Chef’s Table at Michael’s Tasting Room

There are moments when life seems too good to be true. When hubby and I relax into a plush velvet banquette at Michael’s Tasting Room anticipating his expertly prepared 5 course Chef’s Table paired with wines, I often lean over to hubs and whisper, “pinch me!

Any evening at Michael’s Tasting Room is both delicious and relaxing but the Chef’s Table is a unique foodie experience among St. Augustine restaurants.

Michaels Tasting Room St Augustine Restaurant

Michael’s Tasting Room is a fine dining restaurant in St. Augustine. Whether we’re there for a date night or to celebrate, they make any meal memorable.

tasting room st augustine

Start your evening with house filtered water… sparkling or still.

Every Chef’s Table experience differs; Michael procures the freshest regional ingredients of the season first and builds a menu around them. He shared that while most guests wisely give the chef no boundaries, his team can easily tailor the experience to one’s dietary requests. Case in point: while one of their specialties is local shellfish prepared with a Mediterranean flare, I requested no shellfish and he easily accommodated us.

Shortly after our server, Greg, filled my glass with house-filtered sparkling water, Chef Michael introduced our first course: 40 degree salmon with citrus air, garden herb puree, fennel pollen and smoked chardonnay sea salt. 

Chefs Dinner Michaels Tasting Room

40 degree salmon from the Chef’s Table experience at Michael’s Tasting Room.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll understand that I sat there with a goofy grin after the first forkful of tender salmon, herbacious spring vegetable puree and lemon air passed my lips. Yes, it was that good. Locally sourced spring veggies were bright and sweet under the soft, buttery salmon. The Spice and Tea Exchange‘s smoked chardonnay sea salt elevates dishes I prepare at home but under Michael’s skilled hand the subtle smokiness blended seamlessly with the other flavors on the plate resulting in perfectly balanced bites.

After the salmon, I assumed a flavorful but predictable salad course would follow. Surely the salmon would be the show-stopping highlight. I mean, tart lemony air is hard to beat!!

Not hard after all… simply top anything with freshly shaved black truffles and you’ll have my vote! Introducing Michael’s Tasting Room’s Sunchoke Veloute:

Michaels Tasting Room Soup

Sunchoke Velouté topped with freshly shaved black truffles from Michael’s Tasting Room’s Chef’s Table.

The term velouté is derived from the French word for velvet. Michael’s Sunchoke Velouté is as far removed from a typical creamy soup as Claude’s bonbons are from a Hershey’s Kiss. Chef shaved black truffles into our hand-blown glass bowls tableside and perfectly paired this course with Napa’s Lail Vineyards’ Chardonnay. I adore soup and had never tasted fresh truffle alone- this dish I will never forget.

As we enjoyed our second course, hubs noted that Chef Michael was attentive to all the diners in the restaurant. He introduced himself to many, helped a nearby table with their wine pairing and even took the time to reposition a light that was shining in a guest’s eyes. As the chef/owner of this restaurant, he clearly desires that each guest have an amazing experience.

Chefs Tasting Michaels Tasting Room

Third Course of our Chef’s Table: crispy duck breast, charred hastings brussels sprouts, thumbelina carrots, sweet potato gnocchi and pomegranate gastrique

Crispy duck breast was plated over charred Hastings brussels sprouts, thumbelina carrots and Okinawa Sweet Potato gnocchi for the third course. While the duck and even the vegetables were well prepared and could stand on their own, a sweet-tart pomegranate gastrique was the bridge bringing the rich duck, earthy veggies and comforting gnocchi together into one pleasing dish. I love gnocchi and enjoyed bites of it with the gastrique. I’ve always been “iffy” on duck- I’ve had great duck & some I didn’t really care for. This was mild, tender and rich- reminiscent of foie gras.

I should mention that each course was perfectly portioned – always enough to really savor the course but I didn’t leave stuffed. The pace of the evening allowed us to relax in each other’s company. When baby Wesley is old enough to stay home, I look forward to enjoying a Chef’s Table evening with friends. Friends who love wine.

