MIRAMAR BEACH – Ring summer in and celebrate Tommy Bahama’s 30th Anniversary with a refreshing Tommy Bahama Gin cocktail. Tommy Bahama’s ‘Summer of Gin’ returns and welcomes a new addition, the colorful and delicious Permanent Vacation.
During the sweltering months of June and July, all Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar and Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar locations will be celebrating all things gin by serving the Strawberry Fields of Summer $15, the Ambrosia Fizz $15.50 and the Permanent Vacation $15.50. These three enlivening gin cocktails are the perfect way to beat the summer heat while enjoying a light refreshing drink. The ‘Summer of Gin’ kicks off just in time for National Gin Day on June 10 and Father’s Day weekend celebrations on June 18.
Rob Aspaas, Director of Cocktail, Tommy Bahama weighed in.
“We’ve found that summer is an amazing season to put gin at the forefront; we really lean into flavors of the season like strawberry, rhubarb, watermelon, and herbs like mint and basil,” Aspaas said. “For example, a new edition to our Summer of Gin lineup this year is the Permanent Vacation. We really enjoyed putting this cocktail together because it ties an incredibly smooth gin with the seasonality of watermelon and mint, with a hint of bitterness coming from Aperol. It’s just one example of playing to the spirit and the season!”
Strawberry Fields of Summer – with strawberries and basil abundant, gather both and muddle together. Add Tommy Bahama Island Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water for a summertime sensation!
Ambrosia Fizz – made with Hendricks Orbium, St Germain, lemon juice and simple syrup, topped with Prosecco and a splash of Aprerol into the center of the glass – this cocktail will transport you to your favorite island, no matter where you are.
Permanent Vacation – crafted with smooth Botanist gin, fresh watermelon purée, tangy lime juice and mint syrup, then finish it off with a dash of Aperol. This cocktail will give you the summertime feeling you’ve been craving!
MIRAMAR BEACH – It was the best of weather, it was the worst of weather, but it all worked out in the end. The four-day extravaganza known as the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival shined brightly, despite a thunderstorm that delayed the start of Saturday’s grand tasting.
Mt. Gay Rum poured four bottles Friday night.
The Perfect Pig plated étouffée en croute.
Beach Camp served up a low country shrimp boil.
Sipsmith and Basil Hayden teamed up mixing cocktails.
Friday night fun
After starting the weekend off at Thursday’s Winemakers & Shakers event at Destin’s Wine World, Friday’s Craft Beer + Spirits Jam filled the streets of Grand Boulevard, to the beat of DJ Pinke. A stroll down Spirits Row offered sips from the likes of Mt. Gay Rum, Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Basil Hayden and Cape Fear Distillery. Step into the Beer Tent for a taste of local breweries Odd Pelican, Idyll Hounds, St. Michael’s Brewery and Destin Brewery.
Grayton Beach’s Beach Camp Brewpub GM Daniel Straub and Brewmaster Will Dargavell were on hand, pouring their Dank Sinatra, the High Tide Hefe, the recently bottled Barrel-Aged Stout and the Cato West Coast Hazy IPA.
“They’ve all been really popular tonight, but the Hefeweizen is really good, it’s our year-round wheat-style beer,” Straub said about South Walton’s newest brewery. “This event has been great, I love it!”
Ticket-holders had a chance to meet celebrity guests such as Victoria Eady Butler, master blender of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey; Darryl McNally, master distiller of Limavady Irish Whiskey; and Greg Metze, master distiller of Old Elk Distillery.
Saturday and Sunday’s grand tastings brought wine to the table, such as Willamette Valley Vineyards, Blind Tasting Chardonnay, and an entire tent of Jackson Family Wines.
French Pool Toy, maker of a French rosé served in an unbreakable plastic bottle, was poured by company founder Martin Lartigua Jr.
Guests could sit in on one of four tasting seminars, including the Sensory Exploration of Food & Wine with Jackson Family Wine, and a focus on chianti by Marchesi Antinori.
Charleston Beverage Company presented “The Perfect Bloody Mary” by company founder Ryan Eleuteri, who explained the rocky road to becoming the third best-selling mix in the nation, and offered up his preferences for best garnishes.
“The industry really went crazy there for a while with the cheeseburgers, fried chicken,” Eleuteri admitted. “For me personally, I like to do an Old Bay seasoned rim, a pickled okra, blue cheese-stuffed olive, maybe a shrimp.”
