Category Archives: Oceanaire

Minneapolis Location Moving Soon

If you’re a regular commuter to downtown Minneapolis you may have already seen our new signage going up and construction in full swing.  Word is starting to spread and preparations are well at hand.  The move is on.

Although we have enjoyed over 13 years in the Hyatt Regency we have heard the beckoning of Minneapolis’s core and we are making the half mile move.  6th and Nicollet will be our new corner, NW corner to be exact.  Right on the way to the Dome or if you’re walking West, we’re right on the way to Target Field.

“We are thrilled about our upcoming move and look forward to sharing our new location with the community,” said Rick Kimmes, General Manager. “We are working hard to create an even better dining experience for our loyal patrons.”

Your dining experience will continue to feature ultra-fresh seafood and ultra-attentive service.  In addition there will be some new amenities added to the new location;  Outdoor dining, convenient skyway access and drive-up valet parking are just a few.

The excitement is building as our new space is remodeled, the new signage is being built and the staff is preparing for the January 2012 opening.  “I am excited to be serving our Ultra-Fresh Seafood in an Ultra-Fresh atmosphere!  Oceanaire‘s taking steps towards the future while maintaining the same faces and food that have made us successful for over 13 years,” remarked Jake Uttich, Executive Chef for Oceanaire Minneapolis.  We have always been known for bringing in new and interesting things to the Minneapolis-St. Paul market and the new restaurant will bring that energy with it!”

So stay tuned and check back here regularly.  We’ll be posting pics and showing the progress as we all await the brand new digs.

White Anchovy Salad

Another excellent Podcast from Oceanaire Orlando’s Executive Chef – Garey Hiles:

Demystifying a Wine List

By Richard Edwards

Recently while dining with some self proclaimed winos and sampling a rather fruity pinot, I mentioned how much I enjoy that particular varietal, but there are so many different styles to choose from it can be difficult to find the flavor profile I most prefer.  This sparked a conversation about how wine lists, which should help diners choose the right bottle, can be very irritating to read and sometimes impossible to decipher.  Sadly restaurant wine lists are frequently riddled with poor descriptors, abbreviations that only a Sommelier could interpret, no clear order, excessive pricing and to top it all off–service staff charged with selling who really don’t care if their guests get the right wine or who know less about the list than those sitting around the table.

After we all ranted about frustrating experiences, the conversation took a productive turn as we began the process of determining how best to approach any wine list.  Everyone agreed there are few key factors that help start the decision making process including:

  • Do I want a glass or bottle?
  • What kind of varietal? (merlot, cabernet, pinot gris, chardonnay, etc)
  • What is the price?
  • Do I have familiarity of producer?
  • How does it pair with my meal?
  • Is the wine a perceived value?

So how do we take these factors and leverage them with any wine list?

Get over your apprehension. Don’t be intimated by the many different shapes and forms of the average restaurant wine list.  Just like a menu, there is no set industry standard that all restaurants abide by.  You may find a house bottle list, house glass list, captains list, boxed sets, one pagers which are laminated or stained or 50 page binders separated by varietal that would take your entire meal to get through. Remember whatever it looks like, it’s just a wine list.

Take back control. Don’t kid yourself, no matter how casual or fine of an establishment—restaurants use lists to do one thing:  sell you wine.  By keeping this fact in mind the process of choosing wine becomes less intimidating because you know that wine lists are the attempt by restaurants to encourage you to purchase—and that makes you in control. How are you in control? Because you already know what you want even before even reviewing the list.

Figure out what you like. By knowing what types or even flavors you enjoy before you come to any restaurant to buy wine immediately gives you the upper hand.  This does not mean that you know exactly what bottle you want. Rather, it narrows the selection process and gives you focus.  Get in the practice of taking notes when drinking a wine that you like. Write down the name, grape type, vineyard, vintage and anything else that appears important to you (If it’s French, just write down everything you see because the French label wine where it is from not so much what grape it is).  Keep in mind that there are many useful applications for mobile devices that can assist you with wine selection such as, Hello Vino and Wine Ratings Guide. By figuring out your preferences first, you can pick up any list and look for that wine type, which will lead you automatically in the right direction.

