About Winner Winner Seafood Dinner
“Winner Winner Chicken Dinner: The legend tells that years ago every casino in Las Vegas had a three-piece chicken dinner with a potato and a veggie for $1.79. A standard bet back then was $2, hence when you won a bet you had enough for a chicken dinner.” – Urban Dictionary
“Winner Winner Seafood Dinner” is a spin off of the phrase, “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner,” used in Vegas to celebrate a win. More recently, the phrase has been used to celebrate any win. In Florida, a big win is best celebrated with a seafood dinner. I started the “Winner Winner Seafood Dinner” series on Florida Illustrated back in May 2016 as a way to feature some of the outstanding seafood we have here in Florida. Each post features two seafood dinners, prepared at two different Florida restaurants.
My most recent favorites were stone crab claws at The Thirsty Marlin in Palm Harbor, FL, and swordfish with pumpkin ravioli at the Bonefish Grill in Safety Harbor, FL.
The Thirsty Marlin’s Stone Crab Claws
With all the out-of-state traveling I did in the month of October, I missed all of the Tampa Bay area stone crab festivals. Lucky for me, several seafood restaurants in the bay area serve stone crab claws throughout the season (through May 15th), including Frenchy’s restaurants in Clearwater, Sea Sea Riders in Dunedin, Bonefish Grill (all Florida locations), Rusty Bellies in Tarpon Springs, and The Thisty Marlin in Palm Harbor. No matter where I get stone crab claws in the Tampa Bay area, they all taste the same. I will never tire of their cold, sweet, lobster-like meat dipped in creamy mustard sauce.
Where you choose to get your stone crab claws depends on what you want to have with them. Some restaurants serve them as an appetizer and some serve them as a meal with a side. At The Thirsty Marlin, I had stone crab claws with a side of black beans and rice. I love their black beans and yellow rice, which come topped with cheese and scallions. They also have loaded baked potatoes, southern fried corn, sweet potato casserole, potato salad, fries, slaw, rice pilaf, a vegetable of the day, and a side salad.
In addition to making great sides, The Thirsty Marlin makes great tropical drinks, with rum as the star. Having stone crab claws at The Thirsty Marlin for dinner is a real treat. Generally speaking, I’ve never had a bad meal here. Their food, service, and Old Florida ambience are all great, and their grouper is fantastic – you can get grouper tacos, grouper sandwiches, and fried grouper cheeks here. You can also get J.J. Gandy’s key lime pie here to round out your Floribbean experience.
A quick word of advice: Restaurants sometimes run out of stone crab claws, even during stone crab season. Make sure you call the restaurant before you go if you are going just for the stone crab claws.
Bonefish Grill’s Fresh Swordfish and Pumpkin Ravioli
I dined at Bonefish Grill this month just so I could try their Fresh Swordfish & Pumpkin Ravioli special. The very first Bonefish Grill opened its doors in January 2000 in St. Petersburg, FL. The concept was simple: fresh fish prepared expertly. If you start with a fresh piece of fish, grill it perfectly, and then top it with a great sauce, you are sure to end up with a great seafood dinner. You have your choice of five different signature sauces to pair with your choice of fish at Bonefish Grill: Lime Tomato Garlic, Mango Salsa, Herb Pesto, Pan Asian Sauce, or Lemon Butter. Grilled rainbow trout, tilapia, Atlantic salmon, Chilean sea bass, and Ahi tuna are always on the menu; at certain times of the year, you can get swordfish here too. For a little extra, you can have your fish prepared Oscar-style, topped with lump crab, asparagus, and lemon butter.
I started my meal with the house salad – fresh romaine lettuce topped with hearts of palm, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and Feta cheese (extra) with a citrus herb vinaigrette. Although unique, the salad is also very Florida-inspired, with its hearts of palm and citrus herb vinaigrette. Add to this the Greek-inspired tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and Feta, and you end up with a very enjoyable take on Florida cuisine. As far as house salads go, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Then came the main course. The swordfish and pumpkin ravioli were topped with an herb butter sauce, French fried onions, scallions, and feta. The delicious herb butter sauce coated the green beans as well, thereby unifying the main dish with the sides in a symphony of deliciousness. These were the best swordfish, best pumpkin ravioli, and best green beans I have ever tasted. The swordfish melted in my mouth, and I loved the contrast of the ravioli’s sweet pumpkin filling with the salty, savory feta cheese. The herb butter further elevated everything on my plate. It was the perfect meal.
Afterwards, I had the house-made key lime pie for dessert. I loved the loose graham crust on this pie, and the custard was just as it should be – the right amount of tartness, the right amount of sweetness, and the right amount of firmness for a Florida key lime pie.
Bonefish Grill is known for preparing excellent grilled fish. I probably would have been very happy with just about anything on their menu, but the swordfish in lemon butter sauce has always been my favorite. It was a pleasure to be able to sample this special swordfish preparation, while still enjoying the butter sauce that I love. Note that swordfish, just like stone crab claws, is both seasonal and regional. Make sure you call your Bonefish Grill location to ensure that they are serving this special if you decide you want to go and try it.