Chef Guidry freshens things up without sacrificing flavor
By Michelle Farnham
The calendar might say spring began March 20, but at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, the seasonal menu begins April 2. Executive Chef Lee Guidry previewed his spring dishes during a media luncheon March 22, offering a parade of fresh produce and seafood – much of it locally sourced.
“This is my favorite time of the year. Mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes are all starting to pop out of the ground,” Guidry said, as he introduced his first cold apps, including a Chilled Shrimp Remoulade.
“Food invokes a lot of memories for people, and this dish is a play on a classic shrimp remoulade, but I’m dressing it up,” he explained. “It’s a true remoulade sauce with poached U-12 Gulf shrimp, a julienne of baby iceberg, tri-pepper chow chow, and crispy shallots.”
His Pan-Roasted Bobwhite Quail earned top marks from diners, offering smoky flavors accented by a black tea brine, and stuffed with foie gras quinoa. This is all pan-roasted and finished with balsamic and apricot glaze and pomme puree.
Seafood lovers should look into the Grilled Calamari, featuring a fresh, whole squid stuffed with jumbo lump blue crab, basil, and shallots. This is accompanied by a salad of watercress, pickled shallots, and mizuna – a Japanese-style arugula.
“It’s a very clean flavor, marinated in olive oil, lemon zest and pepper Espelette – a French pepper very high on the citrus tones but not too spicy,” he said.
You’ll notice many of Chef’s spring offerings include a salad component, and that’s by design.
“Salad plays a big part for me in the spring. I think it’s a great palate cleanser – super clean flavors – and I’m trying to stay away from the butter and the cream in a lot of the dishes. We’ll be keeping that theme going throughout the summer, too.”
Reviewing the menu, you may do a double-take on the savory cheesecake that accompanies the Seared Red Snapper entrée. It’s an indulgently creamy addition that totally elevates the fish, wilted spinach, and roasted yellow tomato coulis.
“The savory cheesecake is lump crab, whole grain mustard, green onion, shallots, Boursin cheese and a house-made crust,” Guidry explained. “It’s the same idea as a sweet cheesecake, we’re just omitting the sugar and changing the crust to more of a savory.”
The appropriately named Flavors of Spring dessert features mascarpone flan, rhubarb sorbet, and lavender meringues, with strawberries five ways: gelled, patéd, dehydrated, macerated, and powdered.
For the cocoa lovers at the table, the Chocolate Bomb is a vision. Hiding under mirror glaze and a garnish of gold leaf is a dome of bittersweet chocolate mousse, Irish cream, and raspberry on a hazelnut shortbread.
Other spring specials – in addition to the standard Prime steaks Seagar’s is known for – include a Grilled Pork Belly, Pan-Seared Diver Scallops, Beef Tartare, Butter- Poached Grouper, and Grilled Gulf Shrimp with house-made king crab cannelloni.
The spring menu will be available for the next three months, before Chef gives diners a look at his summertime creations. Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood is located within the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 6 p.m., and reservations are accepted.
South Walton culinary teams help feed Hurricane Michael victims
By Michelle Farnham
Hurricane Michael ripped through our beautiful Emerald Coast last October, causing more than $14 billion in damage – that’s billion with a B. With sustained winds up to 155 mph, this category 4 storm flattened homes, knocked out power for hundreds of thousands, and claimed the lives of more than 30. When the winds died down, a flood of humanitarian aid swept in – everything from tarps to generators, hygiene supplies to clothes, and Good Samaritans wielding chainsaws to help unbury a stretch of coast previously known for its pines and enormous live oaks.
Perhaps one of the greatest “boots on the ground” efforts was keeping everyone fed. Grocery stores and restaurants were demolished along with the homes, delivery trucks would not enter the disaster zones, and with roadways impassable and personal vehicles destroyed, many were left stranded without anything to eat beyond their quickly depleted emergency supplies.
When the going got rough, several South Walton restaurants – and the good people who fill their kitchens – answered the call for this most critical of needs. While the Emerald Coast was still reeling from the storm, and with many staffers themselves impacted, restaurants mobilized and headed east.
