Wine Dine and Play: La Cote Basque Winehouse

La Cote Basque Winehouse

Chotskies and Food: Reminders of a Flamboyant Liberace 
Gulfport, Florida USA
Dined in January 2016

By Sean Overpeck (CFE)




Władziu Valentino Liberace (1919 – 1987), known simply as Liberace, was the son of working class immigrants and a child prodigy who played piano, sang, and tried to act. Liberace embraced a lifestyle of flamboyant excess both on and off stage, acquiring the sobriquet "Mr. Showmanship”. Throughout his entire life and career, Liberace publicly denied being gay, and after his death from an immune virus, against the wishes of his estate, the Riverside County coroner conducting a full autopsy and stated there had been a deliberate attempt to hide the actual cause of death.  He did in fact die as a result of AIDS. Now, what does that story have to do with La Cote Basque Winehouse in Gulfport, Florida? Well, when my fiancé and I first walked through the doors, and noticed the color of the dining room, fake flowers, mismatched silverware, knick-knacks, trinkets,  and chotskies everywhere, the first thing my fiancé said was that it looked like Liberace’s coffin. Flamboyant excess is a perfect way to put it.


Scroll down to read the main review, accolades and wine tasting notes


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From the restaurants home page:
Pinellas County’s hidden gem, nestled in the heart of Gulfport Florida’s Waterfront Art District. This intimate and quaint restaurant has been serving the finest in French and Continental cuisine in a cozy country French atmosphere for over 40 years.

A third generation business. La Cote Basque is family operated throughout, from ownership to service staff. Nationally award winning food and impeccable service have attracted locals and national celebrities alike.

Main review:
An interesting way to advertise your business, but then you want it to sound good, then that is what you do. But is it all it is made up to be? In Gulfport's historic art district there are many shops and restaurants to include a Tuesday Market that attracts people far and wide. One of the many restaurants along this strip is of course La Cote Basque, not to be mistaken for the famous La Côte Basque in New York which opened in the late 1950s and operated until it closed on March 7, 2004. In business for 45 years, upon it's closing The New York Times called it a "former high-society temple of French cuisine.”

Picture courtesy of La Cote Basque
Everyone judges their experiences at dining out differently, and what is a gem to one person, could be a nightmare to another.  As one person quoted, It looks like a 1930's restaurant in France and a late 1800's house of ill repute exploded all over the place.” Earlier I mentioned that chotskies were everywhere, from the fire places with empty wine bottles,  a picture of Jesus next to more empty wine bottles with pink wine glasses on a shelf with fruit designed plates on the shelf below that. 


What are chotskies? It is a relatively new term for me as well, but Urban Dictionary defines it as generally useless crap of little or no value. The word became famous as a result of a parody song by Weird Al Yankovic called EBAY, which made fun of a Backstreet Boys song. Other examples and though I don’t know why, but that they had more religious chotskies this time of the pope next to plate with the Star of David and a Menorah. Why have those being displayed on a shelf of a dining room that serves classical French cuisine?


As far as the history of the name, the Basques have occupied much the same area of northern Spain and southern France for thousands of years, and La Côte (English: The Slope) is part of the sloping Lake Geneva ’s (French: Lac Léman) north shore, stretching from Nyon to Lausanne in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland.


The dining room was very small, separated into four areas, beginning with the front entrance and host stand having a small bar. Then you enter into the main dining area that has between ten to twelve tables with a combination of two and four seaters. We were seated next to that main room in a small causeway style section that led to the back area which was closed off that evening, since it is primarily used for their Dinner Theater which is conducted every Second & Third Thursday at 7pm. 

As we sat in some very old creaky and quite uncomfortable chairs, still amazed by the amount of trinkets everywhere, I had to use the restroom, so while walking through the main portion of the dining room the wall to my right with a few two seater tables next to it had a painted mural on the wall of a French town, with you guessed it, more chotskies and empty wine bottles resting on a make-shift shelf of wood attached to that wall. As you enter into the hallway to the restrooms, you can hear the kitchen crew from behind the thin walls, and when guests can hear you, its best not to curse or complain. The hall and the bathrooms had a fowl odor almost like sewage that would be coming up from a drain with a mixture of mold. I had to plug my nose while in the bathroom, then hoped that I wouldn’t have to go again before the end of the meal. My fiancé went once, and stopped herself from going again until we got home.

