Guests gathered at the Rosemary Beach fine-dining restaurant for a Gatsby-inspired evening. Upon entry, ticket holders made their way into the bar area to enjoy specialty cocktails made with Distillery 98’s Dune Laker vodka, each served in a commemorative glass courtesy of Buddy’s Seafood. Attendees then made their way into the main dining room where they were seated for a special four-course meal prepared by Paradis’ award-winning chef, Mark Eichin. Each course was expertly paired with wines by Vineyard Brands and sponsored by local businesses including Driftwood Wine and Spirits, Rosemary Beach Realty, SoWal House, and Swiftly Catered. Throughout the night, attendees were surrounded by live music from Christy Larsen, courtesy of Inlet Beach Real Estate, and photographed by Anthony Whittington, compliments of 30A Cottages.
“We would like to thank all of our loyal patrons and fellow community members for sponsoring and buying tickets to this year’s record-breaking dinner,” said Restaurant Paradis owner, Danny Cosenzi. “During the holiday season we always look forward to hosting everyone and raising money for a local cause that makes a huge impact in our area.”
The proceeds raised from the annual Prohibition event go directly to Food for Thought Outreach, a local 501(c)3 organization that works to bridge the meal gap in the lives of food insecure children in Walton and Okaloosa counties.
“We are so grateful to benefit from this event,” said Tiffanie Nelson, CEO and founder of Food for Thought Outreach. “Restaurant Paradis has been a generous partner in our work at Food for Thought Outreach and events such as this make a direct impact in our organization.”
Since 2010, Food for Thought Outreach has been dedicated to serving the food-insecure children in our community. Currently, over 3,000 children are enrolled in their year-round programs.
“We love to see our community come together in support of the children who need us the most,” Nelson said.
Seventh annual event benefits Food for Thought Outreach
Nov. 4, 2022 Special to 30A Food & Wine
ROSEMARY BEACH – Restaurant Paradis is proud to present its seventh annual Prohibition Repeal Wine Dinner, presented by 30A Luxury Vacations, on Saturday, Dec. 10, benefitting Food for Thought Outreach.
Beginning at 6:30 p.m., guests are invited to delight in a cocktail hour featuring a specialty cocktail made with Distillery 98’s Dune Laker vodka served in a commemorative glass, courtesy of Buddy’s Seafood. Attendees will then be whisked away to the main dining room for a Gatsby, Prohibition-era inspired evening.
Guests will experience a special, four-course meal presented by Driftwood Wine and Spirits, Rosemary Beach Realty, SoWal House, and Swiftly Catered, paired with wines by Vineyard Brands. Prepared by Paradis’ award-winning chef, Mark Eichin and his culinary team, each course will feature the local produce, fresh Gulf seafood, and fine meats that Paradis is known for. Throughout the night, attendees will be surrounded by live music, sponsored by Inlet Beach Real Estate, and photographed by Jennifer Filippone, courtesy of 30A Cottages.
Proceeds from the evening will be donated to Food for Thought Outreach, a local 501(c)3 organization that works to bridge the meal gap in the lives of food insecure children in Walton and Okaloosa counties and empower them to get the most out of their education.
The restaurant will be closed for the private event and transformed into an elegant event space that emulates the Prohibition era. In keeping with the night’s theme, guests are encouraged to dress in 1930s, Gatsby-theme attire. There are a limited number of tickets available for $200 per person that includes all food, beverage, and gratuity. Tickets can be purchased online at www.restaurantparadis.com.
INLET BEACH – Canopy Road Café’s new 30-A restaurant, located at 12805 US-98, promises to shake up the old breakfast routines of locals and tourists alike. This isn’t your grandmother’s bacon-and-eggs breakfast joint.
From whimsical dishes like Fat Elvis pancakes (in case you were wondering: peanut butter and banana pancakes filled with chopped bacon and topped with a peanut butter drizzle), to customized skillets with every ingredient under the Emerald Coast sun – Canopy Road Café has you covered.
Children will love Canopy Road Café because they aren’t treated as an afterthought. When they see that plate of Cookies and Cream French Toast headed their way, the expression on their faces is priceless. And when they take a picture of it and send it to their friends, you’ll know you picked the right breakfast spot.
But Canopy Road Café isn’t all sprinkles and whipped cream – there is something for the entire family. From five different “benedict” dishes to handhelds, omelets and house favorites, every breakfast base is covered.
And if the lunch hour has arrived, you can dig into an Angus burger, fries and wash it all down with a cold beer before heading back to work or the beach.