“We also saw a request from Hope Panhandle, Inc. for air mattresses, so we donated 15. We also set up donation places in all of our restaurants and raised hundreds of dollars,” Spell Terry said.
While most of her employees suffered some kind of home damage, she said a few have had to completely relocate after their houses were destroyed.
“We have to help each other, especially in times of need,” she said. “It's so hard knowing where to start but we couldn't sit back and not do anything. We really felt the love and a greater sense of family after the hurricane.”
Local restaurateur Jim Shirley was personally impacted by both Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005). He felt uniquely compelled to help his culinary colleagues in the Port St. Joe area, to get them up and running, and able to feed the masses. While his Seaside restaurants were closed for three days due to lack of power, he and his team of 40 helped set up a mobile kitchen in Port St. Joe, feeding approximately 20,000 people.
“Hurricane Michael hit so close to home for us,” Lagasse admitted. “It felt really important to be there and to be a part of the relief efforts. My team and I loaded up our boat and brought food and supplies to people in need. We also teamed up with Chef José Andrés and the great folks at World Food Kitchen to feed the many people who were without food and water as well as the first responders who were working day and night with no rest.”
Steven Sapp, with local restaurants Pescado,Southside Slice, and Shades Bar & Grill, said more than 25 of their team members assisted in the effort. They delivered hot food, ice, water and supplies two to three times a week – keeping both residents and power crews fed, and served as a drop-off point for the community to leave donations.
“Because of how close to home this struck, it did affect us and our friends and family. It’s our responsibility to help those in need,” Sapp said, noting that five team members had their homes damaged. An additional fundraiser was in the works.
In it for the long haul
While the national media turned its attention to the upcoming elections, and it seemed as if the country had forgotten our neighbors to the east, these mobile kitchens kept the fire going – literally and figuratively.
Sister restaurants Back Beach Barbecue of Panama City Beach and Restaurant Paradis of Rosemary Beach teamed up to serve nearly 1,400 smoked sandwich meals, funded by staff and family members. Paradis Chef Mark Eichin said they drove over four carloads full of supplies, and the fundraising efforts have continued long after the initial push.
“We did an internal fundraiser with certain customers that are like family to us … they wanted to be involved,” Eichin said. “We’ll be in this for the long haul; we’re not just going to do the sprint. We’ll be helping out as long as we can.”
Chef Christopher Holbrook with Signature Catering of 30-A estimates his team fed around 8,000 people, from 40-gallon pots of jambalaya to burgers to paella for 800. With time, food, and financial contributions from Hurricane Oyster Bar, Culinary Catering, KaraBoo Bake Shop, Black Bear Bread Co., and second home owner Tamara Tricoli of Houston, they set up shop in parking lots, including “Ground Zero” in Lynn Haven.
“Then we went over to the town of Parker which was the most desperate thing I've ever seen,” Holbrook admitted. He’s no stranger to storms, having lived through several disasters, including Opal. “I've seen a lot, just never hoped I'd ever see anything like this in my life. One man told me – who had been on five tours – that this is the worst thing he has seen since he left Bosnia after the Serbs’ genocide of them in the ‘92-95 war.”
Holbrook’s relief efforts continued months after the storm, and included a Christmas-style dinner, complete with toys for the children.
Jimmy Hasser and Adam Yellin, co-owners of Local Catch Bar & Grill of Santa Rosa Beach, teamed up with the nonprofit Heartbeat of Backroads to organize an all-day benefit and silent auction. Local favorites Forrest Williams Band and Luke Langford Band found time in their busy schedules to play the event. The auction offered more than 30 items, including gym memberships and beach house stays, and Local Catch donated all the restaurant’s sales from that day.
“We were able to cut them a check for $10,000,” Hasser proudly reported. “It was much more successful than we thought; it was awesome! We had some people winning the 3- and 4-night (beach house) stays, and turned around and gave them to someone from Panama City who needed them.”
Local Catch also organized a truck to be filled with donations by people who couldn’t attend the benefit.
“We were pretty surprised that as many people from the community showed up as they did,” Hasser said, as he summed up the Emerald Coast’s unceasing willingness to help. “It says a lot about the people around here … it was the right thing to do.”
