By Kimberly Toms
I have to admit something very, very personal. That is, during my St. Augustine travel I was in the middle of a very structured diet and my biggest fear was that of packing on the tons of pounds one accumulates when being enticed and treated on a typical grown-up vacation. Yes, I feared the cheesecake.
Knowing restaurants are a pivotal part of any getaway, and perhaps one of the greatest indulgences known to man, I could not ignore the significance of local cuisine. So, I did what any good travel writer does, and sucked it up. I quite literally, “Hoovered,” if you will, allowing myself to partake as if I was unencumbered by guilt or calorie counts.
Oh, the struggle of it all.
Raintree Seafood and Steakhouse: Colorful Cuisine, Cultured Flavor
Once I hit the doors of Raintree Seafood and Steakhouse, an award-winning casual restaurant within an 1879 Victorian home, all signs of a struggle had disappeared. The staff of Raintree were approachable and friendly, atmosphere romantic – yet not intimidatingly romantic for solo or platonic diners.
Both the structure and owner Lorna MacDonald have their own unique, romantic stories to tell about how Raintree came into being. It is a story you should inquire about, while visiting and enjoying the delightful fare.
I started with 2004’s Australian Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet and Smoked Salmon Crustini. Pesto, capers, onions, tomato, mozzarella, and caviar all intermingle and dance upon the crustini, an appropriate accompaniment to a delightful wine. Also offered are Bruschetta with Roasted Tomatoes; Baked Scallops on the Half Shell with sake ginger vinaigrette; Spicy Seafood Roll served with spicy garlic aioli and a Mirin teriyaki glaze; Portobello Mushroom Stack of wilted spinach and Crab Imperial on a pepper lentil coulis; Maryland Style Lump Crab Cake with slaw and tropical fruit salsa; Baked Oysters topped with roasted red peppers, scallions, bacon, and parmesan cheese; Escargot Broiled with Champagne in garlic butter sauce with French bread Melbas; Quail Legs wrapped in bacon, served with barbecue sauce, and set on shoestring onions; or a soup of the day selection.
My salad of choice was the day’s arugula with raisins, pine nuts and low-fat raspberry vinaigrette. It led me well into one of the evening’s special entrees, that of Scallops, Shrimp, and Lobster on Bowtie Pasta in a Champagne Cream Sauce. Yes, I realize that a cream sauce is one of the most decadent selections I could make, but simply could not resist. I did make a special request that was very nicely honored: “Hold 75 percent of the pasta, please?”
When I took the first bite, I knew holding most of the pasta was a good idea, as I would have eaten every single bowtie. The champagne sauce was that brilliant – creamy, but not like an Alfredo. It was buttery, flavorful and indulgent, yet not heavy. Just enough sauce lingered upon each taste of seafood and pasta that the mouthful was well-dressed, never masked.
That brings me to the subject of Raintree’s seafood: Every prawn, scallop, and lobster portion included in the entrée absolutely burst upon biting. I question if I have ever had such succulent seafood, but don’t tell anyone in New Orleans that I said that. There was actually a little “pop” as my teeth pierced the seafood’s surface. Have I not been adequately experiencing seafood until this meal?
Other entrees from which to choose range from bouillabaisse, salmon, Ahi tuna, mahi-mahi, Chilean Sea Bass, Pecan Trout Meuniere, duck, shrimp, pork, chicken, lobster, prime rib, lamb, filets, sirloin, ribeye, and so much more. Vegetarian selections are also available, such as a wonderful Stuffed Eggplant with fresh vegetables, ricotta, mozzarella, balsamic reduction and red lentil puree.
Another famous staple in my native New Orleans is the Bananas Foster. I refuse to compare that to any other, so I will simply attest that the Bananas Foster Crepes dessert of Raintree beckons me back, right now, perhaps evermore. Will its lingering memory ever leave me in peace? Perhaps that is a question that can only be answered through another sampling.
More of Raintree’s cuisine is available through the slideshow below. Click on any image to start salivating.