Florida Dining: Verdea

4530 PGA Boulevard (In Embassy Suites Hotel)
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Web Site: http://www.verdearestaurant.com

The Embassy Suites Hotel in the commercial district of Palm Beach Gardens is not where you’d expect to find a high-end, destination dining experience in Palm Beach County — you’d expect this sort of restaurant near Royal Palm Way or Worth Avenue on Palm Beach Island, South Florida’s equivalent to Rodeo Drive and where Florida’s wealthiest citizens and visitors still strut their stuff and buy Gucci bags and Patek Philippe watches on their Amex Centurion cards.

Nevertheless, there it is. Verdea, which is owned and managed by the Remington Hotels Group which manages and operates dozens of luxury hotels across the country, has opened to little fanfare in early December of 2010 in a space that used to be the hotel’s nightclub.

The restaurant, which serves New American cuisine with Mediterranean flavors with a seasonal, focused menu and sources much of its produce from Florida, has brought in the talents of Chef James King, a veteran of the Remington group’s various hotel restaurants including the One Ocean Resort in Jacksonville, and who earned his toque locally as a sous chef at the famous Breakers Hotel and then banquet chef at the Four Seasons resort in Palm Beach.  Later, he went on to participate in the opening of the hotel restaurant Quattro at the Four Seasons Silcon Valley, where he was exposed to California-style Mediterranean/Italian cuisine.

I got a chance to dine at Verdea while visiting family in Florida during the 2010 holiday season, only two weeks after its opening. I was skeptical that such a high-end, locavore-oriented, “Farm to Table” restaurant would open in such a medium-range business hotel, which would normally be reserved for a more upscale property such as a flagship Hilton or a resort hotel, but I was glad to have been proven wrong.

Unfortunately my photos in this post don’t live up to my usual standards as I was carrying my point and shoot G7 and not my DSLR. The restaurant also has very muted mood lighting and so it made for a challenging environment to photograph. However, I can assure you, the place is absolutely stunning looking inside, and the plating is gorgeous and the food is fantastic. I can’t wait to return here with my 50mm f1.4 and the 50D.

Verdea is surely destined to become one of Palm Beach County’s premier destination restaurants. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Executive Chef James King, by the retail Wine store and wine bar.

The dining banquettes in the main dining room. Aldea’s colors are earthtone and warm, reminiscent of the Mediterranean where many of the restaurant’s flavors come from.

Verdea has a very comprehensive wine program that was developed by Remington Hotels top sommelier and wine buyer, John Kennedy. Every major wine growing region of the world is represented here, with over 250 varietals, and every single wine that is on the list can be bought at the restaurant’s retail store.

I was surprised to find that the retail prices on Verdea’s wine racks were competitive with local discount wine stores. Since Verdea is part of the huge Remington Group, John Kennedy can leverage the company’s buying power to purchase for all of their restaurants and pass those savings down to the diner and the retail buyer.

Verdea’s wine bar, which seats up to 65 people, serves small plates as well as cheese courses to pair with its wine flights, which are 2oz pours served in full-sized wine glasses, sure to please any oenophile. In addition to the wine bar the restaurant has a wide array of specialty cocktails that were formulated by professional mixologists. The restaurant also has cigars for sale which can be smoked on their patio outside.

This is a Yellow Tail Ahi Tuna Crudo, with toasted Macadamia Nuts, Mango, Sesame Seeds and Pickled Cucumbers. A refreshing Floribbean twist on sashimi.

Salad of Baby Beets and Florida Loxahatchee Goat Cheese, with Spinach and Curried Mint Vinaigrette.

Rachel ordered a Ballantine of Guinea Hen, with foraged Porcini mushrooms, Pancetta, Creamed Antebellum Grits and Madiera Jus. Guinea Hen is a type of large wild fowl but it wasn’t at all gamey, it was like really nice flavorful farm-raised chicken.

Berkshire Pork Tenderloin wrapped with Double Smoked Bacon, Guava, Heirloom Potatoes and Grain Mustard. Fabulous.

While it is difficult to see from the lighting I was most impressed by the plating of Florida Stone Crab Meat, which was stuffed into a “bombe” of Avocado slices and served with a Piquillo pepper sauce.

This was the Souffle dessert, which takes 20 minutes to cook. If you don’t eat it within minutes of it being served it will deflate, as seen in this photo. However the deflation was my fault for letting it sit too long. It still tasted amazing.

This is a flourless dark chocolate dessert, with fresh raspberries and raspberry coulis. Very powerful headache-causing chocolate if you attempt to eat the whole thing yourself, as to be expected from one of these things.

We had this with a late harvest Edmeades Zinfandel from Perli Vineyard in Mendocino, which paired quite well with the dark chocolate as it wasn’t too sweet, having more of the the characteristics of a port rather than something more sweet like a Banyuls.

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