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.
WATERCOLOR – Tickets to the Harvest Wine & Food Festival were a hot commodity, as entrance to all four of the weekend’s events – a pair of wine dinners, Saturday’s grand tasting and Sunday’s brunch – were all sold out.
Chef Nick Brothers represented Swiftly Catered at the sixth annual grand tasting, serving tuna poke cups and tuna wonton chips, as well as Chef Kyle Swift’s famous gluten-free puddle cookies. This was Brothers’ first time at the Harvest Festival, and he was impressed with everything he saw.
“We’ve got a great spot right here at the end, it’s the first place people stop by, and they keep coming back! They love our food,” Brothers said.
Atlanta-based Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q returned to the anchor spot, delighting ticket-holders with entire plates full of saucy meats. Also available for nibbles was cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy, chocolate truffles from The Perfect Pig, humus and baba ghanoush from Mano’s Authentic Healthy Foods, and a trio of cookies from Jonesing 4 Cookies, to name a few.
Of course no wine festival would be complete with out the wine, with bottles ranging from rose to riesling and everything in between.
Ashli and Doug Cohen of Salt Wine Company had their product at two tables, as they are also the supplier for the 30A Wine label. At her table, Ashli had bottles of their 2021 Greetings Pinot Gris, as well as five Pinot Noirs.
“They’re like our children, you know, you love them all,” Ashli said with a laugh. “We produce these wines off of vineyards that we control from bud break to bottle, so everything is estate. It has been a very successful day for us, and we’re happy to be one of the few winemakers represented here today.
Among those bottles was the Carter’s Lot Pinot Noir, which is made in partnership with Wine World owner and local wine festival legend Chan Cox.
“This is named after Chan’s grandson Carter, so it’s a private label for Chan,” explained Doug, also pointing to the Chef’s Table Pinot Noir. “This wine has a special connection to this festival. Twenty-four dollars per case sold of this wine goes to Northwest Florida children’s charities, and this is the only place you can buy this wine retail around the country. Otherwise it’s just a restaurant wine, but because of the donation to charity, we allow Chan to sell it here.”
VIPs were treated to samples from Booker Vineyard, Tarpon Cellars, Reynolds Family Winery and Penta Tequila, among others, as well as premium bites from Henderson Beach Resort, Blue Mabel Restaurant, Soleil and The Citizen.
Local residents Rex and Julie Barrentine were back for their second Harvest Fest, and were specifically seeking out Italian wines.
“We absolutely love this event. It’s very well laid out, and today my favorite has been the Good Clean Wine,” Julie said, pointing to Table 27 which was pouring Toscano Bianco, Cabernet Sauvignon and Synchronized Swimming Rose, which touted its organic grapes, low sugar and no added sulfites.
Harvest Wine Festival is put on by the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, raising money for Northwest Florida children’s charities. The foundation’s next major event is the wine auction weekend, slated for April 28 to 30, 2023, in conjunction with the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.
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.
Fundraiser brings in record-breaking $3.8 million for Northwest Florida children’s charities
By Michelle Farnham April 24, 2023
MIRAMAR BEACH – When Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation President John Russell raised a toast to welcome guests to the 17th annual fundraiser April 23, he was especially appreciative of the ticket holders under the big tent.
“It has been too long since we joined together to raise paddles high and help the children of this beautiful paradise we call home. A toast to perseverance!” he exclaimed, noting that the pandemic had prevented an in-person auction since 2019. “I’ve been waiting for that glass of wine for two years.”
The foundation had already raised $25 million for Northwest Florida charities since its founding in 2005 – including $4.5 million during virtual auctions in 2020 and 2021 – and the goal was high for the 2022 installment.
“Our mission is clear,” Russell admitted. “There are children in our community that need our help, and we are going to show them we’re with them and their fight.”
Auction weekend kicked off Friday with 10 patron dinners held at various locations around the Emerald Coast, which alone raised $735,000. Of those meals, three exceeded the $100,000 mark, including dinners hosted by Stephen and Joan Carter, Jack and Candis Wilson, and Tom and Dana Saffel.
