Chef Eric Bartholomew, who leads the kitchen at LaCo, 30A’s Latin coastal kitchen in Seacrest Beach, is bringing the heat with this refreshing summer dish.
“Aguachile is a classic Mexican dish that hails from Sinaloa, a coastal state located in the western part of the country,” Bartholomew explained. Enjoy his take on Watermelon and Chilled Gulf Shrimp Aguachile.
Watermelon and Chilled Gulf Shrimp Aguachile
Recipe: Yields one serving
1 cup fresh lime juice 1/4 cup light agave syrup 1/4 ounce jalapeno 1/2 pound fresh Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined 1/2 cup watermelon, cubed 1/2 cucumber, cubed, seeds and skin removed 1 avocado 1 radish, thinly sliced Kosher salt to taste Chili oil to taste Cilantro to taste
Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Make an ice bath with equal parts ice and water in a large bowl.
Cook shrimp until 90% done, carefully remove and submerge in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
While shrimp are cooling, cut watermelon, cucumber and avocado into small cubes.
Combine lime juice, light agave syrup and jalapeños in a blender; blend on high until smooth.
In a shallow serving plate, arrange shrimp and season with kosher salt. Cover shrimp with jalapeño-lime broth from the blender. Drizzle chili oil over shrimp and broth.
Add watermelon, cucumber and avocado. Garnish with cilantro and sliced radish.
SEACREST BEACH – La Cocina, the Latin coastal restaurant serving up ceviche, tacos, burritos and achiote fried wings along 30A, has reopened its doors as LaCo, a shortened moniker for both “La Cocina” and “Latin Coastal.”
Over the winter, the eatery also underwent a top-to-bottom remodel of the dining room and bar, and has debuted a new brunch menu from Executive Chef Eric Bartholomew. From the floors to wall colors, lighting, even the chairs are new, all the work of Z-Space Design out of Atlanta.
“We’ve been transitioning from Tex-Mex to more Latin Coastal over the past couple years, so we wanted to reflect those menu changes in the name and the ambiance of the restaurant,” explained Manager Sarah Hampton. “It’s the same owners, the same great staff, and the same menu we’ve used for the past three years.”
To the left of the entryway is the revamped main dining space, which includes fresh tile work in muted beachy tones that add to the coastal feel. New booths offer fun, comfortable seating options to the space. To the right of the front door is the remodeled bar area with seating, including the gorgeous white bar top, accented by handsome dark woodwork.
“The remodel definitely lightens up the dining room and the new bar is a great hangout place,” Bartholomew said.
The newly debuted brunch is served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week, while the regular menu is offered 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, including takeout, according to Christy Spell Terry, who co-owns LaCo with her father, Rick.
“We wanted to give locals and tourists alike a dining option they could enjoy earlier in the day,” Spell Terry said. “LaCo’s culinary team created an exceptional menu brunch-goers can enjoy as early as 10 a.m. daily – and that includes kid-friendly dishes, too! It makes for a great start to a day at the beach.”
The Breakfast Burrito, Tacos Desayuno and Chilaquiles Rojo come with the guest’s choice of grilled steak, bacon, chorizo or grilled veggies.
“When I think coastal, it’s certain ingredients we use, some seafood, but also being a little bit lighter,” the chef said. “This is not your typical bacon-eggs-potato type place. It’s a different option for someone, and a lot of these are gluten-free or can be vegetarian, so they’re good for people with alternative diets.”
Chef’s Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash is not to be missed, with its roasted Brussels sprouts, whipped avocado, lime vinaigrette and a sunny side up egg.
“The sweet potato is a little bit of a healthier option, while the Chilaquiles Rojo is a real traditional Mexican breakfast dish,” Bartholomew explained. “It’s kind of a hangover meal! It’s a very homey dish that we can offer to guests that they might not have been exposed to before.”
Younger diners can chose between French Toast Sticks with fresh berries, or the S’mores Waffle with chocolate mousse.
Hampton admitted the Lobster Avocado Toast was her favorite new brunch item.
“It’s sourdough bread, avocado, and delicious lobster,” she said. “It has a sweetness and also a little heat, too. The flavors are just awesome.”
Brunch also includes new drinks, like the Sunrise Smoothie (banana, blueberry, vanilla yogurt, almond milk) and the Blood Orange Mimosa, to complement the food.
“Guests love the new brunch dishes and drinks!” exclaimed Spell Terry. “Our culinary team works hard to create Latin-inspired, coastal cuisine with fresh seafood and local ingredients, and guests really appreciate it.”
