Chef emphasizes visual effects in new summer menu
By Michelle Farnham
SANDESTIN – As Fleetwood Covington is settling into his role as the new chef de cuisine at Seagar’s Prime Steakhouse & Seafood, he has made it his mission to heighten each diner’s experience.
During a special debut of his new seasonal menu, which he called “a gentle approach to summer,” Covington explained his team’s relentless pursuit of the most delicate ingredients with an avant-garde approach.
For example, he elevates the standard jumbo lump crab cake with a lobster velouté, all made from scratch, served with an herb cream salad.
Also from the first course menu was Chef’s ceviche, which is summer on a plate.
“I want to get into sensory food: aromatics, visuals, slight of hand,” Covington said. “We want to make people coming into Seagar’s feel like they’re experiencing something new again, kind of that ah-ha moment.”
For this dish, he selected a blue fin tuna that matches the color of heirloom tomatoes and watermelon, so the diner can’t tell which bite is which, all plated atop an avocado mousse.
To add to the visual effects, Covington has brought in specialty porcelain plates by Crucial Detail which feature a warped, waving surface.
Anyone who sampled Chef’s spring menu knows he loves pasta and edible flowers, and his diver scallop starter marries the two ingredients in a most unique way.
“We’ve got pasta with actual poached and pickled roses that are rolled into the pasta,” he said. “We have to be really selective about which flowers we use or it just turns the pasta brown.”
Moving on to the entrees, Covington’s hickory smoked red snapper tops rock shrimp étoufée, risotto and a citrus beurre blanc.
“I’m originally from South Carolina, and we smoke everything. It’s a heavy dish,” he admitted with a smile.
His black grouper is accompanied by veggies – tri-color carrots and Brussels sprouts – roasted in bacon fat, plated with parsnip puree and a champagne beurre blanc.
The U10 seared diver scallops main comes by popular demand from diners, who were looking for a pasta de Nero.
“Squid ink is very fishy and off-putting to me, it doesn’t sit right with the acid, so we use cuddle fish ink,” he admitted. “It’s a little more gentle, it’s not so pungent.”
He mixes the very unusual-looking cordyceps mushrooms – all the rage in the health and wellness community – in with the pasta. The bright orange color stands in stark contrast to the black noodles.
“They have a mango aftertaste,” Covington said. “The way it eats, the texture, they blend well with the spaghetti.”
Ending on a sweet note, Covington has re-imagined two classic desserts: banana pudding and key lime pie.
His deconstructed pudding eats more like that classic steakhouse treat, cheesecake, served with a side of nostalgia for his grandmother’s recipe.
“We do this one served tableside,” he explained. “The traditional vanilla wafers are on the plate, poached at negative 350 degrees, and the whole plate will smoke.”
Perhaps the star of the show, however, was chef’s key lime pie which is actually clear thanks to its combination of stabilizers – pectins, agar agar and isomalt sugar.
“I’ll admit, it’s a process!” he said.
Featuring a ginger streusel and brown sugar meringue, the transparent inner layer tricks the eye, but the tastebuds are quick to remind you, it’s key lime pie!
While Chef admitted he’s still “the new kid on the block,” he has big plans for the direction he wants to take the Seagar’s menu in the coming months.
“The spring menu got a ton of great reception and now I can see where I want to go,” Covington said. “I can’t really jump completely out the door with it yet, but come fall, hang on!
Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood is located at 4000 Sandestin Blvd. South, Miramar Beach, within the Hilton Sandestin. Service runs Tuesday to Sunday, 5:30 to 9 p.m., and stays open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For reservations or more information, visit www.seagars.com or call 850-622-1500.