Peg's may have been more of a "cantina" in the past, but I never met that Peg's. The Peg's I became acquainted with today is a sumptuous tapas restaurant with offerings that rival those I've tried in highly evolved dining destinations like Barcelona, Philadelphia, California wine country and Argentina. Oh, and to make things even more exciting, they craft their own beer right in back of the adorable converted bungalow in Gulfport, a mere block from the water. While it's uber charming both inside and out, the lush patio garden setting could easily tempt one to linger there all day in cooler weather...sipping, nibbling and sipping some more.
Brewskis we tried were exceptional; both my lighter, pale lager-style "Granny Gear" and UD's full-bodied, hoppy and pleasingly grapefruit forward "mistake batch" they entitled "Home Alone" (this one probably won't be available going forward).
Food was off the chain and exceeded expectations at every turn. The house-smoked Mahi spread was heavy on flavor, light on mayo and pleasingly studded with fresh chopped veggies. As an off-again-on-again low carber, I appreciated the availability of veggie slice carriers in addition to Captain's Wafers. It really put the ubiquitous, gloppy and homogeneous version that is dispensed out of the manufacturer's tub up and down the Suncoast beaches to shame. Wimpier palates should beware the nuclear pepper sauce that comes with...it's gotta be up there on the Scoville scale.
I'm not sure I've ever even seen fried mussels on a menu before, so it was impossible not to take the plunge. Truly unique, the preparation was similar to that of Clams Casino. After being chopped, sauteed and seasoned with all manner of decadence, it appeared that the mussels were then formed into quenelles, coated in panko bread crumbs, returned to their shells, broiled and then dotted with tarragon aioli (but I'm just guessing here). I may not know exactly how they were prepared, but I do know that they were fabulous.
A deceptively simple-sounding blue crab quesadilla with cheese, artichokes and corn was rich and fat with sweet crustacean morsels, and the unpleasant overload of veggie mitigation that one so often finds in quesadillas was noticeably absent here. While they did appear in pleasing, supporting cast proportions, crab meat was truly the star of this production. It makes me a little sad that the photo does not begin to adequately document how decadent this small plate really was. Trust me...you want it.
The silken, luxurious butternut squash soup blew me away with its autumn-spiced, almost candy-like flavor and five-star presentation. First, the bowl was placed before me with the soup's accoutrements (toasted pumpkin seeds, emulsified ginger snaps, pureed red pepper, a little chive and curry sauce) stunningly painted upon the bottom like a miniature Picasso.
Then, the soup was poured in and I was able to swirl and play with this deliriously delightful trough of wonderment to my heart's content. Comfort food at its finest.
Underdog can never pass up a charcuterie platter and Peg's served up a stunning version. A generous portion of sweet and salty shaved prosciutto from apple-fed pigs was beautifully plated along with slabs of spicy chorizo and creamy, earthy chicken liver pate. Apple slices, cornichons, olives, pickled blueberries and grainy Dijon mustard came with.
While it was difficult to even conceive of shoehorning down dessert, we rallied and ordered a perfect little key lime tart. Not too sweet and not too tangy, the creamy custard luxuriated in a delicate graham cracker crust and was just the right size to share without catapulting us into a Cheesecake Factory level of dining overload.
This was nothing short of a superlative and totally refreshing dining experience. Quality as well as attention to detail is second to none at Peg's. 75% of the menu ingredients are locally sourced and I have to love a resto that eschews Coke and Pepsi products (if you want soda, you'll get Dr. Brown's). Adjectives fail me. Amazing.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.