Recently I had the opportunity to dine with my friend, Karen Miller, and her partner, Rusty, at Salt, The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island’s AAA 5-Diamond restaurant. Having eaten at Salt on only one other occasion, I was very excited to experience their exceptional cuisine again. I was also looking forward to catching up with Karen and learning about her new blog and her latest adventures on the Appalachian Trail.
As we got comfortable, our server, Aubrey, poured champagne and introduced the salts on the table for the evening. Eight unique salts were displayed in little cellars for pairing with the meal and experiencing individually with the fresh-made rolls and butter.
Being three intrepid souls, we selected the Chef’s Adventure Menu, and soon an amuse bouche of Potato-Leek Pana Cota was placed before us. An amuse bouche is literally “a little something extra” from the chef for the table, an edible introduction. This cool and creamy delight was garnished with a piquillo pepper jam, micro mustard greens, and two of the tiniest and most perfect potato chips you can imagine. These flavors swirled in my imagination as aromatic memories danced across my palate. If this was just the introduction from the chef, I was awfully pleased to meet him.
What followed in our meal was nothing less than a parade of brilliance. No sense went unseduced. There was Foie Gras with Berries and a sweet Aszu wine, a Dark Chocolate Covered Quennell of decadence that just melted on your tongue. We enjoyed Key West Prawns with a pillow of warm goat cheese and green tomato marmalade. There was a simple Butternut Squash Soup made extraordinary by a cranberry foam and a dome of smoking aromatics. This was followed by Snapper and Octopus in a Coconut Broth and a perfect Pinot Noir. We were blown away, and still only halfway through our meal.
As we shared stories, Matthew Griffin, sommelier at Salt, introduced himself and brought out a few more of the salts he had made to enjoy with our fifth course, an Andouille-Stuffed Quail with carrot, black-eyed peas, and collard greens with pickled blackberries that tasted just as southern as it sounded, only with precise and sophisticated clarity. Our sixth course featured a Caymus Napa Valley 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, which provided the perfect perspective for slices of Bison Tenderloin, seared on 250 million year-old blocks of salt.
When Karen, Rusty and I were seated, the window view resembled a mirror. I could see the entire room. However, as the moon slowly came up out of the cold, black wintery ocean, it bathed the beach and dunes in an icy, magical blue light. The evening ended with a trio of soufflés: dark chocolate with butterscotch ice cream and bourbon anglaise; white chocolate with sweet potato sorbet and hone anglaise; and goat cheese with limoncello anglaise and pomegranate sorbet. Amazing. There aren’t enough adjectives in the thesaurus to describe this meal in its entirety. Sitting back in my chair and considering the dishes that Chef Laughlin had prepared for us, I was reminded of Einstein, who once remarked that the more he learned, the more he realized how much he didn’t know.
Salt overlooks the ocean on the Amelia Island Parkway and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations can be made online or by calling (904) 277-1100.