Canopy Road Café is the creation of Brad Buckenheimer and David Raney, college buddies who worked at a Tallahassee diner but knew they eventually wanted to start their own business.
Now, Canopy Road Café is taking off with eight locations sprinkled throughout the state and more on the way.
“We love what we do, and we love making people happy,” said Brad. “Smiles and sighs are our goal – smiles because breakfast was fun and sighs because they were satisfied.”
Brad and Dave are Florida boys who honor their roots – all of the meat and produce served at the restaurant come from the Sunshine State.
“We use local art in the restaurants, local vendors and cater to locals first,” Dave said. “Local diners will find that it doesn’t take long for our staff to learn their names and what they like. We hire local people and treat them well to keep turnover at the minimum.”
Open from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, Canopy Road Café is located at 12805 US-98, Inlet Beach, within the 30Avenue complex. Find them online at www.canopyroadcafe.com.
While there are a multitude of restaurants throughout South Walton, leaving the house for a restaurant-quality experience isn’t always necessary. But before you go hunting through your phone for takeout, consider the option of hiring a private chef to make your next meal something truly unforgettable.
Surprisingly, there are a number of private chefs in South Walton, many of whom have impressive resumes and a skillset that makes them highly in demand. From regular bookings to special occasions, these talented individuals are culinary masters whose abilities are yours for the asking.
Kyle Swift: Swiftly Catered
For Kyle Swift of Swiftly Catered and Blue Mountain Bakery, leaving the restaurant scene was inspired by his love for his guests and the desire to create a more personal connection with them.
“I did my first private dinner in 2015 and immediately fell in love,” said Swift, who worked in the kitchens of such restaurants as Christiano’s, Summer Kitchen, and Acme Ice House before becoming a private chef and launching his own businesses. “Direct interaction with your guests, more attention to detail, less room for error. You can’t send out a general manager from behind the kitchen doors when you make a mistake. The whole restaurant experience is on your shoulders, so you must deliver.
“Building long-lasting relations with our clients has been the best part. We have guests that have now been dining with us for seven years. We’ve had clients that had teenage children turn into young adults and we went from bringing them kid’s meals to cooking for their weddings. Interacting directly with our guests versus being stuck behind kitchen walls at a restaurant is so much more rewarding.”
Dan Vargo: Fine Coastal Cuisine
Making the change to the private sector in 2021, Dan Vargo left a prestigious career that took him all over the country and even across the Atlantic. Having come back to South Walton after years away, Vargo’s skills brought him to Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood before he became the executive chef of the Hilton Sandestin. Still, Vargo realized he needed a change.
“I have done many private dinners over the years, and I really enjoyed the way each meal was custom-made for the guests,” he said. “I loved being able to focus and personalize each culinary experience. After achieving the corporate goals I had set for myself, I decided to make the change to private chef and launched Fine Coastal Cuisine.
“Making custom menus for guests is my favorite part of being a private chef. Every meal is tailor-made and catered to each client. I have menus, but they serve more as an inspiration. In a restaurant, you can run features and change menus a few times a year, but I enjoy how each event as a private chef is unique. I also enjoy how much interaction I have. I get a personal experience at every event.”
Making it in the private realm
Clearly, there’s something to be said for the private experience. There’s a quality to the work and an attention to detail that isn’t always possible in a restaurant environment, where time, volume, and expediency can overrule. Naturally, it takes a skilled chef to make it in the private realm. All eyes are on them, their techniques and ability to create set squarely in the spotlight, with expectations high. Their ability to adapt and pivot when needed is also key, though keeping their clients happy can be a challenge when things don’t go according to plan. In those instances, private chefs show their true acumen, rising to the challenge and creating masterpieces.
Boasting an ability to pair flavors, to bring out the subtleties and nuances of their ingredients, to conceptualize and construct a dish that is both flavorful and beautiful, private chefs take pride in sharing in their guests’ enjoyment of their creations.
“I love getting people together, putting flavors and ingredients from all over the world into a dish and then sharing that experience together,” said Swift. “Once it’s all been cooked and cleaned up, there’s nothing left but the experience. It becomes about more than just the food.”
“Cooking is like an open-ended book,” added Vargo. “There is always so much more to learn and perfect. There are so many cultures, all with foods that tell a unique story and that create an experience.”
Creating an experience is the very thing that drives a true chef. From first bite to last, every dish is a masterpiece to be appreciated and savored. And for private chefs, that masterpiece is personal.
