Review: “From Europe with Love” – February Tasting at Bluewater Boathouse – “Definitely Go”

Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill is located at 1701 Strand Way in Coronado.

After being closed temporarily for remodeling, Coronado’s Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill reopened on Saturday, February 3, 2018, leaving locals and tourists rejoicing. General Manager Steve Ewing explained that during their brief closure the venting systems were upgraded, and subtle changes were made, including that tabletops were refinished and new carpeting was installed in the outdoor dining area. Now that the venting systems have been upgraded, Bluewater Boathouse can bring their charbroiler back into play, allowing for the Coronado location to feature more of the same menu items that are served at the other seven Bluewater restaurant locations.

On Tuesday, February 6, 2018 my friend Heather joined me for Bluewater Boathouse’s February tasting, aptly named From Europe with Love. Advertised to “Romantics,” From Europe with Love features seafood specialties from “the countries that invented romance,” France and Italy. While Heather and I are by no means romantically involved, we both have an affinity toward French and Italian cuisines. (Who doesn’t?) Since my own funny Valentine already had a prior engagement on his calendar that night, I knew Heather would be the perfect dinner guest to join me.

According to a recent press release issued by Bluewater, February’s From Europe with Love is described as follows:

Bluewater is going back to the countries that wrote the book on love – France and Italy – for this year’s February tasting and celebration.

Borrowing from the European tradition of linking romance with food, Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill is hosting a “From Europe with Love” tasting on Feb. 6 and throughout the month.

The $34.95 menu at the six operating Bluewater restaurants in Southern California and Phoenix features special Bluewater versions of French Bouillabaisse and Italian Cioppino followed by a split of Chocolate Lava Cake or Key Lime Pie and paired with Domain Ste. Michelle Brut or hand-selected French and Italian wines.

Beyond the one-night tasting and pairing event on Feb. 6, the romance-inducing feast is available throughout February – however the $34.95 price excludes the champagne and wine, which can be ordered separately.  

This month’s tasting event, typically the second Tuesday, has been moved a week earlier this month only so as not to compete with Valentine’s Week events. Featuring seasonal seafood items paired with hand-selected champagnes, wines or specialty draught beers, the monthly celebrations have become a popular monthly diversion for local seafood aficionados and Bluewater’s large fan base.

Our Review:

Heather and I had each tried Cioppino and Bouillabaisse before, but had never sampled them at the same time. Since we had both gotten our flu shots, we agreed it was safe for us to share, and ordered one of each.

As our Bouillibaisse and Cioppino were served, Heather and I were impressed with the presentation of each dish. Even though our waiter Kyle had already given each of us a spoon of our own, we asked him to bring us an extra set of spoons so we could sample both dishes without mixing any of the residual flavors of each hearty broth.

Along with our entrees, we also ordered a glass of red wine and a glass of white wine to share (living on the edge during flu season), selecting the suggested pairings of French Pinot Blanc for the Bouillabaisse and Italian red for the Cioppino. Heather and I tend to always order Sauvignon Blanc whenever we drink white wine, and we were impressed with the Trimbach Pinot Blanc, which we noted was a touch sweeter and less acidic than our usual go-to white. Of the crisp wine, Heather commented, “I never buy Pinot Blanc at the store, but now I’ll have to look for it.” Have we found a new favorite white wine? Perhaps!

For the red wine paired with the Cioppino, Kyle brought us a glass of Giglioli Chianti. As someone who’s of Italian descent, I’m never disappointed with a classic Chianti, and found that its robust flavors complemented the zesty Cioppino.

Bouillabaisse: Provençal style saffron infused broth, fresh fish, mussels, clams, shrimp and scallops, with rouille

The Bouillabaisse’s lighter broth was pure comfort food, just what you yearn for this time of year when the temperatures drop a little at night. Heather and I noted how the mahi mahi was cooked perfectly, falling apart in our mouths rather than on our forks. The mussels came out of their shells effortlessly. The rouille (a Provençal sauce made from pounded red chilies, garlic, breadcrumbs, and other ingredients blended with stock, typically added to Bouillabaisse) was subtle as opposed to having a heavy garlic flavor, and the flavors of the dish blended seamlessly. The shrimp were tender, and the piece of bread served with the Bouillabaisse was a delightful tool for sopping up the delicious broth. Heather’s only criticism was that she wished there was more saffron.