Picture courtesy of La Cote Basque

We began reviewing their menu which was on the larger side broken down by:

  • Hors D’Oeuvres (starters or appetizers)
  • Les Potages (soup) 
  • Les Poissons El Crustaces (fish and shellfish)
  • Early Bird Menu
  • Entrees
  • Desserts
  • Children's Menu

We reviewed their wine list and chose a bottle of the Michel Picard Côtes du Rhône, 2013 Grenache blend from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape. (Scroll down below the main review to see wine tasting notes) Michel Picard is a winemaker that produces many different French wines from the many regions around the country, purchasing grapes versus growing them, except for in a few instances where he does produce his own, and has a few Grand Cru’s and a Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru. The La Cote Basque wine list represents the Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire, and Bourgogne as well as other world wines from Spain, Italy, and Germany. For the new world they have varieties from New Zealand, Argentina, and the United States. Their wine list was actually a better representation to them, then their food and sewage smell of the bathrooms unfortunately. You can see their entire list in the review section further below.

A small cutting board of bread was delivered to the table as we were looking at the menu, and awaiting our wine, covered in white and black sesame seeds. It looked wonderful until you see that it is presented with a small side ramekin cup of butter that is individually wrapped, purchased from a major supplier. So they appear to take the time to make their own bread, (unless it is purchased and delivered from an outside bakery) then not bother to make an enhanced butter, or present it in a way other than individually wrapped? Really!!

We continued to review the menu, and were ready to make our selections starting with Hors D’Oeuvres of frog legs, and the house garlic bread. The frog legs were sautéed in a garlic butter, but otherwise had very little flavor. 



We received salads along with our entrees, and they were both brought out on a small glass plate which looked nice, but had a very cheap ceramic white plate under it, followed by both plates sitting on a charger, very 1980’s. The dressing to the salad came on the side, in a plastic ramekin but I couldn’t tell you what type of dressing it was.


Their entree menu had a combination of German and French dishes following the roots of the La Côte, with a few schnitzels, and brats, and as for their French selection, someone likes Veal, because they had the same veal, chicken, or pork prepared seven different ways from picatta, parmesan, and marsala, adding some Italian flare, to escalope and spinada. A few chicken dishes, liver, meatballs, literally they were all over the place, and finally an entree that attracted me. I decided on their Filet De Beef (not Boeuf) Wellington Sauce Aux Champignons, or in English a mushroom wine sauce.

My fiancé went with the Salmon in the Les Poissons El Crustaces section which also had selections such as flounder two ways, and shrimp prepared two ways. The salmon was grilled and served with a topping of lobster bisque sauce, and on a plate with a completely separate and much brighter design then the plate that the frog legs were served on. 



Wine Tasting Notes:

Wine & Grape:
Nose (Bouquet):
Palette Experience:
Michel Picard
Côtes du Rhône
Châteauneuf-du-Pape

France
Winemaker:  
Grenache-Syrah blend with deep cherry and bright garnet color, this wine offers a fresh nose of matured red and black fruit and soft spices.

My Tasting:  
black cherry and current with a slight oak and wet forest presents itself on the nose.


Winemaker:
Good balance of acidity and fruit.


My Tasting: 
The nose converges over with some acidic spices, star anise, and nutmeg on the palette, with medium tannins and a light finish.



So many great wines in this world, here are a few of my favorite tastings:

Stellenbosch, South Africa
Napa, California, USA
Santa Barbara, California, USA
Franschhoek, South Africa
Willamette, Oregon
Yarra Valley, Australia
Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Willamette, Oregon
Alexander Valley, California, USA
Constantia, South Africa
Yountville, California
Napa, California, USA





Dessert:
By the time the entrees were finished it felt like the fifteen minute rule with movies. If it doesn’t catch you at that time, find a new movie. Well, we were both ready to find a new movie. We could have had dessert, but the meal to that point was not exciting, even the vegetables were bland and not cooked right. For those that stay for desserts, they have peach Melba, parfaits, chocolate mousse, creme brûlée, cheesecake, tiramisu, and others. Wether they were homemade or prepackaged I do not know. Then the fun with the check came as I looked at the bank statement online the following day, so even the day after, we were still being haunted.


