Every once in a while I like to return to a place where I can recharge my batteries. While most of the time that may be some remote lodge or trout stream in the wilderness…sometimes I like to” recharge my mind” (as Jimmy Buffet sang) right in the middle of humanity.
One of my favorite places to visit for “R&R,” is St. Petersburg Florida. When I am in St. Pete (as the locals call it) I am near great beaches, tremendous fishing and a reinvigorated and eclectic downtown area that if full of unique shops, nightclubs and restaurants.
If I have to pick one place to go in St. Pete for a truly inspired table fare it is without a doubt The Mill. How do I “rate,” a restaurant in general? I start with the bar, and then I review the menu. Next I consider the service and finally the overall ambiance of the location.
The Mill has one of the best whisky collections you can find at a bar on the west coast of Florida. The bartenders are professional and well versed in concocting some of the best mixed libations you can find. Their Old Fashion is the bomb! If beers and ciders are your thing…try the Pear Cider.
The menu is hard to describe…for all the right reasons. Be prepared for one of the best charcuterie boards you will find at any restaurant on any continent. Wild honey comb, venison salami, sashimi grade tuna, duck bacon, smoked Gouda…these are just some of the amazing choices you will have to wade through to be served on a driftwood plank!
The Blue Crab Croquettes are amazing as a “first plate,” drizzled with a Cilantro Remoulade and served with a Jalapeno Ginger Marmalade. I could write paragraphs about the Smoke Braised Boar Ribs served with Peanut Butter BBQ Sauce, the Lamb Shank Pot Pie or the ever changing Chef’s Breakfast. The short of it is that the portions are large, the recipes are unique and amazing and you will no doubt experience combinations of spices and ingredients that you have never considered before!
The service is 5-Star. Each time I dine at The Mill I am amazed that it appears there are no Senior Serving Staff. What I mean by that is all the serving staff is equally professional, well trained, and eager to please and seem to actually enjoy what they do. Fleischer and I could write a book about how a poorly trained or motivated serving staff can literally kill a thriving eatery. Perhaps, we should just suggest The Mill do all of the hiring and training of serving staff for restaurants in general.
When you make your reservation for The Mill in St. Pete, consider requesting street-side dining if available for your party. As music wafts up the street from the outdoor concert stage a stone’s throw away you will be hard pressed to decide where to wander after your gourmet meal. Luckily, there is a great deal to see and hear in walking distance from this eatery…so you have an excuse to order the Pound Cake Grilled Cheese for dessert.
Many times after a meal, Fleischer or I will finagle our way into the kitchen to watch what magic is taking place. This upscale eatery was no different. With small-batch bourbon in hand, I was escorted into the kitchen to witness what I would refer to as a “culinary ballet.” A well run professional kitchen appears to focus on quality over bottom line. That is not to say that they are not cognizant of the “business” end of the process… it just means that quality of product is not a second tier concern.
This kitchen was the epitome of a well-oiled machine. The Sous-Chef made it obvious that high quality pans, pots, kitchen tools and cutlery were a necessity for the level of efficiency this kitchen team functioned at. While you can prepare great food with less than great cookware…for consistency and efficiency, quality equipment is a necessity.
I also noticed that this was one of the cleanest commercial kitchens I had ever seen. With the volume of food they prepare on a busy night, it was obvious to me that quick and easy cleanup was a requirement when it came to their cookware. After my experience at The Mill I was more convinced than ever that our Fleischer & Wolf commitment to quality tools and cookware whether placed in the hands of talented professional Chefs or lovers of good food in their own kitchens is a winning combination.
Now… I need to talk to Fleischer about us building our own charcuterie board & tool kit. Wait until you see what I have in mind!
Disclaimer: Neither Fleischer or I own any portion of The Mill restaurant located in St. Petersburg Florida, although we are open to becoming partners if they were to ever suggest it! J