Edible Jackpot

Seaside Bounty

By Abby Weingarten / Photography By Peter Acker | January 15, 2016
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Making Their Mark

Every three months, Marker 4 gets a seasonal menu makeover—a method that makes the Venice eatery the epitome of local.

The waterfront restaurant, which is located on the Intracoastal Waterway at Fisherman’s Wharf Marina, has become a staple for sustainable seafood lovers ever since Michelle and Steven Witzer took ownership of the property in June 2014. Boaters pull up, dock, and wander in for grouper sandwiches and homemade lobster bisque. They listen to live music under the tiki hut and experience Old Florida seaside ambiance at its most authentic.

“When we first opened, we felt that we would want to serve the kind of food we expect to eat when we go out to eat,” Michelle Witzer says. “People expect fresh seafood when they are out on the water, and we offer the freshest.”

The menu’s freshness is the result of Executive Chef Brian Nieman’s attention to culinary detail. Before moving to Florida, Nieman worked at various award-winning Minnesota restaurants, such as Masa and W.A. Frost & Company, and served as the executive chef at the University Club of Saint Paul. The self-taught Nieman has always made locally grown, all-natural ingredients top priorities in his dishes.

“I try to keep things seasonal, and everything at Marker 4 is homemade: all the desserts, all the dressings, all the sauces and all the soups,” Nieman says. “Yes, we do serve fish and chips, and we have grouper on the menu, but we also have a lot of entrées and appetizers that you won’t find on any other menu in Venice.”

Nieman’s guests request his mussels, which he makes with Aji Amarillo, garlic butter, tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, and garlic crostini to soak up all the broth; his lobster bisque, which is thickened with cream cheese and super lump crabmeat; his seared Gulf red grouper Marsala with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach and wild mushroom sauce; and his vegetarian stuffed eggplant with caramelized onions, dill, golden raisins, and port-fig syrup. He even creates decadent handmade desserts such as caramel apple cobbler, maple-pumpkin crème brulee, and cranberry-eggnog tarts.

Changing the Marker 4 menu every three months allows Nieman to utilize seafood and produce at the peak of season, he says. He is regularly pushing Venice ahead of the food curve. Though some have criticized him for being too much of a “foodie,” he says, he is content to continually rethink flavors and combinations.

Nieman’s creativity is so pronounced that it recently caught the attention of the Food Network when his recipe was one of the top 10 chosen for the “Chopped: Impossible Restaurant Challenge.” Though he did not make it into the final four, he was thrilled to be included. And the regulars at Marker 4 are lucky to have him.

As Nieman says, “I want our patrons to come here for a great culinary experience and not just an average meal overlooking the water.”

Marker 4 Restaurant: 509 N Tamiami Trail, Venice, 941-786-3291; marker4.com.

Article from Edible Sarasota at http://ediblesarasota.ediblecommunities.com/recipes/seaside-bounty
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