Charleston brand manager Bobby Brown explained the method to the madness of garnishes.
“Bloody Marys are typically spicy, so you balance that with celery,” Brown explained. “It has a cooling effect and adds to the fragrance. Lemon or lime – it doesn’t matter which – adds citrus and brightness, which will also cut through the heat while making it a more refreshing experience. And bacon, well bacon is delicious, and it brings out the salty, savory umami flavors.”
Brown also suggested using infused vodka, bloody Mary mix ice cubes, and to “gently roll” the drink, rather than shaking or stirring it.
A thirst for knowledge
Bobby Brown and Ryan Eleuteri of Charleston Beverage Company presented.
Donnis Todd, master distiller of Garrison Brothers Distillery.
There was something for the bourbon drinkers in the house at the Garrison Brothers Distillery, presentation by Master Distiller Donnis Todd.
He offered tasters of his small batch, single barrel cask, Guadalupe and Cowboy bourbons – all made at their ranch in Texas – and explained the proper way to “nose” distilled spirits.
“This is not like smelling wine. You put the bourbon glass along your nose but only breath in through your mouth,” Todd advised. “If you get any sinus burn, you haven’t mastered that yet. If you do it properly, you literally can taste it and it sets the stage.
Wine World Culinary Village featured small plates like braised Spanish octopus with tabouli salad, smoked salmon canapés and French lemon tarts for something sweet. The Nosh Pavilions served up bruschetta and cannoli from Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, smoked tuna dip from Barefoot’s Bar & Grill, and of course, sushi by Yoshi Eddings of Harbor Docks.
A little something to nosh
Grimaldi’s offered assorted bruschetta.
Chef Max Morrison served braised Spanish octopus with tabouli salad.
Harbor Docks was back with their famous sushi!
Grimaldi’s offered cannoli and assorted bruschetta.
The South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival is a fundraiser for the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, which takes place concurrently on the festival grounds. Read 30A Food & Wine’s coverage of the annual auction here.
“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.
“Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation is honored to be the beneficiary of South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival. As the festival continues to grow, so does its generous contribution to our mission of helping children in need in Northwest Florida. This donation will make a positive impact in the lives of many, and it is a privilege to work side by side to make a difference for kids who need so much” said Karah Fridley-Young, president of DCWAF.
The Destin Charity Wine Auction main event was held during the festival and raised $3.8 million for the charitable organizations to address hunger, homelessness, abuse, and physical and mental challenges for thousands of children in Northwest Florida communities.
South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival took place April 21 to 24, at Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. Several hundred wines, poured by dozens of noted national and international wine celebrities, highlighted the festival. The Savor South Walton Culinary Village and Tasting Seminars presented by featured celebrities were showcased.
Festival founding partners include Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, Visit South Walton Tourist Development Council, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Visit Florida, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Wine World of Northwest Florida and Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, Courtyard by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard and Residence Inn by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard are the official lodging partners of the festival. Rowland Publishing Inc. is the Official Media Sponsor of the festival.
Special culinary guests included Chef Scott Plumley, culinary director, The Craft Bar, The Wine Bar, and South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival; Chef Yoshie Eddings, Harbor Docks; Jim Shirley Enterprises, winner of Perfect in South Walton Grand Champion Executive Chef, The Bay, Great Southern Café; Chef Princeton McDonald, Barefoot’s Beachside Bar & Grill; Rinske Working Cows Dairy, Slocomb, Ala., and Publix Super Market.
Participating restaurants included Emeril’s Coastal; Black Bear Bread Company; Everkrisp; Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Bar; Grimaldi’s Coal Brick Oven Pizzeria; Kilwin’s Chocolates, Fudge & Ice Cream; P.F. Chang’s China Bistro; Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar; The Wine Bar; Another Broken Egg Cafe; The Craft Bar; Down Island Gulf Seafood Restaurant; Cabana Café; Beach Camp Brew Pub; Roux 30A; Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House; The Bistro at the Courtyard Marriott Sandestin.
‘An Enchanted Evening: Celebrating a Decade of Dreams’ presented by Grand Boulevard at Sandestin
Aug. 22, 2022 Special to 30A Food & Wine
MIRAMAR BEACH – The Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC) will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a special event titled, “An Enchanted Evening: Celebrating a Decade of Dreams,” presented by Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, on Friday, Sept. 16 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
The non-profit theater company was founded by Nathanael and Anna Fisher in 2012 to inspire, educate, and entertain the Emerald Coast. They invite the community to their space in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, located at 560 Grand Boulevard, Suite 200, for an elegant evening.
