Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Food Issue: Tastes of the future

The celebrity chefs of Sundial and an offshoot of Pearl in the Grove.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM

click to enlarge LOCALE COLOR: Don Pintabona speaking at the announcement of Locale Market, a huge gourmet food emporium, on June 5 at Sundial. - SUNDIAL ST. PETE VIA FACEBOOK
  • Sundial St. Pete via Facebook
  • LOCALE COLOR: Don Pintabona speaking at the announcement of Locale Market, a huge gourmet food emporium, on June 5 at Sundial.

What’s the recipe for successful redevelopment of a problematic but iconic area of St. Pete?

Or to put it in culinary terms, how do the sad leftovers of BayWalk rise like a successful soufflé as Sundial?

Well, just in time for CL’s Food Issue, the secret sauce has been revealed. Entrepreneur Bill Edwards’ recipe goes like this: Start with a big pile of greenbacks.

Add an ample portion of visionary flare and a big squeeze of inspiration from NYC chef (and USF grad) Don Pintabona, who launched Robert De Niro’s TriBeCa Grill.

Then really turn up the heat: Throw in a huge sprinkling of world-class chef, in the person of Michael Mina.

You may not know the name Michael Mina because he’s not a fixture on food TV, but he’s got a pedigree at the top of the culinary food chain. I had a spectacular meal at his eponymous San Francisco flagship restaurant and have cooked from his 2006 book — Michael Mina: The Cookbook — that shares his unique trio concept, in which a master recipe is followed by three flavor variations, each accompanied by side dishes created just for that version. His gastronomic troikas are enough to make your head spin.

Chef Mina has been showered with nearly every important accolade as a cook and restaurauteur. His portfolio includes 20 restaurants from SF to DC, Vegas to Miami. One fear with the cult of the celebrity chef is a drop in quality; some big names have spread themselves too thin. Mina seems to assure high standards and guard his brand.

And now he’s dangling an enormously appealing carrot, or perhaps truffle, to lure gastronauts to Sundial.

Mina’s FarmTable Kitchen, scheduled to open in the fall, is expected to be joined by three other restaurants at the complex, including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Sea Salt, a branch of the Naples, Florida, favorite run by Venetian chef Fabrizio Aielli, whose cuisine enthralled me at Teatro Goldoni when I lived in DC.

As if the restaurant news isn’t compelling enough, the Mina-Pintabona dynamic duo have another surprise up the sleeves of their chef’s whites. It’s a food emporium called Locale.

When foodies visit Europe, they flock to the enormous and overwhelming food halls of Harrods in London or Fauchon in Paris. The closest thing we’ve got in Tampa Bay is Mazzaro’s Italian Market. The food emporium that’s envisioned for Sundial follows the successful U.S. model of Eataly in Lower Manhattan. When I visited Eataly this spring, it was buzzing like a beehive. Similarly, Locale will be part European market, part Whole Foods, part upscale food court. Imagine a 20,000-square-foot culinary learning center — a gourmet grocery store with tasting rooms.

Whether there’s a critical mass of the food-obsessed to make Sundial’s market-restaurant combo successful remains to be seen. I have no doubt that the team is world class, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding — or, in Mina’s case (per p. 178 of his cookbook), in the “black mussel souffle with chardonnay-saffron cream.”

From Locale to Local … Fans of the farm-to-table cuisine at Pearl in the Grove in Dade City have been salivating in anticipation of Curtis Beebe’s next venture, Local Public House in San Antonio. Slated to open around July 4, Local will be a more casual spot than Pearl, but share the homespun flair that has made it a foodie destination.

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