Cioppino: A zesty marinara sauce, clams, mussels, crabmeat, shrimp, scallops and fish

The Cioppino definitely had more of a kick to it than the Bouillabaisse. Its spiciness was such that it had a mild heat without leaving Heather or me feeling like it was too hot. I liked how the peppers still had a bit of a crunch to them and that the tomatoes were discernible as opposed to being fully blended into the broth. The swordfish and salmon were fresh tasting and mild, and Heather and I actually had to ask Kyle what type of fish was in the Cioppino because we were debating it ourselves. (It turns out we were both right!) Scallops, if not cooked properly, can taste rubbery and dry, but the scallops in Bluewater Boathouse’s Cioppino were soft and juicy. Heather savored every bite of the crab leg, halfheartedly offering to share, but I could tell she was enjoying it too much so I let her have it. We once again found ourselves sopping up the broth with the piece of bread.

Heather, my “Valentine’s Date” who didn’t share the crab leg with me.

Dessert:

Our meals were supposed to be followed by a split of Chocolate Lava Cake or Key Lime Pie. Heather and I, in keeping with the rest of our evening, decided to order one of each and continue to share. Unfortunately the Chocolate Lava Cake was unavailable that evening so we instead ordered Java Mud Pie in its place.

Remember how Heather didn’t share the crab leg with me? That’s how I felt about the Java Mud Pie. It wasn’t just good. It was the best mud pie I’ve ever tasted, and although I tried my best to politely share it with Heather, part of me secretly wanted to smack her fork out of her hand every time she reached over for another bite. I wasn’t even the slightest bit sad that the Chocolate Lava Cake was unavailable because I would have missed out on my new favorite dessert of all time. The Key Lime Pie was also decadent treat, and we commented how the raspberry sauce was a nice enhancement. I liked that the Key Lime Pie wasn’t overly tart, making it easy to eat without scrunching up my face.

Overall Impressions:

If you’re considering heading over to Bluewater Boathouse this month for their From Europe with Love tasting, you definitely should!  I liked the complexity of the Bouillabaisse and Cioppino, and it was evident that the ingredients were thoughtfully prepared. Heather and I agreed that the two dishes would have been very hard for us to make at home because there were so many varied components that obviously required different cooking times. I liked how there were no duds when it came to the clams and mussels; all of the shells were open, and there were tender seafood treats waiting to be plucked from each shell. (I’ve been to restaurants where some of the shells didn’t open, leaving me feeling cheated.)

Whether you choose to go with your special someone or a friend, if you go to Bluewater Boathouse for their From Europe with Love tasting, I offer five simple suggestions:

  1. Do what Heather and I did, ordering a Bouillabaisse and Cioppino to share so you can try both dishes and compare them. (Although both dishes were flawless, Heather and I agreed that the Cioppino was our favorite of the two.)
  2. Be sure to ask for two spoons a piece so you don’t mix Cioppino broth into the Bouillabaisse and vice versa.
  3. Ask for a discard bowl for the shells. We used our bread plates for the emptied shells, but it would have been easier to have a bowl.
  4. If you order wine, order the Pinot Blanc and Chianti. Trust me. There’s a reason why they were the suggested wines to pair with the Bouillabaisse and Cioppino. (You may even discover you like a “new” wine like Heather and I both did!)
  5. Order extra oven-fresh sourdough bread. (I’m pretty sure carbs don’t count around Valentine’s Day so go for it!) Even though the Bouillabaisse and Cioppino each came with a piece of bread, it wasn’t enough. Both broths are so delicious that you won’t want to waste a single drop, and as Heather and I dunked chunks of the fresh bread into our bowls again and again, we kept commenting that we were in heaven.

Upcoming Events at Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill

National Clam Chowder Day (Feb. 25): 

  • Free cup of chowder with purchase of a lunch or dinner entrée at the regular price, plus $7.95/pint takeout price that includes sourdough bread and butter. Good on Feb. 25, 2018, only.

“Taste of Louisiana” March Tasting ($34.95 on March 13):  

  • Bluewater combines California-inspired versions of Redfish, Gumbo and Crabcakes with specialized drinks designed to bring out the flavor and turn up the heat. Also featured are Bluewater Grill Oysters Rockefeller. As part of the festivities at each restaurant, Bluewater bartenders will pour the New Orleans Fizz and other Big Easy cocktails.

National Crab Day (March 9) and National Oysters on the Half Shell Day (March 31): 

  • Maryland-Style Crabcakes are $8.95 (savings of $5.05) on March 9 only.  Oysters on the Half Shell are $9.95 ($5.55 savings) on March 31 only.

St. Patrick’s Day (March 16-17): 

  • High Spot IPA Beer Battered Fish & Chips and a pint of IPA is $17.95 for lunch and $20.95 (savings of $6.30 and $7.30). Pints of Guinness are $5, Irish Coffees are $3 and Corned Beef and Cabbage with Boiled Potatoes is $16.95.  Good on Friday, March 16, and Saturday, March 17.

Additional Information:

  • For menus, locations and operating hours for the seven unique Bluewater restaurants, go to www.bluewatergrill.com.

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