Operating in the same location in San Marco for eighteen years, bb’s restaurant and bar has become one of Jacksonville’s most deliciously satisfying destinations, enjoyed by all who cross its threshold. Whether it’s the comfortable surroundings, the remarkable food, attentive service, or the amazing assortment of freshly baked cakes, it’s easy to understand why this place has become a culinary icon.
Those who have an insatiable appetite for sweets venerate bb’s for their delicious, home baked desserts. While I agree (there were eighteen of these sweet delights on display during my recent visit, all lovely sirens calling my name), patrons who set their sights on the desserts alone will be missing out on the tongue-teasing, endorphin-releasing, smile-making dishes that start at the top of the menu with glorious appetizers (can you say Duck Wonton Napoleon?) and main course options that include signature pizzas, delightful salads and a selection of entrées that are … well, let’s just say there’s something for everyone.
When it comes to variety, Executive Chef Connor Castelli creates inspired dishes that take advantage of locally grown and seasonally available ingredients. It’s important to understand that the dinner menu is constantly changing. While there are certainly mainstay dishes, just because you had something on Monday does not mean you can still order that same dish on Friday. So, while I would love to recommend the Beet Cured Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, it’s a special that may no longer be available by the time you read this article. I have no doubt, however, that Chef Castelli will have whipped up something equally impressive and enjoyable to delight your senses.
bb’s has total commitment to making great food, providing excellent service, and creating an environment where patrons can enjoy themselves. When it comes to the food, and whether it’s the roasted turkey in their sandwiches, the sauces that accompany many of their dishes, or their delectable selection of sweet baked goods, everything is made using the freshest ingredients available, from scratch, and in small batches.
According to Chef Castelli: “It’s not enough to use esoteric ingredients, make splashy presentations, or prepare dishes simply because they are trendy. I prefer to take advantage of locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, create culinary experiences that are enjoyable for sure, and deliver flavor combinations that are undeniably well balanced.”
If these practices sound familiar, that’s due to bb’s passion for, and participation in, the Slow Food movement. It should be no surprise that they’ve been awarded Slow Food’s “Snail of Approval,” have made serious commitments to local farmers, and maintain a ready supply of locally sourced ingredients.
The bottom line is that everyone at bb’s goes to great lengths to ensure the quality, authenticity and sustainability of everything they serve and the overall enjoyment their guests experience.
Speaking of enjoyment: I had the pleasure of sampling one of Chef Castelli’s latest creations – Pan Seared Duck Breast with Sautéed Rainbow Chard, Wakame Calrose Rice, and Black Cherry & Datil Pepper Relish. While the duck was perfectly cooked, it was the pairing with the rice and relish that caught my attention. In particular, I was most impressed by the way that everything on the plate complemented the duck. Having learned that Chef Castelli’s focus is always about balance, I should not have been surprised.
Of course, no meal is complete without a perfectly paired glass of wine. And while it is rare for me to get as equally excited about the wine as the food, the pairing of the Pan Seared Duck with the exceptionally flavorful 2014 Opaque Darkness was inspired.
The Opaque line of premium red wines, including a Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Darkness, is produced at the Riboli Family Wine Estates in Paso Robles. According to the winemaker’s website, “Opaque redefines red wines with deep, dark, and bold flavors to satisfy the boldest wine drinkers.”
After tasting Darkness, which is a rich and fruit forward blend of half a dozen grape varieties, I could have made a meal with just the bottle alone. When the duck was brought to the table, after just one bite and one sip, all I could say is… “Wow!”
So, the next time you visit bb’s, have a bottle of Opaque Darkness. This is a wine I’m sure you’ll enjoy all by itself. And if the duck is no longer available, I have no doubt your server will be able to suggest another of Chef Castelli’s delightful creations that will surely stand up nicely alongside. Bon appétit!
bb’s restaurant and bar, 1019 Hendricks Avenue, (904) 306-0100, www.bbsrestaurant.com.
