ROSEMARY BEACH – Caring & Sharing of South Walton is hosting an inaugural wine dinner, Pairing & Sharing, on Thursday, May 4 at Rosemary Beach Town Hall. Cocktail hour kicks off with passed hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m. Guests will then enjoy a 3-course dinner by Swiftly Catered, paired with five wines from Dry Farm Wines. Tickets are $250 per guest.
Dry Farm Wines offers natural wines, grown in healthy soils, from family farms and lab-tested for purity. Founder Todd White will be on hand for this special evening to share his knowledge about the wines being offered.
Caring & Sharing is a local nonprofit organization providing food, financial and case management assistance to over 500 Walton County community members in need every month.
SANDESTIN – The Sandestin Wine Festival has done a lot of evolving in its 36 years. Ticket holders have always been able to sample a wide array of wines from makers around the world, but a glance over this year’s Grand Tasting wine list revealed a surge in “alternative beverages.”
There were plenty of wines to be sure – more Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs and Cabernet Sauvignons than you could possibly taste, and the Bubbly & Boozy tent on the north end of the grounds has long provided guests a chance to sip on whiskeys, bourbons, rums and gins. Interspersed among the 70 tables of venders, however, were the likes of Casa Azul, a canned tequila soda; Big Machine Spiked Cocktails; Tin Roof Brewery; and Kickin’ It Coolers, vodka-infused juice pouches with a 6% ABV. Just in case you “over-sampled,” More Labs Recovery was also on site, handing out their lemon and sugar-free hangover-fighting elixir.
Over at the Michael David Winery table, fourth-time attendee Chris Reynolds and team were pouring a selection of bottles from the Lodi, Calif.-based winemaker, including the popular and colorful Freakshow Cabernet.
When asked what had been the most popular Saturday, Chris was quick to answer. “The rosé, by far!” adding that the sauvignon blanc had also seen a lot of action.
Finding common ground in both worlds, the Fun Wine table piqued the curiosity of many with their lineup of premium wine cocktails like Espresso Cabernet, Cappuccino Chardonnay, and Coconut Pineapple Chardonnay.
Guests also had a chance to nibble at a series of Savor South Walton tents positioned throughout the Wharf.
Chef Christopher Holbrook and his Signature Catering of 30A team had an evolving menu, starting with steaming cups of pho and saucy chicken wings, hand-rolled sushi and a whole mess of crawfish!
“This festival is just fantastic,” said local resident Sheri Jeroni, who was back for her second festival. “The food is wonderful, the atmosphere is great, the lines haven’t been terrible. Everybody is friendly and the volunteers are terrific.”
Vivian Howell of Dothan was also a SWF second-timer, and enjoying her return trip just as much.
“Everything in the bourbon tent has really been great, but once you go there, you have to stay there because you don’t want to drink any more wine after that – especially in this heat!” she laughed.
The Sandestin Wine Festival is a four-day affair benefiting longtime charity partners Fisher House of the Emerald Coast and Sandestin Foundation for Kids. For more information, visit sandestinwinefestival.com.
“For 2023, we are mixing it up so to speak,” said Stacey Brady, the festival’s executive director. “We are bringing truly innovative wines and winemakers to the festival this year. French Pool Toy is a fun and sustainable wine from France presented in elegant, unbreakable and eco-friendly packaging. We plan to pour their rosé and white.”
Thursday night’s Winemakers and Shakers event at Wine World Destin begins the weekend, featuring some of the festival’s top wineries and excellent local eats.
The party really gets started at the Craft Beer & Spirits Jam Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. along the streets of Grand Boulevard and the Grand Park. Ticket holders are issued a tasting glass and an all-access pass to craft beers and spirits samples, set to the sounds of B-Boy Productions. You’ll recognize a few local labels as well as some of your favorites from around the country.
“You won’t want to miss the Monkey Shoulder Mixer, an actual renovated and tricked out concrete truck dispensing a delicious bourbon slushie,” Brady pointed out. “It’s a real show-stopper.”
She also mentioned displays from Basil Hayden, No 3 Gin, and Tequila 512.
The highlight of the weekend is definitely Saturday and Sunday’s Grand Tastings, held from 1 to 4 p.m. at Grand Boulevard’s Town Center. Snag a tasting book and wine glass, then move from booth-to-booth sampling intriguing bottles. Make note of your favorites to pick up at the retail tent, conveniently located on-site.
