I love those unexpected adventures. My husband and I went out for dinner. We weren’t looking for anything specific. It wasn’t a special occasion just a meal to end a day. Instead we had a taste journey created by a passionate chef that was served by a cheerful staff in a beautiful location. I love sharing the gift of people who love what they do and where the do it.
Ozona Blue is now on our list of favorite places to visit when we find ourselves wandering the Clearwater area of Florida’s Gulf Coast. It is not on the beaten path and looks entirely unassuming if you happen past it. Blink at the right time and you may not even realize it is there outside your car window.
It is a great place to stop in for a meal or spend an entire relaxing afternoon. They have an in-ground pool with tables and lounge chairs where you can set up sun-drenched camp for the day.
The restaurant itself has outdoor seating. Get there early though! The couple who walked in ahead of us at just 5 PM got the last outdoor table available for a small party. Though possibly second choice for a sun-worshipper, inside is low-lit and cool. The deep blue colors of the decor give the feel of an underwater ocean warren without being kitschy with typical seaside decorations. The windows are tinted which gives that dimmed light that you might experience if you were on a scuba adventure in the deeper gulf waters.
We only experienced one drawback to sitting indoors (other than not sitting outside). It is a big space with no acoustic buffers which lends to hearing a din of conversations as there is nothing to absorb those sounds. We were lucky to be seated at a table in a corner away from most of the tables. It reduced some of the cavernous noise of everyone else’s voices so we were able to enjoy our own conversation.
The service was wonderful. Every staff member is pleasant without being boisterous. They are efficient and helpful without hovering. We were given time to enjoy each course, conversation and digestion in between. We loved not feeling rushed at any time during and at the end our meal.
Now for the food… I ordered off of the specials menu. They had options ranging from the sea to land. We started by sharing the Crab Rangoon. The presentation was lovely and gave the impression of it being a light dish to start. The long white plate held a row of delicate wrapped puffs of flavor accompanied by a smooth fruit puree.
Each rangoon was a delicate packet. The shell gave way with no effort releasing the puff cloud of silken delight inside. The crab was sweet and melted away with the creamy cheese quickly leaving the desire to quickly enjoy the rest. It was a super light beginning to the meal leaving plenty of room for the next course.
My main was a cedar plank sampler. I was concerned about being served too much food for one person and was pleasantly surprised with just enough of everything to satisfy. There were three different samples including salmon on the cedar plank. The plank allowed the fish to steam rather than char leaving each morsel moist and flavorful. The light sauce gave a perfect whisper of lemon that did not needlessly overpower the flavors of the individual fish samples. The cedar plank gave a barely detected smokiness to each one bringing out sweet, savory and a bit of ocean salt.
The sides were equally delectable. I am not a fan of squash as a side as it is usually overcooked and slimy having no real flavor of its’ own. What was on my plate was not at all like the cheap throw-away side with which so many restaurants fill up the blank spot on your dish. It was as if heat had barely brushed the vegetables. They were paired with tomato and a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan bringing out the very subtle flavor of the yellow and green squash. (Yes, squash has flavor when not cooked to within an inch of life).
My other side was garlic potato. Another often glossed over stock option. However, these potatoes were airy and smooth. The delicate texture of the skin of the red bliss potatoes disappeared like a paper thin wafer leaving behind the subtle sweetness of the potato and garlic blended together.
After all that it just wasn’t possible to let the meal end without dessert and coffee to round the whole adventure out and return us home. Not wanting to overdo, my husband and I shared a dessert. We selected the Coconut Creme Brûlée accompanied by Spanish Coffee.
Creme Brûlée is always a favorite of mine as it is a lighter option to end a meal. This one did not disappoint. The coconut flavor in the custard was subtle and the perfect amount of sweet. The delicate glass of toasted brown sugar gave that small crackle of flavor on the tongue. The dollop of whipped cream was made fresh and barely sweet bringing the entire dish together.
Now, I am usually drawn to an Irish coffee after a dinner of this caliber. But it seemed to me that the smokey whiskey would not compliment the tropical flavor of the brûlée. We went with the Spanish Coffees instead and it was the perfect option. Made with Grand Marnier, dark rum and Kahlua, the spicy orange flavored coffee contrasted with the sweet coconut each improving the flavor of the other. It was a perfect ending to a not planned food journey. We happily drifted home thinking about when we might return.
If you find yourself on a wander in the Clearwater area of the gulf, take a moment away from your get-it-all-in vacation to allow your senses to enjoy a journey at Ozona Blue. You will add another savorable memory to your adventures here in the land of endless summer.
Ozona Blue is located at 125 Orange St., Palm Harbor, Florida, 34683.
*This author has not been compensated for their review.