So, with the meal complete, and our culinary appetites fulfilled, lets see how La Cote Basque Winehouse rates overall shall we….


5 stars
 is Extraordinary
4 Stars
 is Outstanding
3 Stars
Exceeded Expectations
2 Stars
is Above the Average
1 Star
is an Average Dining Experience
No Star Rating
The Restaurant is Basic, Poor, or Appalling






Rating Breakdown And Analysis:

Professional Restaurant reviewers like the New York Times, Zagat, Chowhound, Gayot, or others base their reviews on either a single experience, and give in their opinion a specific rating to that restaurant. While some return a few times to get a better scope, and provide a fare well rounded review. These reviews and accolades tell the whole story and inform the diner of what to expect. Now social media from Facebook, Yelp, Zomato, and Trip Advisor have started to replace the traditional media, and a large majority of diners will look at these social ratings and write-ups and judge the restaurant on them versus the use of review sites like this one or the others I mentioned above. Social media is now the new make or brake to a Restaurant. Instead of being skeptical to the social review, people will see that others have given low ratings, and they will likely bypass and go to a neighboring restaurant. Whether it is here on Wine, Dine, and Play, or the Elite Traveler’s Guide, the one thing we do is give an unbiased opinion and base our write-ups on what we experienced, giving you the most information we can. The ratings I give on Wine, Dine, and Play are based on the overall experience, so use this review as another source of information to help make your decision. From the tasting of the Chef’s specials to the lists of wines, prices, customer service, the property, setup, flow, and cleanliness; are just a few of the items I look at when giving a rating for a review. Sometimes I visit a place once-or many times-and I base it on the facts, versus a user on social media who writes a bad review because he had a bad day, or has a personnel dislike to an employee. I am one of many thousands of reviewers on this Earth, and my main job is to inform you the diner. I do this for fun as it is something I truly enjoy. You may end up having a completely opposite experience then the ones I write about, but in the end it is all in the eye of the beholder. I’m just giving you more information then what you see or here on social media.



Here on Wine, Dine, and Play, I have an overall star rating scale of six levels with the lowest being a poor or appalling experience with zero stars, up to an extraordinary experience rated at five stars. This rating scale is formulated by braking down the individual experiences such as wine, plate presentation, ambiance, wow factor, plus food quality and combines them on a scale from zero to ten, with ten being the best to give an overall final score. In the next paragraph, I brake down how and why I come to the conclusion of the rating numbers listed in the review chart below.

This was our first visit to La Cote Basque, and it was going to be our last. I can understand a few mess ups, and I’m very big with giving people and business’s a second chance, but when you know for a fact that it will be impossible to improve, why waste your money.

I rate ambiance on several factors from the most important being cleanliness of the dining room and restrooms, to organization and flow. I look at the atmosphere, character, the tones, artwork, and the design styles to see if they match the themes of the food. During the daylight hours natural lighting versus electric is also a strong enhancer of enjoying a meal, and of course the styles of furniture, or if it is inviting and comfortable. 

I gave La Cote Basque a rating of 4 out of 10, it was very dark in the restaurant, the chotskies everywhere did not help, and the musky smell by the front door and sewage smell by the bathrooms was more like eating at the F.O.B’s in Afghanistan instead of a restaurant near the beach in central Florida.

The quality rating I base by an essential or distinctive characteristics that the food offers, or if I see that it is of a high grade, superiority, or excellence. Also important is the taste. Did the chef pair or match distinctive ingredients together, and did he send my palette on an adventure? 

My rating was a 3 out of 10, and my palette did not get excited. As I read the menu I thought it would, but butter served in packages from the manufacturer, cold vegetables with no flavor, the frog legs that needed a sauce better than the one it had, didn’t bold well for the restaurant.

The plate presentation is also at the midway point. I base this rating on the art of how the food is but together and displayed as it is brought to the table. Does it look unique, or have interesting garnishments, or built right at the table? Does it make you look twice and go “wow”? All of these attributes help add to the rating. 