Determine how much you want to pay. By understanding your preferences and giving yourself a budget, you are ready to make a decision.  Another good next step before making a final selection on your own is consulting your server with those two criteria, type and price.  I usually hit it like this, “I am looking for something which tastes like the 2007 Stag’s Leap Winery Petite Syrah.  France or California are fine, and I only want to spend around $60.00.”  They may have suggestions or offer you some hidden gem that’s not even on the list.  Occasionally your server will attempt to up-sell you and if they do, stand your ground and stay focused.

But just remember, the wine list is there to inform you, entice you and sell you—nothing more.  Do your due diligence and you can conquer every wine list that you encounter and end up with a glass of wine that suits your preferences.

Richard Edwards

VP Operations

Long Live The Oceanaire!


The Oceanaire Seafood Room’s commitment to offer a unique and special dining experience is preceded only by our employees and staff’s dedication and talent.  They have been the most critical factor in the sucess of our business.  Thanks to their efforts, Oceanaire has achieved tremendous milestones together and we now stand poised to take the next step to improve and position the Oceanaire for continued growth and opportunity.

We know from experience that the single most important factor in providing our guests a memorable dining experience is their positive interaction with our employees.   Particularly in this difficult economic environment, all of us at Oceanaire must re-dedicate ourselves to providing the friendly, professional service and outstanding food quality that our guests, fans and followers have come to expect, and deserve.   More than ever, consumers are gravitating toward experiences they know and trust.  The Oceanaire Seafood Room has been a favorite dining destination for over 10 years and will continue that great tradition moving forward.

Pinot Noir and Seafood Make a Great Pair

Another great blog post brought to us by Taalib Hasan – Wine Director – Oceanaire Seafood Room Atlanta

Everyone is well aware of the old moniker that white wine goes with poultry and fish and red wine goes with red meat.  Well, red wine is perfectly suited for a variety of seafood.

I’ll begin with the wine.  The first choice is an easy one, pinot noir.  It is light fruity, often acidic, and generally lacking in tannic structure. The light body of the varietal pairs well with the lighter mouth feel of seafood.  Furthermore the broad range of flavors this varietal displays makes it an ideal food wine.  There are two broad distinctions when discussing pinots, old world and new world and a plethora of lesser distinctions.  I will be discussing the two broad distinctions.

Old world pinot noirs are found throughout Europe; particularly in France, Austria, and Italy.  In France they are world renowned and named for the land where they grow, Burgundy.  The striking balance of fruit and earthy undertones are the calling cards of red burgundy.  They are known as pinot nero in Austria and Italy.  The Austrian and Italian counterparts are not quite balanced and tend to be earthier.

I personally prefer the pinot noir of Burgundy.  Often these wines convey red berries on the nose and palate accented with spice box notes (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc.) with long, acidic, and juicy finishes.  More muscular, aggressive red burgundy will display darker berry flavors akin to dried fruit accented by herbal aromas of basil, mint, and chervil.  Also the earthy undertones of these wines are quite pronounced reminiscent of barnyards, hay, and mushrooms.

New World pinot noir is found around the world including:  Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, California, and Oregon.  My favorites are found in California and Oregon.  The pinot noirs of California are as diverse as the land they grow on and are found in almost every grape growing region in state.  Oregon is a relatively new area for modern viticulture and does display a lot of diversity; though not as much as California.  It’s most acclaimed growing regions are the Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley, and Umpqua Valley.  The Willamette Valley is by far the best known and is famous for its pinot noirs.

California pinot noirs like their parents in Burgundy display many of the same characteristics, with one general difference.  That is the California variety tends to be fruiter, because of the warmer climates that aid the ripening of the grapes.  Also because, American winemakers are making wine for Americans who tend to prefer fruiter flavors to earthiness.  Hence California pinot noirs are generally fruiter and are often jammy.  Oregon pinot noirs, particularly Willamette Valley pinot noirs, grow in climates very similar to Burgundy and produce wines similar in structure and balance.  However no matter how much an Oregon winemaker wants to pay homage to the classic wines of Burgundy; they still produce wine primarily for American consumption.  For this reason, these wines are the happy median between the jamminess of California pinot noirs and the earthiness of red burgundies.  Willamette Valley pinot noirs particularly strike an impressive balance, with fruity noses and berries on the palate and long finishes accented by a hint of earth and herbaceous notes.

