Monday, January 14, 2013

Daytona Beach, Seaside Music Theatre and the Chart House Blackened Tuna Steak

Daytona beach is known or has been known in the past as the capital of Spring Break in Florida. It is actually a really cool little town once you peel away the tragic veneer of Speedway racing weekends like the Daytona 500 and spring break rowdy's cramming the beachside with ridiculous antics and drunken partying.

Cool indeed, in that beneath the surface is actually a complex community teaming with life. Like so many cities in Florida, Daytona is a crossroads for retired folks, business people, students, local color, and drifters. It also affords a cheap living environment relative to other places in the state and has attracted the spectrum of folks looking to make a life somewhere smaller than the big city. It also attracted for over 25 years actors and artists every summer coming together to make art at Seaside Music Theatre.

Seaside was an amazing place and the roster of people who went on to do great things either on Broadway or elsewhere in the theater community is huge. I myself was one of those folks until about 5 years ago when I elected to change course for another shore. But it is with the deepest fondness that I return to my memories of Seaside Music Theatre. And with pride that I count myself an alumni of said place.

The theatre was founded by Tippen Davidson himself an artist and musical director. It did not hurt that he was also the owner of the 2nd largest paper in Florida, the News Journal, and able to give seed money to the fledgling theater. His presence helped keep Seaside alive and when he passed so did Seaside a few years later. Unable to deal with transitioning funding from the paper and saddled with the cuts to all the arts in the state and nation, like so many other theaters I knew and worked at, it succumbed and shuttered it's doors in 2008. Sadly so, as far as I and many others are concerned given the breath of opportunity to try our wings and grow in our profession it had afforded us. Say what you might, Tippen founded and stood by a belief that art in his community was important and essential. And he walked his talk. A gentle and lovely man from my recollections I am proud to have been one of the many that he and Lester Malizia, the resident artist director took underwing and help to grow as an actor. Providing a artistic home for me and many other 7 seasons over 10 years. It was lovely to have been a part of it.

The other excellent thing about Daytona was the plethora of restaurants that were in the town. Surprisingly varied, local and national chain, fast and slow food were all represented.  Among the local eats were a variety of fish houses which provided excellent old school florida food at a great price for poor actors. Seaside Music Theatre was sponsored by several of these places and opening night parties were always at some great venue with fabulous food and drink. Well, fabulous by a starving artists scale! What's not fabulous about a pool party at the Hilton Hotel pool bar and lounge, well you know what I mean.

One sponsor which never disappointed however was the Chart House Restaurant. Located on the water at the ritzy marina on the inter-coastal waterway, with large water views and outdoor decks, it was a deluxe location for an opening night party. Now I know the Chart House is an old school, overpriced sometimes hit and miss, kind of place to most folks. But I have to say the one in Daytona was actually really good at the time. One opening night during a raffle I won a dinner for two coupon and went and ate with a friend on our day off together. Our meal was really good. The three stand outs from the evening were the blue cheese dressing on the salad of all things? The creamed spinach was great and the cajun spiced tuna steak was actually to die for. Perfectly cooked and perfectly spiced, it rocked. I have made this style tuna steak ever since and I want to share it with you because it is easy and so good.

Restaurant Homage: 
Chart House Cajun Tuna Steak with Green Peppercorn and Cognac Bearnaise Sauce

4 inch thick ahi or yellowtail tuna steaks
1/4 cup cajun spices no salt added  ( you can make your own or buy some in a jar)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon butter

To prepare tuna:

Place the spices in a large plate
Dip the surfaces of the tuna steaks in the spices and place on a sheet of wax paper
Heat oil and butter to medium high in a stainless pan or non stick pan
Cook the steaks on one side for thirty seconds then flip and cook for another 30 seconds
Place on a plate and serve with some of the sauce


3 Egg yolks
1 1/2 cup melted butter
1 tablespoons cognac
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 shallot minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
2 tablespoons green peppercorns drained
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the eggs in a blender that has ben warmed with hot water
Place the vinegar and the shallots in a pan and cook till reduced by half
Add to blender with salt, mustard, tarragon and cognac
Slowly with blender running add melted butter till thick sauce forms
Place in a bowl and stir in peppercorns
Serve with the tuna


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