Edible Sarasota Winter 2011 : Page 46
As the signature dish of lobster escargot arrived, servers produced napkins to be held by chains around our necks. Look up, and a server arrives. Unfussy, but present, the attention to service is essential to cre-ating a great dining experience. Sean’s love of sailing and boat building shows in the efficient use of the bistro’s space: The beams in the ceiling contain cubbyholes in which wines are stored. Extra table linens are hidden in the pillars, and the kitchen is like a galley. The same halogen lights set above the tables are used in the kitchen. Sean wants his staff to see how the food will look in the dining room. At each table, a halogen spot illuminates a single rose. The effect is to create a curtain of darkness between the tight tables so that diners feel secluded. If a diner, like my husband, forgets his reading glasses, a locally sculpted ballerina figure is brought to the table, her outstretched arms holding multiple pairs of glasses. One of Sean Murphy’s proudest achievements was to be named coach of the year for the Anna Maria Community Center Little League. In addition to running the restaurant, he and Susan feel it is important to participate in the community and to give back to the place they call home. Both their children went through the Anna Ma-ria schools and Sean and Susan have created a partnership with Anna Maria Elementary School. They helped create a school garden that is now in its sixth year. Susan spoke about how she was shocked to realize that many of the students didn’t understand that the plants they were growing could be eaten. In fourth grade, the students, with the help of many dedicated local master gardeners, create an edible garden. In April they harvest their crop and it is brought to the restaurant. The children take the Island Trolley to Beach Bistro where they are treated to a lunch of the food they grew. Susan spoke of the delight in the children’s faces as they saw the herbs they grew become flowers on the table, and tasted the herbed shortbread cookies. They were excited about eating everything and were particularly impressed with the ice creams created with their produce. There are other ways that Sean and Susan participate. Outraged at the Horizon disaster, Sean created the BP Martini, all of the proceeds from which go to the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund. A bit intimidating to drink, it arrives with a blazing small chocolate platform floating upon a crystal clear liquid with a bottom of azure blue. Once the platform sinks, if the drink is stirred it becomes milky as if polluted. Delicious and it is full of symbolism. Most of the Bistro’s team has been with Sean for years. Our waitress was hired three days after the opening of the restaurant. Many of the chefs worked their way up from dishwashers and all are involved in 46 Winter 2011 edible SARASOTA R&D. At the end of every night, Sean leads a discussion where the entire staff gets together to review and evaluate the evening. The staff is also involved in creating new dishes. Sean’s own son, working in the kitchen before college, developed a Key West Lobster with Hoisin sauce dish. Another kitchen discovery was Nova with maple syrup. All the dishes get tasted, discussed, and re-created numerous times before they are put on the menu. Sean wants the chefs to really understand each dish and ingredient. Sean says that although members of his staff sometimes leave, they often return to work because of the family spirit. One former chef of whom he is extraordinarily proud is Seth Cripe, who now has moved to California and is producing his own wine. We sampled a rich Pinot Noir of Seth’s named Lola. That chef still comes back to the area and is working with Bell Fisheries to create an American market for Bottarga, made from the mullet roe for which Bradenton is famous. Sean Murphy is very proud to be in Manatee County. He tries to encourage local producers whenever he can. He says that many do not realize there is more money per acre in agriculture in Manatee County than anywhere else in the world. The Bella Roma Italian Plum Tomato was developed here. In fact, he says that some of his best clientele are pirates and tomatoes, referring to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who do their spring training in Bradenton and the families of the tomato growers. Most of Beach Bistro’s basic clientele come from a 100-mile radius; however, people come from all over to try his offerings. A regular is Mr. Tucker, who owns a home on the island. Sean Murphy once went to his table and suggested that he try “the best duck in the world, Maple Leaf Duck.” He was delighted when Mr. Tucker said he loved it, and was even more pleased to learn that Mr. Tucker was the proprietor of Maple Leaf Duck. During his earlier years in food, Sean found the great restaurants in New York intimidating, but today he has grown. He feels that one doesn’t have to be in either California or New York City to have good food, and his clientele support him. Tucked away as it is, Beach Bistro is a destination restaurant, and 90 percent of its customers come from off island. But Sean Murphy is a highly motivated and vibrant man and isn’t content to rest on his laurels. He has ventured out from Anna Maria to open the Bistro at The Concession He says that The Conces-sion’s visionary and award-winning golfer Tony Jacklin told him that he wanted to create a place with the world’s best golf and that the restaurant on the course should have the world’s best food. How could Sean Murphy say no? He wants to be part of the best of everything; he is truly living the American dream.
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