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops w/ Roasted Exotic Mushrooms and Natural Jus

The key to pairing these wines with seafood is the body, pinot noirs are almost exclusively light bodied and at times medium bodied, which directly corresponds to mouth feel of seafood.  Another key feature of pinot noir is the acidity; acid gives the wine structure, refreshes the palate, and acid is a natural accompaniment to seafood.  Finally there is the tannic structure or lack there of, that makes this style of wine an ideal partner for seafood.  Seafood and tannins (the tiny particles left behind in the wine from grape skins, seeds, stems, and the oak barrels used for fermentation) are incongruent.  Tannins build on the palate, create a dry sensation, and can overwhelm the palate; which means it is difficult to taste seafood while drinking a tannic wine.  This is the reason why red wine generally is not paired with seafood; and contrastingly, why pinot noir is so well suited for seafood pairings.

In practice a light flaky fish such as either trout or halibut pair better with lighter fruiter pinot noirs with flavors of red berries, a jammy California pinot will do such as Etude.  Of course denser fishes like salmon, swordfish, and tuna pair better with heavier pinot noirs with deeper flavors.  I would recommend either an Oregon pinot such as Domaine Serene (particularly for the salmon) or a red burgundy such as Alex Gambal.  If you are considering shellfish, I admonish you do not try pairing pinot noir with either raw oysters or raw clams, it generally does not work.  It will pair well with raw tuna and raw salmon.  Lobster, scallops, oysters, clams, and shrimp cooked whether steamed or prepared in more elaborate manners are perfect pairings for the well balanced pinot noirs of Oregon.

So if you are a red wine drinker, and you find yourself enjoying a seafood feast with friends and family do not hesitate to pour nice glass of pinot noir for everyone.

Till Next Time.

Seared Sea Scallops

Once again – a very informative how-to video from Oceanaire Orlando Executive Chef Garey Hiles.  Enjoy…

We Are What We Eat!

by VP of Culinary Development – Mr. Wade Wiestling

Today I prepare to embark on another trip to Boston to peruse the ginormous International Boston Seafood Show this weekend.  As usual I am sent pre-show advertising and booth invites for this fish, and that fish, this importer, and that distributor.  I use the show to look at new products, new distributors, meet new contacts and keep in touch with old ones.  I also enjoy going to Boston because Oceanaire has a restaurant there that is popular with all the seafood show goers flooding into town, and I have to represent my pride and joy.   Seafood buyers and distributors travel from around the globe to attend this yearly event.  Japan, China, Thailand, Greece, Spain, check.  US, Canada, Mexico, South America, check.  One can explore almost 1000 exhibits of fresh, frozen, and packaged seafood products, services and processing equipment.  It can be overwhelming.

If there was ever a moment that strikes me in the “where does our food come from?” vein, it is this event.  I love, love,  love the variety of seafood found here, it is much more than we could or would ever serve in our restaurants.  In fact The Oceanaire’s outstanding team of chefs does a great job of sourcing relevant products for our guests.

Here is video that was shown to me by a friend, Rick Moonen who is a pioneer of sustainable seafood.  I’m sure he knows Dan Barber, the chef and owner of New York’s famous Blue Hill, the farm-restaurant-educational matrix at work.  Dan grows all of his own food he serves at his restaurant.  Killer idea, but not scale-able right?

Here Chef Dan Barber squares off with a dilemma facing many chefs and restaurants today: how to keep fish on the menu, and how to source sustainably.   With impeccable reasearch and deadpan humor, he chronicles his pursuit of a sustainable fish he could love, while he discovers a ridiculously delicious fish raised using a revolutionary farming method in Spain.  It’s worth 19 minutes of your life to watch it, you might not agree with it, not 100% anyway… but it shows that there is hope.  Hope we can all buy into.

I whole-heartedly agree that locally raised & community grown food should nicely supplement what we  are already eating,  but I also realize that there is a role for large-scale agriculture and food distribution.  There has to be.  I have nothing against farm raised fish, I think it is necessary for the future of the seafood industry, but it has to be done in the least impactful way to our environment.  The most natural way present, and chicken free if you will.

After all, the farm described in this routine is just under 30 square miles.  This is not so much community-based food production, quite simply,  it’s massive agriculture… done responsibly.  Wouldn’t it be great if that’s where all of our food came from?  It’s a great story, and I hope you enjoy it.

I’ll see you Boston!  Long Live the Oceanaire!

