Hotel Effie rolling out the red carpet for Mother’s Day
April 28, 2022
By Liesel Schmidt
April 3, 2022
SANDESTIN – Running from Thursday, April 7 through Saturday, April 9, the 35th annual Sandestin Wine Festival is a highly anticipated event that draws so many vendors, attractions, and festival goers that it’s been hailed as the “Kentucky Derby of Wine Festivals.” And though one might easily presume it to be largely a local attraction, the scale – not to mention the renown of some of the chefs, vintners, and vineyards – have gained it a reputation as being one of the top wine festivals in the country. The fest brings in countless souls whose predilection for wine seems to ripen like grapes on the vine under the warmth of the Florida sun.
Offering a full-bodied experience that boasts no shortage of opportunities to taste, smell, sip, and savor, The Village of Baytowne Wharf becomes transformed to a veritable village of tents serving up a feast for the senses.
“Our team hopes to really make this year’s event bigger and better than ever. This festival is a picture-perfect series of events, complete with white tents, flowing wine, gourmet food and live music,” said The Village of Baytowne Wharf Events Manager Leighann Elliott. “We are working with major wine distributors this year that carry domestic and international wines. We also plan to continue our Savor South Walton experience with local talented chefs highlighted throughout the festival.”
Featuring one-of-a-kind seminars given by wine experts from across the globe as well as exceptional cooking demonstrations from culinary masters and award-winning local chefs, one can hardly leave without having learned something.
“This event continues to bring a wide range of experiences for all guests, including interacting with some of the finest minds in the worldwide wine industry and having the opportunity to taste unique, hand-selected wines,” said Elliott.
Departing a bit from the grappa but still starting things in high spirits, the festival begins with a kickoff party on Thursday, April 7. Guests will be treated to food tastings as well as wine and liquor samples. The evening also includes wine dinners and seminars from village restaurants.
For those with a desire to try new things, the Grand Wine Tastings Friday and Saturday are a must, as the events feature more than 75 tents offering domestic and international wines as well as a rare opportunity to learn about the finest vintages and varietals from major producing countries. Perfectly pairing with the sips being offered, Savor South Walton tents scattered throughout the grounds offer samplings from acclaimed local restaurants that showcase the culinary talents of some of the area’s best chefs, with different features both Friday and Saturday nights, set to the soundtrack of local bands and regional artists.
“This event gives us a way to truly show off what Florida and South Walton has to offer, from our ability to pull off a great event to showcasing local tastes with Savor South Walton,” said Elliott. “I love watching our guests enjoy beautiful weather and amazing wine and food, and being so hands-on with this event is so rewarding. It takes a village to run a village and an event like this, and my team works so hard to make the festival vibrant and keep it running smoothly. We truly enjoy creating memories for our festival attendees.”
Saturday morning, the day’s festivities begin with a salute to the sun with a beach yoga session presented by Hotel Effie and Spa Liliana. Following yoga, participants will be served mimosas.
Festival partners include ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, and proceeds support Fisher House of the Emerald Coast and the Sandestin Foundation for Kids.
“We connect wine enthusiasts to the community in need,” Elliott said. “It’s great wine for a great cause.”
From first sip to last, the Sandestin Wine Festival is a yearly event worth savoring – and each year, they keep pouring it on.
For event information and tickets, visit www.sandestinwinefestival.com. Read coverage of last year’s festival from 30A Food & Wine.
File photos by Michelle Farnham
By Lauren Sage Reinlie
Oct. 9, 2021
SANDESTIN – One of the newest dining options on the 30A scene is Ovide, the signature restaurant at the new Hotel Effie at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
Ovide opened in February with a menu created in collaboration with celebrity chef and James Beard Award-winner Hugh Acheson. Ovide focuses on clean, fresh and simple food featuring flavors from around the world, alongside more familiar Southern cuisine.
“We are trying hard to keep it really clean with simple food, nothing super elaborate,” said Hotel Effie’s executive chef Lulu Dangerfield, who oversees the day-to-day operations at Ovide and the hotel’s other restaurants. “Nothing is deep-fried, none of our dishes are really heavy. It is not the kind of food that is going to make you want to go take a nap after you eat it. It’s very clean food, but also very full of flavor.”
This approach is on full display in their red snapper dish. The fish is pan-fried to a perfect crisp then served with Southern pigeon peas and rice, charred baby bok choy and a Thai chili sauce.
Dangerfield likes to keep the menu as fresh as the food. She updates the menu regularly, responding to what people are loving and what they might be looking for more of.
