Written by: Kelli Fuqua Hart, Executive Editor | Photography by: Chris Redd, Chief Photographer
Raspberry’s at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club serves up an exquisite menu of unique food collections. Members and guests alike can always count on Chef Rick Alabaugh’s quality ingredients and world-class recipes. What makes Chef Alabaugh and this prestigious venue different from others is their unique Chef’s Table Experience.
From wedding parties to private tastings, Golden Ocala’s Chef Table takes guests through a culinary journey of the finest ingredients, pairings quality wines to decadent dishes. Chef Alabaugh invites guests into his kitchen, providing them a VIP tour of his expertise in preparing champion dishes. This tour is not only entertaining, it introduces guests to delicious cuisine and flavorful wines, while educating them on the origin of Chef Alabaugh’s ingredients and his mastery of food preparation.
Under fascinating chandeliers, surrounded by the rich mahogany of the stately clubhouse, we were presented our first dish by Chef Alabaugh and his wait staff – a Port Salute Crostini with Sun-dried Tomato relish, Clear Creek olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar. What makes this dish so unique is the fact the olive oil is grown in Ocala, by the Dennis family, members of Golden Ocala. The Balsamic is aged 50 years and the relish is a created using six components to include ground olives and caramelized onions. This introductory course was Chef Alabaugh’s way to open our taste buds and prepare us for his culinary line-up.
Our next course was designed of Hammock Hollow Baby Greens, 25-year old Balsamic, roasted Roma Tomatoes, Mango Vinaigrette and Parmesan Crisps. These particular greens are flavorful when eaten alone, but Chef Alabaugh enhances this organic flavor with his use of a fruity vinaigrette. “Pairing a fruitful vinaigrette with greens will enhance and compliment the flavor,” explains Chef Alabaugh. Experiencing this dish will convince you that not every salad calls for ranch dressing.
The following course was comprised of Mulard Duck breast in a Port Cherry Sauce atop Ratatouille.
Chef Alabaugh is picky about his ingredients, saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” For this selection he chose a Maple Leaf Duck, known for exquisite quality and taste. Marinated in his Japanese dressing for several days, Chef Alabaugh then seared both sides and cooked it medium rare to rare, allowing the duck to rest before cutting. “Letting the duck rest is key,” says Chef Alabaugh. “Cutting it too early allows those important juices to escape.”
Course four, one of my favorites, arrived and impressed the table. A Yellowfin Tuna, topped with smoked eel and Tobiko Caviar complimented Fried Bean Thread Noodles and an Oyster Thai sauce. This is Chef’s version of sushi – reconstructed. Raw on the plate, he stacks the tuna and eel and focuses on the sauce. Using a mixture of pure ingredients, Chef Alabaugh blends a variety of juices, oils and sauces to create a taste that perfectly balances sweet and sour.
A lover of Venison, I was anticipating the fifth course – Violet Mustard Pistachio Crusted Cervena Venison with Yukon Gold puree, blackberry demi and Apple Chicken Sausage. From New Zealand, Chef’s venison is not wild, but rather farm-raised and grazed. Golden Ocala offers a very special demi glaze, one they create in the kitchen. Chef Alabaugh and staff reduce a 25-gallon batch of demi to a 10-gallon batch, leaving behind a rich, intense glaze. The venison course is one of Raspberry’s most sought-after, which comes as no surprise.
Our jaws dropped as we watched the next course making its way to our table. A butter-poached South African Lobster in lobster broth, Mascarpone-enriched Orzo and basil oil arrived to perfection. One of Chef Alabaugh’s favorites, this dish delivers delicious, dense cold-water meat cooked delicately in unsalted butter. The homemade broth, in combination with the Orzo and oils, filled the room with a warm, savory aroma. The creamy textures delighted everyone’s taste buds. The rich green olive oils are made in-house and the best I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.
The eighth course presented Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with wild mushrooms, Cabernet Demi, Baby Potatoes and Black Cyprus Sea Salt. Chef Alabaugh gave an impressive explanation about the specifics of Wagyu and the importance of marbling and preparation. Using ingredients to enhance the already delicious flavor of the beef, this dish was beyond satisfying.
Huge Jumbo prawns, roasted elephant garlic and roasted red pepper coulis was the finale to our presentation of entrees. To say, “Huge,” is an understatement. Chef Alabaugh has perfected this dish, cleaning and sautéing the prawns in garlic butter, while creating a sauce, he says, “You can drink!” It is honestly that delicious.
To celebrate the amazing entrees Chef and his crew delivered, we indulged in three amazing desserts – Long-Stemmed Strawberries dipped in Belgian chocolate and rolled in Pop Rocks, an Amaretto Chocolate Chunk cookie with a raspberry Chambord sauce and a Sea-Salt Truffle Caramel Gelato. This trio of deliciousness wowed the table. The tropical fruit punch Pop Rocks burst with flavor in our mouths, creating the perfect ending to a delightful dinner.
This experienced is not limited to invited guests. You can create your own Chef’s Table for a rehearsal dinner, engagement party, corporate experience or private culinary event. For roughly $125 per person, you will indulge in several courses, all paired with fine wine and all presented through the workings of one Chef Rick Alabaugh. Chef’s Tables can take place for up to 20 guests inside Raspberry’s or up to 10 guests inside Chef’s kitchen. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience as no two culinary tours are ever the same. For more information on the Chef’s Table, please contact Joe Donnelly at Golden Ocala vie email to [email protected].
Come, sit and dine in luxury at the Chef’s Table.