Michael told me that when The Tasting Room opened 6 years ago, the vision for this restaurant was to focus on balancing each dish’s components similar to a winemaker’s approach to cultivating a perfect blend. Garnishes here aren’t frilly or afterthoughts; each part of a dish contributes to the pleasing whole.

“We really seek out contrast, not necessarily complements,” Michael shared regarding his style of pairing wines as he poured Bellingham S.M.V. from South Africa. “The right amount of contrast actually complements the dish. For example, the acid and spice of S.M.V.’s oak aged character brings balance to the rich flavor of Wagyu beef.” Oh, did I not tell you? Our next course was cast-iron seared, butter basted Wagyu beef. Don’t be jealous- you can make reservations just like we did!

Michaels Tasting Room Wagyu Beef St Augustine

Cast Iron seared Wagyu Strip over wilted beet greens with hedgehog mushrooms

“That was awesome,” my hubby just interjected as he looked over my shoulder while I’m writing. He’s talking about the butter basted strip. I feel the same way about the hedgehog mushrooms and greens accompanying it. After 11 years as a vegetarian, I guess it makes sense that I have such an affinity for well seasoned veggies that aren’t cooked to mush. Thank you for treating our roughage right, team!! ;)

I was pleasantly surprised by wine pairings throughout the evening and the final pairing was a “sweet” surprise. We toasted to good food, love and St. Augustine with glasses of velvety 2007 Dolce.

Romantic dinner in st augustine tasting room

Michael’s Tasting Room’s wine selection includes Dolce for a sweet ending.

The pastry chef contributed a stellar dessert to the Chef’s Table dinner- Goat Cheese Cake with Florida Strawberry Coulis and Drunken Cherries looked as good as it tasted. I meted out one sweet-tart cherry per bite of this gorgeous, dark chocolate enrobed cheesecake until I’d eaten them all. Although I was tempted to snag hubby’s cherries as well, I settled for the strawberry coulis’ bright addition to the rest of my dessert. Settled. Ha! Such a hard life… when one must settle for freshly blended strawberry coulis.

Michael's Tasting Room St Augustine dessert

We were happy to have a moment to express our gratitude to Chef Michael before we left. The Tasting Room was always a great spot for tapas, but now that he has full ownership, Michael’s Tasting Room shines as a destination dining spot.

“Nothing about what we do is hoity toity,” Michael said. “It’s casual elegance. If you come to my house, it looks like this. I’ll feed you like this.” {Watch out Michael! Now that St. Augustine is reading this, your facebook friend requests may explode!}

Chef’s Table experiences are $75 per diner with an optional wine pairing for an additional $50 as of 3/2015. While we opted to sit in the comfortable banquette since we were dining with our angel baby, the restaurant has a Chef’s Table set aside in the front of the restaurant exclusively for these unique experiences.

Chefs Table at Michaels Tasting Room

Hand-blown glass dishes, crystal stemware and other special touches set this fireside table apart. Michael’s menu is creative and changes seasonally- it’s always fun to dine there. The Chef’s Table experience offers foodies, regulars and those looking for a unique food encounter another reason to love Michael’s Tasting Room. Let me know what’s included in your special experience there!

michaels tasting table

Michael’s Tasting Room 
25 Cuna Street
Dinner reservations available 7 days a week from 5:00 – 10:0 pm

Chef’s Table reservations are available from 2 – 10 people with at least a 24 hour notice. I suggest making reservations further out to ensure availability!

We were invited to enjoy a Chef’s Table evening in order to share this experience with you. 

GAS Restaurant

What makes a restaurant great?

I suppose there are as many answers as there are diners but these criterion are agreed upon by most:

  1. Does it have welcoming, comfortable & unique ambiance?
    GAS is in an old filling station & it’s decorated like a classic diner. {Check!}
  2. Are servers friendly, attentive and knowledgeable?
    GAS has the friendliest staff in town. Everyone loves Brittany and Lindy! {Check! Check!}
  3. Is the menu comprised of delicious dishes- better than I prepare at home?
    GAS’ kitchen cranks out unusual flavor combinations and crazy fun dishes like the Jalapeño Popper Burger {which I blogged here} and comforting Southern classics better than grandma’s. {Check! Check! Check!}

For those reasons and more, GAS is a family favorite. When they rolled out their new menu, our 8 year old insisted we make sure their ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese was still available. Hubby and I decided it was time for a date night! Somehow, GAS improved their already fab menu without cutting the best of the old.

