MARCO ISLAND — Perhaps the best thing about this Titanic dinner is that you can pretty much count on living through it.
Marco Polo, the upscale eatery on Marco Lake Drive, is hosting a special dinner party on Sunday, April 15, commemorating another dinner served mid-Atlantic exactly 100 years earlier. For some of the guests, and many of the galley staff, on that occasion, it ended up being the proverbial last meal.
Just as onboard the RMS Titanic, at least for those in the first class dining room, diners at the Marco Polo will feast on a panoply of culinary creations, showing that, to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, “the rich are different – they eat better.”
The single-seating, prix fixe dinner will commence with Oysters ala Russe, chilled raw oysters with a vodka relish, and move on to Canapes a l’Amiral (shrimp on cream on crostini), before concluding eight courses later at a dessert of poached peaches with French vanilla ice cream.
“We cut it down from 13 courses to eight, because nobody on Marco is going to sit still for 13 courses,” said Marco Polo owner Tom Naifeh. By the same token, guests are requested, but not required, to dress for dinner.
“We’re encouraging more formal attire, but on Marco Island, that means long pants,” said Naifeh. His wait staff will be in tuxedos, but then, they wear them every night. The crowd will be entertained with live music of the era, and Naifeh promised other period touches, presumably not including a wall of frigid water surging through the windows.
“We were just sitting around the end of the bar, and it came up this will be the 100th anniversary of the sinking,” said Naifeh. “We were talking about that last supper, and Rich Dewoskin is the one who said, ‘why don’t we do that?’ ” Dewoskin will be in attendance, he said, among a maximum of 100 diners.
“It’s April 15, and people tend to get a sinking feeling anyway around tax day,” said Naifeh.
Working with executive chef Brian O’Brien, he “did a little research,” and assembled the meal, including the Filet Mignons Lili (with a butter-wine sauce, and Anna potatoes), and the salmon with Mousseline sauce. At the Marco Polo, the salmon is listed as organic, and it’s fair to guess that is not something that was an issue aboard the Titanic 100 years ago.
Naifeh and O’Brien pointed out that there is nothing on the menu that seems out of place in their restaurant. “All the things on this menu are things we serve,” said Naifeh. One of their specialties, Dover sole direct from the English Channel, may well have been in the ship’s freezers when she set out from Southampton for her fateful maiden voyage.
Like the Caesar salad, the sole is prepared tableside, which is where the Chateaubriand is carved and flaming desserts including Bananas Foster are also created or finished. Marco Polo strives to provide a memorable and excellent dining experience every night, which begins with complimentary transportation by limousine to and from the restaurant from anywhere on Marco Island.
It is a complete dining experience, as well.
“All our entrees include a house salad, vegetable, starch, and a sorbet course,” said Naifeh, as well as an “amuse-bouche,” a little something, different every night, that Chef Brian dreams up. “It’s a four-course meal for one price.”
The pan-seared Chilean sea bass is toothsome and tender, in a buttery corn-flavored broth redolent enough to cause a diner to ask for a spoon after finishing the fish. The rack of tender New Zealand lamb, a full 16 ounces, was “excellent,” proclaimed diner Rosemary O’Connell.
For the Titanic dinner, the sole seating is at 7:30 p.m., with a price of $65, plus tax, beverages and gratuity. The Marco Polo is not alone in commemorating the Titanic anniversary. One ship, the MS Balmoral, actually left Southampton, England on Sunday, with 1309 passengers aboard, to retrace the Titanic’s course, with some of the original passengers’ descendants aboard. Presumably, people will be on deck keeping a close eye out for icebergs the night of the 15th.
It does make you wonder, though. What do you suppose they had planned for dinner on board the Titanic for April 16?
IF YOU GO
30 Marco Lake Drive
Titanic Commemorative Dinner 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15
$65 plus tax, beverages and gratuity