“Every time you come, I want you to have something different and it be delicious.”
– Lulu Dangerfield, executive chef
“For me, it’s important that if someone likes the restaurant and the atmosphere and appreciates the service that we provide, I want to make sure they can come once a week and not get bored,” she said. “Every time you come, I want you to have something different and it be delicious.”
Dangerfield also likes to use ingredients that people may not be as familiar with and show them how fresh and simple preparation can create delicious food.
Take, for example, Ovide’s fairy tale eggplant, which is roasted on the grill and then served with a smear of light and fresh pesto made from spinach, basil, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. It’s garnished with lemon aioli and microgreens and served over a bed of farro.
“A lot of people don’t like eggplant,” Dangerfield said. “The weird thing is a lot of people actually love eggplant if it’s cooked properly. We want to surprise people, so they can say ‘Wow, I actually love this.’”
Originally from Ottawa, Canada, Acheson became famous for his restaurants in Athens, Ga. He went on to win a James Beard Award in 2012 and be a competitor and then judge on the television show Top Chef.
Dangerfield said Acheson has mastered using Southern ingredients in new ways, as he does in his farm egg with crispy rice dish, one of the signatures at his restaurants in Georgia. For this dish, which is now also served at Ovide, a poached egg is served over very crisp rice. When the egg is broken open it becomes the sauce for the dish. It’s served with a Korean-style kimchi made with collard green stems.
Another popular offering at Ovide is their grilled filet mignon served alongside mashed potatoes with a highly flavorful shiitake mushroom and red wine beef jus.
Dangerfield said one of the favorite parts of her job is working with all the chefs who are involved in the project. They all have different backgrounds: she was born and raised in Mexico, Acheson is from Canada and then Georgia, and the other chefs came from Louisiana, New Mexico and Philadelphia.
“We all have this different approach to food and we bring different ingredients,” she said. “I enjoy a lot when we make specials and we all bring different backgrounds and different stories to the table and then it all comes together in one plate. It’s something you couldn’t have gotten to by yourself.”
Ovide is located at Hotel Effie at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort near Baytowne Wharf. The address is 1 Grand Sandestin Boulevard in Miramar Beach. The restaurant’s staff can be reached at 850-351-3030 during business hours. They are open seven days a week for breakfast and brunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and for dinner from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made online or by phone. Find more information at hoteleffie.com/dining/ovide.
Special to 30A Food and Wine
Aug. 23, 2021
SANDESTIN – Sinfonia Gulf Coast – the local nonprofit orchestra in its 16th season – is presenting award-winning singer/actress Shoshana Bean in a one-night performance Tuesday, Sept. 14. Titled “Seagar’s Cabaret: A Tribute to Broadway,” the evening will feature Bean as part of a reception, dinner and performance, all beginning at 5:30 p.m.
All-inclusive tickets are available for $295 per person at https://bit.ly/SinfoniaCabaret21. The special evening – held the same night that Broadway reopens – includes valet parking, a sparkling wine reception, four-course meal prepared by Seagar’s Executive Chef Lee Guidry, wine, and all gratuities.
Bean is a Broadway veteran, making her debut in the original cast of “Hairspray,” starring as the very first replacement for Elphaba in “Wicked,” and most recently as Jenna in “Waitress.”
Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood is located at 4000 S. Sandestin Blvd., Miramar Beach.
Special to 30A Food and Wine
July 11, 2021
MIRAMAR BEACH – Founded in 2001 by owners Wayne Lewis and Tom Rice, Marlin Grill has long been noted for its culinary talents and award-winning wine list.
Now celebrating 20 years in business, the locally owned and operated restaurant has been recognized as the Best Place for a Date, Best Martini, and Best Romantic/Special Occasion Restaurant by the readers of Emerald Coast Magazine. They pride themselves on serving the freshest ingredients, including Gulf-fresh seafood, prime dry-aged steaks, house-made sauces, and family-style side dishes.
“These special recipes and our tried-and-true classic dishes are the essence of Marlin Grill,” Rice said. “We try to provide everyone who sits in our dining room or on our patio the true authentic experience of the Emerald Coast by serving fresh, local ingredients that make a lasting impression on the plate.”
Marlin Grill offers a fine dining experience as well as a casual laid-back vibe in the bar or lounge areas. Located in the epicenter of The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Marlin Grill’s expansive veranda overlooks the area’s event green and concert stage.
Marlin Grill is open nightly at 5 p.m. for dinner and can accommodate large parties, special occasions, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday dinners. Throughout the year, the restaurant also hosts special dinners, including a “Valentine’s Dinner for Two” and discounted meal trios for snowbirds during the winter season. The upstairs of Marlin Grill is available for private events and can seat approximately 50 guests.
