On a warm and balmy afternoon I was greeted by Executive Chef Michael Guerra on the sidewalk in front of The Pearl at Rosemary Beach, a prominent boutique hotel with 55 luxury rooms centrally located within the idyllic town. He opened the gorgeous hardwood front doors welcoming me with a smile, as I became overwhelmed with the beauty of the lobby and artwork adorning the walls by local artist Tommy Crow.
Classic in style and wonderfully intimate, The Pearl allows for spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico which we took in as we headed to The Veranda, an open-aired dining space offering views of the sprawling greens and Gulf of Mexico. The Pearl also incorporated a casual cocktail area featuring plush seating allowing patrons to relax in seaside splendor. The Pearl’s PR Director treated guests to a tasting of sparkling and non sparkling water choices as we sat at “Table 63”, a roundtable named for the hotel’s Main Street address. With room for six guests, it is the perfect location to take in the impeccable view.
The Pearl is serving ‘Fresh Water’, one of the purest sources of water known, which is forced through an in house filtration system leaving a zero carbon footprint. Guerra says, “ We are capping our own bottles. The Pearl is one of only three hotels worldwide that does this, and is the only hotel in Florida with the ‘Fresh Water’ label.” The in-house water source will be incorporated into spa treatments, and will also be used in the house made pizza dough, fresh mozzarella, and the blanched vegetables served at The Pearl in rosemary Beach.
While offering additional amenities like massage therapy, spa, a signature pool, and a rooftop lounge with private cabanas, other perks of the hotel include a dedicated beach access with chairs and umbrellas provided to each guest, and no minimum night requirement, even in high season. Artist Tommy Crow joined us as we toured the hotels flagship restaurant, Havana Beach Bar & Grill. With the feeling and look of an old French Brasserie, Chef Guerra says, “I want people to be proud to be here.”
Chef Guerra who joined The Pearl from the award-winning Montage in Utah Deer Valley is leading the culinary program and is passionate about exploring new ways to develop dishes that define what it means to live and cook on the Southern Gulf. A fusion of flavors from the Creole back country, Mexican fishing villages, to the soul of Cuba will come alive in menu selections like Classic Corn Chowder, with blue crab, house-cured bacon, and Creole vegetables. Other menu selections include Shrimp & Grits, showcasing local Florida Shrimp, crisp spicy ham, and Adluh Stone Ground Grits from South Carolina, and the Delmonico Steak, a center cut Rib-Eye served with house-made Havana Steak Sauce and sides. Chef Guerra says, “ My father was born and raised in Naples and the hotel owners have even put a brick oven on the rooftop bar for authentic pizza.”
Ingredient driven, Chef Guerra uses fresh local and regional artisan products like that from Ocheesee Creamery, Twin Oaks Farms, Camp Flowers Honey, and Sexton’s Seafood Market. He says, “Along the coastline that follows the Gulf of Mexico, you will find inspired cuisine reflecting the local purveyors, growers, and fishermen available to the region. Highlighting their individuality is what inspires me and the menu for Havana Beach.” Complementing the Southern coastal cuisine is a carefully crafted beverage menu that honors the spirits traditional to the coastal region. The Hemingway Daiquiri with Havana Club Rum, Maraschino Liquor, grapefruit juice, and lime is a local favorite.
An old photo of El Floridita-a 195 year old historic fish restaurant and cocktail bar in Havana, Cuba hangs by The Pearl’s mahogany hand carved bar, and Crowe says, “This bar is modeled after the original where Ernest Hemingway was known to hang out.” Crowe traveled to Cuba and shot video that The Pearl displays on screens in the restaurant and bar space, while his spectacular image photography adds to ambiance of the décor. With a 1500 bottle wine cellar, hand plastered ceilings with fauna design, an upgraded sound system including studio quality speakers, and a Yamaha player piano taking center stage, owner Bill quickly points out, “It is amazing but we are not trying to be hip and cool, we plan to remain classic. It is about being unique and creating the ultimate guest experience.”
Havana Beach Bar & Grill is located at 63 Main Street Rosemary Beach, and is open Monday through Friday for breakfast, 7:00 am to 3:00 p.m.; lunch, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm; and dinner, 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, brunch is available 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, and dinner is 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The Havana Beach Bar is open until midnight, nightly. Sol Luna Gulf View Lounge is open daily, weather permitting. Mon-Fri 3pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 11am to 10pm. For more information or to make a reservation please visit www.thepearlrb.com or call 850-588-2881.