Brady is especially proud to welcome Glenn C. Salva, the wine estate manager at Antinori Napa Valley, who brings over 35 years of Napa Valley wine-growing experience; as well as Victoria Eady Butler, master blender for Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey.
“She will be on hand to pour and educate attendees about her whiskey. Her great-great-grandfather was Nearest Green, the first known African American master distiller,” Brady said.
Don’t miss chef demonstrations, tasting seminars, Jackson Family Wine World, Spirits Row and the Nashville Songwriters Showcase on the center stage – all included in your ticket price.
The Savor South Walton Culinary village will again feature the work of Wine World Culinary Director Scott Plumley.
“He goes all out every year in Culinary Village, creating an ideal menu to pair with wines being poured,” Brady explained. “We are thrilled to announce that Chef Yoshi Eddings of Harbor Docks will prepare and serve sushi at the festival. Anyone who knows her work and reputation knows what a treat it is to enjoy her world-renown sushi.”
Pick-and-choose from these individually ticketed events, or purchase a 3-day VIP package which includes a special kick-off event, “A Taste of Grand Boulevard,” and swag bag – while supplies last. Brady said VIPs will be able to pre-order the really fine wines poured at the VIP tasting, available on the festival website about a month in advance.
As always, proceeds of the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival benefit the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. In 2022 alone, the festival generated $40,000 for the partner charity, which assists more than a dozen children’s charities throughout Northwest Florida. The weekend is held in conjunction with the DCWAF’s annual auction, a separate ticketed event held on the festival grounds. More info can be found at dcwaf.org.
The South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival will be April 27 to 30, 2023. For more information including tickets and VIP opportunities, visit sowalwine.com.
SOUTH WALTON – The South Walton dining scene, dubbed “America’s Next Great Culinary Destination,” has seen tremendous growth over the past year. Never before have visitors and locals alike had so many options to wine and dine here along the Emerald Coast. Let’s take a look at some of the new kids on the block.
Hunter’s Chicken & Burgers
Longtime fans of the former Baytowne Wharf eatery Hartell’s Diner will be happy to see it re-imagined as Hunter’s Chicken & Burgers. Home to the famous Krispy Krunchy Chicken (exclusive to this area), this diner recently opened its doors at The Market Shops at the South entrance to Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
Hunter’s bills itself as “A modern take on old-fashioned diners,” with all the classics: onion rings, shoestring fries (with or without gravy), hand-pressed burgers, fried chicken, and even seafood. The kids menu offers mac and cheese, mini corn dogs, and grilled cheese, too. Grab a salad, soda, beer, or wine, and don’t forget take-out options for those beach picnics! Barn Boxes with bone-in chicken are to-go only, available as an 8-piece or 16-piece.
Hunter’s Chicken & Burgers is located at 9375 Emerald Coast Parkway W, Miramar Beach. Reach them at 850-654-9453 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HuntersDiner/. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Grace Pizza and Shakes 30A
With two locations in Texas, Grace Pizza and Shakes recently expanded to the 30A market, offering coal-fired pizzas and over-the-top milkshakes.
Whether you’re looking to dine-in or get your meal to go, Grace offers a selection of starters (spinach dip, meatballs or the famous “Illegal Cheese Bread,” to name a few), 12-inch pizzas, salads, hot sandwiches and draft beer.
Create your own pizza or pick one of 14 specialty combinations, like the spicy Heat Wave with its selection of zesty Italian meats and local hot honey, the La Grande Vita with Wagyu meatballs and ricotta cheese, or the gluten-free Ashlyn’s Art on cauliflower crust and roasted vegetables.
For something sweet, the What’s Shakin’ menu includes such monster treats as the 30A Cake Explosion milkshake (served with a slice of cake and a sparkler) or Kane’s Cookie Shake, topped with an entire cookie sandwich. Classic vanilla and chocolate shakes are available, too.
Grace Pizza and Shakes 30A is at 38 Clayton Lane in the Grayton Beach area of Santa Rosa Beach. Visit them online at gracepizzaandshakes.com or call 850-399-4051.