Guests will be greeted with a glass of champagne by Vin’tij Food and Wine as they transcend into an enchanted, secret-garden cocktail hour featuring passed hors d’oeuvres from Tommy Bahama, a photo booth, and whimsical string music courtesy of Spotlight Sponsor, The Seaside Style.
Patrons will be whisked away to a seated multi-course, plated dinner showcasing local cuisine by Bitterroot, Black Bear Bread Company, Emeril’s Coastal, and Ovide. Throughout the evening, guests will delight in craft cocktails, spirits, and local brews poured by Better Together Beverage including Campesino Rum, Distillery 98, Good Clean Wine, Grayton Beer Company, and Idyll Hounds Brewing Company, courtesy of Step One Automotive Group.
Attendees will have the opportunity to peruse and bid on a plethora of silent auction items featuring jewelry, gift baskets, hotel stays, and much more. The evening will conclude with a sweet treat by Kilwins Ice Cream and Fudge courtesy of the Hahn Family and a special celebration performance on the main stage, sponsored by Bedsole Wealth Management Group at Raymond James.
“We are so excited to celebrate our tenth season with everyone in the community who has supported us and inspired us along the way,” said Nathanael Fisher.
All funds raised through ticket sales, donations, and silent auction purchases will go directly to ECTC and their continued mission to enrich and entertain the Emerald Coast community.
SANDESTIN – Step off the street at Grand Boulevard and into Tommy Bahama Restaurant and you will be immediately transported into what GM Pratt Shirley likes to call “island time.”
“We want you to come in and forget about everything,” the restaurant’s general manager said. “We don’t want you to think about anything except having a great time in the sun with handcrafted cocktails and scratch-made food.”
He described the restaurant’s vibe as laidback and relaxed, with the feel of being on a Caribbean island. The space is styled like an old rum plantation with high ceilings, large windows, plenty of natural light, and island decor. A large outdoor patio is another highlight.
One of the most popular dishes on the menu is fish tacos. They are served on corn-blended soft tortillas with Cajun-marinated Mahi Mahi, a house-made cabbage and jicama slaw with a lime vinaigrette, chipotle aioli, and tomato relish.
The macadamia-breaded snapper, another popular dish, is grilled and served in a wasabi Beurre blanc with grilled asparagus and coconut-almond rice on the side.
The drinks – especially the Mai Tai, served with a fresh orchid in it – can leave anyone feeling like a tourist lying back in a lounge chair on a Caribbean island. The Coconut Cloud is made with fresh coconut milk, coconut-flavored rums, and freshly grated toasted coconut.
On the simpler and lighter side, bartenders serve up a martini made with freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, Grey Goose vodka, and fresh basil leaves.
“It’s absolutely crisp and wonderful,” Shirley said.
For dessert, one option includes a piña colada cake. The four layers of white cake have been soaked in rum, topped with roasted pineapple, iced with a white chocolate mousse, and topped with freshly grated toasted coconut.
In addition to the regular menu, the restaurant’s new executive chef Ramain Ebank creates four to eight specials each day. Ebank was born and raised in Jamaica and uses some of that influence in his specials. “We are super excited to have him,” Pratt said.
Pratt’s takeover of the restaurant three years ago coincided with a change in his own lifestyle from the high-paced, high-stakes business world to his version of island time. At that point, he and his wife were managing several storefronts and living on a small piece of farmland where they had raised their two sons.
“When the youngins went off to college, we kind of looked around and said, ‘We don’t really need all this,'” Pratt recalled. “We loved the island life, the beach life, and Tommy Bahama presented this opportunity for us to make that happen.”
Like many soul-searchers before them, they sold everything, packed up, and moved to Florida. Now the couple spend as much of their off-time as possible on the water, cruising around the Choctawhatchee Bay on their boat.
Tommy Bahama Restaurant has live music every day of the week from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Pratt said tunes range from Jimmy Buffett to Bob Marley and everything in between. (“Baby Shark” was even recently added to the repertoire one night by special request.)
A large outdoor seating area overlooks the green lawn at Grand Boulevard, making this a great “island” getaway for families with kids as well.
“There’s really something for everyone,” Pratt noted.