The regular menu that debuted three seasons ago is still in use, continuing to use fresh, local purveyors. Chef rotates out his very popular Pescado Del Dia special every week or so. Other highlights include the Ribeye Asado plate with red chimichurri, as well as the 10 taco options featuring everything from achiote fried pork belly to chili butter-poached lobster.
LaCo is located at 10343 E. Co. Hwy. 30A in Seacrest Beach. They are open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and do not accept reservations. Reach them at 850-231-4021 or view the full menu at www.laco30a.com.
SEACREST BEACH – A new summer season has arrived, and with it comes a new chef and a new selection of menu items at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar. Christy Spell, co-owner of the Spell Restaurant Group – which counts La Cocina among its seven eateries – said it was time for something new, for both the restaurant and the South Walton dining scene as a whole.
“We wanted to provide some more Latin-based items – as opposed to strictly Mexican – and give a little more variety and some better quality,” she said. For example, all the seafood comes from the gulf and the produce is locally sourced.
“We always want to do as much as we can locally, and we have great resources here being by the gulf,” Spell said.
You’ll find gulf shrimp in the Camerones Taco, while the fish in the Pescado Taco changes out based on the season, ensuring the freshest flavors. The latter, by the way, comes topped with the house slaw, red chili aioli, and pineapple-jicama salsa.
“We’ll have market items as well that will be ever-changing,” Spell added.
Other street taco varieties include Pork Belly, Brisket Barbacoa, Arrachera (skirt steak), Polla Adobada (chicken), and Veggie – all served on a corn tortilla. Fresh-made tamales include the house brisket and an avocado crema.
Denver-based Chef Eric Bartholomew answered the call to come back home to the Southeast and head up the new menu as La Cocina’s executive chef.
“He has been a great addition,” Spell said. “Eric has a background working in Mexican-type and small plate restaurants, sort of the direction we wanted to go. It was a perfect fit!”
Chef’s Blistered Shishito Peppers are among the more popular new dishes – and something you can’t find anywhere else in the area. Think of them like a bowl of edamame you might find at an Asian restaurant. Diners pluck this small green pepper by the stem, dunk it in the accompanying guajillo-honey sauce, take a bite and then hold on! Served with a sprinkling of salt, most have a taste similar to a green pepper with mild heat, but one in every 10 is hot, earning it the nickname “the gambling pepper.”
Spell also pointed to the Achiote Fried Wings, which are a unique Latin take on the popular bar food. They have a satisfying texture, a unique flavor, and are served alongside arbol ranch and a watercress salad.
Something else you might not expect to find on a Latin starters menu, the Brussels Sprouts take on Mexican flavors with chili-roasted pepitas, salsa morita, and cotija cheese. Standards like the guacamole are offered traditional, or “30A Style,” which includes pepitas, pomegranate and cotija cheese.
Find La Cocina at 10343 E County Highway 30A, Seacrest Beach. The restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner is served from 5 to 9 p.m.
Photos provide courtesy of La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar
The Spell Restaurant Group recently went on a search for an Executive Chef to take the reigns at La Cocina Mexican Grill & Bar in Seacrest Beach, FL. They were looking for someone with great leadership skills and experience in Latin fare that could take it to another level. They came across Eric Bartholomew from Denver, CO and knew he was the perfect fit. Eric, his wife Hillary and their three kids, packed their bags and headed to South Walton. At the same time, they asked John “J.R.” McKinny, who was working at their sister restaurant, Saltwater Grill, to step up as the Sous Chef at La Cocina and he was thrilled. The Spell Restaurant Group has big plans for La Cocina going forward. This is the first time this restauranhttps://30afoodandwine.com/?p=7081&preview=truet has had an official chef and sous chef. They are looking forward to Eric and J.R. working together to put an authentic Latin inspired spin on the already delicious menu. Special features and more great things to come this summer at La Cocina.
About Eric Bartholomew – Executive Chef:
Eric hails from Huntsville, Alabama and began his cooking adventure at age 16. He brings a strong and impressive knowledge of Latin, Asian, Southern regional cuisines to La Cocina. His previous experience was with the Tag Restaurant Group in Denver, CO as Executive Chef for the Los Chignons (a Latin concept). Prior to his tenure in Denver, Eric worked as head chef at Babalu Tacos and Tapas where he led menu development and new store openings around the country.
Now firmly planted on the Florida panhandle and living on the Gulf Coast Eric gets a chance to forge relationships with local fishermen and farmers and provide sustainably raised products. On a personal note, living on the gulf allows him to pursue fly fishing, his biggest hobby, and enjoy family time in the sun with wife Hillary, daughters Isabella and Violet, and son Sawyer.