This article originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of the Food & Wine Guide for South Walton. Photos provided courtesy of South Walton area restaurants.
Emeril Lagasse & Co. host annual culinary masterpiece
By Michelle Farnham
It’s not often that fine dining, education, and a half marathon converge into one event, but that’s exactly what makes the Taste of the Race so special.
Back for its fifth year, South Walton Chefs Emeril Lagasse, Jim Richard, and Jim Shirley host the sold-out culinary experience two nights before the Seaside Half Marathon and 5K Run. The entire weekend – the race, the culinary event, silent auctions, and raffles – serves as a fundraiser for Seaside Neighborhood School, the area’s public charter.
The March 1 evening began with a press conference and VIP reception with Lagasse.
“I’ve heard from a few people already that this is the event of the year they look forward to, both from a food and beverage perspective, and a student volunteer perspective,” Lagasse said. “I have seen – not only with my own children, but with a lot of children I have met here – how lives have changed right here at this little school.”
Rick Helfand, chairman of the Seaside School Foundation, gave an update on the school’s expansion project, announced at last year’s T.O.T.R.
“With a lot of architects that have been here in the last few months, and Robert Davis, there’s a few more opportunities that we have now,” Helfand said. “I won’t say we’re going back to the drawing board, but we’re just reshuffling some things. It looks like we should start construction before the end of the year.”
“I don’t like to go on the record,” Lagasse interjected, “we will get it built.”
Lagasse also explained the culinary-based curriculum SNS recently adopted, thanks to the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.
“In home ec classes, they taught very basics: how to boil eggs, maybe to make an egg salad,” Lagasse explained. “The children here are learning about the soil, what the soil does to make ingredients, and taking the ingredients and turning them into a salsa, a guacamole, whatever the case may be. It’s really dotting all of the I’s, and it’s an amazing opportunity for these kids.”
Shirley’s 45 Central was among the restaurants represented, but he also offered his love for the educational effort.
“Seaside School is one of my favorite groups to support,” Shirley said. “Cooking, math, history, physics, nutrition – it all completely intersects in an understandable way. It’s a way for children to understand food; now they understand the reason they need to learn this and how it all affects their bodies.”
Focus on the food
Under the tent, more than 30 Emerald Coast food and beverage purveyors presented samples from the best of their menus.
amici 30A Italian Kitchen of Inlet Beach offered a mini version of its chocolate chip cannoli, arancini Sicilian rice balls, and Amy’s amici 30A Meatballs.
“They’re pretty much famous,” admitted Executive Chef Manolack Vongsouvanh.
Holly Smith, Kelly Marcuzzi, Meg McClung, and Arwen Tibaldi of Marietta, Ga., were in town for the race, and pointed to the rice balls as their favorite bites of the evening.
A second group of racers – Stephanie, Carla, Kristi Anne, and Katy from Sealy, Texas, were blown away by the night’s culinary offerings.
“We said even if we don’t come back for this race next year, we have to come back for this event!” laughed Katy.
Taking a stroll around the tent, tasters could sample black “Forbidden rice” at two different tables – Perfect Pig and Destin Ice Market 30A – the New York strip with foie butter from Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, and the Korean barbecue pork belly with kimchi and pickled cucumbers from Bud & Alley’s. Restaurant Paradis offered snapper and grouper ceviche on plantain chips, Shunk Gulley dished bowls of their Shunk shrimp carbonara, and FOOW mixed things up with their FOOW pho bowl, served with chopsticks.
Celebrating the recent re-opening and revamping of his Red Fish Taco, Richard served up grilled Andouille tacos with pepper jack grits, white chipotle barbecue sauce, and a side of enthusiasm for the event and the school.
“To see the forward momentum of the project is so exciting,” Richard said. “You can look around at the school and see the changes with the additions of the stage and the classroom. You can really feel and see and help it grow; it’s the greatest thing to be a part of.”
A well-appointed wine bar tucked into Seaside’s charming town center, 45 Central Wine Bar is another 30A masterpiece from chef and owner, Jim Shirley. This Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant is an intimate gathering spot for lingering to enjoy exclusive vintages and imaginative fare including sushi, small plates, and weekend brunch.