Canopy Road Cafe
New to the 30Avenue complex in Inlet Beach, Canopy Road Cafe added another brunch spot to the East End.
In additional to seasonal specials, Canopy’s menu includes healthy eats and morning toasts, like the Italian Avocado Toast; house favorites include country fried steak and eggs; Benedicts served with potatoes or grits; handhelds and sandwiches like the breakfast quesadilla; and entire menus of pancakes, waffles, French toast and omelets.
Breakfast skillets are fried up with your choice of ingredients, like the Roger with its corned beef hash and grilled peppers; or an 8-ounce black Angus burger, including the Black N’ Bleu Burger, served blackened with caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms and bacon.
Open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, visit them at 12805 U.S. Highway 98E, Inlet Beach, or order online at www.canopyroadcafe.com. Phone is 850-909-0104.
Outcast Seafood and its motley crew opened its doors near the outlet mall last year, serving up seafood at market price. A second location, Outcast Bar & Grill, just opened in Santa Rosa Beach.
“The Outcast” meal is your choice of shrimp (head on or head off) or snow crab legs prepared in their signature seafood boil spice blend – either “Hot” or “Not.” You can add sausage, corn, portobellos or a potato to make the seafood boil of your dreams – bibs and gloves recommended!
The “Others” menu includes such treats as catfish bites, double Old Bay wings or their signature slow-cooked red beans and rice. Sip on beers, wine or soft drinks, and don’t miss the happy hour food and beverage deals from 1 to 4 p.m. daily.
Outcast Seafood’s flagship location is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner at 10859 Emerald Coast Parkway, Suite 404, in Miramar Beach (phone 850-424-7214), with a second location, Outcast Bar & Grill, at 4942 US Highway 98W in Santa Rosa Beach. Visit them online at www.outcastseafood.com.
SANDESTIN – Dubbed “The Kentucky Derby of wine festivals,” the Sandestin Wine Festival is back for its 36th installment this April. Rain or shine, guests come to choose from hundreds of wines to sip, and dine on a selection of local eateries’ offerings.
The party gets started with the official kick-off Thursday night at The Village Door from 7 to 9 p.m.
Gourmet food and wine pairings will take place at merchants throughout the Village of Baytowne Wharf all four nights.
Two days of Grand Tastings feature table after table of vintners, pouring everything from Riesling to Cab Sav and plenty in between. Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday 1 to 4 p.m., guests can taste as many varieties as they choose, making notes of favorites along the way. Savor South Walton tents will dot the grounds, featuring some of Baytowne Wharf and South Walton’s best restaurants and their kitchen crews. Sample bites from steak to seafood to sweets.
Ticket-holders 21 and over are given a wristband and tasting glass, meaning non-drinking guests are welcome to enjoy the festivities as well. The heartiest of wine enthusiasts can opt for the 2-day Grand Tasting ticket to enjoy a discount, while supplies last. VIP lounge tickets have already sold out.
Yoga, mimosas and the beach converge for a morning of relaxation during Saturday’s Seas the Day session, starting at 9 a.m. Enjoy a good stretch and a sip at this yoga class held at the Sandestin Beach Access, presented by Hotel Effie & Spa Lilliana. If rain dampens the zen, the event moves indoors to Hotel Effie.
Round out the weekend with the New Orleans Bottomless Brunch held Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pick from two seatings, 10 or 11:30 a.m. to enjoy a creole menu, bottomless mimosas and a bloody Mary bar.
All this fun is for a good cause, as proceeds of the Sandestin Wine Festival benefit its longtime charities: Fisher House of the Emerald Coast – providing a home away from home for military families – and Sandestin Foundation for Kids, helping local children in need.
“Last year we raised a combined total of $45,000 for our charities,” explained Village of Baytowne Wharf Events Manager Kensley Brooks. “They are a big part of helping the Sandestin Wine Festival run day-of. They help out by volunteering as pourers, ticket scanners, runners, set up, clean up, etc. We really couldn’t do it without them and we can’t thank them enough.”
The Sandestin Wine Festival weekend is slated for April 13 to 16, 2023, throughout the grounds of the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach. For more information including ticket sales, food vendors and the Taster’s Guide, visit www.sandestinwinefestival.com.