While we read over the new offerings, Brittany brought their classic deviled eggs to hold us over:

GAS Deviled Eggs

Every meal at GAS begins with a plate of their classic deviled eggs. They’re healthier than a bread course and the perfect thing to whet your palate for the delish experience to come!

When Brittany asked if we’d be ordering appetizers, Hubby and I looked at each other and grinned. Of course we’d be ordering an app!! GAS’ Reuben Rolls are hard to pass up. Molten swiss cheese, kraut and corned beef are cocooned in crisp egg rolls- these don’t even need the Russian dip that comes on the plate. Six in an order means there are enough to share… but you may not want to!

Reuben Rolls GAS St Augustine

Reuben Rolls… worth fightin’ for.

For those who have steered clear of GAS in the past in search of healthier fare, stop by to tank up soon. New additions to the menu include vegetarian and light options such as grilled portabellos, jerk chicken over beans & rice, a tofu entree and fresh fish.

We ignored those. LOL

I was 9 months pregnant and it was cold outside… I perused the menu for something filling and comforting. I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Pot Pie Biscuit:

Chicken Pot Pie GAS St Augustine

Behold the aforementioned Southern Fried Chicken Pot Pie Biscuit!

Remember requirement #3 in the Great Restaurant Quest? The food has to be better than I cook at home. I don’t cook biscuits or fried chicken, so GAS had a leg up on me here. The chicken was perfectly tender & moist while the breading was crisp and just altogether heavenly. The pot pie gravy compliments the chicken beautifully. I only ate a few bites of biscuit and even took half my chicken home with me. That’s the problem with being 9 months pregnant… always hungry but not too much room in the tummy! Nothing went to waste, though, leftovers were great the next day!

Hubby didn’t have much of his left. Being a hunter who loves wild game, he chose the Venison. The Wild Boar Ribs were tempting but they were out.

Venison Chop GAS St Augustine

Venison Rib Chop over Porcini Gravy

I remain surprised how different the flavor of the venison is from what we eat at home. Farm raised venison is milder and a bit more tender- add the knowledgeable preparation of the GAS team and you have a dish that’s appealing to all palates. Hubby preferred to eat it without the porcini gravy- saying the gravy overpowered the clean & slightly gamey taste he loves in venison. I preferred it with the gravy as I think it complements the venison and minimizes the gamey flavor. You’ll have to comment below with how you prefer it! Oh, one last thought before we move to dessert… their mashed potatoes are off the chain. Ohmygracious. Delish.

You may be tempted to fill up on dinner and skip dessert. Not a good idea. GAS makes their sweets in house- from the caramel sea salt brownie to cheesecakes {lemon blackberry! Milk Stout Oreo!} to peanut butter pie and beer floats… you’ll be glad you boxed the rest of dinner and made room for dessert.

GAS Chocolate Almond Pie

GAS’ Chocolate Almond Pie is locally famous. It reminds me of a dense bread pudding… fun and different from desserts elsewhere.

My hubby has always enjoyed GAS’ craft beer selection. They’ve recently added 10 taps and stock brews such as Duke’s Brown Ale from Jacksonville’s Bold City Brewery. Local craft beer afficionados who have fallen in love with GAS’ comfort food may consider attending one of GAS’ Beer Dinners for a fun, new local dining experience {six courses paired with six beers, usually around $65}.

It is located just over the Bridge of Lions- it is walkable from downtown and parking is free. However you get there, Don’t pass GAS.

GAS Full Service Restaurant St Augustine

GAS Full Service Restaurant
9 Anastasia Boulevard
open for lunch & dinner
Closed Mondays
(904) 217-0326