About John “J.R.” McKinny – Sous Chef:
John “J.R.” was born in Houston and grew up in Austin, Texas. He began cooking at Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado where he honed his skills while there for 17 years. JR comes from a family who loves to cook and he credits his passion for food as coming from watching his grandma support a family of seven by cooking homemade tamales in her kitchen in Port Arthur, Texas. He has held positions from non-profit organizations, Keystone Science School, to high volume restaurants. In 2015, JR and his wife, Barre and 5-year-old son, Champion, moved to the Emerald Coast and JR became Sous Chef at Saltwater Grill, another Spell Restaurant. The family loves the outdoors and enjoys snowboarding, skate boarding, paddle boarding, white water rafting, hunting and fishing. They might have to trade in their snowboarding for water sports which they have happily discovered. JR is currently enrolled at Gulf Coast State College in the Culinary Management Program. He is in his last semester and can attest to the how this program of study will enhance his culinary and management skills.
About La Cocina:
Since 2009, La Cocina has served traditional Tex-Mex fare with a coastal twist in a fun, festive atmosphere. All dishes are prepared from scratch using the freshest ingredients available. La Cocina is nestled between Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach, in Seacrest Beach. The friendly staff offers some of the best drinks along 30A, including house-made mojitos, sangria, and a selection of fresh squeezed lime margaritas. La Cocina is always voted as one of South Walton‘s hot spots for Mexican cuisine. The proof is in the tacos.
Today is the final day in our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide and Giveaway. Over the past 12 days we have profiled and highlighted gifts for the foodie and wine lover on your list. The total value of all goodies in Santa’s bag this year is over $1400
Here is a rundown of our favorite Christmas gifts for this year:
And don’t forget, today is the last day to register for your chance to win!
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So let’s get to it with our final gift idea for the foodie or wine lover on your list. Day 12 is focused on the true foodie who wants to get a taste of all that South Walton has to offer from just a few restaurants. Our final gift idea is a gift card to the one of the many restaurants under the Spell Restaurant Group ummbrella.
A guest staying on the east end of 30A could spend breakfast at Grits & Grinds in Seacrest Beach. Then head over to George’s at Alys Beach for a light lunch. Next up, grab a margarita for happy hour at La Cocina in Seacrest Beach. When you are ready for dinner, take a short stroll into Rosemary Beach for “fine dining in a casual atmosphere” at Edward’s Fine Food and Wine. Have a sweet tooth and looking for dessert? La Crema Tapas & Chocolate is just steps away to cap of a beautiful day exploring all the culinary offerings the Spell Restaurant Group has to offer.
Haven’t been yet? As part of the 2017 Holiday Gift Guide and Giveaway, 30a Food and Wine will be giving away a $100 Gift Card from the Spell Restaurant Group. The gift card can be used at any of the restaurants under the Spell Restaurant name.
So there you go! 12 days of holiday gift ideas to please the foodie or wine lover on your list. You have until midnight central time, Tuesday December 5th to register. A winner be randomly selected Wednesday morning. So stay tuned to see who the lucky winner is!
The diverse communities along 30a offer a “small town feel” with big town taste. Residents and visitors can walk from the condo to the beach, to shopping centers, and to restaurants. But when a little shop offers great food and a little something extra, it’s certainly noteworthy. This week’s installment of 3 for 30a is to highlight the small, but special, markets and café’s along Hwy 30A.
Friday January 23 –The first stop for many after arriving at the beach is Seacrest Sundries, where market groceries meets beach store meets café. Begin with a quick bite of their addictive “Crack” Salad Sandwich (homemade chicken salad) and then peruse the market for a few essentials like hats, towels, bottled water, wine & beer. They also have basics for your condo like condiments and detergent. Full café menu available at http://www.seacrestsundries.com/ Saturday January 24 – “Praise the Lard!” The Perfect Pig Café and Gourmet Market in Seagrove Beach boasts hand-sliced ham and bacon as their specialty along with hickory smoked pulled chicken and pork. They also serve homemade sauces and sides and offer a variety of gourmet market items such as pancake mix, jellies, mustard, sauces, chips, snack crackers, and coffee. Be sure to stop by anytime from 8:00am – 9:00pm or visit their new location in Gulf Place, opening this weekend! For a full menu check out http://theperfectpig30a.com/
Sunday January 25 – If you didn’t get enough southern BBQ by Sunday, the Cowgirl Kitchen has you covered. The Pulled Pork Tacos are a house favorite, but if you’re still in the mood for breakfast the Praline Bacon along with their full breakfast menu is happily served until 2:00pm. Wake up for their “Grumpy Hour” at 8:00am to enjoy 2 for 1 draft beer and $1 off wine and libations. Their market includes fresh take-and-bake casseroles, specialty sauces, and a variety of wine. Visit http://www.cowgirlkitchen.com/ for more info.
