Club chefs aren’t shy about featuring regionally inspired, lesser-known seasonal fish alongside more traditional mainstays.
Almost every club has a dynamite salmon dish. Most also have a pretty good scallops item, and fish and chips, too. But not every club has a menu featuring Mexican sea bass, sturgeon or steelhead trout in its repertoire—until now.
“Chefs can be most creative with seafood,” says Alain Redelsperger, Executive Chef of Mountain View Country Club (MVCC), Palm Springs, Calif. “It’s delicate and requires a light-handed approach. Plus, there are many species of fish available to use that are becoming more popular.”
As chefs like Redelsperger continue to market different species, instead of only focusing on the most well-known varieties, they are not only educating members and expanding menus, they are also helping to make seafood sustainability a reality.
MVCC’s dinner menus offer a smart balance between seasonal products, like soft-shell crab or loup de mer, and traditional favorites.
“There is a fine line between offering too much unfamiliar seafood and not enough,” says Redelsperger. “We change our specials frequently and we keep our preparations simple, so members aren’t put off by overly complicated dishes.”
“Seaing” Beyond Salmon
MVCC’s grilled salmon, topped with a honey-orange glaze, is one of its most popular dishes. Ditto for the fish and chips made with beer-battered and fried haddock filets, as well as the shrimp and scallop scampi.
These workhorses share menu space with seasonal species, thanks to Redelsperger’s drive to expose the membership to a number of exciting new varieties.
Loup de mer is a perfect example. Available in the spring and summer, it has a delicate and unique character. The meat is moist and buttery, flaky yet smooth, firm yet tender, silky and velvety. “It’s sort of similar to Dover sole,” says Redelsperger, who sears loup de mer filets on the flattop until barely golden. “Our members love it.”
Redelsperger generally serves loup de mer with spring pea purée, heirloom tomatoes or, in the summer, stuffed zucchini flowers.
In the late fall and early winter, Redelsperger likes to feature hamachi, or Pacific yellowtail, as a sashimi starter.
“We make a pomegranate vinaigrette that we run through a chinois, to smooth it out,” he says. “Then we’ll pick some grapefruit from our backyard, segment it and incorporate it with microgreens.”
The result is a bright, citrusy, fresh fall dish that even MVCC’s most fervent salmon lovers enjoy.
From Local to Exotic
Specializing in modern Southern cuisine, Executive Chef Jonathon Gillespie features a number of regional seafood species, such as sturgeon and University of Georgia caviar, on the menu at the Waterfall Club, Clayton, Ga.
“I recently hooked up with a new purveyor who works with local suppliers to get the freshest ingredients around,” he says. “He works with the guy who goes out and gets the abalone. It makes a huge difference in flavor and freshness.”
Even though locally sourced products tend to be a bit more expensive, Gillespie keeps costs in line by cutting back on portion size and adding more fresh vegetables to the plate. (He generally runs a 40% food cost.)
“Our members would prefer a really high-quality piece of fish over a giant serving of mediocre fish,” he says.
Beyond local products, Gillespie also likes to feature exotic seafood products (in moderation, of course).
“We recently ran a special featuring octopus prepared with olive oil, smoked paprika and preserved lemon,” he says (see recipe). “I really wasn’t sure how well it would be received by the membership, but they loved it and word spread quickly through the dining room. We sold out well before the end of service.”
The menu at Stonegate Golf Club at Solivita, Poinciana, Fla., benefits from its club’s location more than most.
“We’re very fortunate in Florida to have immediate access to so many fresh local fish like grouper, flounder, snapper and swordfish,” says Executive Chef Anukul Hampton. “We keep our preparations simple, so the fish itself is the star of the plate every time.”
Stonegate’s members gravitate toward lighter preparations, so Hampton encourages diners to personalize their cooking method when ordering. “We tend to grill most of our fish, but if a member wants it to be pan-seared, we’re happy to accommodate that request, too,” he says.
Two of Hampton’s most successful fish dishes are grouper with mirin butter sauce, served with a vegetable medley, as well as mesquite wood-grilled swordfish, served with asparagus and a basmati rice pilaf.
“The grouper is pan-seared in a butter sauce to keep it moist, while the swordfish has a meaty texture that helps it stand up really well to the grill,” he says.
David Reardon, Executive Chef at Bacara Resort & Spa, Santa Barbara, Calif., takes a similar approach to his menus, focusing on seasonality and simplicity.
“Seasonality is what drives my seafood dishes and determines what’s on my menus,” he says. “I work very closely with the fishmongers, to ensure that we get the freshest product available, no matter what time of year.”
Seafood dishes that are particularly successful at Bacara include a wild ocean steelhead trout served with roasted cauliflowers, braised almonds, and black trumpets with a roasted citrus sauce; slow-roasted California sea bass served with squid ink lobster tortellini, caramelized carrot purée and brown figs; and halibut a la plancha served with fregola, toasted almond, celery salsa verte and a fennel vinaigrette.
“F&B is directly proportionate to the success of the resort,” says Reardon. “Culinary goes hand-in-hand with the experience we offer. So it’s critical that we blend local ingredients with innovative techniques, to capture the unique flavors of Santa Barbara County.”