The city that SaltAir Seafood Kitchen inhabits may border the Gulf, but the menu certainly isn't limited to fried snapper and redfish. "The inspiration of SaltAir was a seafood restaurant that wasn’t necessarily confined to the Gulf," remembers chef Brandi Key. "That allowed us to look at the whole world—okay, if it touches water, it’s fair game." Indeed, the current menu travels the world from New England's fried clams to octopus with Latin American chimichurri to Italian saffron fettuccine with crab. But starting July 18, Key and her team are taking their internationalism several steps further with its Chef's Tasting Series, a 12-week round of prix-fixe menus from around the globe.
"This idea of being able to travel around via dinner table to different places with different flavors was very exciting. It's something I've been thinking about for a very long time," Key says. For each of the 12 weeks, she'll serve a different $50, five-course menu on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The world tour commences right here on the Gulf Coast, with each savory course representing a different state: There's Florida rock shrimp, Alabama-style chicken thighs in white barbecue sauce over white bread, catfish and cornbread pudding with boiled peanuts from Mississippi and cheffed-up version of Louisiana-style boiled crawfish. Other U.S. destinations include New England and the Pacific Northwest, as well as Key's former stomping grounds of San Francisco. On that menu, each course is devoted to a different chef who provided her inspiration as she got her footing in the culinary world.
From there, Key will journey to the Caribbean (chef Brandon Soverall is from Trinidad) and Latin America before hitting Europe and North Africa. The grand tour will end October 3 through 5 with Vietnamese dishes such as cá kho tộ (clay pot fish). The week before will focus on chef Will Ducante's native Filipino dishes, including classics like lumpia, pancit palabok and adobo. "It's a type of food I don't have a whole lot of experience with. It’s really exciting," says Key.
And if the series gains the popularity Key is gunning for, she'll continue to introduce diners to new cuisines, likely with similar series two or three times a year. What a way to save on travel.