We hope everyone has recovered from the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas trees are up and ready for the Christmas season.
This week’s installment of the 3 for 30a has some great events to get the celebrations under way for the holiday season.
On Friday night, check out the Speakeasy Party at Acme Ice House in Seacrest Beach, The fun starts at 6PM, so break out your best soot suit, gangster or Gatsby costume and help celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. $15 at the door gets you a featured cocktail and a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit Food for Thought.
TO RSVP visit Acme on Facebook or call 850-502-5669.
Spend Saturday in a Florida Winter Wonderland at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center in Freeport. Enjoy arts and crafts, gingerbread house decorating and check out the LIVE penguin at 11AM and 11:45. The festivities run from 10AM to 3pm and Santa will make his appearance at 1PM
Finish out your weekend at one of 30a’s hidden gems. Highlands House host a wonderful brunch and enjoy half-priced bottle of wine for dinner. For more information call 850-660-1946 or check out their menu online!
Acme Ice House in Seacrest has done it again. Wednesday November 19th’s installment of “Food Fights” showcasing local 30A chefs cooking head to head (with three mandatory secret ingredients and only an hour’s time!), was overflowing with creativity, talent, and entertainment.
Eager guests poured into the warm, inviting doors of Acme, ready to enjoy the festivities and generous with their donations to the sponsored charity, Food for Thought. The room filled with the buzz and energy from supporters of both chefs. This month’s contestants were Chef William Wiehl of Restaurant Paradis and Chef Gregg Smith from The Pearl. It was quickly dubbed “The Battle of Rosemary Beach” as the prep gloves went on.
Surprised and enthusiastic murmurs were audible as the chef’s secret ingredients were revealed. Not for the food unadventurous, they were: duck confit, aged goat cheese in the Morbier style, and dried mullet roe. Just like mama never made!
As the chef’s began their challenge, Acme passed appetizers highlighting the secret ingredients to the guests. They included deviled eggs using the mullet roe, puff pastry topped with apples and aged goat cheese, and quesadillas with the duck confit. Tasty signature drinks were also flowing: a Cosmopolitan made with New Amsterdam Citron, Cointreau, lime and cranberry juice and a Manhattan with Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Providing attentive, excellent service, the Acme Staff seem to be having as much fun as the crowd.
Along with John Certo, Owner and Chef of Andy’s Flour Power in Panama City Beach and Denise Crider, Culinary Director at Gulf Coast State College, I was privileged to enjoy and assess the dishes created by these two highly talented chefs.
Chef William started with a version of hummus – a Mediterranean style dip including two of the secret products: the roe and the aged goat cheese. The dip was airy and light and a nice start to the meal. Next, he served us a salad made up of ribbons of carrot and zucchini as well as the thinly sliced roe, and dressed with a dreamy lemon-thyme vinaigrette. It was crisp, sweet, bright and well-seasoned. Chef William’s last dish was another star: the duck confit atop a hash of roasted carrots, potatoes, and pork belly and a sweet and tangy reduction complimenting the vegetables and duck expertly.
From Chef Gregg’s corner of the kitchen first appeared a homemade flatbread pizza: straight from Acme’s wood fire oven. The tender yet crispy crust was topped with aromatic caramelized onions, basil pesto, goat cheese and pulled duck meat. I mused that if offered on a menu, I would order this pizza combination again and again as the gourmet pie’s flavors melded so harmoniously. Chef Gregg also created the judges’ favorite dish of the night: his version of a Shepherd’s Pie. The duck was nestled in a ragout of vegetables with complex, rich flavor. It was hard to believe this plate was executed in just an hour’s time.
After a thoughtful deliberation including a lively debate, we came to a consensus and deemed Chef William Wiehl from Restaurant Paradis the champion! He was ecstatic and his friends and family swarmed him with high-fives and hugs of congratulations.
Follow us at 30afoodandwine.com to find out which two chefs will duel in January’s Food Fights contest! While enjoying watching them duke it out, you’ll be the real winner!
Anyone happening by Seacrest this past Wednesday evening may have heard the enthusiastic roar as Acme Ice House crowned their first Food Fight winner. It was a night celebrating culinary creativity and the crowd buzzed with excitement as two local chefs had one hour to create a minimum of two dishes with mystery ingredients.
