With old favorites and extraordinary new dishes, Bill and Yamilka Mertens are creating excitement at Gourmet Gourmet.
Gourmet Gourmet has been an Amelia Island icon for many years, well-known for their eclectic menu, gourmet-to-go items, and professional catering services. Bill and Yamilka Mertens, from New Jersey, thought so, too, when they visited the island some time ago, and they decided to purchase the business when it went up for sale in 2012. Since then, the couple is having the time of their lives.
Bill and Yamillka have a passion for fine food, and Gourmet Gourmet was the perfect fit. They have kept many of the old favorites, while adding some extraordinary new gourmet treats. I visited the restaurant recently with my friend, Bruce, and we were eager to sample their specialties. Bill poured us a glass of Matanzas Creek Chardonnay, a wonderful choice, with notes of pineapple and citrus, along with its well-balanced acidity. We were also treated to an “Amuse Bouche,” a bite-sized hors d’oeuvre of cucumber stuffed with tuna tartare, carrot, chili oil, sambal sauce, red onion, and sesame seed. Fresh and delightful!
We chose two of their new offerings: a Caviar Tasting plate, and Fois Gras. The caviar plate featured a variety of roe, including golden caviar from a whitefish of the Great Lakes, black caviar from a Mississippi River fish, and Siberian Osetra from a sturgeon of the Baltic Sea. Each one had its own special flavor and texture, bursting with that salty and rich taste that you can only find with caviar. The fois gras was pan-seared with red grape tapenade and poached pear, a lovely way to balance the rich and buttery fois gras. Both were fabulous and worthy of a special occasion.
For dinner, Bill opened a bottle of Hess Collection Block 19 Cuvee, a varietal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, and Petite Verdot. This was an exceptional wine and perfect for our entrees, Pan Seared Duck and Tenderloin of Beef. The duck was served with butternut squash, pecan quinoa pilaf, and a Grand Marnier gastrique. I loved that the duck breast was tender and pink, very juicy, and duck always tastes so nice with a little sweetness, so the accompaniments were perfect for this dish.
Bruce was especially fond of the tenderloin, which was also pan-seared and served with truffled whipped potatoes, haricot verts, and topped with a roasted shallot demi-glace. This was also an outstanding dish. The beef was rubbed with some secret spices (I presumed they were a secret!) and charred beautifully on the grill, yet still rare inside. The truffled whipped potatoes were very special, and I detected a hint of splendid white truffle oil, one of my favorite cooking ingredients. The baby green beans were served with red peppers, a nice addition to the plate, along with a handful of fried leeks and scallions, a crispy edible garnish.
For dessert, we chose a Southern favorite: Red Velvet Cake. What I love about red velvet cake is the hint of cocoa, and the cream cheese icing, and Gourmet Gourmet adds some white chocolate curls. If you do not have a sweet tooth like mine, I would suggest their fruit and cheese platter, which features rare and beautiful cheeses hand-chosen by Bill himself.
The Mertens’ culinary creations and their effervescent personalities have won them a place in the hearts of Amelia Islanders. Gourmet Gourmet is open seven days a week. For more information, and to check out their new menu, visit www.gourmetgourmetfood.com.