Sunday, May 23, 2010

Emeril's Gulf Coast Fish House, Gulfport, MS

Vacation to me means great food. Scenic walks, music and other forms of entertainment are important, but ultimately I wrap every great trip around a food tour of the area. Like most fellow foodies, I strive to find that amazing local find, where I can experience flavors entirely unique to the region and feel that I "hunted" out an experience as if it were a contest. My partner Mark excels at this "sport" and I am willing to say that he is largely responsible for many of our amazing meals. This last week during our trip to Biloxi, where we stayed at the beautiful Beau Rivage, Mark took charge once again, but instead of seeking out that elusive local joint, he booked us at one of our favorite celebrity chef establishments, Emeril's Gulf Coast Fish House in Gulfport. While we are not celebrity chef whores, there is something about Emeril's empire that continues to draw us back. Perhaps it is that he grew up just a few miles from both Mark and me. Maybe it is the impeccable service that we always receive. Possibly it is stories about his dedication to his employees, post Katrina. Definitely, it has much to do with the flavors; the dishes are consistently on target with their descriptions, yet always manage to offer a little surprise. This time was no exception. We learned on the shuttle into the casino that this restaurant is slated to close at the end of the month, which may have enhanced the experience as we knew this was our only shot. Being my first trip to the coast, I was struck by the remnants of Katrina still, five years later, not only in the empty foundations along the shore, but also in the eerie quietness of the tourist spots, hurt even further by the BP oil catastrophe. There is no oil on the beaches, but the tourists don't know that.

As we entered Emeril's Gulf Coast Fish House at 8:30 on a Friday night, after seeing David Copperfield's show, we had the place to ourselves. The menu was rather short, which I actually prefer as it makes me feel like the restaurant has taken the time to perfect a small number of dishes. We selected the fried artichoke heart appetizer served with local honey. What I loved about this dish is it was very down-home feeling. This was not one of those appetizers where you need to figure out how to split a shrimp 3 ways in order to share it with your friends. The batter was light; the hearts were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The dipping sauce tasted of honey mustard, which, while it did not disappoint, I was expecting the hearts to be drizzled with straight-up local honey.

I selected the andouille encrusted Red Fish over red potatoes. I upgraded by adding crab meat to the top at my servers suggestion - why not? The Cajun seasoning on the fish was spicy but not too hot. The andouille, scattered over the fish, was crunchy and added a nice texture and salt. In addition to the bed of potatoes, the red fish was served with roasted summer squash, both zucchini and yellow, which were roasted to perfection. The fish itself was meaty and buttery. Again, the serving size was plentiful and the dish was rich enough that I could not finish it, particularly after noshing on the fried artichokes!

Mark ordered the shrimp and grits. He recently experienced this quintessential southern dish at John Currence's James Beard winning, City Grocery Restaurant for the first time and now is on a quest to experience as many culinary interpretations as possible. It did not appear to disappoint judging from the fact that I did not get a bite!

I had a nice Californian Savignon Blanc. It was a pleasant accompaniment, however lacking the
robust flavor that many of my favorite (thanks to Peggy's introduction) New Zealand's posess.

We chit-chatted with our waiter and learned that while the restaurant is slated to close, Emeril is transferring his employees across his restaurant group and Vegas is our waiter's next stop. Sealing the deal for a big tip, our waiter, upon hearing that we were too full for our original dessert intention, brought us a complimentary boxed up bread pudding, on-the-house. While I cannot expound on the virtues of the warm bread pudding, I can tell you that served cold with coffee the next morning in bed, at the Beau Rivage, I may have found religion.

I want to thank my friend Jessica for encouraging me to start a food blog and thank those of you who read through this very first passage. My decision to write came a few days after this dinner, so forgive my lack of recall on the wine label and from now on I promise to insist that Mark share his meal, you know....for the blog's sake!


  1. Love this!!! Written so well and so inspiring. If only I had your taste buds and freedom. Gotta bring Lil P down for some "culture". Her R's are dissapearing quite rapidly. :-)

  2. You're thanking us? The pleasure is all ours! I also love food and will live vicariously through you as you enjoy the culinary pleasures that the south has to offer. Bon appetit! Or, as they say in Czech, Dobrou chut!

  3. Way to burst out of the gate, B! Great opening entry. Wish I could write like you (and eat like you, of course)! Have you tried the new Portuguese cafe on North Lamar? I haven't been there for lunch yet, but their pastries are heavenly...especially anything with custard.

  4. Y'all are sweet! Lisa- I have had the pastries and the custards are fantastic. Of course I have never met a custard I didn't like. Any interest in trying that new Turkish place?

  5. I am now inspired to plant my new garden today thanks Buntha!

  6. Hi Bethany,
    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Gulfport to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!