ROSEMARY BEACH – Restaurant Paradis has a warmth and elegance that welcomes guests as soon as they walk through the door. This fine-dining restaurant, led by Executive Chef Mark Eichin and his talented culinary team, is a local favorite for its unique approach to coastal cuisine, as well as its popular wine and dinner pairings.
Everything on the menu is fresh and new, with locally sourced ingredients.
“I like to try to buy local as much as possible because it supports mom and pop shops, as well as the local economy,” Chef Eichin said. “And also, why do I need to get tomatoes from California if I’ve got them growing right here and they taste even better? We also make everything in-house, like all of our stocks. When we’re in our busy season, I re-prep the entire menu from scratch every single day.”
The menu often changes depending on what’s in-season, but there are some mainstays that are usually available. Those include dishes like diver scallops, tuna tartare, beef & blues cheese tortellini, and Chef Eichin’s award-winning cast-iron filet seared in duck fat with lobster tail tempura.
Eichin, who has been with Restaurant Paradis since the beginning, credits an attention to detail for the success of most dishes. But he also has a vast and interesting food background that tends to influence many of his creations. As a military brat (both his parents served in the Air Force), Eichin grew up living all around the world where he got to sample many different types of cuisine.
“I was actually born in England, my oldest brother was born in Germany, and my little brother was born in Texas,” he said. “Then, when we came back to the states, we went from Texas to Georgia to East Tennessee. My dad was always a foodie from living in Europe, so we were exposed to quite a bit of different types of food.”
His mother grew up on a farm in Minnesota, made a lot of home-cooked meals and taught him the value of using fresh ingredients.
“I used to always love being in the kitchen and cooking with my mom. My philosophy is that cooking is like the wheel: everything’s already been done. So, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, just take aspects of it, along with influences from a little bit of German or English or finding a dish I like and recreating my own way of making it better.”
He also values the creative input of others on his kitchen staff in trying new things for some of the specials on the menu.
Eichin enjoys collaborating when creating specific dishes to pair with different types of wine available.
“Our wine program is really, really, really incredible and I wish I could take a little bit of credit for that, but I can’t,” he said. “That comes from Michael Wood, our general manager. I’ll sit down and figure out what our main wines are by the glass, then I’ll start building things off a round to accommodate them. You always want one thing to complement another.”
It’s made Restaurant Paradis a popular stop for wine enthusiasts.
Chef Eichin is proud to be part of the amazing group that’s so dedicated to creating a one-of-a-kind experience that keeps guests coming back again and again.
“The one thing I’ve always loved about this industry is, it’s kind of an instant gratification type of deal. You don’t need anything to be said, you just walk around and see the smiles and people enjoying it and it makes the work you put in during the day all worth it.”
Restaurant Paradis is located at 82 S. Barrett Square, Rosemary Beach. The restaurant is open for dinner-only seven nights a week from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 850-534-0400. For more information, visit www.restaurantparadis.com
ROSEMARY BEACH – Spanish for fish, Pescado is a name befitting of the restaurant whose location at the uppermost point of the Orleans building in Rosemary Beach affords sweeping views of the Gulf. Views that change with every hour of the day and every turn of the tide, with sunsets that keep it incredibly in demand. Featuring a menu of seasonally-driven featured dishes, small plates, and shareable entrees that pair with a wine list that also changes with the seasons. The underlying theme of this beautifully designed venue is to create food worthy of that view, food with spectacular flavor and presentation that showcases the Gulf. Whether guests choose to dine indoors or venture out onto the rooftop patio and bar area, that famously jewel-hued water is always in view, the fresh sea air like seasoning to every single bite in Pescado’s exquisitely created food.
Since opening in early spring of 2018, the menu created by Executive Chef Ken Duenas is respective of freshness in every aspect, from the house made sauces drizzled colorfully on the plates to the local seafood, freshly caught fish, and premium proteins used as the focal point of the dish. Each is a work of art, a carefully executed display of what results from focusing creativity, passion, talent, and technique together in cohesion.
A 30-plus-year veteran of the kitchen and former executive chef at Cafe Thirty-A, Marina Café, and Destin Chops, Duenas is a self-taught chef, building a career from a passion that was instilled in him by his grandmother in Guam. Along with partners Joseph Freer, John Freer, Greg Wakeham, and Steven Sapp, Duenas is part of the Last Call Restaurant Group, a partnership that has proven quite successful in creating a concept that will not only bring people in, but also bring them back. “We’re booked out six months in advance,” said Duenas. “People love to come here because of the view, the food, and the drinks.”