Wine Spectator‘s restaurant awards recognize those who offer a wide variety of selections and pair beautifully with their set cuisine. To qualify for an Award of Excellence as 45 Central has, wine lists must include at least 90 selections from an assortment of quality producers. 45 Central offers 135 at a moderate price point and its strengths include California wines.
Ever-changing with availability and seasonality, the dining menu at 45 Central is a spectrum of selections, all expertly suited for the wine they pour.
Classic companions to wine, the cheese plate and the charcuterie platter are carefully chef-chosen to include a rotating array of artisanal cheeses and delicious cuts of boutique meats.
Creative twists like a queso skillet made with melted brie and fontina, and an Asian-inspired Caesar salad punctuated with Miso, further shows the chef-driven. Vegetarian options are also not your standbys. They include a hummus trio of black-eyed peas, edamame, and chickpea dips; seasonal veggie sushi roll; or their Kale Maharaja – a stewed kale dish comprised of braised onions, tomatoes, and punchy Indian spices.
45 Central’s sushi is another popular guest favorite. Bringing bold flavor and heat, their Afterburner Roll is made with spicy tuna, avocado, freshly sliced jalapeño pepper and finished with Sriracha chili sauce. Make sure to order alongside a crisp and cooling glass of white.
And while known for rolls crafted from Gulf seafood, Shirley never stops innovating. Sushi comprised of filet mignon with a red wine demi glace is perfect for pairing with a Cabernet, and a duck confit roll was made for accompanying a glass of Pinot Noir.
“I like using form but mixing flavors,” he explained. “I’ve been playing around with porcini mushrooms and sundried tomatoes for a sushi with an Italian influence,” he shared.
Shirley also hails the talents of Joyce Russell, the master chef behind their much-craved paella.
“She worked hard to help get the recipe right. We vary up the sausages and it makes for a really great paella,” he explained. This festive dish is offered on Wednesday and Friday nights. By 5 p.m. the cooking has begun and the smells wafting through town will lead you straight to 45 Central.
Weekends in Seaside are ideal for brunching and they offer a great one at 45 Central between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu changes slightly with the seasons, but as Chef said, they make sure all the bases are covered, from crispy waffles to fresh fruit parfaits. And what is brunch without a bubbly mimosa? Try them here with orange, grapefruit, or mango juices.
After relaxing and delighting in creative sips and bites, guests can leave with the wines they’ve discovered. All labels are available for purchase by the bottle (or the case) thus making those new favorites ones easily revisited again. Open seven days a week, 45 Central is raising the bar for wine aficionados, foodies, and everyone in between.
45 Central Square is appropriately located at 45 Central Square in Seaside. Phone them at 850-231-4545 or visit online at www.fortyfivecentral.com. Open weekdays 2 p.m. to midnight and weekends 9 a.m. to midnight.
MIRAMAR BEACH – Executive Chef Lee Guidry and staff have re-opened Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood following the annual January “refresh,” a time to refinish the flooring, replace the china and generally maintain the restaurant’s fine dining ambiance.
Also refreshed is Guidry’s winter menu, featuring heartier dishes, largely prepared using a “slow food” approach. Think braised meats, house-made paté, smoked proteins – real comfort food.
Starting with cold appetizers, Chef presented his charcuterie and cheese board, featuring country paté, made from pork butt, pork liver, duck confit and black truffle. A quartet of cheese was accented by house-made cherry mustard and pickles, and smoked duck breast.
The Prime filet mignon beef Carpaccio stood tall, adorned with marinated artichoke hearts, a dressed salad of baby arugula and red onion, shaved ricotta salata, and toasted pine nuts.
“It’s a very, very simple dressing of lemon and olive oil to enhance the flavor,” Guidry explained.
For the salad course, the roasted candy-stripe red and golden beet salad utilized ribbons of Bibb lettuce tossed in a champagne vinaigrette, goat cheese, candied pistachio, and beet chips.
“It’s basically beets two ways,” Guidry acknowledged. “The chips we put into a simple syrup and dehydrate them, so they have a little sweetness to them to counteract the earthiness.”