Chefs That Educate

New Ways to Inform: PODcasting

Ever wonder how your favorite Oceanaire offering is prepared?  Or wonder how Oceanaire incorporates awareness of sustainability issues into its every day menu?  Well we here at The Oceanaire have a firm belief that education is the key – the key to knowledge, the key to understanding, the key to life.

“We’ve always stressed an emphasis on educating our staff and customers.  Every day before opening the restaurant, our chefs describe each new item, its preparation and its history to the staff.  Armed with this information, our servers can educate you, the customer, on how your seafood item of choice is harvested, delivered and prepared,” declares Wade Wiestling, VP of Culinary Development at The Oceanaire.

“Gone are the days of the ill-informed guest,” commented Steve Uhl, General Manager of The Oceanaire in Minneapolis.  “With smart phones, PDAs and laptops anyone can find out just about any information on a given menu item within minutes.  We like to be the ones our guests can turn to with questions.  ‘Is this fish harvested in a sustainable manner?’ and ‘How exactly will my selection be prepared?’ are the most common questions we receive. We’ve included Facebook and Twitter updating with daily fresh offerings so our guest will know what’s in fresh today or even within hours of delivery to our restaurant.”

It’s with that commitment to education that The Oceanaire adds social networking options to their education pallet.  “The ease of use with blog sites such as WordPress has made it very easy for us to keep our guests informed,” remarked Joe Eickhoff, Social Media Manager at The Oceanaire.  ”  Many of our chefs have also started their own blogs. We even have a chef from Orlando that has dabbled in PODcasting.”

Calm Seas and Full Pots

This article was contributed by our own VP of Culinary Development, Mr. Wade Wiestling

The salty crab boat Captain Phil Harris, known to fans of Discovery’s Deadliest Catch, Captain of the crab fishing vessel Cornelia Marie, was called to the giant port in the sky on Tuesday the 2nd of February.  The fan favorite Captain was reported to have suffered a stroke late last month while in port off-loading his crab catch at St. Paul Island in Alaska, where his sons, Jake and Josh, remained by their father’s side.

I had a unique opportunity to meet Capt. Phil and his boys up in Dutch Harbor a few years back, along with fellow chefs and crab lovers from the Oceanaire Seafood Room.   He was friendly, outgoing, and welcoming; inviting complete strangers to tour and cruise the harbor in his crab boat.  The Oceanaire has bought and sold a ton of crab from these and other crab fishing folks over the last several years, and it hits close to home when I learned of this titans passing.

Phil epitomized the very essence of the show and he was awesome, because he was exactly what we all thought a crab fishing  captain would be.  He was blunt, raw and real… he was a mythical Marlboro Man… dangerously brave, frequently swearing, chain-smoking, and stressing out; a teller of tales with a fondness for pranks; a gruff man who’d choose to stay with his ship in stormy seas even when his doctors said it was too dangerous; and a soft hearted guy who loved his family and who’d turn almost poetic when he reflected on the only job he’d ever known, fishing for Alaskan crab.

Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the lives of an industry, that supports our industry so well… calm seas and full pots.

Cheers to Capt. Phil!

Rice or Roni?

contributing once again, our VP of Culinary Dev – Wade Wiestling

When not working at Oceanaire, or staring at my iPhone, or eating in other restaurant type establishments, I do enjoy cooking at home.  Most of the time, for the daddy of 5 yr old, cooking at home is something that ensues like a “Top Chef” quick-fire elimination challenge.  A fast paced, short, simple and high pressured contest with a varying reward each week.  Hurriedly, I rummage around to see what is lying in the confines of the fridge, checking out the pantry, looking at what is hidden in back of the freezer, seeing whats in my spice rack that I haven’t used since last year.  I pull everything out, then quickly make up a plan, cook it and get it on the table within 1/2 hour or less… DROP YOUR KNIVES!  TIMES UP!… some days more so than others.