The perfect blend of farm-to-table and tide-to-table, there is a dedication to using the best, most fresh ingredients available in season. Guest favorites include Steak Tartare, Filet Mignon, the Seafood Salad, and the Cantonese Whole Lobster. Interestingly, the menu wanders the globe, taking inspiration from France, the Mediterranean, Asia, and – of course – Duenas’s childhood in Guam. In each of his dishes, Duenas takes particular pride that he is creating an experience for his guests. “I love making people happy as they’re having a meal,” he said. “When you walk outside and someone pulls you over to tell you that they’ve just had one of the best meals of their lives, that’s really satisfying. Hearing that from them, it’s better than any kind of fame.”
Still, fame is lavished on the dishes created at Pescado, as well as the drinks created by their mixologists. Served up with a twist of creativity, each drink shows that the minds behind the mixing know their flavor profiles as well as what makes the perfect sip. “We have an incredible team here that makes amazing drinks,” noted Duenas.
A restaurant that certainly achieves the vision of what Duenas and his partners had in mind when they opened, Pescado is “casual fine dining that has the best views in the area, with food, drinks, and service to match.”
Pescado Seafood Grill & Rooftop Bar is located at 74 Town Hall Road, Suite 4B, Rosemary Beach. The restaurant is open Monday to Tuesday 4 to 10 p.m.; Wednesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 9:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations accepted. For more information, call 850-213-4600 or visit www.rooftop30a.com.
ROSEMARY BEACH – It has terrific food, a European vibe, and the opportunity for guests to create their own unique dining experience every time. It’s easy to see why La Crema Tapas & Chocolate has become a Rosemary Beach favorite.
“This place is very unique,” explained General Manager Andrew Preble. “It’s not a traditional way of dining. You order a bunch of different food, it comes out as quickly as we can get it to you in whatever order, and it’s a lot of fun for people.”
So much fun, in fact, people come back again and again.
“We’ll see people come in for the first time, then we’ll see them maybe three times within that same week,” he said.
The restaurant was originally inspired by the dining styles of cities like Madrid or Barcelona, Spain. With tapas meaning “top,” the idea was to put a small plate from the bar on top of your glass and hold your glass while eating your tapas. Now – especially in America – tapas have become more about small plates and sharing.
Initially, La Crema Tapas & Chocolate focused more on Spanish-style tapas but has since broadened the menu to offer something for everyone.
“We have expanded our offerings to some non-traditional tapas,” said Preble. “We have more contemporary flavors that suit the American palate. For example, last year we introduced Blue Crab Rangoons and it’s one of my favorite dishes. It’s something you can snack on or share, and everybody loves them. And we don’t use imitation crab meat, which you might expect somewhere else. We do it with Gulf-caught blue crab.”
Fresh ingredients and locally sourced seafood are a staple here. Another favored dish recently added to La Crema’s evolving menu is Lobster Mac & Cheese.
“I’ve been trying to get that added to the menu for a while. Who doesn’t like Lobster Mac and Cheese?” Preble asked with a laugh, adding, “And I have to say, it’s been responsible for a few extra inches on my waistline.”
Other popular menu items include ceviche, fish tacos, steak tostadas, steak empanadas, scallops, seafood or veggie paella, Brussels sprouts, cheese fondue, and much more. La Crema also offers a variety of beer, wine, and spirits.
“We’ve had beer and wine for a while,” Preble explained, “but we recently added spirits. We now have bourbon, gin, tequila, craft cocktails, and can make just about any cocktail a guest might request.”
He said people now often stop by for a drink, then decide to stay longer.
“We have people coming in just for drinks, or a cocktail and tapas before dinner, and they end up staying for dinner.”
La Crema is also well-known as a great spot for dessert, whether guests are enjoying it after their dinner or popping in for dessert alone. And when it comes to dessert, the chocolate fondue is a must-try.
“It is essential to the La Crema experience,” Preble said. “I’m serious. You have to try it. And then if you’ve had the fondue and want to try something else, check out the OMG cookie.”
La Crema operates on a first-come, first-served basis and does not accept reservations. It’s open seven days a week and during the summer opens every morning at 11 and stops seating every evening at 9 p.m. The restaurant is located at 38 Main Street, Rosemary Beach. For more information call 850-534-3004 or visit www.lacrematapas.com
ROSEMARY BEACH – Chef Josh Smith has a true passion for his craft that’s reflected in the many unique dishes on the menu at Edward’s Fine Food & Wine in Rosemary Beach. His Za’atar Encrusted Tuna and his Bacon Wrapped Quail (stuffed with jalapeño and served with parmesan cheese grits) are just two that rank high as guest favorites.
