Sea scallops and N.Y. strips – with a side of moderation

Sweet Butter and Bacon Risotto with Seared Sea Scallops. [Photo: Kaila Jones]

Two weeks to the day after undergoing a quadruple bypass at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, I climbed the front steps of the Citrus grill to enjoy a great meal – and resume writing the 32963 weekly dining column.

Any readers have a story of a swifter recovery than that? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Sweet Butter and Bacon Risotto with Seared Sea Scallops. [Kaila Jones/32963]

But for me, getting back into the swing of my heretofore active dining life seemed like the best way to move beyond memories of a cardiac crisis that caught me totally by surprise.

Recently concluded tests had provided no hint of an impending heart attack, or that the foods I have enjoyed eating all these years had clogged the arteries surrounding my heart to such an extent that reopening them with catheterization was impossible.

So now, as I slowly get past the soreness of a healing chest (a few more weeks, they tell me), I need to focus on the changes required to keep my grafted arteries open for years to come.

I also intend to infuse a bit more information about the cholesterol content of entrées in the restaurants I review (without being totally obsessive about it) in the hope this may enable readers to enjoy fine dining while avoiding a hospitalization of their own.

Fortunately for me, before this latest visit to Citrus, I had discovered that one of my favorite dishes – Chef Scott Varricchio’s pan-seared sea scallops ($32) – is highly recommended from a health standpoint as well as being absolutely delectable.

Scallops, it turns out, in addition to being low in cholesterol, are an excellent source of a very important nutrient for cardiovascular health, vitamin B12. They were served on this evening with a sumptuous (and largely cholesterol-free) truffle potato-leek risotto.


Six days later, after a three-week checkup at which my wonderful surgeon, Dr. Mark Malias, declared me a success story and expressed the hope he would not be seeing me again professionally, I felt the need for some red meat and we headed this time for the Amalfi Grille.

The American Heart Association lists a half dozen lean cuts of beef as meeting its criteria for “heart healthy,” but that was not what I had in mind.

I was craving beef Pittsburgh style (or black-and-blue, as some of you know it), and no restaurant locally does this better than the Amalfi. However, this grilling method – in which the outside of the steak is charred at extremely high temperature while the inside remains rare or medium-rare – requires beef fattier and higher in cholesterol than the AHA’s recommended lean cuts.

Oh well, Dr. Malias said I should eat anything I craved for a month as I regained strength. And on this evening, the Amalfi’s prime center-cut N.Y. strip ($45) – which solicitous proprietor Bob Rose made sure was perfectly seared, locking in all the juices and flavor – was indeed spectacular.

Before ending this comeback column, I also want to thank readers who somehow learned of my bypass, and sent get-well cards and flowers.

Of the various gifts from well-wishers in the early days after I returned home, I confess to having been most delighted by the one sent by Chef Varricchio – a roasted chicken. I have long viewed roast chicken as the ultimate comfort food. To me, fresh off hospital food, this chicken tasted even better than the Thomas Keller chicken I enjoyed a year ago.

Finally, there’s a lot of advice out there about how to eat healthy. Some of the wisdom seems to change from week to week. The exhortation I like best is that of the ancient Greek philosophers who counseled moderation.

I intend to try to follow a heart-healthy diet, but I also intend to find room when dining out to savor foods I love. And God willing, I hope to be enjoying new dining experiences – and telling you about them – for years to come. Bon appétit.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at

The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.

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