In 1870, the W.T. Collier family arrived on Marco Island on their sailing schooner, the Robert E. Lee. They were looking for a place to begin a new life and after landing on Marco, W.T., his wife and nine children, built a home, started a business and began a family tradition. The Colliers were the first restaurateurs and innkeepers on Marco Island.
In 1882, Capt. Bill Collier built a house in Old Marco that is registered today as a Florida historical landmark. The house, a home for the son of W.T. Collier, would weather many storms, become an island icon and would ultimately house another family and another tradition that started across the Atlantic Ocean.
When Peter and Penny Marek crested the Judge S.S. Jolly Bridge with their son Pete and daughter Jenny in 1984, they knew — just as the Colliers did when they found Marco — that the island paradise in the sun was a new home that just had to happen. The Mareks fell in love with the island as the Colliers had done so many years before and now 14 years later, a family tradition continues in Capt. Bill Collier’s original home.
Chef Peter Marek was born in Kenya,. East Africa, and attended boarding school in England. He was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in May 1989, and his accomplishments and formal culinary awards include the World Culinary Olympics, the Order of Napoleon and many more decorations too numerous to mention as well as a weekly regular on a television cooking shows in England and Sweden. Chef Peter, with his wife Penny, the current owners of the Collier House travel the world every summer to stay on top of the latest cooking trends and world-class cuisine.
With Palm Sunday almost upon us, the Culinary Adventuress and I traveled down to Old Marco and arrived at Capt. Collier’s original home. The Mareks have embraced and enhanced the old homestead with artwork and traditions from England, but the old Florida feel that patrons perceive when the entering Marek’s Collier House is truly a unique experience.
After a warm and family-like greeting from Penny, Marek’s hostess and manageress, we were seated in a cozy alcove as our server Pete Marek (Peter and Penny’s son) arrived tableside and saw our party admiring a handsome 18th century sailing ship painting, softly illuminated in the Collier House library.
“That painting,” young Pete smiled with pride, “Was hung above our fireplace on our mantle back in England. A lot of the bits and pieces here are from our home in the Channel Islands.”
As Pete explained his father’s appetizers for the evening, an overwhelming attention to detail becomes apparent with Chef Marek’s culinary dedication.
“We have as specials for tonight...” Pete began, “A mahi mahi banana egg roll with a sweet chili dipping sauce ... a fresh stone crab quiche ... a stone crab cocktail served over mixed greens with a mustard/mayonnaise and dill sauce or that can be served with a Mary Rose sauce which is a tomato-based mayonnaise sauce.”
The attention to detail in just alone the appetizers ensured that Chef Peter preparing every dish personally, the taste sensations that arrive tableside truly are an example of a maestro at work.
The Mahi Mahi banana egg roll captured my interest and when this appetizer arrived, a wonderful episode of flavor distinction began. The mahi mahi blended incredibly with the ever-so-light touch of banana, the crispy quick-fried egg roll batter was perfection and the sweet chili dipping sauce was the ultimate finish for this Hong Kong inspired delight.
For dinner, Vicki Lynn opted for the macadamia nut encrusted grouper and with Pete’s kind attention, I chose the sesame sushi-grade yellow fin tuna with a brandy peppercorn sauce for $34.95. Both entrees were served with a very tasty thyme-topped mashed potato ensemble, steamed broccoli and sautéed and select mixed veggies finished with fresh chives.
“Oh my God,” were Vicki Lynn’s words after her first bite of Peter Marek’s grouper, and after my first taste of Chef Marek’s Asian-style tuna with a Bavarian twist. I was equally enthralled with the many perfectly blended flavors created by the culinary virtuoso.
Florida Trend Magazine has rated Marek’s Collier House among the top restaurants in Florida. As chef, connoisseur and gastronomic artist, Peter Marek can be comfortably ranked alongside such premier chefs as Wolfgang Puck, David Chang, Emeril Lagasse or any of the world’s finest culinary creators.
Marek’s is open from 5:30 p.m. until closing, Monday through Saturday. Private parties and reservations can be arranged by calling 642-9948. Their Web site is mareksrestaurant.com
An evening at Marek’s Collier House promises more than fine dining and good service. A family tradition is thriving at Marek’s Collier House that combines the elegance of an English library with the comfortable nostalgia of an old Florida sea captain’s home and a tangible spice of life that continues to flavor generations.
Tom Williams debut adventure/thriller novel “Lost and Found” has been released by Archebooks and is now available on Amazon. A website with reviews and storyline is available at www.lostandfoundadventure.com