Chef Talk: Amy Berlin of The Table Creekside and Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar

(Originally Published in “The Ticket” – Sarasota Herald Tribune)

Amy Berlin

Amy Berlin

Amy Berlin, the assistant vice president for The Table Creekside and Phillippi Creek Village Oyster Bar (5365 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 921-9465; tablesrq.com), takes her front-of-the-house role to another level. A hospitality veteran since she was a teenager, Berlin works alongside the chefs at both Sarasota eateries to continually elevate the dining experience.

Q: How long have you been in this industry and what do you enjoy most about it?

A: I have been in the hospitality industry since I was 16. I have worked in almost all positions, front and back of the house, at some point. My passion is with people though, so I have found myself spending my time with the guests in the front of the house. I have been in the Phillippi Creek Village role for 6½ years.

Q: Though you are not technically a chef, how do you provide input and work with the chefs to create the dining experience?

A: The chefs and I work together constantly when it comes to customer feedback, wine pairings and cocktail pairings. We try to use all aspects of knowledge and service to create our menus. I truly love what I do and the people I work with every day. It is a crazy business but I love every minute of it.

Q: What are some of your favorite menu items?

A: I love the heirloom tomato salad; not only is it beautiful to look at but the flavor of the organic tomatoes is amazing. I am a huge olive fan and the kalamata dressing is to die for, and the Burratta and crispy Parmesan satisfy my cheese cravings. The domestic rack of lamb is another favorite. Chef chars the outside to give it a perfect, crisp-to-tender-rare meat and tops it with a homemade Argentinian chimichurri. The spiced cranberries and crispy yucca logs complement it beautifully. Then there is the braised short rib pho. The meat is like butter and just falls apart with your spoon.

Q: When you are at home, what do you like to cook for yourself?

A: My passion is grilling. I love to grill vegetables and sweet potatoes, and olive oil is my best friend these days. It is so simple but I love spicy Italian sausage on the grill.

Q: What were a few of the most memorable compliments you have received about your restaurants?

A: A recent compliment, and definitely a memorable one, was from guests who both had the seafood paella. They told me that they were world travelers and frequent Spain. They were blown away by our paella and said it was the best they ever had. We also had a guest dine with us from Miami. It was the guest’s first visit to our establishment and they said it was the best meal, dining experience and quaint ambiance in Florida.

SEAFOOD BOUILLABAISSE

Ingredients:
3 diver scallops
¼ pound calamari
5 ounces cold lobster tails
6 ounces grouper, quartered
12 mussels
4 jumbo shrimp
4 ounces dry Spanish chorizo
Sprig of cilantro, chopped
½ cup white wine
For the stock:
1 pound leeks, washed and diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 cup celery, diced
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup olive oil
2 cups white wine
Pinch of saffron
1 gallon water
2 pounds fish bones

Method:
To make the stock, sauté all of the ingredients (except for the fish bones and water) in a stockpot until everything is tender. Add the water and fish bones, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Skim the impurities and simmer for 2 hours. Strain the mixture and set it aside. For the main dish, sauté the chorizo and garlic. Deglaze with the white wine. Add the seafood and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 16 ounces of the stock and reduce. Add 1½ tablespoons butter and lower the heat. Serve with a favorite side and enjoy.

 

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