In the Kitchen at Salt |Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island| Photos, Review,Video

2/14/2014

Salt is located at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
Glide through the elegant doors of the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and nearly every wish materializes before your eyes. Known for their world class service, luxurious accommodations, and a spa worthy of the Romans, my friends at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island are well versed at keeping what's behind the scenes, just that. 

For this reason, when I was invited to take a rare peek behind the curtain and enjoy the Chef's table at two time AAA Five Diamond Award Winner, Salt, I simply couldn't resist.  

        In the Kitchen Seat
The "In the Kitchen Seat" is a taste adventure.

The "In the Kitchen Seat" is an experience to remember. An interactive adventure for your taste buds, and a glimpse at how the magic comes together. The room is set directly in the midst of the action, yet completely enclosed. I loved that it was quiet enough to carry on a conversation with my date, and still fully immersed in the creative scene. Each staff member was extremely welcoming as they embraced our excitement at this fun look behind the scenes, and perhaps channeling some of that energy like a pro athlete on game day.
On the Menu:
Choose from a selection of over 300 wines


Looking out the expansive windows from the table to the kitchen, reminded me a bit of the under water world of an acquarium, only in this case it was my chance to explore the mysteries beyond the stainless steel counter instead of the sea.

       


   The Zen Kitchen

On the Menu:
Florida Snapper
black garlic pasta, bok choy, carrot, honshimeji  mushrooms





Chef de Cuisine Rick Laughlin greeted us with a warm smile, revealing a kind heart and an easy going disposition. In fact, as we continued to witness his award winning kitchen, we saw what I can best describe as a very "zen" atmosphere. The crew worked with the disciplined pace of endurance athletes. Steady and true, they efficiently produced plate after plate with ease, never with the hurried rush or raised voices you might expect of those under their mantle. Instead we witnessed a well planned and organized facility, completely excelling at delivering perfection to their distinguished patrons with out flaw. Chef Laughlin later explained that Salt is number one in the Ritz-Carlton chain of restaurants for quality, and that is entirely due to their steadfast standards for each guest. He related that, "Every diner is treated like a AAA reviewer. We never know who it will be, and we are dedicated to maintaining our five diamond standing." That's quite a lot of pressure, but you would never know it from the countenance of Salt's team, because for them, it's par for the course.
Taste, See, Smell, Hear, and Touch


Adventure for Your Senses

On the Menu:
Steak and Eggs
Served on a 250 Million Year Old Himalayan Salt Block
I love delving into the background stories of talented chefs. Even sharing tears with the likes of these passionate souls... and maybe a few drinks as well. Chef Laughlin opened up about his childhood memories of always cooking with family. An ardent creator of new flavors, he traded in the college campus for the culinary scene, diving into a different kind of school with no doubt in his mind that his future was in the kitchen.

And what a future it has become. Right away Laughlin expressed his philosophy for Salt upon our introduction. "Our dishes are meant to be experienced with all your senses."

Taking a moment to mentally check off each sense I determined to make sure I did just that.


And did I? Well let's see:




 Micro veggie centerpiece by the Chef
Sight - Each dish a visual show piece
Taste - Layer upon layer of well balance flavor
Touch - No shame in getting your hands dirty, and I certainly did. Purposefully handling some of the herbs and micro veggies the chef worked with. Thus understanding the textures and fragrance better. 
Smell - Each dish an aromatic delight (a bonus to the shrimp and grits and the butternut squash soup)
Hearing- The sound of tenderloin grilling on your own salt block? why yes....

Truly all the senses do take part of this journey of taste, as you travel through the Chef's "Adventure Menu", a 7 course marathon of creativity. 

Salt of the Earth

A portion of their large selection
of Salt sits on display
 
On the Menu:
Big Eye Tuna
buffalo mozzarella, cucumber relish, pine nuts, basil
Located in Amelia Island, the sea is immersed in the local culture making Salt an appropriate name. Chef Laughlin also reminded me that salt is the most important ingredient in any kitchen. For these reasons "The Grill" was transformed to "Salt" almost a decade ago. Ushering in a modern design, and a new trend in dining. At Salt your table is set with seven selections of their forty international salts. From the mediterranean, to Hawaii, salt crosses borders, and time. Many of the restaurants menu items are cooked in or on a 250 million year old Himalayan salt block. Adding to the presentation, as well as the flavor.  Visitors are encouraged to experiment with the salts by adding them to the dishes to see how the flavors are enhanced or elevated with each regional selection. My favorite was the smokey yakima from the Yakima Valley. 


On the Menu:
Dark Chocolate Souffle prepared by Pastry Chef Heidi Kabath
salted caramel ice cream, white chocolate cream anglaise
On the Menu:
Chocolate Amaretto Mille-Feuille prepared by Pastry Chef Heidi Kabath
flourless chocolate cake, pomegranate



Dining at Salt ultimately gave me a chance to get to know the magic behind the creation. The heart behind the labor, and learn to love my dining experience in a whole new way. Yes, the curtain was held back, but a hand was also held out as we made new friends, and learned new lessons in passion, love, and the pursuit of creativity.




Make sure to put Salt at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island on your "must eat" bucket list. If you are looking for an adventure, reserve the "In the Kitchen Seat" well in advance as it is booked every night. 

Until then...

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West




To see more great images from my Salt experience check out the gallery on facebook here
Get caught up on my all my First Coast Date Night Destinations in this series..


Photography by Journey Photography

Catch my Webisode of  First Coast Date Night Destinations here.


Watch Amy discuss her First Coast Date Night Destinations on News 4 Jax here.


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