MARCO ISLAND — In early October of last year, Chef Laura Owen of the newly named CJ’s on the Bay was reading a restaurant trade magazine.
“I read so many I can’t remember which one it was,” Chef Laura confessed “But I saw that there was a cooking contest for professional chefs sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission in conjunction with the Women’s Chef’s and Restaurateurs Association.”
The contest was for a happy-hour potato appetizer to be showcased for the national potato lovers month of February. With her creative thoughts leaning toward a new recipe for a perfect indoor-outdoor starter or appetizer that everyone could share, Chef Laura began to consider her own approach for the perfect tribute to the Idaho potato.
After a few trial experiments, a new CJ’s on the Bay appetizer was ready for the menu and a new recipe was ready to be sent out on-line to the Idaho Potato Commission.
Chef Laura’s idea was to blend the classic taste of tangy blue cheese and aromatic Gorgonzola with fresh thinly sliced Idaho potatoes that were quick-fried until crispy. The blue cheese sauce to cover the crispy potato chips was to be a béchamel style pottage featuring a basic roux. After graded blue cheese was added to the roux and melted, this mixture was ladled over a layer of the thin crispy Idaho chips with more layers of homemade chips and then more blue cheese sauce. For a sensational finish, crumbled Gorgonzola is added to the final layer of chips to highlight the flavor and presentation.
“The new Blue Cheese Potato Chips recipe at CJ’s started out great,” Chef Laura reminisced, “Even folks that professed not to care for blue cheese soon became converts. I felt that the new appetizer was a good reflection of what CJ’s is all about because all the new menu items are young and aggressive. We have the same menu all day so we have more of a restaurant identity. We don’t have a separate menu for lunch and dinner.
“What we do have,” CJ’s Chef smiled,” is a diverse menu that appeals to a wide range of customers with something for everyone and a combination of choices that will make every CJ’s experience unique.
“Meanwhile back to the contest,” Laura continued. “After I had almost forgotten I had entered the contest, a box came in the mail in November with a note thanking me for participating in the Idaho Potato Commission event. Also in the box was a new Swiss Army watch that I am wearing today! The gift was an award for being among the first 100 hundred Chefs to enter. I thought great, a new watch and really didn’t think about it until last week when my cell phone rang and I saw an unusual area code. As it turned out, it was the Idaho Potato Commission calling and congratulating me on winning second place out of 130 entrees. And also explaining that I had won $500!
“It really is very exciting when considering this is a nationwide event and that a new menu item at CJ’s on the Bay is a nationally recognized culinary winner!”
CJ’s on the Bay “Delightful Bites and Spectacular Sites” menu features a young and aggressive recipe for delighting customers. With 19 fresh and exciting menu items — including the nationally accredited Blue Cheese Potato Chips, Chef Laura Owen is certainly a culinary talent to admire.
With everything from Asian-style tuna tartar for $12.99, to slow-roasted Queen’s cut Prime Rib for $19.99, the CJ’s menu has a great appeal.
CJ’s “Mainland Entrées” include a slowly braised lamb shank accompanied by root vegetables for only $23.99. Any of the CJ’s “Mainland Entrées” can be made even more appealing with the addition of a half lobster tail for $16 or a full lobster tail for $23.
The sandwich board section features a freshly ground turkey burger that is blended with house spices and topped with CJ’s blend of feta cheese, cilantro, lime, and jalapeno on a whole-wheat bun. This tempting healthy choice is in good company alongside a grilled chicken breast sandwich dressed with avocado, apple-wood smoked bacon and pepper-jack cheese. A turkey panini is thinly sliced oven-roasted turkey breast, fresh apple, brie, and apple-wood smoked bacon with a walnut and golden raisin pesto. All of these tempting sandwiches are only $ 9.99!
Fresh salads can be made into an entrée by adding an Ahi tuna steak, a grilled chicken breast, grilled shrimp, or braised beef tips. Pizza of the week is a CJ’s specialty and is perfect for snacking when watching one of CJ’s flat-screen televisions in the cozy and comfortable bar on Smokehouse Bay.
CJ’s is open from 11:00 am until closing seven days a week with free Internet Access. Thursday and Friday night, Tony G performs Motown, with Jim Long performing on Saturday nights. A Web site, www.CJsonthebay.com, showcases all the progressive menu items and drink specials. Happy hour begins every day at 4 p.m. and features half price beer, wine, and well drinks until 7 p.m.
For a lunch or dinner experience, which is truly award-winning, visit CJ’s on the Bay in The Esplanade and sample first-hand Chef Laura Owen’s award winning Blue Cheese Potato Chip appetizer.