As we went to press this year on the latest edition of the Food & Wine Guide for South Walton, the festival season was ramping up. We saw many of you at the Taste of the Race in Seaside, the Sandestin Gumbo Festival and the renowned 30A Wine Festival in Alys Beach. The season continues into April with the Sandestin Wine Festival (story on page 58) and the South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival (page 44).
As always, we include a directory of South Walton restaurants at the back of the magazine (starting on page 74). A popular dining option in South Walton that is growing is the private chef category. You’ll find numerous chefs who can create a unique dining experience for your visit to paradise. As you read the magazine, please do me a personal favor and be sure to visit our advertising partners at their establishments throughout the area. It is an honor to have their support each issue, as we publish the only dining guide serving the South Walton market.
And finally, no matter if you are a long-time resident or annual visitor, your dining experience in South Walton was most likely influenced by Harriet Crommelin (pictured at top), the owner and operator of Cafe Thirty-A in Seagrove Beach. Harriet passed away Feb. 8. An easy case is made that Harriet defined and set the bar for impeccable service and remarkable food in South Walton. As one of the longest running restaurants in the area, Cafe Thirty-A and Harriet welcomed guests for almost three decades. She will be sorely missed, but the influence of such a culinary icon will undoubtedly remain for decades to come.
Thanks again for reading and sharing in our culinary adventures here in paradise.
SOUTH WALTON – A trio of local eateries are welcoming guests for special Easter brunch Sunday, April 9, while WaterColor is offering holiday meals to-go or delivered.
Havana Beach Bar & Grill
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Enjoy buffet fare featuring brunch specialties, a prime rib carving station, chilled seafood bar, kids’ selections, desserts and more. The price is $85 for adults, $45 for children 12 & under. Call 850-588-2882 to make your reservations and inquire about the full menu.
7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The culinary team is opening the restaurant early and offering a chef selection of springtime favorites, along with a Mimosa Bar and Dessert Bar. Reservations are not accepted; walk-ins welcome.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Enjoy an egg-travagant Easter Brunch at the WaterColor Lakehouse, including an extensive breakfast menu, omelet station, salad garden, seafood bar, carving station, hot selections and kids’ cuisine. Email WCISocialEvents@stjoe.com for reservations; cost is $85 per adult, $42.50 per child ages 6 to 12, and complimentary for children 5 and under.
Easter Brunch To-Go or home delivery within WaterColor
The WaterColor team is offering a family-style Easter Brunch for four to-go, and delivering within the WaterColor neighborhood. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. delivery or pick up; place your order by emailing WCISocialEvents@stjoe.com by noon on Friday, April 7. Price is $275. Pickup location is Gather Kitchen + Bar, at 34 Goldenrod Circle in WaterColor.
The meal starts with coastal greens salad, chicken and vegetable soup. Mains and sides include blackened shrimp with yellow grits and tomato gravy, roasted prime rib with horseradish cream and red wine jus, loaded mashed potatoes, honey roasted carrots and rolls. For dessert: carrot cake with spiced cream cheese frosting, French silk pie with Nilla wafer crust. Kids can enjoy carrots and celery with ranch dip, chicken tenders with BBQ sauce, Easter cupcakes and mixed fruit salad.
SANDESTIN – Ovide at Hotel Effie Sandestin is hosting a special Easter brunch buffet on Sunday, April 9. Locals and travelers alike can enjoy delectable dishes, live music and more. Brunch is priced at $95 per person, excluding gratuity and tax, $25 for children under 12 years old, and free of charge for children under 5.
The buffet features various stations where guests can savor the taste of traditional favorites and new, innovative dishes. The breakfast station includes scrambled eggs, eggs Benedict, bacon, sausage and cocktail shrimp, made with lemons, cocktail and tartar sauce. In the action station, guests can enjoy a fresh omelet with assorted toppings and a french toast bar complete with fruits, whipped cream, peanut butter, Nutella and chocolate chips.
Guests can pair assorted breads and rolls with fresh salads like the spinach and kale salad with seasonal berries, goat cheese, pistachio, red onion and black pepper honey vinaigrette, or a wedge salad with bacon lardons, blue cheese, heirloom tomatoes and buttermilk dressing.
At the carving station, guests can indulge in prime rib with horseradish cream, leg of lamb with mustard mint jus, salmon with beurre blanc and glazed ham with maple jus. Glazed carrots, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, cream corn and crispy Brussels sprout are featured in the sides station to pair with any dish. Make sure to save room for dessert, including banana pudding, carrot cake, strawberry cheesecake, lemon bars and assorted cookies.
Brunch will be hosted at Hotel Effie at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, where guests can enjoy an upscale ambiance and indulge in a combination of local Gulf Coast flavors and classic French techniques. Reservations are available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and can be made on Resy.
INLET BEACH – Spell Restaurant Group, led by father-daughter duo Rick Spell and Christy Spell Terry, have announced the acquisition of two Inlet Beach eateries: Shades Bar & Grill and Shaka Sushi & Cocktail Bar. Last Call Restaurant Group will turn over both businesses to Rick and Christy on April 1. The additions grow the Spell Restaurant Group’s portfolio to 10 restaurants, with seven in Florida and three in Memphis, Tenn.
“It has always been our goal to have a strong presence in the 30A-Highway 98 hospitality industry, and adding Shades and Shaka to our portfolio helps us do just that,” said Christy. “We’re not only expanding our roster, we’re expanding our geographic footprint a little further east, as well. While we have Saltwater Grill in Panama City Beach, our four other Florida restaurants are located in the Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach areas.”
While Shaka is the father-daughter team’s first Asian fusion eatery, Rick and Christy have extensive experience in managing sports bars similar to Shades. They have owned the wildly popular Brookhaven Pub & Grill in Memphis since 2004. Even still, Rick and Christy will undoubtedly rely on existing employees, all of whom will be asked to stay, to get to know the ins and outs of both establishments before April 1.
“As soon as the deal was made final, the team members at Shades and Shaka became part of our family in our eyes,” said Christy. “They, along with Greg Wakeham, the Freer brothers and Steven Sapp of Last Call Restaurant Group, have played integral roles in making these establishments what they are today and we have tremendous respect for all they’ve done. We look forward to learning from their teams and having their help in the continued success of both restaurants for years to come.”
Shades opened in 1994, spending its first 11 years in Seaside before moving to its current location at Inlet Beach Village at 10952 E. County Hwy. 30A. Shaka, which is located at 13625 U.S. Hwy. 98 E., Suite 5-6, opened in April 2019. Last Call Restaurant Group will maintain ownership of The Courtyard at Pescado and Pescado Seafood Grill & Rooftop Bar in Rosemary Beach.
In addition to the restaurants, the purchase includes Inlet Beach Village, the building that houses Shades and four other tenants: Galvas Construction, Naumann Group, 30A Luxury Vacations and Blue Title LLC.
Beer dinner gives back to Gulf Coast neonatal unit
March 27, 2023 Special to 30A Food & Wine
PANAMA CITY BEACH – Back Beach Barbecue and Idyll Hounds Brewing Company hosted an intimate beer dinner at Back Beach Barbecue March 2. Through donations and ticket sales, the evening raised $2,670 in support of HCA Florida Gulf Coast Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Over 50 guests gathered for a private dining experience, featuring a five-course meal prepared by Back Beach Barbecue Pitmaster Shane Kirkland. Each course was accompanied by a specially selected beer by local brewery, Idyll Hounds Brewing Company. Throughout the meal, Kirkland highlighted local meats and seafood, and experimented with various smoked elements to bring a special touch to each dish.
Through donations and ticket sales, $2,670 was raised for Panama City’s HCA Florida Gulf Coast Hospital’s NICU and will go toward the purchase of clothing, supplies, and a specialized camera system in the NICU that will allow families to check in and observe their premature infant at any time.
Kirkland and his wife, Heather, who is also an employee at Back Beach Barbecue, have a personal tie to the NICU after welcoming twin boys, Ezra and Isaiah, last year. Both were born premature and had to stay in the NICU due to struggles of eating on their own, bilirubin levels, and caloric intake. Ezra and Isaiah made a special appearance at the dinner to meet some of the nurses and doctors who treated them.
“It was a full circle moment for us,” Shane said. “Having the nurses and doctors there to see our boys and how well they are doing now, it was really special for us as a family. I’m so glad I got to cook for them and that we are able to give back.”