The Perfect Bite
by Lori Allen
My Wandering Fork; foodie blog
Ember & Iron
60 Shoppes Boulevard, #80
St. Johns, Fl 32259
We've got a new place in town and boy have they stepped it up a notch! Ember& Iron is a must-try! Chef Mike and wife Brittany have created a restaurant that I like to refer to as Casual Chic. This is a restaurant where you can feel the cool vibe but yet it's not overly formal. It has a bar area that is lively and filled with unanticipated bar brands. It’s a place where you can share laughter, friendship, sumptuous meals, amazing hand-crafted cocktails all within a stylish comfortable atmospheric surrounding.
So my friends and I jumped at a chance to see what all the commotion was about! Drinks first! The cocktail that caught my attention was the “Real Housewife of SJC”, named after our county! Of course, they know what they are doing because this cocktail is light and effervescent made with gin a splash of bubbly and sweetened with orange and hibiscus. It is so refreshing and makes it a perfect accompaniment to their super fresh raw oysters. These oysters have a lemon zest champagne mignonette poured over them so when slurped (yes, the only way) down you taste the saltiness of the oysters, the sour of the lemon, and when washed down with a sip of the sweet tingling RHSJC. You can’t go wrong!
Another great oyster/drink combination I tried was the Not Your Average Margarita. This delicious concoction is made with tipplers orange liqueur, hibiscus, and smoked sea salt. (Note that none of the mixers are store-bought everything is made from scratch) along with their roasted oysters topped with this ingredient they called preserved lemon which is really cool, kind of like dried lemon candied bits along with an herbal horseradish butter giving it just the right amount of bright lemony, salty, and bitterness.
We then decided to go for the cornbread because it seemed like a non-traditional kind of appetizer. And because this place is known for its rustic yet elegant fair using their custom oak burning grill, it’s got to be good right?? And it was. The cornbread came out piping hot right from the flames, served in a cast-iron skillet (which we all know keeps all the flavors within), and served with three different spreads, honey butter, pepper jelly, and a sweet jam. I slathered the honey butter on the warm cornbread and popped it into my mouth. It was the best fluffiest, sweetish cornbread with the creamiest of honey butter! Yum! The pepper jelly was equally as good, adding just the right amount of sweet heat. Of course, I did wash it all down with another one of their specialty cocktails called the ‘Honey I'm Not Coming Home’ cocktail created with Rye (I know I’m not a Rye kinda girl either, but this combination was great!) honey and cream. The cornbread was sort of like an adult milk and cake combination and who doesn’t like that??
I could not wait to try the beet salad. I am all about a beet (I used to steal all the marinated beets out of the fridge from my mom) and love to see what different twists chefs can create. This one had ember roasted beets (of course), goat cheese, and cashews- which I found very unusual all atop of some peppery arugula tossed with a tart sherry vinaigrette. So you got the earthiness of the beets, creaminess of the goat cheese, nuttiness all mixed together with the peppery tartness. Such a unique and tasty combination!
Cesar was also selected and of course, this chef knew how to amp it up a bit. The romaine is grilled on the ember fire (and if you never have had grilled romaine this is a must for you!) Garlicky dressing draped over the leaves and sundried tomato pesto on the side for dipping into. Delish!
For some reason, I was craving something from my roots so I went with the Lobster mac and cheese. Beyond creamy with its 5 cheese sauce and yet still infused with flavor from the sea. Ooey, gooey with chunks of lobster just what I was looking for. Pretty darn close to a dish made from my New England hometown.
Hanger Steak was the next thing I managed to get my wandering fork into. Coming straight off of that ember flame it had the seared charr grilled outside and yet perfectly medium-rare inside. The chimichurri served with this added that herbaceous tang to each bite and the crispy fried rosemary potatoes were so good you couldn't stop eating them!
Their signature dish buttermilk marinated roasted chicken is not your ordinary chicken. The way they marinated it makes the chicken so fork tender, yet you still have the crispy skin on the outside from the fire grill. It is then stuffed with grilled lemon, roasted pepper, and herbs which create each bite drenched in flavor. With a choice of two sides, I highly recommend the beef dripping fries. I was so surprised when I ordered these thinking that they would come with some sort of gravy on top, NOPE! These fries I am guessing are deep-fried with a combination of canola oil and beef drippings giving them extra crispiness yet a beefy flavor. Ingenious! Trust me you won’t be able to stop delving into these!
Chef Mike said he is inspired by all the memories he made cooking with his grandma and grilling over an open flame with his family. He also loves to experiment with fresh seasonal veggies. You can taste the heart and soul that he puts into each dish meanwhile enjoying Brittany’s casual chic ambiance.
St. Johns Mag
Guest blogger and foodies exploring local restaurants.
Lori Allen is a local who moved from the Boston area to attend Flagler College and never left. She is a family person that loves the beach, football, working out and finding new places to try. Her love for food comes from her northern background and her love of cooking as well as meeting new and interesting people. She has never met a stranger nor has she ever been afraid to try an intriguing place. (Check out all her reviews on stjohnsmag.com)
Lori now has her own instagram page -check it out at mywanderingfork