You would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that makes more of its menu in-house. From the steak sauce to the pickles to even the crackers – which Guidry revealed he runs through the pasta roller to get consistently flat – the Seagar’s staff creates it in the kitchen from scratch.
Among the hot apps, Chef said he went “old-school” with a very classic duck cassoulet, unexpectedly garnished with a duck leg bone. He filled the rustic French bowl with a duck confit, pork belly, mirepoix, and white beans, all baked under puff pastry.
He served his take on steak fries: baked potatoes that have been simply sliced as thick rounds before being deep-fried. They are delicate and tender on the inside with a satisfyingly crispy skin exterior, seasoned with rosemary, thyme, and parsley, and offered with a Camembert fondue.
A dish of tempura jumbo lump blue crab comes served over a warm salad of Napa cabbage, carrots, red onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and ginger dressing.
Moving on to entrees, Seagar’s keeps its meat dishes fairly consistent year-round, but Guidry likes to put his own spin on seafood as the season allows, staying local as often as possible. His sautéed snapper revisited the white beans from the cassoulet, along with wilted spinach and warm Gulf shrimp salad.
The pan-roasted black grouper is over a king crab and roasted red pepper risotto with julienne vegetables, finished with a roasted shallot and basil beurre blanc.
To complete the meal, Guidry offered a selection of homemade frozen desserts, including the not-to-be-missed coconut sorbet. His staff generally makes two to three sorbets and three to four ice creams daily, with a homemade vanilla ice cream coming to the menu in the near future.
To finish on a warmer note, he offered a winter spice and Grand Marnier-poached Bosc pear, bruléed with turbinado sugar.
“The pear itself has been cored out and stuffed with mascarpone, a little bit of vanilla bean, lemon zest, and orange zest,” Guidry said. “On the plate is a walnut butter and a crumble of walnut and maple shortbread.”
The winter menu will have a short release – only two months – before Guidry rolls out his spring offerings. Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, located at 4000 Sandestin Blvd. South, is open Tuesday to Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m., and from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
AJ’s Grayton Beach brings with it a history of hospitality and great food set in a space that invites the whole family or a night out with friends.
A successful restaurant is simple, according to owner Alan Laird. “Say hello, say thank you for coming in, say I hope you enjoyed it, and please come back … and in between, you build your staff,” he explained. Laird has successfully built on this philosophy since opening the now-iconic AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar in Destin in 1987.
The newest AJ’s in Grayton Beach replaces the popular Pandora’s Steakhouse & Lounge. When business partner Sam Montalto passed in 2016, Laird decided the building needed to be remodeled and the brand needed to be refreshed. AJ’s Grayton Beach opened in March 2017, honoring what Montalto’s Pandora’s brought to the corner in Grayton, but with the AJ’s brand success.
AJ’s Grayton Beach is open for lunch, dinner, and late night. A casual and fun vibe permeates the five dining areas. Live music can be found in the main dining room, and there are three large, busy bars. Enjoy the beauty of Grayton Beach with outdoor seating, or have your meal in the inviting sushi bar.
The menu also provides quite a variety. AJ’s serves Gulf Coast favorites like the award-winning seafood gumbo: scallops, shrimp, fish, and okra in a savory roux served over rice highlight the dish. The popular Run of the Kitchen serves what it promises: a southern fried platter of Mahi-Mahi, shrimp, oysters, clam strips, a stuffed deviled crab, fries, and hush puppies.
Steaks feature prominently on the menu, with prime cuts of filet, top sirloin, and ribeye, all prepared on an oak wood burning grill. The Cowboy Bone-In Ribeye weighs in at 16 ounces – grilled to your preference – and is the largest cut you’ll find on 30A!
Laird and “Sushi Steve” launched sushi at AJ’s Destin in 2014 at a captain’s party, leading to the more creative rolls being named after popular Destin Harbor fishing vessels. Sushi at AJ’s Grayton can be simple, creative, or made to order.
The American Spirit Roll combines filet, avocado, jicama, and spicy lump crab, wrapped in prosciutto. The Relentless Roll serves up lump crab, spicy aioli, sweet soy, sriracha, wrapped in freshwater eel.
