New chef focuses on festive fall flavors
Seagar’s Guidry offers a lighter take on cold-weather comfort foods
By Michelle Farnham
Editor, 30A Food & Wine
SANDESTIN – When talking fall flavors, Chef Lee Guidry steers clear of the much-maligned pumpkin spice, and instead reaches for fine dining staples like sage, brown butter, and butternut squash to create his fall menu – which debuts Tuesday.
The new executive chef at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood rolled out a four-course tasting menu during a Sept. 6 media luncheon, including a pan-roasted grouper entrée, a smoked duck breast, the Panzanella salad with rock shrimp, and a sautéed snapper served alongside fingerling potatoes.
“I know that it’s still warm outside because it’s Florida, so I didn’t get into a whole lot of braising, but I did try to pull some of the flavors of fall into my style of cooking,” Guidry explained. “It was very French-influenced, but I’m trying to lighten it up a little bit, staying away from the creams and the butters, and staying more festive with the flavors.”
A native of the area, Guidry has brought flavors back with him from his well-traveled career, including work in Chicago, New Orleans, and Nashville. The jumbo lump blue crab with fried green tomato and Green Goddess dressing, for example, came with him from the Windy City.
Not to be missed is the beef tartar, uniquely prepared with a Thai flair, including roasted peanuts, Sambal, and onion salad. Chef has crisped garlic slices in such a way they’ve taken on a chip-like quality, and add sweetness and unexpected crunch.
The rich decadence of his Heureux Farms pork belly plate warms from the inside out.
“This is with house-made dumplings with carrot juice and ricotta – it’s a play on a gnudi,” Guidry said. “We add brown butter, sage, maitake mushroom and a fried sage garnish.”
The chef’s selection of live oysters is visually stunning as it comes to the table. Served on a giant block of ice garnished with edible seaweed, Guidry and his kitchen offer a lineup of Wellfleet oysters. The flavorful garnish – a ceviche-style escabeche of cucumber and finger limes – gives the protein an approachable texture that might appeal to those typically turned off by the springiness of raw oysters.
Despite working in Apalachicola country, Chef prefers the terroir of cold water oysters.
“It’s a much, much cleaner flavor, a lot more salinity, and I feel a lot more comfortable with them,” Guidry explained.
Off the entrée menu, the seared diver scallops were expertly cooked.
“This dish is a labor of love, but it is very good,” Guidry admitted. “It comes with black truffle-poached rock shrimp agnolotti, which is a half-moon shaped pasta. Everything’s made in-house; we make our own pasta and stuffing. We roll it, and you can see they’re not all uniform. That gives it that homemade feel.”
Dan Vargo, the executive chef at Hilton Sandestin who used to lead the Seagar’s kitchen himself, acknowledged Seagar’s is still a high-end steakhouse, but this fall menu is an opportunity to flex some culinary muscle.
“With Prime steak, there’s not much we need to do with it – put a little salt, pepper on it, grill it, and that’s about it,” Vargo admitted. “But the seafood and appetizers is where we get to showcase what we do and our philosophy on food. Lee’s doing a great job.”
To finish off the meal, Guidry created a chocolate praline dessert, featuring a flourless torte, served with a mirror glazed sphere of hazelnut mousse, aerated salted caramel, port wine reduction and candied hazelnuts for texture.
Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood is located at 4000 Sandestin Blvd. South in Miramar Beach, within the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. The restaurant is open Tuesday to Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m., and from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Photography by Michelle Farnham