“We would like to thank all of our staff and loyal patrons for making Marlin Grill a success over the past two decades,” Rice said. “After a tough year for our industry, we are grateful to celebrate this momentous occasion with those we love and hold dear. Here’s to the next 20 years!”
Marlin Grill is located at 9100 Baytowne Wharf Blvd., in Sandestin. Open Wednesday to Monday from 5 to 10 p.m., diners can make reservations by calling 850-351-1990; visit them online at www.marlingrill.com.
By Laura Holloway
May 1, 2021
SANDESTIN – It’s rare to find a restaurant in a hotel or resort that can stand alone in experience and style, but Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, a AAA Four-Diamond Restaurant at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, achieves just that. Its award-winning menu and drink lineup create a memorable dining experience that makes every meal feel like a special occasion.
Seagar’s is consistently recognized as one of the top steakhouses in Florida and top restaurants in Destin, named to the Diner’s Choice, Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America, and Top 100 Steakhouses in America.
And it’s no wonder; the restaurant brings traditional elegance back to the fine-dining experience, providing guests with the option of private dining and offering every diner captain and sommelier service and special tableside preparation of such sumptuous items as steak Diane, Dover sole, and Seagar’s signature dessert, bananas foster.
The restaurant is also loved and revered by wine lovers around the country, with a private-reserve wine list of more than 600 labels. An intimate lounge and live piano entertainment round out the classic, elegant feel, providing a unique and unforgettable dining occasion for everyone who finds a seat at a Seagar’s table.
What makes Seagar’s a must-visit for area guests and a favorite of seasoned locals?
“In my personal experience, the main difference is our shared commitment to excellence,” said Executive Chef Lee Guidry. “Being a AAA Four-Diamond Restaurant, we are deeply committed to consistently delivering exceptional service and premium dining. I find this adds another level of attentiveness to the kitchen atmosphere and how we execute our dishes.”
Ingredients make the meal
Where does he draw inspiration for the beautiful dishes that come out of the Seagar’s kitchen?
“The regionality of the Gulf and local farms that provide our produce are very inspiring. With roughly 99% of our items coming in from nearby farms and fishing boats, each day I walk into the kitchen, I’m inspired to learn, create and teach those around me, creating dishes with the freshest, most beautiful ingredients,” Guidry said.
General Manager Gary Brielmayer, who has been with Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa for almost 20 years, described the reason for the restaurant’s longevity.
“From the moment guests walk in the door, we want them to have a unique and unforgettable experience.” – Gary Brielmayer, general manager
“We focus on the best quality ingredients that money can buy,” Brielmayer said. “From the moment guests walk in the door, we want them to have a unique and unforgettable experience. Chef Guidry creates several new flavorful dishes each season to showcase the highest quality ingredients available and also to give guests the opportunity to try something new every visit.”
Seagar’s impressive menu includes a selection of appetizing starters, including Crisp Calamari (with buttermilk, seasoned flour, house-made pickle, and grain mustard rouille); Berkwood’s Farm Pork Bell Cassoulet en Croute (with cannellini bean, tomato, fine herb, pork jus, mirepoix, and puff pastry); and a decadent French Onion Soup, a blend of five onions simmered in a hearty beef stock and finished with crouton and melted Jarlsberg and Gruyere cheeses).
Specialties found elsewhere in the area rarely include a Raines Farm Wagyu Beef Tataki (with cucumber, foie gras emulsion, fried garlic, yuzu, ginger, and cilantro); Crisp Bobwhite Quail (with butternut squash and foie gras ravioli, brown butter, sage, consume, buttermilk, oolong, and walnut); and Osetra Caviar (served with toast points, egg yolks, egg whites, sour cream, chives, and chilled vodka). A Caesar Salad for Two is prepared tableside and is a treat not to be missed, and a Custom Seafood Tower will be the delight of the party, created from large Gulf shrimp, Maine Lobster, live oysters, and Alaskan King Crab legs, three-tiered and served with cocktail sauce and drawn butter.
Steakhouse with style
A true New York steakhouse in style and offerings, the appetite is satisfied with Seagar’s main selections, USDA Prime Steaks and Lamb Chops that are certified 100% USDA Prime and available in a variety of cuts such as the Steak Diane, NY Strip, Bone-In Ribeye, Porterhouse, Bone-In Filet, Lamb Chop, Rôtisseur’s Special, and the Chateaubriand, a 22-ounce steak for two.