On my day off this past weekend, I decided to slow down and do things my way.  Slow food.  I wanted to slow things down for a change and do things deliberately.  Once I had everything mapped out, this dish came together in less than a 1/2 hour.  This toasted pasta dish was inspired by a dish I was craving, a dish I used to make some years ago, in another life if you will.  It is a pasta dish, a pasta from the Italian region of Tuscany that is made in the “style” of risotto, the classic Italian rice preparation based on a technique, resulting in a luxuriously rich and creamy pasta dish…

How it started… this is not so much a recipe, as it is a blueprint for deliciousness.  We have some diced onion, minced garlic, some mixed dried mushrooms, dried pasta, chix broth, Parimigiano-Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, whole butter, and some leftover cooked bacon…

First thing  I did was rehydrate the dried fungi.  I had some dried porcini, dried shiitake, and few dried morels in a mason jar hidden in the back of my spice cupboard.  Heat up about 1 cup of chix broth just to a boil, and pour over the dried mushrooms, set aside for  about 20 minutes or so to steep and soften the mushrooms…

Put the rest of the chix broth (1 qt. give or take a cup) on a med low flame.  Once boiling reduce heat to barely a simmer to just keep hot.  For this dish, I like to use, what else, my lime green Le Crueset dutch oven.  It makes a great risotto pot.  The heavy, enameled cast iron distributes the heat evenly. It gets hot and stays hot… it’s a green beast.

Heat 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 2 Tbsp of clarified butter over medium heat until hot and fragrant…
When the oil is hot, add a 1/2 box (1/2 lb) of dried pasta.  I am using elbow pasta, but you can use any dried pasta that is small and evenly shaped such as penne, fusilli or orzo (I have even used spaghetti or linguine broken into smaller pieces).  Only 1/2 lb. because the pasta will swell and double in size when the liquid is absorbed.
Stir it up.  The oil is hot, so the pasta will start to toast and brown very quickly. The key is to toast it evenly, so you hafta keep stirring it frequently.
After a few short minutes, the pasta will start to toast and develop a wonderful golden brown color and roasty aroma….
The pasta will turn a lovely golden brown color.  You will also start to notice a gentle nutty aroma, not unlike popcorn or fresh roasted peanuts, as the pasta continues to brown… it smells like heaven.
Once evenly toasted, add the diced onion and minced garlic, continue stirring.  Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is lightly toasted….
Add the cooked and chopped bacon… continue cooking.
Man o’ man… look at that beautiful photo!  This comes together quickly.  Continue cooking, continue stirring frequently, keep an eye on it and enjoy the scent of toasted pasta, onion, garlic, and smoked bacon wafting through the kitchen.  Now is a good time to crack open a bottle of wine…
Next add a splash (1 cup??) of wine, use whatever you have open, red or white, to de-glaze the pan over med heat, this will bring a halt the browning process.  Stir it around, stir it frequently until that first incorporation of liquid has been absorbed, and then pour yourself a glass while you’re at it…
Here is where it gets a little ticky-tacky… we need to add the hot chix broth 1 ladle at a time… stirring the pasta until the liquid has been absorbed…
Stirring, stirring, stirring… we’re making pasta, like risotto!
Stir until each ladle full of  liquid has been absorbed into the pasta.  Repeat about 4-5 times.  Continue adding the hot broth 1 ladle or 1 cup at a time, and stirring frequently…
Stir until all the liquid has been absorbed… the pan should be nearly dry before the addition of more hot liquid.
OK, now we add the liquid from the re-hydrated mushrooms.  This liquid has been steeped with the flavor of the dried fungi, so this imparts another layer of flavor into the pasta…
Once the fungi liquid has been absorbed, go ahead add all the re-hydrated mushrooms to the pasta in the pot…
Add the rest of the hot chix broth until it is all gone.  Keep stirring, the pasta is releasing it’s starch into the dish, as opposed to being dumped out with the pasta water, resulting in a creamy and satisfyingly luxurious look and mouth-feel…
Here is where it gets difficult for most people (but not for me as I am a highly trained professional)… liberally add some grated parmigiano-reggiano and some whole butter.  Restaurants dirty little secret… DON’T SKIMP!  This is the difference between a good dish and a great dish…
Parmigiano-Reggiano, whole butter, take it over the top.  We’re not counting calories and fat, we’re counting on adding flavor and silky consistency.  Now season the pasta with some salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Stir it in and ….
…finally, if you have some, finish it with a flourish of white truffle oil.  This will take it way over the top and off the hook.
This is a simple peasant dish, made luxurious and sexy with a few teaspoons of the funky fungi essence…
Dish it up! Serve it up!  And finish with yet another dose of fresh shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano…
TIMES UP!  Here is the finished product.  The structured flavors of toasted pasta, earthy dried mushrooms, smoky bacon, funky truffle and chix broth make this dish sturdy enough to pair with many a red wine variety.  Enjoy what you like, drink whatever you like, it’s just dinner after all… Cheers! Bon Appetito!