Sidebern's chef suite: Tampa culinary extravagance at its best

My love of food, science, and all things quirky took me to Chefs on the Loose for a cooking class on molecular gastronomy taught by Asbel Reyes and Allison Beasman, both chefs at Sidebern’s. Their class was amazingly fun, and during our few hours together we'd become foodie friends. Almost a year later, my boyfriend David’s big something-0 birthday rolled around, so I reached out to Asbel for help, and he enlightened me to the secret chef’s suite at Sidebern's. I was astonished! I had no idea such a gem lay hidden in Tampa (other than the Bern’s chef suite). I was able to arrange reservations for David and I to celebrate his birthday in the chef’s suite dining on the chef’s tasting menu and accompanying wine flights. (My opinion is, when eating at a fine dining establishment, it is often best to leave the decisions to the chef).

On the night never-to-be-forgotten, we arrived at Sidebern’s where the (complimentary) valet opened our doors for us, and graciously led us into our adventure. We were overly ecstatic and decided to ease into dinner by having cocktails at the bar first.  I had a Femminello and David had a Lazenby (recipes below). Both cocktails are Sidebern’s originals, and were light and perfect for an early June evening. The Lazenby has since become one of my favorite cocktails, enticing me to invest in a bottle of St. Germain liquor. As we sipped our cocktails, we looked over the tasting menu with thunderstruck awe. We were dumbfounded that we were about to embark on an epicurean adventure that included fennel marshmallows, egg ravioli, lardo, squab confit, and other foods we had never had the opportunity to enjoy.

Our waiter/tour guide gathered us and steered us past the restrooms, to the back of the restaurant usually only seen by staff. He opened the door to the suite, and what we saw was not a chef’s table, but a chef’s conference table, with seating for at least ten. Sheer drapes and sliding glass doors separated us from the action of the kitchen. We sat and stared, feeling like voyeurs peering into someone’s world that we didn’t belong. We pointed and giggled, “There’s chef Chad”, “There’s Asbel”, “What is Allison plating?”, “Look, you can see the dishwashers!”.

Our guide walked us through the tasting menu, which has two options per course, so we decided to try everything, we would order one of each and share them. Same with the wine flight.

And then, an unexpected delight! An amuse-bouche, a special bite sized hors d’ oeuvre, arrived for each of us. The amuse consisted of a beautiful zucchini blossom stuffed with fresh blue crab. The flower was a thin floral tasting crispy shell that held a soft creamy crab meat interior. We glanced at each other in wonder, if this was a complimentary beginning, what could our dinner hold for us? We had no time to ponder further, as our first wine flight arrived followed by our first course; our four-hour epicurean adventure was upon us.  The courses followed an order from light, tuna tartare over herbed feta and watermelon, to heavier dishes in the fourth course, crispy squab and braised short rib. The fifth course tipped the scale back, with light sheep’s milk cheese with piquillo pepper, ending on a grand finale with olive oil rosemary cake and broken ‘baklava’.

To describe each course in the detail they deserve, I would need five pages. And, I would leave you crying with desire. So instead, I am listing the dishes with photos below. I have also listed the wine flight that accompanied each dish. If you ever have an opportunity to take an adventure such as we did, I urge you to jump on the opportunity. Even if you don’t like every dish you taste (I don’t really like Taleggio), you will always remember the experience.

The cocktails:

Lazenby - Miller’s gin, St. Germain elderflower liquer, fresh grapefruit juice

Femminello - Ketel One Citron Vodka, fresh lemon juice, Galliano herbal liquer, fresh mint

The food (with wine pairings):

Bigeye Tuna - watermelon, radish, feta cheese, gazpacho vinaigrette

Vovler ‘Paso A Paso’ Verdejo, La Mancha, Spain 2008

Scallop ‘Escabeche’: fennel marshmallow, strawberry, honey granules, Aperol

Kestrel ‘Estate’ Viognier, Yakima Valley, WA 2007

Alaskan Halibut: butter lettuce, artichoke, pancetta, summer truffle, egg vinaigrette

Trimbach Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France 2005

Lemon Balm Pasta: smoked clams, almond, lobster cream

Luca Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina 2006

Columbia River Salmon: heirloom tomatoes, ‘ratatouille’ garnish, pickled ramps, mussel vinaigrette

Solorosa, Russian River Valley, CA 2008

Charred Octopus: piquillo pepper, spicy herbs, chorizo, pickled potato

M.Chapoutier ‘Petit Ruche’ Crozes-Hermitage, France 2005

Crispy Squab Confit: mustard potatoes, asparagus, salsa verde, red wine syrup

Perdrie; ‘Punto Final’ Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina 2006

Braised Short Rib: charred ramps, porcini mushroom sauce

Les Grands Chenes, Medoc, France 2006

Torta de la Serena Sheep’s Milk Cheese: piquillo pepper, cocoa nibs, hazelnut powder

Lustau ‘Los Arcos’ Dry Amontillado Sherry, Jerez, Spain

Taleggio Cow’s Milk Cheese: egg ravioli, mushroom, shaved lardo

Antinori ‘Villa Antinori’, Tuscany 2003

Olive Oil Rosemary Cake: crème fraiche, meyer lemon curd, green olive, pistachio

Kiona Riesling/Chenin Blanc Ice Wine, Yakima, WA 2006

Broken ‘Baklava’: cinnamon almond chew, banana, tahini, date, caramel ice cream

Bastor-Lamontagne Sauternes, France 1997

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