He says one of the things he enjoys most about creating new dishes is the incredible access to locally sourced meat and produce.
“The access we have is amazing,” he explained. That includes a local farm about 20 minutes away where he gets his chickens the same day they’re butchered, to seafood fresh from the Gulf.
“We work with Water Street Seafood which has been in business for years,” he said. “There are guys bringing in boats every single morning, talking to our purveyors and saying ‘We’re pulling fresh grouper off the boat right now. I can have it to you this afternoon.’ That’s special and not something you can get everywhere.”
Chef grew up in the small rural town of Monroe, N.C. outside Charlotte. He was just a teenager when he first became interested in cooking for others.
“I have two younger brothers and we were right on top of each other about a year apart. Mom and Dad both worked full-time jobs, so we were sometimes left to our own devices as we got older.”
That often involved preparing food and, interestingly enough, it was right about the time Food Network took off.
“Before it became a huge thing, I was kind of watching it, guys like Emeril and others, along with Julia Child. And between that and cooking for my brothers before Mom and Dad got home, that’s basically how I got interested in it.”
The family also had their own garden where they grew okra, corn, tomatoes, peas and other staples. He says it helped him appreciate not only fresh produce, but the hard work that goes into planting and harvesting it.
As a teenager, the family moved to Panama City, and it was there a teacher noticed his interest in food and encouraged him to enroll in a magnet program just getting started.
“The teacher said hey, we’re starting this culinary arts program next year and if that’s something you want to do, you can get in on the ground level. So, I jumped right into it and that kind of fast-tracked me over to the community college, which is Gulf Coast State College now. It has an incredible culinary program.”
There, at the French-trained culinary school (with a sister school in France), he was able to learn from some exceptional chefs. Other opportunities followed, then in 2017, he was hired at Edward’s which, at the time, was owned by Chef Edward himself.
“He and I worked together previously and remained friends, so when he opened up his own place, Edward hired me. At the time, his kids were working for him, and when he sold it, his son stuck around and is now actually my sous chef.”
Chef Josh says he saw the potential back then and has been excited to watch the restaurant expand under the Spell Restaurant Group.
“We’ve grown tremendously. We’ve renovated and extended the kitchen and turned it into such a professional kind of restaurant environment. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
He has a lot of freedom with the menus and enjoys creating new and exciting dishes that keep guests coming back.
“It’s the best part of my job. Whenever you have the opportunity to mess around in the kitchen and come up with a new dish, it adds new life. Not just for me, but for the entire staff. Cooks get tired of doing the same thing every day, so when they’re exposed to something new, they get excited, and the house staff gets excited.”
He says this spring, there will be a renewed focus on lunch. Even though people spend much of their time during the day on the beach, he and his team want to offer terrific middle-of-the-day options they can come eat during a break or grab something quick to sustain them. As that evolves, look for current lunch hours to change to meet the demand.
Edward’s Fine Food & Wine is located at66 Main Street, Rosemary Beach. They generally do not accept reservations and operate on a first-come, first-served basis seven days a week. You can check out their menus and learn more by visiting www.edwards30a.com.
The Courtyard at Pescado will host a Walk into Fall Wine Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. The dinner will be led by Maxwell Rowe of Breakthru Beverage, featuring a menu by Chef Brendan Wakeham. This is a private event with limited tickets available. Tickets are $155 plus 7% tax and 22% gratuity. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase.
Presented by Master Sommelier Craig Collins and Breakthru Beverage
Special to 30A Food & Wine Aug. 23, 2021
ROSEMARY BEACH – The Courtyard at Pescado will be hosting a four-course Chef’s Table Wine Dinner presented by Master Sommelier Craig Collins and Breakthru Beverage on Thursday, Aug. 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The menu, created by Chef Ken Duenas, will feature four courses paired with each wine. Live music provided by Jamah Terry. This is a private event with limited tickets available for $150 plus 7% tax and 22% gratuity. Email email@example.com to purchase.
After graduating from Texas A&M University and working for Glazers Fine Wine Division, Collins was introduced to the Court of Master Sommeliers and refined the professional skills and industry knowledge that would shape his career.
The Courtyard at Pescado, a garden courtyard and lounge, is located at 74 Town Hall Road in Rosemary Beach.