As the competition kicked off, Chef Derek Langford from Bud & Alley’s in Seaside and Chef Chris Infinger of g.Foley’s in Panama City Beach were given their three mandatory ingredients: Golden Tilefish, King Oyster mushrooms, and white asparagus.
While the two chefs worked furiously against the clock, guests enjoyed libations and appetizers fit for true food lovers: tender and juicy short rib sliders, beets dressed with Florida honey, walnuts, and bleu cheese, and seared Ahi tuna wrapped in soy and ginger dressed soba noodles. The well-satiated fans eagerly crowded to watch the chefs work their magic as delicious aromas began wafting from Acme’s open kitchen.
Chef Derek prepared fresh ravioli filled with King Oyster mushrooms and homemade ricotta, sauced with a sublime mushroom jus crafted using honey, soy sauce, and veal stock and served with a shaved mushroom salad on top. Next he served his Tilefish dish: perfectly cooked with tantalizingly crispy skin atop an asparagus puree and accompanied saffron sauce.
Chef Chris presented three courses starting with a deviled egg with asparagus puree and a hot sauce gelée giving this little bite a kick. Next his cheesy King Oyster mushroom risotto was creamy and earthy and garnished with dehydrated mushrooms that were first boiled with smoky bacon. This dish showcased Chef Chris’s creative ambition and point of view. Lastly his Tilefish was accompanied by an herbed crab stuffing and resting on crisp-tender asparagus spears and a potato puree. All his components were seasoned to perfection.
It can’t be overstated how challenging a competition like this is. While both chefs are talented, experienced professionals in their field, a mere hour to create composed dishes from previously unknown ingredients in a pressure-cooker environment, is not an easy task. Both competitors were successful and presented stunning dishes in the allotted timeframe.
I was honored to be one of the three judges tasting and evaluating this amazing food. Along with Acme’s owner Bill Shoaf and Gulf Coast State College Assistant Culinary Professor Paul Ashman, we undoubtedly had the best jobs in the house. After a difficult deliberation with scoring so close the winner was decided by less than half a point, Chef Derek Langford received the coveted win and bragging rights. What a battle!
Acme Ice House’s next Food Fight is Wednesday November 19th starting at 6 pm. Stay tuned for the chef line-up and make plans to come experience the fun and creativity first hand!
Heading into “off” season, Acme Ice House An American Bistro is on a new track. After opening this past Spring, they’ve learned a lot, made some changes, and are inviting customers to “come dine with us again for the first time.” Acme has a new chef (CIA trained Juan Martinez, most recently from The Pearl), new menu items, and new Happy Hour specials.
With executive chef Juan Martinez at the helm, Acme’s clear commitment is to approachable, exceptional food. Take their Scallops and Dumplings dish. Local Diver Scallops are seared and served with house-made potato gnocchi in a collard green pesto sauce. While testing the dish, Chef Martinez eagerly embraced a new method for preparing the gnocchi – using tips straight from his prep cook’s Italian-born grandmother. That enthusiasm for the art of cooking is what ultimately sets Acme’s fare apart. And their diners definitely reap the rewards.
The word “acme” means the highest point, the top, perfection. Through attention to every detail and an emphasis on house-made components and local ingredients, Acme Ice House lives up to its name. Offering scratch-made dressings, sauces, bread; even first brining and smoking their chicken wings – nothing is overlooked. Seafood is sourced from local fishermen and their cocktails are fashioned with in-house infused spirits (poblano pepper vodka in your Bloody Mary anyone?)
Happy Hour at the bar is 5-6 pm every day and features really great deals. Affectionately known as the “Shuck & Cluck”, Acme offers a dozen fresh gulf oysters or a half dozen wings for only $6. Premium Don Julio margaritas are a mere $5 as are all their classic well drinks. And every football game is on, be it Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Thursday. Fans aged 21 and over need to score a seat and check it out!
A good atmosphere in a restaurant helps make a dining experience, and Acme’s space has this in spades. It’s unique and unlike many of its local counterparts – is modern, warm, comfortable and just plain cool. Let’s put it this way: the bar sports tons of flat screens and a huge picture of the Ramones while the main dining area showcases their open kitchen and two wood burning ovens: a refined, polished vibe.
Acme Ice House truly has it all covered: outstanding cuisine rivaling any in this area, a diverse menu ranging from burgers to prime rib, Happy Hour specials, and a composed casual, collected vibe. See? Something for everyone.
Acme Ice House is located in Seacrest Beach at: 10343 East County Hwy 30A. Phone: (850) 502-5669. Hours: Monday through Friday 5 pm – 10 pm and 10 am – 10 pm Saturdays and Sundays. www.acmeicehouse.com