SANDESTIN – With a dining empire to run, Chef Emeril Lagasse relies on Chef de Cuisine Frank Szymanski to hold down the fort at Emeril’s Coastal. Chef Frank stepped out of the kitchen long enough to grab a cup of coffee and answer a few questions.
You’ve been at Coastal almost five years now. Share your resume.
I had previously been the chef de cuisine out of the company as well as sous chef for Chef Emeril at NOLA and Emeril’s Gulf Coast Fish House that was in Gulfport, Miss. I had history with Emeril’s, so when I found out they were doing something in this area, I was pretty excited to come down here. I no longer wished to live in New Orleans, and when I heard they were doing something by the beach, I said, ‘I’m in!’ ‘Do you want to know what it is?’ ‘Nope! As long as I’m at the beach!’
What sent you on the road to a culinary career?
I turn 40 this year. I started cooking almost 26 years ago, and people ask how that’s possible, and I say it’s because I started when I was 14. I had a job at a little mom and pop place in Pass Christian, Miss., and they paid me in a little bit of money and lot of food, and that’s how they got around the rules for the first year. You can’t get around that nowadays. We’ve had some younger staff and you have to give them certain breaks and there are things they can’t do, and I think, ‘When I was 14, they had me on the slicer, everything dangerous I could do, I was doing.’
I was a marine biology major years ago and made the transition. I was a chef at a restaurant in Gulfport, Miss., going to USM, when Katrina hit. No school, no job, everything kind of started over. I was in my 20s, almost done with my degree, and I said, ‘I’m going to go to culinary school’ and I went to Johnson & Wales.
Describe your culinary inspiration
I’m from Long Beach, Miss., spent a lot of time in New Orleans – both eating and working – so that’s played a very strong influence in the way I cook. I love Southern food, taking comfort foods and making them a little more refined, but where they still invoke a memory. I love when you eat something, smell something, and it produces a memory. I strive for that.
What is it like to lead an Emeril Lagasse kitchen?
A lot of people ask if it’s stressful working for Chef Emeril, and the answer’s no. It’s exciting. He gives me the opportunity to do what I want, as he does with all his chefs at his different restaurants. We want to make each restaurant different and put our own personal touch on it, so he allows us to have creative freedom. We’re special here because he’s here all the time since he lives here, and it’s a help. His knowledge, the way he teaches the cooks, it’s so nice having him in the house. The cooks actually miss him when he’s not here. The vibe is a little different when he’s in the house, the customers are excited because they can see him. But we work like he’s here no matter what.
What does a typical day look like?
For a restaurant that only does dinner and Sunday brunch, we’re here a long time before the doors ever open. Usually I open at 7 a.m., we start checking in orders, I talk to seafood purveyors and they tell me what they’ve got coming in. I look at the books for the night to see how many customers we have coming in and start creating the menu for the night. We do a lot of whole fish preparations and that’s a fun thing for me in the morning, to find the fish that I’m going to serve that night.
After that, I walk around tasting things. Once we get through the morning, the cooks start coming in between 1 and 2, setting up their stations, getting their mise en place together. Sous Chef Tommy Wachter and I start deciding who’s going to make what that night and go over it with the cooks. Usually Tommy, myself or Chef Emeril will make the specials with them, walk them through the dish, so when it’s service time, they’re ready. I’m so lucky to have the staff that I have. Since we’ve re-opened, we’ve retained most of our staff, which is tough to do in this environment. Whether we’re short-handed or not, they get the job done every day.
We have a fairly short service, we open at 4:30 and go until 9, 9:30 on Fridays and Saturdays. We’re busy enough that even seating at 9:30, we’re still cooking until 10:30 every night. In the summertime we get out of here at 1 in the morning and we do it all again the next day. A typical day here is pretty long, but we all have each other’s backs. On a normal dinner shift, we’ll have 12 people in the kitchen, plus Chef Tommy and myself. That goes up in the summertime. We’re a pretty tight-knit crew and it takes a lot to produce the kind of food we’re producing.
Tell us about your namesake dish, Frank’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken.
When I’m off work, I eat a lot of simple foods: tacos, pizza, fried chicken. A few years ago, a table asked me to make fried chicken, so I did and they loved it. They asked for it again, then another table, and it became this thing if you called a day ahead, you could get Frank’s fried chicken. During truffle season, I’d come out and shave truffles on it, and it became this very special thing. At least once or twice a week, someone was coming in for it, and we’d do different sides with it, just having fun with it.
