Let’s be honest, late night dining has never been Lakeland’s forte. Let me rephrase, quality late night dining. Recently, Logan and I found ourselves in the familiar situation of wanting something tasty long after the sun had faded. Had this been any time in the last ten years, we would’ve had to either make the trek to Orlando or Tampa, or suck it up and go to sleep hungry. This time though, a freshly minted eatery, with the curious ability to transport us somewhere with cooler weather and colorful leaves, was there to sate our hunger.
Red Door Wine Market was anything but expected to this jaded Lakeland visitor. As soon as I stepped through the door (yes it is actually red), I felt like I had just walked in out of a blustery nor’easter. It’s an indescribable quality that some restaurants have, that ability to transport you, with either food, atmosphere or both.
After a quick introduction with Chef Jason Boniface, a legit looking dude to be sure, I took my seat and was immediately struck by the items on offer, marrow bones, oysters on the half shell and scallops ‘n bacon, in particular, caught my eye, “I am still in Lakeland right?”, I thought to myself. Sure enough, Lake Morton was just down the street. We wasted no time ordering the marrow and the scallops straight away. I was giddy. I realize it must sound like I’m insulting Lakeland with my surprise, and I mean no disrespect, but seafood isn’t normally what you’d want to order anywhere else in town, and forget about finding split marrow bones with beef marmalade and gremolata.
The dishes arrived and once again I had forgotten my surroundings as the aroma of braised pork belly and beef marrow filled my nostrils. The marrow was thick, shiny and slightly pink. These may have been the heartiest marrow bones I’ve ever had. The gelatinous protein spread like room temperature butter. A dab of gremolata and a pile of marmalade on a crostini comes together for the most ridiculous mouth feel. This dish is to my mouth what a squirt of oil is to the Tin Man.
Scallops are one of my favorite types of seafood. Crown a few slivers of jiggly, braised pork belly with the pearly white shellfish, and you chef, deserve the Nobel Prize. You could stop wars with this dish. The scallops were perfectly seared, just enough to color the outside, yet little enough to keep the insides translucent. The sweet scallop, enhanced by the maple gastrique, paired wonderfully with the savory belly. Given the chance, I’d have eaten these quicker than Lucy on the chocolate conveyor.
Jason must have peered deep into my soul in the few seconds we locked eyes, because an ice bowl with five enormous Louisiana oysters appeared without request. We here at Eat a Duck never expect freebies, but when the planets align and you’re bestowed with one, you respect the gesture and devour it! A squeeze of lemon and small slather of cocktail sauce prepped the succulent bivalves for their short journey down our gullets. Sweet to the extreme, meaty and just briny enough to remind you of the ocean, they were the perfect ending to our late night jaunt.
I heard rumors of an amazing brownie, alas, it’ll have to wait for my next visit. There are so many people to thank for this experience, Logan and Jason immediately come to mind. I live for these unplanned food-ventures, and if Red Door Wine Market is the beginning of a trend in Lakeland, you’d better believe I’ll be there to follow it.