It is said that some days you win and some days you do something to the pooch. This weekend just past, my bride and I found ourselves in downtown St. Pete at a local hotel that had air conditioning, which is something we didn't have at our condo on the beach. The unit died a miserable death on Friday and we couldn't tolerate another ninety degree night.
This unexpected turn of events afforded us the opportunity to spend more time in this absolutely fantastic city resplendent with a myriad of excellent dining and entertaining options. We also found ourselves in close proximity to a new restaurant that we were anxious to try, Stillwaters Tavern on Beach Drive. We had heard that this was the cat's pajamas, or whatever, of new and cutting edge St. Pete dining spots.
Stillwaters doesn't take reservations for less than seven, but when we wandered in around 5:30-ish we were promptly and pleasantly greeted and guided to an awaiting booth. Our server it seems is getting quite a good reputation among the clientele - a reputation richly deserved. Marvin is charming, humorous, and well versed in the food and drink offerings.
After hearing Marvin's description of cocktail choices he thought we might like, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard and I chose the #1 for me and the #3 for she. The #1 was an interesting blending of Catdaddy Moonshine, grapefruit, Cruzan 9 Rum, and house bitters. This was a slightly tart but most refreshing beverage. The sissy pink #3 was a Prairie Vodka delight combining the pleasant sweet, tart taste of raspberries with the tingle of ginger. I have to assume the #3 was pleasing since the Belle requested a #2 of #3.
The chicken fried breading was crispy, crunchy and the oysters were cooked to a perfect degree of doneness and paired extremely well with that tasty aioli. The oyster to breading ratio was not in proportion - way too much breading that did not adhere well to the oysters or the pickled veggies. A debris of breading carpeted the bottom of the serving plate before I could finish the oysters. The pickled veggies were good and cut through the fried breading. There were a couple of pickled okra pods that had to have been included for show because they resisted both tooth and knife. They were in a word - inedible.
The Belle was enticed to try the pan seared Airline Chicken with jalapeno cheddar bread pudding, baby vegetables, and ham hock jus. Airline chicken is a boneless chicken
breast with the drumette attached. The skin remains on the breast with the first wing joint
and tenderloin attached. The cut is also known as a
According to Marvin, Stillwaters brines this mostly boneless dish for well over 24 hours to achieve a juicy tenderness. The Belle was happy with the bread pudding, but said my brined and roasted chicken is better. I tried a bite of that chicken and found it to be very dry, probably due to over-cooking.
The special of the evening was a fresh caught Mangrove Snapper topped with a crab and cream sauce then nestled on a bed of farro -- an ancient grain, that originated in the Fertile Crescent, where it has been found in the
tombs of Egyptian kings and is said to have fed the Roman Legions.
Italians have dined on farro for centuries, and now I can say I too have dined on farro.
Putting fork to fish I was surprised to realize that this fish would yield more readily to a knife. The snapper wasn't flaky, tender or juicy. It had the same over-cooked dryness that was apparent in the Airline Chicken. The white sauce with a tablespoon of crab meat was good but could not save the fish. While the fish was hot from the kitchen, the farro was chilled to an off-putting temperature more suited for a salad. Based upon this presentation, I think the Italians can keep their farro.
What is most surprising about our experience at Stillwaters was the diametrically opposite dining adventures of a very talented fellow food writer, Tina and her daughter Olivia. This dining duo from Notyourmomma had several of the same dishes my bride and I had. I trust Tina's tastes and reviews, so I can only conclude that there is a serious case of kitchen inconsistency going on at Stillwaters. Correct me if I am wrong.
Dinner with cocktails, a couple of glasses of dinner wine, appetizers, and entrees came to $157.72. Of course we tacked on a well deserved 20% for Marvin's excellent service. I doubt that I or my bride or the pooch will be returning any time in the near future.