When we re-opened and were trying to come up with a chicken dish, Chef Emeril said, ‘Just do your fried chicken! It will give people from out of town the opportunity to get it.’ We started and it sells very well. We do a 24-hour brine with a buttermilk wash with a ‘very secret’ spice blend in the flour. We drizzle a little honey butter on the top, and if someone wants truffles, we’ll do that too. It’s pretty yummy.
What is your favorite thing on the menu to cook?
That’s tough. It’s whatever I’m cooking at the moment, but I get excited about our fish dishes. We always have at least three Gulf fish that we can do different preparations: a grouper, snapper, swordfish, cobia, wahoo done broiled, seared in a cast iron skillet, grilled, fried. Each one has different sets with sauces and sides. I get excited changing up the sets, like a grilled set with a salsa verde with capers and soft herbs, local vegetables and a saffron orzo. The fish are the same year-round, but switching things up because of the season, when it’s cold outside some Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes or parsnips, those are exciting changes.
How was Emeril’s Carnivale du Vin in November?
All Emeril’s chefs from around the country go each year. In 2020 with Covid, we did a virtual event, and it just wasn’t the same, so this was the first year back. I had fun. I bought a beautiful 130-pound bluefin tuna loin, Osetra caviar, sea urchin, and made lobster oil with tarragon and smoked paprika, micro pickled vegetables. It was a very, very good dish and represented what we do here: super-fresh uni, beautiful caviar, a beautiful piece of fish. I don’t want to smother things with cream sauces – I love butter, it has its place – but we want to let the seafood speak for itself.
What do you like to do on your day off?
I love to fish, believe it or not. A lot of the fish we serve here are fish I like to catch in my own time. I try to get out 10, 15 times a year, at least. I grew up fishing on the Gulf Coast, I did a lot of in-shore fishing. As I got older, I started making more trips off-shore. Anything I can do that involves water, I’m in.
Other than that, I love movies. I was excited when the theater next door opened back up. A lot of times if I open and I get to sneak out of here at a decent hour, I’ll run next door and watch a movie. I love to read, but I try to do as much outdoor stuff as I can because I’m inside here so much.
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.
The decision to shelve the 2020 and 2021 installments of this annual celebration was a difficult one, according to festival executive director, Stacey Brady.
“We were about five weeks out and we just had to dig in and do the work to cancel it, and refund a lot of money,” Brady explained. “Some folks opted to hang onto their tickets and they will still be good for the 2022 festival, even though ticket prices have increased. Their optimism paid off!”
Now set to mark its 10-year anniversary this spring – complete with individual hand sanitizers for guests – the three-day VIP package sold out months in advance. As of press time, individual tickets were still available to all four days’ events.
The party gets started with the Winemakers and Shakers bash Thursday, April 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Wine World Destin. Taste bottles from some top wineries, poured by the winemakers themselves at this opening soiree.
Friday things get underway at Grand Boulevard’s Grand Park with the Craft Beer & Spirits Jam from 6 to 9 p.m. Here guests balance craft beers and spirits with food from Eats Street – an eclectic mix from 10 different South Walton restaurants – all to the beats of a live DJ.
A little competition helps to stir inspiration, and new this year, organizers are hosting the first annual Golden Shaker Award for Best Craft Cocktail Bartender in the Florida Panhandle.
“There are 12 mixologist finalists who will make amazing original craft cocktails, competing for the $1,000 first prize, the Golden Shaker Award and name inclusion in a nationally distributed press release,” Brady said. “The People’s Choice winner walks away with $500. It’s going to be quite a show!”
Saturday and Sunday are the premier events with the Grand Tastings, held from 1 to 4 p.m. Visit the rows of tents offering more than 600 wines, Spirits Row, and enjoy a lineup of tasting seminars and chef demonstrations. The Nashville Songwriters Showcase takes the main stage for your enjoyment all day long.
“For our festival, the quality of the wine is very important, especially to knowledgeable wine drinkers,” Brady acknowledged. “We want to pour wines that you can’t necessarily buy in the grocery store. Our attendees look forward to tasting wines they’ve never tasted before or that are too expensive to buy before tasting.”
Brady was particularly excited to welcome a lineup of featured winemakers, especially Jill Russell of Cambria Estate Winery, and Greg Brewer of Ex Post Facto.
“In 2020, Greg was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Wine Star Awards. It doesn’t get much better than that!” Brady added.