Simpler options are offered, as well as the chance to build your own roll to your specifications. Sushi can be enjoyed anywhere in the building, including right in front of the sushi chefs. Sushi Steve may share how he got his start while playing music in Arizona. His mentor was in an all-Japanese Led Zeppelin cover band as well as a popular sushi chef.
AJ’s Grayton Beach serves a wide selection of beverages at their many bars. The wine list was created with the 30A and South Walton clientele in mind and offers variety and quality. Mainstream and imported beers are available on draft or bottled, along with local brews from Idyll Hounds, Grayton Beer Co., and Oyster City Brewing Co. Join AJ’s for Sunday brunch and enjoy their Bloody Mary Bar!
Some of the South’s favorite bands and performers are drawn to the stage at AJ’s Grayton. Musical lineups have included Heritage, The Prickled Pickers, and Luke Langford. The schedule at AJ’s also includes Trivia Night and Karaoke.
With multiple options for dining, cocktails, and entertainment, AJ’s falls in line with Laird’s philosophy that his businesses will always provide enough for guests “to want to go there, be there, stay there, wish (they) were there and can’t wait to get back there.”
Plans to beautify the 15-inch thick sound barrier wall enclosing the back deck include a koi pond and waterfall that will feed an aquaponic garden. Hopes are that as the environment is stabilized, the cucumber in your sushi roll will be grown there. Intentions are also underway to bring more farm-to-table offerings into the AJ’s stores by utilizing the company’s 55-acre farm not far from South Walton.
AJ’s Grayton Beach is located at 63 Defuniak Street, Santa Rosa Beach, just south of the intersection of County Hwy. 30A and County Hwy. 283. AJ’s can be reached at 850-231-4102, www.ajsgrayton.com or www.facebook.com/AJsGraytonBeach.
An Honored Tradition: Friends of the Inaugural Candlelight Dinner
Chef Jim Shirley of South Walton County, Florida was contacted by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to prepare a high end, seven course meal for the then Governor Elect of Florida Ron DeSantis’ Inaugural Candlelight Dinner the night before his inauguration. On January 7, 2019, Jim and a crew of 30 including his top chefs and Director of Operations, Dan Tinghitella, traveled to Mission San Luis in Tallahassee to prepare for the evening’s event. The dinner was hosted by the Republican Party of Florida.
“I was humbled and honored to have been asked to cook for such an esteemed group of people in such a lovely venue,” Shirley explained.
Shirley worked with local farms that are part of the Fresh from Florida initiative to source over 85% of the menu. Upon arrival at Mission San Luis, the crew began preparing for the evening’s courses, which included six passed hors d’oeuvres and a four-course dinner. The opening reception was arranged outdoors in the Portal Paseo under a tent where the appetizers were passed to guests as they arrived and socialized.
The dinner, held in the elegant Mission Room banquet hall, started with a salad of fresh greens from Coastal Blue Farms, accompanied by satsuma, radishes, turnips, spiced pecans, Meyer lemons, and crispy plantains. The second course offered Jim’s famous smoked gouda grits, a sauté of apple wood smoked bacon, portabella mushrooms, shallots, garlic and cream, topped with Florida shrimp and sweet potato hay. The entrée featured prime short ribs of beef braised in natural jus and shiraz, graced with tobacco onions, fingerling potatoes crisped in duck fat, caramelized and crisped shallots and roasted heirloom carrots and leeks. Finally, the decadent dessert was a perfect blend of white chocolate with the Governor’s Inauguration Seal, “Sin in a Tin” chocolate pâté, Cloud Nine confections (both Pensacola favorites), hazelnut cream and candied Florida orange peel.
Shirley boasted about his crew saying, “I am truly proud of my team for their hard work throughout the day and night. The evening went off without a hitch.” Shirley’s team, along with the mission staff and Andrew’s Catering from Tallahassee served almost 200 guests that evening, as the Republican Party of Florida welcomed now Governor Ron DeSantis to his newly elected position. Shirley was also invited to speak at the event about his relief efforts following Hurricane Michael in October of 2018. Shirley, along with many of his staff, set up an entire mobile kitchen in Port St. Joe, Florida, following the hurricane and fed thousands of people in the area. They partnered with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association as well as local restaurateur Mark Haddock of Krazyfish Grille in Port St. Joe to bring people in need fresh, safe, hot food following the storm. Shirley was honored to be able to share his story and the difference his community of South Walton made during the efforts.