By Jeffrey Spear
Chef Castelli’s Seared Duck Breast with Wakame Calrose Rice, Sautéed Chard, Cherry & Datil Pepper Relish, and Fried Shallots
Makes four servings
Wakame Calrose Rice:
2 cups calrose rice
1/4 cup sesame oil (approx.)
1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Wakame to taste, chopped
Calrose is a medium grain rice that is relatively sticky after cooking, which allows the rice to be shaped on the plate. The rice can be prepared an hour or more before serving.
Rinse rice very well. Cover with a generous amount of cool water and gently stir, then drain and repeat until the water is somewhat clear. Place in a rice cooker and cover with about 3/4″ of water. Once steamed, transfer to a large bowl and cut the rice with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, a few pinches of salt, and wakame. Make sure to chop the seaweed into manageable bites! Once satisfied with the flavor of the rice, you can set it aside with a damp towel over it until ready to eat.
Cherry & Datil Pepper Relish:
1 lb fresh cherries
2 bunches green onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch parsley, rough chopped
1 bunch mint, rough chopped
2 datil peppers, minced
Zest & juice of 1 orange
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
The relish can be made well ahead. We use Sweet Washington cherries, but any cherry would work. To pit the cherries, smash them with the flat side of a knife and remove the pits. Then roughly chop the cherries. Add remaining ingredients. Finish with salt and pepper to taste. If you can’t find datil peppers, any spicy chili pepper will do. The heat from the pepper should work to balance the sweetness of the cherries.
2 shallots thin sliced, latitudinally
All purpose flour
The shallots can also be done well ahead of dinner. Slice the shallots. Then separate the rings and toss them in flour until well coated. It’s important that the shallots aren’t clumped up, but that individual rings are the result. Shake off excess flour and fry in 375 degree oil until golden brown. Remove and place on a paper towel lined plate. Season with salt and set aside.
Duck Breast and Chard:
4 duck breasts
Salt & pepper
2 bunches of chard, chopped
Splash white wine
1 Tbsp raw garlic, chopped
While the duck breasts are very cold, score the skin with a cross hatch pattern, being careful not to slice all the way through to the meat. If the breasts aren’t very cold, the skin and fat will move with the edge of the knife, which will result in sloppy scoring! Season the scored breasts well with salt, pepper, ground cumin, and ground coriander.
Place the duck breasts skin side down in a cold, heavy, flat pan. Cast iron is ideal. Put the pan over medium low heat. This will allow the duck fat to render and the skin to crisp, without the meat cooking prematurely or the skin burning. It is very important to be patient!
Once the skin looks crisp and most of the fat has rendered, transfer the duck to a 400 degree oven to finish cooking to an internal temperature of 135 degrees. When finished, set the breasts (skin side up) aside to rest, and place that same pan back over high heat to sautée the chopped chard. Chard is quick to cook, and loses much of its volume, so put a heaping portion of chard in your pan! Once the chard is wilted, we finish it with a splash of white wine, garlic, and salt and pepper.
Place a scoop of rice in the center of the plate. Then put a few spoons of cherry relish alongside the rice. Cut the duck breasts with the skin side down on the cutting board, then plate them on top of the cherry relish with the skin side up. Finally, nestle in some sautéed chard and top with the fried shallots.
Pairs well with:
Opaque Darkness 2014
Grapes: 60% Zinfandel; 12% Syrah; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Petite Sirah; 5% Grenache; 3% Petit Verdot
Description: After aging in French and American barrels for 14 months, this hand-crafted artisan blend reveals ripe flavors of raspberry and blackberry with notes of spice and vanilla.
The word ‘opaque’ means “impenetrable to light” and refers to the dark, inky, impenetrable color of the Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery’s proprietary blend. The family was so impressed by the Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Petit Verdot grapes from their estate vineyards in Paso Robles, on the central coast of California, that they reserved them for this special blend. Enjoy the darkness.
Awarded 94 points and a Gold Medal by Tastings.com; 90 points by Wine Enthusiast; and a Gold Medal by Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America.