The Savor South Walton Culinary Village features a pairing menu from festival Executive Chef Scott Plumley, while annual favorite Yoshi Eddings of Harbor Docks will be back with her team, rolling sushi on-site, just to name a few food options!
Impress friends with the knowledge you pick up from any of the four tasting seminars, included in your ticket price.
Saturday’s presentation by eighth generation Beam Distiller Freddie Noe will be representing Knob Creek and Basil Hayden.
“Suffice it to say that Kentucky bourbon will be tasted!” Brady assured.
Kick off Sunday with champagne from Heidsieck-Piper, then enjoy the chat with Lisa Wicker of Willow Jane on their small batch bourbon.
A toast to charity
Running concurrently with Saturday’s grand tasting is the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation’s annual auction, held in a separate tent on the grounds. Brady said these two non-profit powerhouses come together each year to create the ultimate wine week – for a good cause.
“The auction is the major fundraiser for DCWAF, yet the net proceeds from the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival are also given to DCWAF to benefit the children’s charities,” Brady said. “DCWAF has donated more than $25 million to Northwest Florida charities … and impacted the lives of over 90,000 youth, including those afflicted by health issues and abuse.”
Brady and her team couldn’t be more pleased to see the return of the festival weekend.
“We are back! At our 10-year anniversary, our team is committed to producing the best ever South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival – and that is saying something,” Brady exclaimed. “Cheers to 10!”
The South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival takes place April 21 to 24, 2022, in the Grand Boulevard complex at Sandestin. For more information, visit www.sowalwine.com. Read coverage of the 2019 event from 30A Food & Wine.
SANDESTIN – Tommy Bahama is known for its “welcome to the islands” vibe, a feeling that starts at the door with the lush, tropical decor and continues throughout an expansive menu, offering a variety of dishes all made from scratch.
“Our food is extremely consistent and made from high quality ingredients,” said General Manager Pratt Shirley. “There are very few companies that care as much as this one does about every aspect of the quality ingredients. So, there is a real excitement every day to seeing and smelling the different spices and ingredients, and watching the creation of every dish in the back.”
Some of the dishes that have put Tommy Bahama on the map include the World Famous Coconut Shrimp, the Thai Shrimp & Scallops, and the extremely popular Macadamia Nut Crusted Snapper.
“We take a fresh piece of red snapper and we coat it in a macadamia nut crust,” Shirley explained. “We sear it on a flat top hot grill, then add our Wasabi Soy Beurre Blanc sauce, and serve it with our famous coconut almond rice and fresh grilled asparagus.
Another customer favorite is the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos.
“Our fish tacos are made with mahi-mahi that’s been marinated in our own secret blackening sauce, then cooked perfectly on the grill. That’s set on a soft, blended flour tortilla with our signature slaw, topped with our tomato relish made fresh every day, and a chipotle aioli sauce. They’re fabulous!”
The Sandestin location is one of a group of Tommy Bahama restaurants across the country. And while all share the same menu, Shirley said each restaurant has its own individual flare thanks to fresh, locally sourced ingredients and the opportunity to showcase some of every chef’s individual talents.
“We have a main menu that is run throughout the company, but we also have the ability to put out fresh sheets every day which show off our chef and our teams.”
Sip, sip hooray!
The cocktails, just like the food, are also made with fresh ingredients.
“All of the mixes like the sour mix, the sangria, the mojitos, and all of that, they’re all made from scratch,” Shirley said. “We have a Coconut Cloud Martini that can’t be touched by anybody, it is absolutely excellent! And a Key Lime Martini that’s really special, also.”
Their Island Time Happy Hour offers a great opportunity to sample some of those drinks.
In the evenings, live music is featured, usually with a solo guitarist or perhaps a duo. And when the weather permits, the music is often moved out onto the patio.
“We have a beautiful patio that seats around 160 people and overlooks fountains. It’s an atmosphere, sitting under the stars in Destin, Fla., like you’ll never see anywhere else.”
Offering a memorable experience unlike any other is a top priority for Tommy Bahama.
“We want to take you to the Caribbean Islands,” said Shirley. “When you come into our restaurant, we want to make sure you forget about everything else for the two hours you’re here. And I think that’s extremely special about us.”
Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tommy Bahama is located at 525 Grand Boulevard in Sandestin. Reservations are highly recommended, especially between March 1 to mid-August. Call 850-654 -1743 or visit www.tommybahama.com/restaurants/sandestin