast Point as the good girl, but she did) had the Chicken Breast In Dijon Mustard Sauce :

Sweet Polly seemed to be ecstatic with her choice of Tilapia Amandine (it was listed on the menu as tilapia, but flounder on the bill. Either way, it was good:

When I was but a tad of a lad my mother thought it was a good idea to feed me liver and onions every so often. I hated it! The liver was cooked to death, dry and tough. For some reason I have been craving liver of late, but liver properly prepared, and I knew the French would know how. So, I ordered the Calve Liver with Red Onions and Dijon Mustard Sauce - medium rare, s'il vous plaît. It was really good and I think if I had requested it cooked rare it would have been even better:

I don't think any of us really needed dessert, but our hostess convinced us that our lives would be incomplete otherwise. Who could say no to either of the two ladies who catered to our every dining desire that evening?

Sweet Polly and I both requested a special that evening, the lemon tart with raspberry sauce, that tasted even better than it looked, tangy and not too sweet - very French:

And, then there was Nougat Glace:

Followed by a Chocolate Crepe:

For the Belle of Ballast Point and me, this was our first visit to the Gulf Bistro. I can easily understand Sweet Polly and Underdog returning to this charming bistro. I can envision us making a return trip. The food, service, and ambiance were that good. There were several more dishes on the menu that I must try.

Dinner and wine for the four of us came in a little over $200, and we tacked on a 20% gratuity. For what we all enjoyed, that was a fantastic bargain!

Gulf Bistro on Urbanspoon

Cafe De France Du Golfe Boulevard on Foodio54


  1. Good times! Oh...and I can assure you that my fish was flounder. I would never order tilapia (perish the very thought)!

    1. I can understand that! I tried tilapia once - and in the words of the late Ambrose Bierce, "Once [was] enough."

      Thanks again to both you and UD for a really delightful weekend. You are the best!

      Avere una vacanza sicura, gustosa e divertente.

  2. Hey, we enjoyed the heck out of the food and the company even more so. It's always a pleasure to share a repast with you guys. :)- JimBo