A fresh breeze is blowing from the West Coast, all the way from California, and it's bringing us a new focus on clean-lined design, beautifully prepared foods that fuse elements of different cultures, and a relaxed sophistication in our entertaining style. So when Becky Martel and A.J. Parsons celebrated the completion of their spectacular waterfront home on Longboat Key, we asked if we could help them celebrate by staging a California-inspired cocktail party there.
Michael's on East executive chef John Zottoli designed the menu with a California state of mind. To Zottoli, that means lots of fresh ingredients (since so much of the nation's produce is grown in California), bright colors and the freshest seafood, citrus, avocadoes and tomatoes bursting with flavor, and delicate, fragrant herbs and micro-greens. And since Asian influences are big in California?and the Martel home is Asian-inspired-he added some Asian accents as well.
Food like this is right in synch with the way hosts today want to entertain, says caterer supreme Phil Mancini of Michael's On East. "Everyone's telling us, 'I just want great, fresh food, not food you hide, not food that needs to be covered up," he says. "They tell me, 'I want it lighter, I want it lighter, I want it lighter.'"
The guests agreed. And marveling both over Zottoli's creations and the home's endless water views, they toasted Martel and Parsons' new home with anything-but-run-of-the-mill mojito juleps and citrus mango and pomegranate martinis.
California, here we come!
Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi with Pickled Ginger Aioli, Soy Reduction and Sesame Wasabi
Hoisin Duck and Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet-Sour Chili Dipping Sauce
West coast shucked oysters on the half shell with tomato, avocado and extra virgin olive oil
Tuna tartare with Fresh Thyme and Lemon
Smoked Salmon Crostini with Grilled Pineapple and Pickled Ginger Salsa
Beef Tenderloin with Wakami Seaweed Salad and Orange
Citrus Mango and Citrus Pomegranate Martinis
Grilled Pineapple Salsa
1 half pineapple, peeled and scored
1 small red pepper, diced in ¼-inch pieces
1 small red onion, diced in ¼-inch pieces
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
½ bunch chopped parsley
Cumin, salt and pepper to taste
Season the pineapple with salt and pepper. Grill until slightly caramelized, set aside until cool, then dice into ¼-inch pieces. Place all chopped ingredients in large mixing bowl. Add 1 ½ ounces extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste with cumin, salt and pepper, red wine vinegar; mix, then add remaining olive oil. Refrigerate 2 hours. Goes well with fish or chicken.
Citrus Pomegranate Martini
2 ounces Citron vodka
½ ounce Cointreau
3 ounces pineapple juice
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
Fresh pomegranate seeds
Place the first four ingredients in a shaker and mix well. Place pomegranate seeds at the bottom of a chilled martini glass. Pour mixed ingredients over them. Top with sparkling water.
Michael's tropical twist on a Southern classic.
8 mint leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 1/2 ounces rum
Splash of club soda
Mix mint leaves, sugar and lime juice in a mortar bowl and crush mint. Add rum and stir to mix. Pour over ice. Add splash of club soda and garnish with mint sprig. Serve straight up in a martini glass. (Chewing on the mint leaves after enjoying the drink makes this one of the very few cocktails that can also sweeten your breath.)
Cuisine: John Zottoli, Michael's on East; Interior design: Howard Firth, Robb & Stucky; Tableware: Annabel's; Flowers: Rob Tyra, An Exceptional Florist; Clothing and jewelry: Willow 506, June Simmons Designs; Models: Heather and Brent Kuehl, Martha Stinnett, Adrien Lucas, Cyndi Schwartz, Howard Firth, Kelli Sweeting.