It happened like this. Several of us are sitting at a very nice restaurant and there are a lot of blank stares around the table. The menu is, shall we say, daunting. Lots of courses described with words, which few, if any of us, understand. Call us philistines but we don’t know the difference between agar-agar and agave. Can’t tell ponzu from yuzu. And have confusions about salsify, jicama & mitsuba with or without sriracha. Anyway we doubt they grow in our garden. One of my dinner companions stifles a yawn when our waiter comes to see if we have any questions and asks, “Can I just have a steak?”
With all respect to the latest culinary darlings of the plate and palate, we like to have an idea of what we’re ordering and suspect others do as well. That’s why we’re stepping off the trending treadmill [if we were ever on it] and returning to a menu where traditional is not a dirty word and deliciously satisfying is the only objective.
Years back when Kingsbrae Arms opened its front door for the first time, we met with some of the women who cooked in the kitchens of summer homes in St. Andrews. We wanted to get their take on what was seasonal, festive and fun. We got tons of ideas and have treasured them throughout the years. Better than that, we tried many of them and served them to our first guests way back when. That’s why we’re calling the restaurant Topside Tavern from now on. The main house of Kingsbrae Arms was named Topside in 1897 and we’re tipping our hat to the past and the pleasures it cooked up in the kitchen. Everything old is new again.
While we re-develop the menu for the coming season, we’re gathering a group of talented people from Charlotte County to bake the breads and cheese biscuits we will serve at the beginning of the meal…to whip up to the lemon bisque and pear Charlotte and custards for the end…and to cook everything in between. We are a “Community Cook Kitchen.” We’re scouring Julia Child and Irma Rombauer. Pouring over Marcella Hazan. Re-visiting Julie Rosso, Sheila Lukins & Fanny Farmer. Peaking at Escoffier & Carême. [Just peaking.] And of course pulling out and testing those precious recipes, which were handwritten by our friends years ago.
Topside’s daily menu is still in the conceptual stages and we’re testing ideas every day. Of course the menu will be dependent on what vegetables and greens we gather from our greenhouse & garden and the whole foods we source from our neighbors. Right now we’re working on our opening day menu in May. We guarantee there won’t be anything you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize.