SANDESTIN – The Sandestin Gumbo Festival is one of the most popular winter food events along Florida’s Emerald Coast where the area’s best chefs compete for bragging rights with gumbo and Bloody Mary showdowns. The festival returns to The Village of Baytowne Wharf for a weekend of festivities and delicious food on Feb. 24 to 25.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, Feb. 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. with a delicious seafood boil at Hammerhead’s Bar & Grille, complete with live music and great company. At noon on Saturday, Feb. 25, The Village will come alive with live music and funky beats from Dikki Du and the Zydeco Krewe, tons of family-friendly activities and the best gumbo cook-off on the Gulf Coast.
Accommodations are available at nearby Hotel Effie, a pet-friendly hotel with on-site restaurants and spa; Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, which offers a special Gumbo Festival package using code FLFGPT at checkout; or Osprey Pointe, a spacious condo complete with separate bedrooms.
WATERCOLOR – Tickets to the Harvest Wine & Food Festival were a hot commodity, as entrance to all four of the weekend’s events – a pair of wine dinners, Saturday’s grand tasting and Sunday’s brunch – were all sold out.
Chef Nick Brothers represented Swiftly Catered at the sixth annual grand tasting, serving tuna poke cups and tuna wonton chips, as well as Chef Kyle Swift’s famous gluten-free puddle cookies. This was Brothers’ first time at the Harvest Festival, and he was impressed with everything he saw.
“We’ve got a great spot right here at the end, it’s the first place people stop by, and they keep coming back! They love our food,” Brothers said.
Atlanta-based Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q returned to the anchor spot, delighting ticket-holders with entire plates full of saucy meats. Also available for nibbles was cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy, chocolate truffles from The Perfect Pig, humus and baba ghanoush from Mano’s Authentic Healthy Foods, and a trio of cookies from Jonesing 4 Cookies, to name a few.
Of course no wine festival would be complete with out the wine, with bottles ranging from rose to riesling and everything in between.
Ashli and Doug Cohen of Salt Wine Company had their product at two tables, as they are also the supplier for the 30A Wine label. At her table, Ashli had bottles of their 2021 Greetings Pinot Gris, as well as five Pinot Noirs.
“They’re like our children, you know, you love them all,” Ashli said with a laugh. “We produce these wines off of vineyards that we control from bud break to bottle, so everything is estate. It has been a very successful day for us, and we’re happy to be one of the few winemakers represented here today.
Among those bottles was the Carter’s Lot Pinot Noir, which is made in partnership with Wine World owner and local wine festival legend Chan Cox.
“This is named after Chan’s grandson Carter, so it’s a private label for Chan,” explained Doug, also pointing to the Chef’s Table Pinot Noir. “This wine has a special connection to this festival. Twenty-four dollars per case sold of this wine goes to Northwest Florida children’s charities, and this is the only place you can buy this wine retail around the country. Otherwise it’s just a restaurant wine, but because of the donation to charity, we allow Chan to sell it here.”
VIPs were treated to samples from Booker Vineyard, Tarpon Cellars, Reynolds Family Winery and Penta Tequila, among others, as well as premium bites from Henderson Beach Resort, Blue Mabel Restaurant, Soleil and The Citizen.
Local residents Rex and Julie Barrentine were back for their second Harvest Fest, and were specifically seeking out Italian wines.
“We absolutely love this event. It’s very well laid out, and today my favorite has been the Good Clean Wine,” Julie said, pointing to Table 27 which was pouring Toscano Bianco, Cabernet Sauvignon and Synchronized Swimming Rose, which touted its organic grapes, low sugar and no added sulfites.
Harvest Wine Festival is put on by the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, raising money for Northwest Florida children’s charities. The foundation’s next major event is the wine auction weekend, slated for April 28 to 30, 2023, in conjunction with the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.
ALYS BEACH – Making memories over a meal is a big ingredient in the pleasure of dining out. At NEAT Tasting Room in Alys Beach, sharing plates only further enhances and explores the dining experience.
Since March of 2021, Chef Kevin Cavanaugh has served as executive chef for NEAT Tasting Room. Cavanaugh worked in kitchens all over the South from Clearwater to Savannah before the last decade plus as executive chef in the Low Country and Raleigh, NC.
Growing up, Chef Cavanaugh’s parents owned a tavern and you could say this means “serving up” food memories are in his blood. Chef keenly remembers wafts of oxtail and corned beef as his mother cooked their homemade soups for the restaurant. Paying attention to how aromas affect a dining experience became second nature to him and still informs his approach as a chef.
Now he deftly oversees the dynamic intersection between his food’s flavor and aroma and the expertly-spun cocktails and curated wine list at NEAT.
The Tasting Room’s menu is composed of snacks, shareable plates and carefully-layered charcuterie boards. Year round, The Tasting Room’s food and beverage offerings are ever-changing.
“We have moved away from the comfort foods we offered this past winter. Summer is a season for dishes that are crisper and lighter,” Chef explained. “Yes we are very fluid with the menu – keeping it fresh and seasonal; we also make it fun.”
Using aromatics like lemongrass, herbs, and edible flowers as less-predictable drink components, Chef Cavanaugh works with the knowledgeable bartenders at NEAT when crafting new menus.
“We offer a Nicaraguan rum that has been filtered using volcanic rock, for example,” he shared. Choosing to echo those clean flavors with an ice-cold ceviche brimming with gulf seafood, brings a diner’s palate to a specific place and time. Sips crafted from fresh rosemary and grilled pineapple or charring the rind of a Grecian cheese, are other ways NEAT adds unexpected flavor to more familiar ingredients.
Since NEAT is both a retail shop for artisan spirits and wine as well as a cocktail bar and restaurant, they are in a great position to share what they know with customers and guests. Theirs is a creative team who is well-versed in their craft.
“Everyone here takes a lot of pride in what they do,” Chef emphasized.
While the menu at NEAT is absolutely thoughtful, unique, and elevated, you will also see familiar favorites like deviled eggs, pimento cheese, and even boiled peanuts offered. Though focused on showcasing innovative pairings, they always aim to stay accessible and focused on well-balanced flavors.
Along with striking Alys Beach as their backdrop, the “secret sauce” at NEAT is one their chef learned many years back at a tavern: bring people together sharing food and drinks and that experience will always be memorable.
Located at 11 North Castle Harbour Drive in Alys Beach, NEAT does not take reservations. NEAT Bottle Shop is open from noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and NEAT Tasting Room is open from 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information on their current menu selections visit, www.alysbeach.com/neat or phone them at 850-213-5711.
Record-breaking year assists Northwest Florida children
By Michelle Farnham Sept. 1, 2022
DESTIN – It was a night of joyous applause, gasps of surprise and a few tears of appreciation as the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation awarded a record-breaking total of $3.775 million to 16 charities Aug. 31.
In operation since 2006, DCWAF has presented more than $28 million to Northwest Florida children’s organizations and this was the 10th and final check presentation for retiring foundation President John Russell.
“I remember when I took over as chairman at my first check presentation event, I hoped that someday we would get to a million dollars,” Russell recalled after accepting a bottle of wine from each board member as a parting gift. “Thank you very much.”
New foundation President Karah Fridley-Young applauded everyone in attendance for their time, talents and donations.
“This year’s record-breaking contribution is truly a testament to the philanthropic spirit of the DCWAF community,” Fridley-Young said. “These funds will have a profound impact on the lives of thousands of children, and we are grateful for the opportunity to support our charity partners, all of whom are doing important work within our community.”
When it came time to start handing out checks, each of the 16 organizations was given its time in the spotlight, as well as a chance to say thank you.
Shervin Rassa, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast, impressed upon the audience the exponential impact of their efforts.
“In the state of Florida, a study last year predicted that every dollar invested in Boys & Girls Clubs has an $8 positive multiplier effect in our community, so this $200,000 actually has $1.6 million of positive impact,” Rassa said.
Special recognition went to DCWAF Volunteer of the Year Anna Kathryn Bonner; Carter Award for Outstanding Service awardees Jeanne Dailey, Tiffany Edwards and Lane Redding; and outgoing Board Chairman Robért Hinojosa.
Money is raised through the foundation’s two main events, Destin Charity Wine Auction Weekend, held each April, and October’s Harvest Wine & Food Festival, as well as over $500,000 in sponsorship revenue.
Local philanthropist Ryan Jumonville of the Jumonville Family Children’s Fund, wanted to see the total funds raised hit the $4 million mark, cutting a check for an additional $200,000.
Proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity – Walton County
Aug. 29, 2022 Special to 30A Food & Wine
MIRAMAR BEACH – The Market Shops will host its seventh annual Bloody Mary Festival benefiting Habitat for Humanity – Walton County Saturday, Oct. 22. The annual event, powered by Step One Automotive Group, will feature unlimited tastes of South Walton’s most creative and innovative bloody Marys, made with Distillery 98’s Dune Laker Vodka and served by the finest restaurants and bars on the Emerald Coast.
For a $60 donation to attend, guests are invited from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to enjoy up to 20 of South Walton’s most coveted bloody Marys served in specialty cups provided by Compass Builders of Florida. Restaurants confirmed to compete for the 2022 title of “Best Bloody Mary in South Walton” include Auston’s on 98, The Beach House, Camille’s at Crystal Beach, Cannery Lane Cantina, Chanticleer Eatery, Chiringo, Harry T’s, The Henderson, Louis Louis, Ovide, Red Bar, The Ruby Slipper Café, Signature Catering of 30A, Sunset Bay Café, SunQuest Cruises, and more. A panel of select food critics and local celebrities will judge each bloody Mary to select the winners for the most delicious and most creative.
New this year, each bloody Mary will be scored on their creative toppings for the “Best Bloody Accoutrement” award. There will also be a highly coveted first-, second-, and third-place People’s Choice Award that is selected by each guest in attendance with votes tallied by Hill Coleman, CPA.
Apart from the bloody Marys, there will also be plenty of food from the various restaurants located directly in The Market Shops, including Ben & Jerrys, Chicago Hot Dogs, Clean Juice, Hunter’s Chicken and Burgers, Parlor Doughnuts, Pizza by the Sea, and Tuscany Italian Bistro along with shopping opportunities from merchants, including Mountain High Outfitters.
For the non-bloody Mary aficionado, there will be local craft brews served by Idyll Hounds Brewing Company along with champagne, provided by Hey Mama Wines, from the Bubbly Bar sponsored by Courtyard by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, Residence Inn by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, and the Hyatt Place by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard. Guests will be able to cool off at the hydration station sponsored by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty. A lounge area with additional seating and cornhole games provided by Vacayzen will be set up on the main lawn, along with SEC football streaming on the big screen courtesy of Insurance Zone.
While sipping bloody Marys, guests can enjoy an interactive Epic Photo Co. photo booth courtesy of Legendary Marine, music by DJ Dad, a cigar bar by Shore Thing Cigars, and exclusive shopping opportunities from The Market Shops merchants. Headlining the event will be a live performance from the Luke Langford Band on the main stage brought to you by Carter & Company CPA, LLC.
Parking will be available at The Market Shops on the day of the festival but is expected to fill up fast. There will be additional parking available at The Beach House located in Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and a complimentary shuttle, provided by Emerald Coast Luxury Transportation courtesy of Beachworx, will travel to and from the festival from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
For guests traveling from out of town, there will be special room rates available through the festival’s official lodging sponsors including the Courtyard by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, The Residence Inn by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, and The Hyatt Place Sandestin. Visit www.themarketshops.com for more details.
Tickets are currently on sale through 850Tix for the pre-sale price of $60 or can be purchased the day of the event at the door for $75. To learn more about The Market Shops Bloody Mary Festival and to buy tickets, visit www.themarketshops.com. If you would like to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity on the day of the event, please email email@example.com.
Over the past six years, the annual event has raised over $80,000 for local charities. Money raised during the seventh annual event will benefit Habitat for Humanity – Walton County, a local nonprofit housing organization that works toward building and improving homes in partnership with individuals and families in need of a decent and affordable place to live.
“We are so appreciative of The Market Shops for naming us the benefactor of the Seventh Annual Bloody Mary Festival,” said Teresa Jones, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity – Walton County. “The funds they raise are crucial for us to continue building homes, community, and hope in Walton County. Like many nonprofits, COVID-19 hit us hard and slowed our building capacity when it was needed the most. The success of this event directly supports our efforts to increase the number of homes we are able to build in a year.”
MIRAMAR BEACH – The Village of Baytowne Wharf, nestled north of 98 within the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, is a one-stop locale for dining, shopping, recreation and live events. Where else can you attend a food festival, ride a zip line, update your wardrobe and eat Gulf-fresh seafood without having to move your car?
The 2022 events calendar is jammed full of activities, according to Baytowne Events Manager Leighann Elliott, welcoming locals, visitors and resort guests alike.
Special dates: mark your calendar
New to the schedule is Perfect Hues, the reimagined Baytowne Art & Food Fest, slated for evenings Sept. 2 to 4, and promises artwork to peruse, food trucks, fireworks and live music.
“We have revamped our Baytowne fan favorite Labor Day art event and added food trucks and local vendors and made it bigger and better!” Elliott explained. “Each evening from 5 to 10 p.m., stroll The Village streets as you browse a variety of artwork from local and regional artists, and savor bites from some of the area’s best restaurants and food trucks. We love kicking off the fall season with such a unique, moonlit weekend!”
Billed as “The Best Beer Fest on the Coast,” the 14th annual Baytowne Wharf Beer Festival returns Oct. 7 and 8. More than 200 domestic and international craft beers will be sampled, all set to the sound of live music. Ticket info can be found at www.baytownebeerfestival.com.
“We are so excited for the Baytowne Beer Fest! We are just starting to work on our brewery line up, but we are excited to introduce some great food on Saturday for the first time,” Elliott added.
Those looking for a little spooky season fun are welcomed to Trick or Treat Street Monday, Oct. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. Live music, a costume contest, and trick-or-treating all culminate in a fireworks show at this free event.
“This is personally one of my favorite events at The Village!” Elliott admitted. “All the merchants hand out candy, there is a costume contest at Coconut Kidz, and the night ends with a spooky fireworks show!”
Anyone ready to rock should mark their calendars for Tribute Weekend, held Nov. 4 to 6. A line-up of tribute bands will grace the plaza stage. Just bring your own seating – no cover charge required!
The holiday season kicks off with the 10th annual Sparkling Wine and Holiday Lights Saturday, Nov. 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. Village restaurants offer up appetizers to pair with more than 30 champagnes as carolers set the scene for a sneak peek of the tree lighting. For ticket information, visit www.baytownesparklingwinefest.com.
Continuing the Thanksgiving weekend merriment, the free Here Comes Santa Claus event from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, welcomes that jolly old elf to light the village tree, along with face-painting, kids crafts and fireworks.
The Wednesday Night Concert Series brings live music to the main stage every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. through October. It’s the perfect opportunity to grab some takeout, set up a chair and enjoy the cooler evening temps under the setting sun.
The champagne starts flowing one evening a month for Bubbly Baytowne, featuring free champagne and shopping throughout the village. Guests 21 and older check in by the fountain to receive a complimentary glass and map starting at 5 p.m. Upcoming dates include Thursdays, Aug. 18, Sept. 15 and Oct. 20.
The Village of Baytowne Wharf is located at 9300 Baytowne Wharf Blvd., Miramar Beach. For more information, visit www.baytownewharf.com.
Celebration returns to streets of Grand Boulevard after two-year hiatus
By Michelle Farnham April 24, 2023
MIRAMAR BEACH – Like a fine wine aging in the cellar, South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival organizers had an extra two years to plan and improve the 10th annual celebration. The speed with which tickets sold out for the 2022 event showed just how ready people were to pop the cork!
Friday night’s Craft Beer & Spirits Jam April 22 welcomed guests to the streets of Grand Boulevard with 71 booths of beer, booze and bites from near and far. Roux 30A plated pork shank crepes, crawfish beignets came from Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster Bar, and smoked wings from the upcoming Beach Camp Brew Pub.
New this year, the Golden Shaker Award competition pitted 13 Panhandle bartenders against one another. In the gin category, Justin Wilson of Down Island Gulf Seafood took the prize with his drink, The Rite of Spring, featuring Bluecoat American Dry Gin. Representing the tequila division, Corey Jordan of Shades Bar & Grill brought the prize with The Terroir, made with Tequila Ocho Plata.
The big winner of the night was Michael Jones representing Craft Bar, who captured Best Whiskey Cocktail, Best of Show and the People’s Choice Award with his original concoction. Widow Jane Applewood Rye was paired with a cardamom apricot jam, lemon juice, orange peel simple syrup, and aquafaba, sprayed with pear brandy.
“I opened up my fridge to find out what I was going to do and the apricot jam was right there,” Jones said of his initial inspiration. “People know we’re Craft Bar and we make wonderful cocktails, and this is an opportunity for us to show we’re in the forefront.”
The party started at 1 p.m. with the opening of 600 bottles of wine, assorted beer and spirits, Eats Street, the Minuty Rosé Tent, and the Culinary Village hosted by Wine World Restaurants’ culinary director, Chef Scott Plumley.
Under the big tent, Plumley presented lamb ragout with polenta, rock shrimp with spring pea risotto, and chocolate espresso panna cotta with caramel crunch, to name just a few.
Those wanting to take a deeper dive could enjoy two tasting seminars, starting with “Taste of Santa Barbara” with Brewer-Clifton and Cambria wines, led by Greg Brewer and Jill Russell, alongside cheese pairings from Nathan Aldridge of the Institut Du Fromage.
Later in the day, eighth-generation Beam distiller Freddie Noe Jr. presented the rich history of his family’s whiskey legacy, while offering pours from Knob Creek and Basil Hayden.
Those ready to do it all again Sunday were treated to a fresh lineup of seminars, kicked off by “Bubbles, Bubbles & More Bubbles” with Philippe Andre and Oyku Saran.
Among the four champagne pours, guests were able to taste the Rare Millésime 2008 Infinite, which retails for $211.99 at 97 points.
“We’re only importing about 2,000 cases of this per year,” Andre admitted. “This is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes only. It is the epitome of rare.”
To close out the weekend, Lisa Wicker, head distiller of Widow Jane Distillery, held a meet-and-greet while offering samples of their 10- and 15-year bourbons, the latter of which retails for $225.
She explained her love of experimentation and blending, including the use of toasted applewood staves sourced from Minnesota.
“I’ve found if you use a flowering treewood, it will come across with those floral notes: cherry blossom, apple blossom,” she explained. “This product has taken off for us, and we sold out at the retail tent in a couple hours after the cocktail event Friday!”
To complete the sensory experience, the Nashville Songwriters Showcase played the main stage Saturday and Sunday as part of the Sunshine Tour.
The 11th South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival is scheduled for April 27 to 30, 2023.
Photos by Michelle Farnham
Weekend in photos
Lisa Wicker of Widow Jane Distillery talks bourbon during the tasting seminar.
Crawfish beignets from Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House.
Santa Rosa Beach newcomer Down Island Gulf Seafood Restaurant offered a ceviche with gulf snapper, sweet potatoes and fried plantains.
Fundraiser brings in record-breaking $3.8 million for Northwest Florida children’s charities
By Michelle Farnham April 24, 2023
MIRAMAR BEACH – When Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation President John Russell raised a toast to welcome guests to the 17th annual fundraiser April 23, he was especially appreciative of the ticket holders under the big tent.
“It has been too long since we joined together to raise paddles high and help the children of this beautiful paradise we call home. A toast to perseverance!” he exclaimed, noting that the pandemic had prevented an in-person auction since 2019. “I’ve been waiting for that glass of wine for two years.”
The foundation had already raised $25 million for Northwest Florida charities since its founding in 2005 – including $4.5 million during virtual auctions in 2020 and 2021 – and the goal was high for the 2022 installment.
“Our mission is clear,” Russell admitted. “There are children in our community that need our help, and we are going to show them we’re with them and their fight.”
Auction weekend kicked off Friday with 10 patron dinners held at various locations around the Emerald Coast, which alone raised $735,000. Of those meals, three exceeded the $100,000 mark, including dinners hosted by Stephen and Joan Carter, Jack and Candis Wilson, and Tom and Dana Saffel.
That evening transitioned to a reserve tasting Saturday, including bites from Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, Bijoux, Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House, and Signature Catering of 30A. Guests enjoyed pours from participating vintners, including Barnett Vineyards, Dakota Shy, Law Estate and Revana Family Vineyards, to name a few.
Representing Jackson Family Wines, Kevin Callanan was thrilled to see the return of the in-person auction.
“I love this event. I’ve been coming here every year since 2004 and I’ve missed this event quite a bit,” Callanan admitted, as he poured Brewer-Clifton pinot noir from Santa Rita Hills.
First-time DCWAF auctioneer Charles Antin got the live auction underway with the always exciting Magnum Force lot, a collection of 50 magnum bottles of wine from participating vintners, past and present. When the proverbial smoke cleared, a bid of $70,000 won it all.
Antin’s quick wit kept the auction moving, with the top lot, “The Heart and History of Virginia” going for $110,000. Other notable winning bids included a trip down Kentucky’s bourbon trail for $75,000; a seven-day trip to San Miguel, Mexico, for $70,000; and an island-hopping yacht adventure with Captains Tim and Jennifer Creehan for $70,000.
Confetti cannons celebrated the passing of the 1 million, 2 million and 3 million-dollar marks as the night wore on and the 46 live auction lots found their homes. At last count, proceeds exceeded a record-breaking $3.8 million – and counting.
Bidders were powered by a dinner from Swiftly Catered, including braised short ribs, asiago and asparagus tarts, and Chef Kyle Swift’s charcuterie selection.
Russell awarded special honors to 2022 Honorary Vintner Shirley Roy of Roy Estate and Honorary Chef Jack McGuckin of Bijoux, who each received plaques by local artisan Panhandle Mercantile.
Roy, who has been a part of the auction since 2016, took the opportunity to thank the crowd for being such an inspiration.
“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to be a part of this,” she said. “You have provided me a beacon of light and you’ve allowed me to be a beacon of light for others. For that, I am eternally grateful.”
In addition to the wine dinners and live auction proceeds, a silent auction and super silent auction were held in conjunction with auction weekend to raise additional funds.
The 18th annual auction weekend is slated for April 28 and 29, 2023.
Photos by Michelle Farnham
Welcome to the party!
Ticket-holders enjoyed the pre-auction reserve tasting.
Chef Christopher Holbrook of Signature Catering personally created each caviar crawfish bite.
The welcome into the tent is always exciting!
Raise those paddles high!
A toast to perseverance!
Bijoux’s Jack McGuckin was named 2022 Honorary Chef.
Classic steakhouse names new chef, beverage manager
By Michelle Farnham Feb. 25, 2022
SANDESTIN – Since opening in 1998, Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood has maintained its classic New York steakhouse vibe. Each chef passing through the kitchen has left their mark on the cuisine, incorporating new technique and flavors, but diners should expect a little something extra this spring. The fine dining eatery has welcomed both a new chef de cuisine, Fleetwood Covington, and a new beverage director, Catherine Lien.
Shaking things up behind the bar, Lien comes to Seagar’s after 20 years at Las Vegas’s Delminco Steakhouse.
“I was ready for a change,” Lien admitted. “That’s the desert, where everything is flown in from California. I’m looking forward to working with a lot more local, fresh products.”
When creating her new cocktail lineup, she took many things into consideration, including the season, the location and the restaurant theme.
“I also like to use new kinds of spirits that may not be well known out here,” she said, pointing to her Smokin’ Mango Symphony, which features Mezcal, tamarind syrup, mango puree and lime juice in a Tajin-rimmed glass.
As we approach the summer season, she’s inspired by fruits like in her Sparkling Berries (berry-infused vodka, Créme de Cassis, lemon, syrup and sparkling wine) or the Citrus Paradisi (grapefruit-infused vodka, lime, pink grapefruit soda). Fall may see a shift into apples, maple, cranberries, and the like.
She’s also careful to remember the steakhouse theme, like her spin on a classic Manhattan called the Evening Joe: bourbon, coffee-infused vermouth, and cherry bark vanilla bitters.
Dessert drinks are not forgotten, either, with Lien’s 21st Century Grasshopper, and the Bluegrass Ending: bourbon, bourbon cream, coffee liqueur, cold brew, and chocolate bitters.
Situated in the chef’s kitchen, Covington has been with Seagar’s for six years, working his way up from the kid who just wanted to learn to roll pasta one summer, to chef de cuisine.
In his inaugural menu tasting, he started with a crab cake featuring smooth étouffée and a white wine butter-poached spot prawn.
“The spot prawns are a little sweeter than your gulf prawn, and I needed something to balance out the super savory étouffée,” Covington said.
The chef was very pleased to unveil his new wagyu beef product, working with the Japanese farm twice ranked best wagyu in the world. His Miyazaki Wagyu Tartare comes from the 4- and 6-ounce portions on the new menu, and is plated with herb cream, morel duxelles, confit gaufrette potato and capers.
Rounding out his first course options, Covington served a Tuna Tartare with bluefin toro, citrus, pineapple mignonette, and avocado mousse.
Moving on to entrees, he offered Pan-Roasted Diver Scallops with blistered heirloom tomatoes, and spring vegetables.
The Gulf Grouper is plated atop a textured heirloom tomato bisque – heavy on the smoke – with braised rainbow Swiss chard and crispy leeks.
Covington drew inspiration from his predecessor, Chef Lee Guidry, and his love for Asian flavors in putting together the new Red Snapper entree.
“I wanted to take all the flavors I remembered from our time in the restaurant and replicate them in one dish,” he explained. “This is my homage to my mentor who gave me most of my culinary technique.”
Here he served the protein with chanterelle mushrooms, jumbo lump crab salad and herb beurre blanc, alongside a purple cabbage, carrot and ginger puree.
The new menu debuts in March and dinner is served Tuesday to Saturday. Diners can find Seagar’s at 4000 Sandestin Blvd. South, Miramar Beach. Learn more or make a reservation at www.seagars.com or 850-622-1500.
Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House: First place: 5 years & under
Sports to Geaux: First place: People's Choice
The Beach House: Best Bloody Mary on the Beach
Slick Lips, Sports to Geaux, Beach House take top awards
By Michelle Farnham Feb. 20, 2022
SANDESTIN – The number of people scrambling to find tickets in the days leading up to the sold-out Sandestin Gumbo & Bloody Mary Festival is a testament to how this event has grown in its 33 years.
The 1,800 folks lucky enough to have secured themselves a coveted red wristband were treated to 18 gumbo tasters and 13 Bloody Mary samples, as they pursue of roux.
Gumbo recipes vary as much as the chefs stirring the pots, and each was competing for judges’ awards and the People’s Choice plaque.
Cafe Nola from DeFuniak Springs included fried crawfish and whole shrimp in their Cajun stew, while Signature Catering 30A opted for a chicken and andouille sausage combo.
“Hey y’all, you’re going to want to try this one, it comes with a crab leg!” shouted one enthusiastic patron, pointing at the Southern Yankee Queen tent.
Chef Jay Ammons of Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House, who has several gumbo trophies to his name, dished up his 2022 recipe, promising, “It’s even better than last year!”
Rotolo Consultants brought an authentic – but secret – Cajun recipe from their Slidell, La., headquarters, which proved good enough for second place in the non-restaurant category.
“We’re landscapers by trade, but we make gumbo by heart,” said Rotolo area manager Matt Herbermann. “We do the landscaping here at Baytowne; this is our first time doing this and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Among the tiniest tasters of the day, 4-year-old Collie Brantley of Montgomery came decked out in her Mardi Gras best.
“I ate gumbo, yes ma’am, it was good!” she said with a smile.
The Bloody Mary competition was added a few years ago, and definitely adds a little pep to the afternoon. Spicy or sweet, thick or thin, it was a battle of the garnishes. Sunset Bay Cafe topped their cocktail with bacon; The Village Door opted for pickled okra, green bean and an olive; and Ovide at Hotel Effie practically brought a salad with pickle- and bleu cheese-stuffed olives, cocktail onion, celery stick and a lemon wedge.
Louisiana’s own Dikki Du and the Zydeco Krewe kept the party hopping from the bandstand as the crowd waited for the presentation of the awards.
Judges included Phil Heppding of 30A Food & Wine, Laura Hussey of Channel 3 News, realtor Daron Walters, Nathalie Barreto of Blue Magnolia, Chef Chad Oosterveen, and News Channel 7 veterans Scott Rossman and Paris Janos. Rossman and Janos were back to emcee the awards.
“They sold out before they even opened the gates today, 1,800 tickets!” Rossman told the crowd. “As judges, we’re looking for appearance, texture, aroma and overall taste. Tasting 20 gumbos is a little harder than you think; you have to starve yourself for about 48 hours coming in!
“When you get a chance to get out to the Village of Baytowne Wharf and come to an event with this kind of weather and venue, with this kind of organization and food and adult beverages, it is a serious blessing. God bless the free state of Florida, the United States of America, and God bless you all,” Rossman concluded.
The 34th annual Sandestin Gumbo and Bloody Mary Festival is slated for Feb. 17 and 18, 2023.
Best Gumbo – 5 years and under
1. Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House 2. Ovide at Hotel Effie 3. The Beach House 4. The Gulf Honorable Mention: Cafe Nola
1. Harry T’s 2. The Village Door 3. Marina Bar & Grill
1. Dock & Deck Techs 2. Rotolo Consultants
1. Sports to Geaux 2. Cafe Nola 3. The Beach House
Sports to Geaux
Best New Participant
Ovide at Hotel Effie
Best Bloody Mary at the Beach
1. The Beach House 2. Sunset Bay Cafe 3. Drunken Goat Saloon