Lights sparkled on the bay from Bluewater Boathouse when my husband and I walked up at sunset Tuesday night. There is no more picturesque eatery in all of Coronado, with the restaurant literally built over the bay. Bluewater was the former boathouse of the Hotel Del, and it remains a very popular spot offering fresh and sustainably-caught seafood, a monthly tasting menu, and a friendly environment for dogs and children.
This month, the March tasting honored the timeless cuisine of Louisiana. Our paper menu explained that “Cajun cuisine arose from the rustic, provincial French cooking adapted by French Acadian colonists, whereas Creole cuisine tended towards classical European styles as a reflection of the mixed origin of Creoles from Europe and Africa.” Both styles, however, included the “holy trinity” that formed the base of the food and flavor: celery, bell peppers, and onions.
That evening we would see most of that flavor in the main dish, a seafood gumbo. To start with, however, our appetizers included a modern spin on classic Louisiana seafood with a Maryland-style crabcake and oyster Rockefeller. The crabcake was sprinkled with delicate micro greens and surrounded by bright emerald chive oil and a pink remoulade. The oyster, meanwhile, rested on a bed of fresh spinach and had been baked with creamed spinach and melted Romano. Both items were perfectly cooked, with a crispy exterior and tender, flavorful seafood within.
My husband loved the baked oyster, whereas I tend to prefer oysters in their raw form. We joked that you couldn’t tell you were eating an oyster — a good thing for my husband! — and the combination of a little bit of seafood with a delicious amount of spinach and cheese made the oyster our favorite part of the appetizer.
As we enjoyed our appetizers, we also enjoyed the cocktails included in the tasting. We could choose between the Sazerac cocktail and the Ramos gin fizz. My husband went for the former, which is one of the oldest known cocktails, and was developed in New Orleans at the Sazerac Coffee House in 1859. The golden-colored, dry cocktail was served in a martini glass with a twist of lemon peel, and included rye whiskey, bitters, and absinthe.
I, meanwhile, chose the gin fizz, although I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The white cocktail arrived in a Mason jar glass with a straw, and I read the ingredients with interest: gin, lemon, lime, egg white, and orange flower water. The drink originated in 1888, and Steve Ewing, Bluewater’s manager, told me that for over 100 years it was the nemesis of bartenders, who had to carefully extract egg whites and whip them to a fine froth with endless shaking. Nowadays, Steve explained, bartenders use pasteurized egg whites and save a great deal of time. However, the drink was drawing rave reviews from the restaurant that night, as guests appreciated the slightly sweet and totally unique cocktail, as well as the frothy whipped effect that characterizes a gin fizz.
Our main dish arrived soon after our appetizers were cleared away, and only then did I regret indulging in so much of Bluewater’s unlimited (and irresistible) fresh sourdough bread and salted butter. The bowl of shrimp and chicken gumbo was a generous size and filled with shrimp, chicken, and andouille sausage, as well as the “holy trinity” of onions, peppers, and celery. The slices of okra, sassafras, and bay leaf added to the Southern flavors. A cup of white rice topped the dish along with a crab claw, with the tender meat exposed and easy to enjoy.
“I liked the level of kick to the gumbo,” my husband commented. “Could have been a little hotter for me, but I felt like it was a good amount in order to appreciate the spice but not find it overwhelming.”
At the conclusion of the meal, we were pleasantly full and still had enough gumbo to take home for lunch the next day. I should confess, though, that I did save room for dessert — I cannot resist Bluewater’s delicious key lime pie. “A house favorite,” our waitress smiled when I announced my choice. As always, the fresh and tangy end to a filling meal never fails to conclude the meal on just the right note. My husband, not a dessert fan (how??), chose a glass of the house Pinot Noir, and we enjoyed the peace and satisfaction that comes at the end of another delicious meal.
This meal is available for the remainder of the month of March at Bluewater Boathouse. A sampling of Redfish, Gumbo, and Oysters Rockefeller will be available off the menu for those who couldn’t make the tasting, and guests can add their own New Orleans Fizz from the bar to complete their personal Louisiana celebration.
Offered on the second Tuesday of every month, Bluewater’s monthly tasting events allow seafood aficionados and “foodies” to combine the latest seasonal fresh fish varieties, with commentary by resident seafood experts. During some months, hand-selected wines, draught beers, and sakes are added to the mix, and a special, limited-time menu offering allows customers to sample the tasting event throughout the month.
For menus, locations and operating hours for the seven unique Bluewater restaurants in Southern California and Arizona, go to www.bluewatergrill.com.