If you weren’t downtown last night for the Best of Jacksonville Party at the Museum of Contemporary Art, well, you missed the best party in town. The event was a combination of my some of my favorite things: interesting and creative artwork, prime people watching, and food from the best restaurants Jacksonville has to offer. A Marilyn Monroe look-alike greeted guests at the ground floor entrance to the party, foreshadowing the diverse Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe exhibit running until April 4th on the third level of the museum. The prime people watching can partly be attributed to the photo booth and cover model search organized by Jacksonville Magazine. Lots of beautiful ladies hanging around hoping to be discovered. I don’t think many of these tall and trim gals enjoyed sampling the food offerings as much as, ahem, yours truly. Over 25 restaurants from across Jacksonville, in from the beaches, and up from Saint Augustine turned out to offer samples to 500 hungry guests. I expected each booth to serve an amuse bouche, a tiny little one-bite palate tickler, but most of the restaurants were dishing up full plates of food! Here are the restaurants that catered the event (in alphabetical order) and the dishes they served.
Aqua Grill, Ponte Vedra Beach – Fire-roasted dynamite shrimp finished with a caramelized sweet chili aioli, served over a cold Asian rice noodle salad.A chef from Aqua Grill cooked the spicy shrimp to order over hot stones. Biscotti’s, Avondale – An assortment of glossy pastel-colored French macarons. I had a heavenly peanut butter-flavored macaron, but there were also pistachio and oreo, among others. Bistro Aix, San Marco – Duck spring rolls with pineapple “ketchup.” These were wonderfully crispy, hot, and subtly flavored. Blue Bamboo, Southside Blvd – Asian noodles served in mini Chinese take-out boxes and an Asian slaw. Café NOLA, in the MOCA downtown – Shrimp in a creamy white wine porcini sauce with a smoked cheddar grit cake. Rich and divine. The Casa Marina, Jacksonville Beach – A take on ceviche: lime and chili marinated shrimp, scallop and fresh fish accompanied with avocado and a cilantro cucumber emulsion topped with crispy tortilla strips. Good contrast of textures and a perfect dose of citrus. Chew, downtown – frisee aux lardons salad and bacon and white bean cassoulet. Frisee was an excellent choice for a catering event – the hearty lettuce remained crisp and peppery in its vinaigrette, and the lardons were perfect little cubes of salty, chewy goodness. Joseph’s Italian, North Jax and Atlantic Beach – Stromboli and baked ziti. Matthew's, San Marco – Seafood soup with mussels, shrimp, and bay scallops. Top-notch seafood in a flavorful broth, served with a side of handsome chefs! Metro Custom Cakes – An assortment of cupcakes in flavors such as almond cream cheese and vanilla with raspberry filling. Mezza Luna, Neptune Beach – Braised short ribs with swiss chard, black currants and compressed apples. MOJO Barbecue – BBQ ribs, chicken wings, and pulled pork sandwiches. I could have just eaten at MOJOs and been full and satisfied – two ribs, two chicken wings, and a sandwich! Love this place, the ribs were especially tender. Morton's The Steakhouse – Mashed potatoes with prime rib. This was a real crowd-pleaser. Nineteen @ TPC Sawgrass - Pan-fried risotto cake and Kobe beef finished with a demi glace and crispy fried leeks. Probably the best plated presentation of the night, served with a beautiful, friendly smile. The beef was a perfect medium rare and extra salty, just like I like it. One Ocean’s Azurea Restaurant, Jacksonville Beach – Crab claw and crab salad over whipped avocado. The photo is atrocious but the crab claw was an especially clever idea for a cocktail party – one bite with a built-in handle. Genius and delicious! Orsay, Avondale – Shrimp and Anson Mills grits topped with roasted corn and Eden Farms bacon relish, served with a huckleberry scone. Again, this could have been a meal in itself. Love the sweet roasted corn and salty bacon topping.Pastiche, Avondale – Shrimp in a tangy remoulade sauce. A single bite that made me want to go back for more. The Reef, St Augustine – Seared scallop tostada with black bean and fresh salsa. River City Brewing Co., downtown – Salmontini: house-smoked salmon with crème fraiche, capers, and a quail egg. Twisted Martini, downtown – I tried the white grape martini which according to their website is made with white grape vodka, triple sec, sweet and sour, and a splash of Red Bull. 619 Ocean View Restaurant @ Sawgrass Marriott, Ponte Vedra Beach – Creamy bisque with truffled popcorn. There is a limit to even what I can fit into my tummy, so unfortunately I was unable to sample the offerings from the following restaurants: Deco Bistro, Riverside; JJs Bistro (they had a lovely table full of pastries like pecan tarts); North Beach Bistro, Atlantic Beach; Sliders Seafood, Neptune Beach; and Zaitoon Mediterranean Grill.
500 guests + over 25 restaurants + 1 Marilyn = 1 heck of a party. Looking forward to next year.
333 North Laura Street, Jacksonville, FL