I gave them a rating a little higher than the food at 4 out of 10 as it seemed endless the different designs of plates that were presented, when they should have been displayed with the chotskies instead. 

Customer service can make or break a restaurant. You can have the best quality of foods, plate presentations that put Escoffier to shame, the most beautiful of ambiance, and a fantastic wine or bar list. However if you have a service staff that is not attentive to the needs of the guest, or has an unclean uniform, smells like a cigarette after returning from a break, does not act professionally, or lacks knowledge on the menu, food, and restaurant then you have a major problem. On the other hand a great server can bring a customer back over and over again even if the food is mediocre. People go to restaurants for the show of food thinking they are experts because they watched a reality tv show on the Food Network, but what needs to be understood is that as amazing as a kitchen staff and Chef’s may be, the front of house is just as great. 

I gave a rating of 5 out of 10, as the man tried his best. I believe he was related to the owners. He was professional and very welcoming to talk with, but not very attentive to the needs of the guests. The fiasco with the check that I mentioned earlier was that he double charged me, but later could not reimburse the extra charge back onto the card, so after we got back from a trip and contacted them several times we drove back down to get a business check to deposit.

The “wow” factor as I like to call it is a quality or feature that is extremely impressive, or it can be something that is seen or done that is funky, surprising, or pleasing. It is something that just makes me go “wow”. This rating is also the hardest to get high marks for. The wow factor is a combination of what ambiance, quality, plate presentation, customer service, and wine or mixology

Nothing really “wowed” me except the interior decorator and wonder what form of narcotic they were on, so the rating is a 2 out of 10.

The wine selection can vary from restaurant to restaurant, and I base the ratings not just on the quality of the wines offered but also the selections. Wine is grown everywhere around the world these days and the demand for it has increased ten fold. Distributors in every major city whether they work for a large named company like Empire or a small boutique company can provide services to any restaurant if that restaurant wants it. Some restaurants will choose to have very basic wines and that to me will lower a rating faster than a plane nose diving. If they make an effort to have even a small selection with variety such as a wines from Napa California, Willamette Oregon, Bordeaux France, Stellenbosch South Africa, the Yarra Valley near Melbourne Australia, or the Piemonte in Italy, to name a few, then that rating will shoot up higher on my review list. 

The wine selection receives the highest ranking score of the evening with a 6 out of 10. With selections from four separate parts of the world, the wine list was diverse and worthy of an honorable mention. It is just sad that the wine was better than the meal.



Overall Star rating by Wine, Dine, & Play:
½ of 5
Basic to Average Experience 
Ambiance:
4  of 10
Quality of the Food:
3  of 10
Plate Presentation:
4  of 10
Customer Service:
5  of 10
Wow Factor:
2  of 10
Wine Selection:
 (See the full list under the review basics section below)
6 of 10


Finally the overall star rating from Wine, Dine, and Play that I give to La Cote Basque is a half of one star. I tried as I added up the other ratings to see if they were worthy of at least one star, even with the wine list, but I couldn’t do it.  This rating means that the restaurant experience was below an average dining experience, and can be rated as poor. I came to this conclusion based on all the other factors and how they rated.

You can’t always hit a home run, and not all restaurants are created equal. As I went through and read other peoples experiences on yelp and trip advisor, I noticed a lot of similar complaints to mine. This is one rare instance where I look at the social media and agree with their assessments. I would compare my experience with La Cote Basque with other basic dining non-adventures such as Table Six in Canton, Ohio or Napoletana Pizzeria, at the Dubai Marina, UAE.


Other Gulfport and St. Pete Beach reviews on Wine, Dine, and Play:
Spinners Rooftop Bistro in St. Pete Beach
Hurricane Seafood Grill in Pass-A-Grill
Beachcomber Bar & Grill at the Don CeSar 
Castile Restaurant at the Hotel Zamora
Stella’s Restaurant, in Gulfport
Level 11 at the Grand Plaza Hotel


Other French Restaurant reviews on Wine, Dine, and Play:
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, Ireland 
The French Laundry in Yountville, California
Fleur de Lys in San Francisco 
Le Gabriel in Bordeaux
LA TABLE de Joël Robuchon in Paris
Cafe de Paris, Monaco


