SUN PHOTO/LIZA MORROW
A bowl of Mar Vistas Longbeach Bouillabaisse.
By Liza Morrow
sun staff writer
Its 10 a.m. at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant
and Pub. Early arrivals have already set up on their favorite
barstools to sip a mid-morning beer. In the kitchen, Chef
Chris Buchan has a big pot of seafood stock bubbling on
the stove. With the sharp eyes of an expert, he is assessing
the piles of clams, mussels, shrimp and fish. Here is
the foundation of the Mar Vistas Longbeach Bouillabaisse.
Seafood, fresh as it gets, turned into the legendary fish
dish, bouillabaisse. But I am getting ahead of myself.
About a two-minute drive from Gulf of Mexico Drive, Mar
Vista is situated in what the locals call The Village,
a fishing colony which was originally granted in 1885
to the first settler on Longboat Key, Thomas Mann. Approximately
20 years later, a colorful character named Nimmo, notoriously
dressed in a kilt and carrying bagpipes, opened Mar Vista
selling sandwiches and fishing tackle. Presently it completes
the trio of waterfront front restaurants owned by the
There is seating outside in the café and under
the trees for about 60 guests. Perfect for boat and people
watching. In fact, very good people watching. In 2000,
USA Today named Mar Vista one of ten places in United
States to meet a millionaire.
Inside, the dining room feels pretty much as if it has
never been renovated. And that is a good thing, with fishing
rods stored between the ceiling beams, heavy wooden tables
fashioned from ships doors or decorated with shells
and lacquer, vintage fishing photographs and lots of windows
looking out on the water where small fishing boats putter
on the intercoastal throwing nets at the schools of mullet.
A tradition of writing your name on a dollar bill and
tacking it on the wall started years ago when fishermen
were feeling flush from a good day of fishing. It would
stay in a sort of casual bank reserve to be used on days
when the fishing nets were empty. A few years ago, the
bills were taken down and counted. Over ten thousand dollars!
It was donated to the Tsunami relief effort.
Impressive. But this restaurant has more than character
and location going for it.
Anticipating a large bouillabaisse lunch, a friend and
I shared a couple appetizers and then ordered one main
course, dividing our choices into an impromptu tasting
menu. We started with plump scallops wrapped in bacon
served with a ginger plum sauce; and a plate of smoked
fish dip served with capers and chopped red onions. Next
were the succulent Captain Fogartys fritters. These
were crispy balls of fresh vegetables and ground conch.
A delectable combination. Then came sweet peel - and -
eat shrimp served with piquant cocktail sauce.
Finally time for the bouillabaisse. Presented as a soup-stew,
this classic is accompanied here by either pasta or rice.
A 1980 charter signed by 11 restaurants (7 in Marseille)
dictates what kinds of fish form the basis of an authentic
French bouillabaisse. These are generally unavailable
here, so we take liberties and use mussels, clams, scallops
and local fish.
For dessert, a slice of homemade key lime pie was absolutely
Mar Vistas Longbeach
1/2 stalk celery, julienned
3 Spanish onions, julienned
1 bunch of leeks, white part, julienned
1 1/2 oz. fennel seed
2 bay leaves
1/8 c. chopped garlic
1 tsp. saffron
6 qts.. clam juice
1 oz. crab base
1 oz. shrimp base
1/2 oz. lobster base
1 1/2 c. white wine
3 lbs. chopped tomatoes, drained
1 c. tomato paste
Lightly toast garlic and fennel in olive oil. Add veggies
and sweat, careful not to burn. Add white wine and reduce
by 1/3. Add remaining ingredients and reduce by 1/4. Refrigerate.
Put seafood in a saucepan, cover to the top with bouillabaisse
broth and bring to a roaring boil until seafood is cooked
through. Serve over pasta and rice. You may use any seafood
you find fresh. Mar Vista uses a combination of shrimp,
scallops, mussels, scallops and a flakey fish such as