Custom cuts of the filet mignon are offered, and a wonderful assortment of entrée additions can customize the diner’s choice, including Maitre D’ Butter, Au Poivre, Maytag/Bacon, Mushroom & Madeira, Foie Gras Butter, Oscar, Grilled Shrimp, Pork Belly, Foie Gras, pan seared diver scallops, fried South African lobster tail, or a half pound of King Crab Legs.
For those wanting to stick closer to the coast with their selections, seafood entrees include Seared Snapper (with new potato galette, wilted spinach, Alaskan King Crab, lemongrass, and fume), Crisp Potato Wrapped Gulf Shrimp (with Yukon gold potato threads, artichoke fondue, cherry tomato, artichoke heart, and pea tendril), and South African Cold-Water Lobster Tails, lightly battered and fried and served with honey mustard.
Put a cherry on top of a perfect meal with something sweet, such as Cherries Jubilee or Bananas (or Peaches) Foster for Two, both prepared tableside and served over vanilla ice cream. A Double Irish Coffee or Mocha Espresso Martini can complete the evening or move the party to Seagar’s intimate lounge area for conversation and storytelling, or live piano music on select nights.
For guests new to the Seagar’s experience, Brielmayer says, “Expect the best quality food, expertly and simply prepared, and served with authentic, attentive service.”
Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood is located at 4000 Sandestin Boulevard South in Miramar Beach, and a full menu and more information can be found by visiting seagars.com or calling 850-622-1500. Reservations can be made online or by calling, and a dress code is required.
Photos by Michelle Farnham
By Sara Reese
To say Javier Rosa has a lot on his hot plate would be an understatement.
Rosa, executive chef at the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort, drives the culinary team that oversees all the resort’s restaurants and banquet venues. He utilizes his expertise – garnered over 20 years in the industry – to train and develop back-of-house and front-of-house operations. Rosa and his team serve four restaurants, two private clubs, and 88,000 square feet of banquet space, serving the guests at galas, conferences, group meetings, and weddings.
From unpretentious beginnings cooking with his mother in Puerto Rico, to opening a hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Rosa’s background includes a vast mixture of cuisine, locales, and methods. Being in the kitchen with his mom inspired his career in the culinary world, and that passion and heart stay with him today.
“Her grace, love and happiness always comes to mind when I prepare and create dishes. These feelings are addicting!” Rosa said. “I always want more of it and so I cook my heart out.”
Never is this truer than when cooking his favorite cuisine, Thai, which exhibits a clean approach in maneuvering the simple ingredients.
“The perfect spiciness and the combination of ginger, lemon grass, kafir limes, coconut, curry, Thai peppers, and fish sauce is always great,” he explained. “Once you create a great balance, once you have a great Thai dish, all the flavors are umami in one bite.”
Rosa takes daily opportunities to interact with his guests, allowing him the best opportunities to guarantee that the final product is one that he intended to provide. The chef finds it a highlight of his day to be able to thank his guests, get to know them, discover what brings them back to Sandestin every year, and be able to learn their names.
To stay on top of ever-changing trends in the culinary scene, Rosa participates in the American Culinary Federation, keeps current with culinary magazines and books, while staying in tune with travel news and different cultures. He also visits small unknown and acclaimed mom and pop places, committing outstanding flavors and presentations to memory to inspire future menus.
The chef – with the support of Sandestin leadership – has been operating with the concept of using their own for a few months now. The effort allows them to create dishes that he believes not only benefit the environment but are more enjoyable to the guests’ palate, an aim that has received positive feedback from those enjoying his creations.
Rosa contributed to the team that opened The Ritz Carlton in Jamaica. Here he developed a mentor relationship with The Ritz’s corporate chef, Master Chef George McNeill, whom Rosa remembers to be the first to allow one-on-one time to discuss anything in the culinary industry. During these times he learned the business side of being a lead chef – the details beyond cooking. With McNeill, he had a mentor who cared enough to correct him when he failed to meet the quality and standards expected of him.
“He pushed me. He challenged me a lot. If we didn’t have that experience together at that point of my career, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today,” Rosa admitted.
Rosa identifies stars among his staff and sous chefs and aims to provide the same level of mentoring he received early on in his career.
“I believe that leadership is a privilege; this title is given to you by those who want to follow your lead,” he said. “It is a privilege that comes with the responsibility to inspire others and to direct them to attain the vision and goals of our organization and of their own, empowering others to make decisions of their own and to be leaders themselves.”
Photos by Chase Yakaboski
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of the Food & Wine Guide for South Walton.