Steak and seafood house debuts fall menu
By Michelle Farnham
Sept. 7, 2023
SANDESTIN – As Executive Chef Fleetwood Covington welcomed guests to the Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood fall preview luncheon, he explained the influences for his latest seasonal menu, which debuts Sept. 8 and runs through the new year.
“As we move into the fall and winter seasons, as the heat breaks, everybody becomes a little more relaxed, and the plates should relax, too,” he said. Bonfires and smokiness, old family recipes, pumpkin and the color purple inspired his direction, as he looks to re-engineer the dining experience at Seagar’s.
Covington’s trio of first course selections included a crab cake with she-crab velouté, served on a bed of crispy leeks – a nod to bales of hay found at a pumpkin patch.
“We also like to hide things in the dishes, and so your plate in front of you has a dip in it, where we hide the velouté,” he said.
On this day, Chef’s smoked quail with savory cornbread came instead with a prime filet, because he insists on ordering small batches of proteins and produce, to ensure peak freshness.
The accompanying red-eye gravy was borrowed from his grandmother’s recipe box, and the dish comes with either bacon fat-sauteed collard greens or Swiss shard – again depending on what’s looking freshest from his suppliers.
Covington employs a Japanese slicing blade to create paper-thin see-through sheets of potatoes for his diver scallop dish, served with the confit potato ribbon, beets two ways and smoked salmon roe.
“The blonde spiral you see there is 32 layers of potato, poached deep, and a little bit of duck fat foam,” he said.
Memories of toasted marshmallows motivated the radicchio salad with elderflower and brandy-soaked bruléed peach and shaved fontina cheese.
“You’re going to have to trust me on this. The peach looks burnt because it is,” he said with a laugh. “I like my marshmallows burnt – like burnt, burnt, burnt. There’s a reason for that; it’s an offset of textures and flavors from being burnt and bitter, it can counteract the sweet.”
The plate comes pre-dressed with toasted pecan dust and a peach gastriche that offers a little bite to it.
Moving onto entrees, the gulf grouper – sometimes served instead with sea bass – is plated with a vibrant purple cauliflower puree and merlot beurre rouge. Maintaining that purple color is a labor of love for the kitchen.
“When we cook the cauliflower, you lose the purple color, and I was really looking for the contrast of peach and lavender,” he said. “When you shock it with baking soda, it won’t change the pigment. Then we add a teaspoon of butterfly pea flower extract, and it will whip it right back into that lavender color.”
His poached sea bass sits aside a confit of beet ribbon, so delicate it can be twirled on your fork like pasta. Roasted blue carrots and Yukon potato pearls round out the dish with a white wine beurre blanc.
Again Chef adds to the dining experience with his whimsical plate selection, using undulating china that evokes the divided plates of childhood.
Covington admitted he has a bit of a love/hate relationship with the primary flavor of the gilded pumpkin cremeux dessert.
“It has to do with Starbucks, and I’ll let you figure out why,” he laughed, alluding to the pumpkin spice latte craze that has invaded the culinary zeitgeist. “Now I can re-approach it. I didn’t want to overwork it: too much vanilla, brown sugar, or browned butter. To me, pumpkin is one of those things you don’t have to do a ton to it.”
Pie crust is often just a delivery vehicle for the filling, but here the buttery, delicate crust is just as much a part of the show. He finishes it with a meringue, though the kitchen is still deciding between vanilla, citrus or magnolia flavors.
“You’ll see Friday,” he teased.
Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood is located at 4000 S. Sandestin Blvd., within the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, visit them online at seagars.com to peruse the menu or make a reservation.
Photos by Michelle Farnham