Food Prices 
(excluding, alcohol, taxes & gratuity)
$£€¥ -                Under 50.00 
$£€¥ x 2 -          51.00- 99.00 
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 

**Currencies chosen reflect the world’s major travelers and restaurant connoisseur’s**


My food bill:
Currency:
Price chart:
$63.00
United States Dollar (USD)
$$
£44.00
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
£
€55.00
European Union (EUR)
€€
$82.00
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
$$
$86.00
Australian Dollar (AUS)
$$
¥410.00
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
¥¥¥¥¥


Alcohol Prices:

$68.00

***
Customary starting gratuity for restaurants in the United States begins at 15% 
Of your total bill and increases based on the level of service you received. 
In Europe, Australia, Africa, and some Asian countries it is not 
common to leave any gratuity as it is already included into 
the check, but you may feel free to leave extra anyway

***


Review basics: 
Wine selections by region:



6 of 10

Old world: 

  1. France
A). Bordeaux: (Haut Médoc, Cotes de Castillon,  Médoc, Pessac Leognan, Sauternes, St. Estèphe, St. Julien, St. Émillion, Pauillac, Pomerol, & Margaux).
B). Bourgogne: (Chablis, Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet, Macon Villages, Meursault, Pernand, Pouilly Fuissé, Nuits St. Georges, Gevrey Chambertin, Viré‐Clessé, Vosne‐Romanée & Bonnes).
C). Loire: (Sancerre, & Saumur, Vouvray, & Chinon). 
D). Other: Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon
  1. Spain: La Rioja
  2. Italy: Veneto, Toscana
  3. Germany: Mosel

New World: 

  1. Argentina: Mendoza
  2. New Zealand
 Marlborough: (Wairau Valley, Awetere Valley, Waihopi Valley)
  1. California: Sonoma, Napa, Edna Valley, Paso Robles, Central Coast,
  2. Oregon: Umpqua Valley, 
  3. Washington State: Columbia Valley
Corkage fee’s:
The Restaurant does not list any corkage fee’s however, most American restaurants charge $25.00 per bottle
Restaurant style:
Casual
Reservations:
Not Required, But Recommended
Walk-Ins:
Accepted, but not guaranteed
Dress code:
Smart casual, Casual, or Conservative attire
Child policy:


The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a child’s menu or cater to them; however for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended for children not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette
Hire a Babysitter. 
Cuisine style:
French, Basque, German, Seafood
Experiences:
Rustic, Hole-in-the-wall, Tourist grabber
Payments:
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Parking:
Street Parking
Free of charge
Wifi
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Low
Smoking:
Nonsmoking restaurant
Patio:
No


Restaurant address:
3104 Beach Blvd South
Gulfport, Florida
33707

GPS Coordinates: 
27.738566
-82.707587

Contact Information: 

Maître d, Reservations:
+1 (727) 321-6888
Restaurant Website:
Serving Hours:
Eastern Standard Time (GMT - 5:00)
Daily: 4:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Email:
Groupon:

Social Media 
Accolades:

Facebook Link                




Reviewed by:
Sean Overpeck (CFE)
Picture below was taken FOB Shank, Afghanistan in 2011




About Sean:

I am based out of St. Petersburg, Florida working in the food service industry for the past twenty years, and am currently with the American Embassy as the Executive Chef in Basra, Iraq. Formally I have worked with groups contracting in Afghanistan, Dubai, and Antarctica, also working in restaurants in and around Atlanta prior to the wars. I have also owned a catering company and served proudly in the United States Army Food Service Program. The idea for the Wine, Dine, and Play started in late 2012 after a trip to Jordan, when I was asked by friends to write down the experiences from a few Jordanian restaurants, plus the wine from the region that I tasted, and locations of interest such as Petra, and the culture. Since that time, over 200 articles have been written on restaurants, including fifteen from the worlds top 100 lists of San Pellegrino and the Elite Travelers Guide; exotic world locations such as Dubai, Petra, Victoria Falls, and South African Safari’s; food recipes & Grand Food Dictionaries; country cuisines such as Afghan and Peruvian; and of course wine from vineyards in California, Oregon, the Carolina’s, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia

Who is John Galt?




“Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, 
But in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
-Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661)






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