“It was a wonderful feeling to be able to speak about our relief efforts. Our community really pulled together to make it all happen after such a devastating hurricane.”
Seaside pours over 120 wines, sells out 28th annual festival
By Michelle Farnham
A sudden autumn chill sent 2018 Seeing Red Wine Festival attendees clambering for cozy scarves and the warming effects of a luscious Pinot Noir. There were plenty of Cabs, Sirahs, Merlots, and a few Zins and Chardonnays thrown in for good measure, as well.
Dressed in their fall finest, wine-tasters had their pick of more than 120 bottles from 29 tents during the Nov. 10 grand tasting, pausing to refuel on the culinary offerings of 16 Seaside food purveyors.
Barefoot BBQ, the long-time Seaside Airstream Row tenant, made its debut at the festival, serving up hearty plates of nachos.
“Barbecue nachos are the perfect carry-around food,” explained Pitmaster Murphy. “When I was deciding what to do, I said, ‘We’re doing it all. Pork, chicken, brisket: my three top proteins.’”
Holly Brennan of Santa Rosa Beach hosted a group of ladies from Houston, Dallas, and Mobile, all sporting handmade fall harvest headbands. When asked why her crew wanted to come back to Seeing Red for their fourth year, she laughed while gesturing around her, “Isn’t it obvious?”
Five Daughters Bakery – which recently opened a second location in Rosemary Beach – ventured just steps from the Seaside Square Airstream to participate in its second festival. The table was filled with a trio of uniquely textured tempting treats, including the molasses pecan pie, the huckleberry almond with white chocolate and coconut, and the triple chocolate-dipped cone with sea salt.
“It’s 100 layers of croissant dough, so it’s a mix between a croissant and a donut. It’s a 4-day make process,” explained General Manager Chamiyyah Jones as she handed out charming mini donuts. “The molasses pecan pie has probably been the most popular.”
Across the aisle, Richard Park spoke with patrons from the Three Wine Company table. He poured – among others – the 2017 Old Wines Field Blend and the 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay Stanly Ranch.
“A lot of zins taste like vanilla and 2x4s, but this one does not,” he said of his 2014 Zinfandel, earning a laugh from the crowd.
Shrimp salad sliders were the order of the day from The Shrimp Shack table, featuring steamed Gulf shrimp tossed in homemade remoulade sauce with onion celery, salt, and pepper.
“We are here right in Seaside, so we always want to participate in the events like this and be part of the community,” said Shrimp Shack General Manager George Eller, as he sauced up another slider.
Seaside newcomers Crepes du Soleil passed out two types of warm crepes, including the poulet (chicken, mushroom, sherried onions and gruyere cheese), and the bananas Foster, with caramelized bananas and Nutella. The sippable frosés – frozen rosé wine blended with honey – were also popular and provided something a little different.
Each year the staff at Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar comes up with a special new dish to serve at Seeing Red. Last year they made brisket enchiladas, but for 2018, it was the Mexican lasagna, featuring layers of corn tortilla, chicken, cheese, red bell pepper, white onion and jalapeño, with a spicy sour cream.
Chef Jim Shirley, a festival sponsor, had both of his Seaside Square restaurants well-represented under the paella tent. After perusing the Porsche sedan on display, one could grab a dish of paella from 45 Central, or Grits à Ya Ya compliments of Great Southern Café.
Other culinary partners included Amavida Coffee & Tea, Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs, Pickle’s Burgers & Shakes, Raw & Juicy, Seaside Farmers Market and Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co.
The festival, in its 28th year, spanned four days and also included the Bud & Alley’s Vintner Dinner featuring J. Lohr, a Gulf Coast-to-Table dinner with Chefs Jim Shirley and Zachary Keaton at Ruskin Place, and Sunday’s Celebration of Bubbles Brunch.
Photos courtesy of Michelle Farnham. For additional photos from the 2018 Seeing Red Wine Festival, be sure and visit us on Facebook.