Chef Gregg McCarthy may joke that while he’s from upstate New York, he still knows how to stir up an excellent seafood gumbo – and he certainly knows how to turn a dense praline into a delicate, thin basket and fill it with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and cream.
Both would make any wandering New Orleanean long for home.
The cool thing is that New Orleaneans and others who love Gulf Coast food – especially fresh seafood – can find him at the Grand Marlin in Pensacola Beach, Florida.
His route to the beach included time at the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C., the Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas and the Buckhead Diner in Atlanta. He’s also been a guest chef at the James Beard House in New York.
The Grand Marlin is elevated above the highway just as you come off the Bob Sikes Bridge and enter Pensacola Beach, providing you with views of Pensacola Bay from both sides of the restaurant.
While Chef McCarthy and the Grand Marlin alter their menu daily, especially to take advantage of what’s just been harvested from the Gulf, there are some menu regulars.
A raw bar favorite is ahi poke, sushi-grade tuna accented with avocado, chili oil and toasted macadamia nuts. McCarthy explained that a spoonful of Sprite brings out a special flavor in the avocado.
Top appetizers include barbeque shrimp and crispy lobster fingers. The lobster fingers come in a honey mustard sauce infused with vanilla beans.
If you just can’t pick from among the daily seafood offerings, a regular entrée to choose is grouper picatta. A grouper fillet is crusted with Parmesan cheese and served with sautéed spinach, whipped potatoes and crispy capers.
And while I’m sure there are other desserts, I’ll stick with the praline basket filled with fresh fruit. After all, fresh fruit every day is important in a balanced diet.
McCarthy is one of the featured chefs at the 2013 Taste of Pensacola food festival, a celebration of more than two dozen restaurants.
(Information about all aspects of the Pensacola Bay Area is at VisitPensacola.)