March 1, 2011

Dinner at essensia, The Palms Hotel & Spa

Thursday night was my first night on South Beach for the weekend and I had dinner plans with a friend who was in town for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. We had so much catching up to do as well as cover new ground so wherever we went it needed to be inviting, comfortable and special. Guess who got to make the decision?? I chose one of my all time favorites, essensia at The Palms Hotel & Spa. I’ve been here a handful of times and each and every single time it has been just wonderful. The Palms stirs my soul. There’s that one thing that resonates with each and every one of us for me it’s the ocean and a classic-inviting style. The Palms just does it for me. The hotel landscaping is spectacular, the property has a warm ambiance about it, the service is genuine and accomodating; the people who work there actually like their jobs and smile. Go figure.

Aside from the fact that I think Frank Jeannetti is a great guy he is also a talented and gregarious chef. Chef Jeannetti oversees the entire food service operation at The Palms Hotel & Spa; big job. We not talking plating up a few entrees each night, we’re talking about banquet catering, room service, essensia, the bar, the lobby shop, the tiki bar, pool and beach service. I don’t know, just writing all that gives me a pain in my right temple and Chef Jeannetti moves through it all like a summer breeze. As busy as this man is I’ve never seen him get rattled….the magic calming spell of The Palms??

We didn’t stay overnight at The Palms, it was sold out and we both had our respective hotels elsewhere but I will tell you The Palms was my first choice, I just called too late to get a reservation; so dinner at essensia was just going to have to suffice….and it did. It so did in such a big way.

Thursday night is Sip & Spa night at The Palms and they have live music as well so there was a fair amount of activity going on. We sat on the patio, it was a gorgeous February evening in South Florida complete with an ocean breeze and stars that lit up the sky, we’re talking absolutely perfect here. Our dinner, 3 hours long. The restaurant was full when we arrived, not a table to be had at 7:30pm and at 10:45pm, we literally closed the restaurant as the staff was setting up for breakfast. I don’t believe either one us came up for air during those three hours; we ate, we drank, we talked and quite frankly didn’t pay attention to much else around us. The server and assistant server moved like gazelles, graceful and swift tending to our table serving and clearing.

I ordered salmon and my dinner date had short ribs. We wanted a bottle of wine and to strive for the perfect pairing was simply moot at this point, ( I will tell you I was having a bit of an internal struggle with this but then that voice in my head said, “for God sakes, just stop already and pick a wine”) all we wanted was to simply enjoy, so we took the server’s suggestion and ordered a Malbec, you know, it worked. Sometimes when you don’t try so hard and just let things be it really does work out just fine.

To start, I ordered the roasted red pepper potato bisque with jumbo lump crab it was like velvet caressing my throat, so creamy and delicately rich. My dinner date had the most stunning and colorful salad I have ever seen almost too beautiful to eat, organic orchid petal salad with nasturtium leaves, orchid petals, papaya, popped hominy and papaya with a blackberry, keylime, lavender honey vinaigrette. Just typing all that makes me giggle with delight. It’s fairytale food with an astoundingly happy ending.

As I mentioned earlier, my entrée was the Grilled Wild Salmon with spinach risotto, white asparagus in a lemongrass beurre blanc. The beurre blanc sauce actually orchestrated a beautiful waltz of all the food on my palate. If I had a straw I would have sucked up the last bit of beurre blanc on my plate like some crazy food addict, it was that deliciously rushing; it was a food sin to see that stream of lemon butter all alone on my plate.

I have this thing about sweet and savory, I don’t like it. I don’t mix sweet and savory it’s like a train wreck for me that I cannot seem to recover from no matter how many times I try. My date ordered the cinnamon-cranberry braised beef shortribs with saffron celery root mash and Brussel sprouts. He was torn between that and the Lamb Shank. Once I realized that both entrees he was vascillating between had that ‘sweet and savory’ thing going on I wasn’t holding out for either one at this point, knowing I would probably pass on sampling from his plate. Truth be told, I will say it was very good. The sweetness was very subtle if there at all; a very secondary flavor. We both ate everything on our plates and completely drained the bottle of wine. We walked around the gardens on the property and sat in the rocking chairs in the gazebo. It was a perfect evening under the stars at the lovely Palms Hotel & Spa.

essensia at The Palms Hotel & Spa 3025 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33140 (305) 908-5458


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