That evening transitioned to a reserve tasting Saturday, including bites from Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, Bijoux, Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House, and Signature Catering of 30A. Guests enjoyed pours from participating vintners, including Barnett Vineyards, Dakota Shy, Law Estate and Revana Family Vineyards, to name a few.
Representing Jackson Family Wines, Kevin Callanan was thrilled to see the return of the in-person auction.
“I love this event. I’ve been coming here every year since 2004 and I’ve missed this event quite a bit,” Callanan admitted, as he poured Brewer-Clifton pinot noir from Santa Rita Hills.
First-time DCWAF auctioneer Charles Antin got the live auction underway with the always exciting Magnum Force lot, a collection of 50 magnum bottles of wine from participating vintners, past and present. When the proverbial smoke cleared, a bid of $70,000 won it all.
Antin’s quick wit kept the auction moving, with the top lot, “The Heart and History of Virginia” going for $110,000. Other notable winning bids included a trip down Kentucky’s bourbon trail for $75,000; a seven-day trip to San Miguel, Mexico, for $70,000; and an island-hopping yacht adventure with Captains Tim and Jennifer Creehan for $70,000.
Confetti cannons celebrated the passing of the 1 million, 2 million and 3 million-dollar marks as the night wore on and the 46 live auction lots found their homes. At last count, proceeds exceeded a record-breaking $3.8 million – and counting.
Bidders were powered by a dinner from Swiftly Catered, including braised short ribs, asiago and asparagus tarts, and Chef Kyle Swift’s charcuterie selection.
Russell awarded special honors to 2022 Honorary Vintner Shirley Roy of Roy Estate and Honorary Chef Jack McGuckin of Bijoux, who each received plaques by local artisan Panhandle Mercantile.
Roy, who has been a part of the auction since 2016, took the opportunity to thank the crowd for being such an inspiration.
“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to be a part of this,” she said. “You have provided me a beacon of light and you’ve allowed me to be a beacon of light for others. For that, I am eternally grateful.”
In addition to the wine dinners and live auction proceeds, a silent auction and super silent auction were held in conjunction with auction weekend to raise additional funds.
The 18th annual auction weekend is slated for April 28 and 29, 2023.
Photos by Michelle Farnham
Welcome to the party!
Ticket-holders enjoyed the pre-auction reserve tasting.
Chef Christopher Holbrook of Signature Catering personally created each caviar crawfish bite.
The welcome into the tent is always exciting!
Raise those paddles high!
A toast to perseverance!
Bijoux’s Jack McGuckin was named 2022 Honorary Chef.
BLUE MOUNTAIN BEACH – Locals and regular visitors alike who have enjoyed La Loba Bakery over the years are happy to hear the Blue Mountain Beach business is still turning out delectable eats, now known as Blue Mountain Bakery. Chef Kyle Swift and Dallin Harris purchased the eatery back in the summer of 2019, and have worked to expand its offerings.
“We hand-roll our cinnamon rolls every morning starting around 2 a.m. and are selling almost 200 every day!” – Kyle Swift, co-owner
“Since rebranding, we have completely remodeled the storefront and added patio seating for an additional 48 seats,” explained Swift. All the recipes you know and love are still in use, but Chef has added new items and flavors to both the bakery and cafe menus as well.
Grab your breakfast or lunch to-go, or enjoy your fare at that revamped outdoor space.
Baked goods are available as a single item or by the dozen. Tempt your tastebuds with their famous cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, spinach quiche, or spinach tomato pie. An assortment of sweet and savory scones includes your choice of blueberry, ham and cheddar, orange or strawberry.
“We hand-roll our cinnamon rolls every morning starting around 2 a.m. and are selling almost 200 every day!” added Swift. “They are loaded with butter, cinnamon and Florida raw sugar. We top them with frosting and pecans.”
The breakfast menu includes burritos (which weigh in at nearly a pound apiece), yogurt granola bowls, avocado toast, or eggs and toast, with exactly the beverages you’d expect: coffees, teas and juices.
Speaking of the granola, it is still made in-house every day under the La Loba label. Swift uses the same recipe that made it famous, but has added a gluten-free, nut-free option. Bags are available in-store, online and they even serve multiple wholesale customers.
Lunch offers a selection of wraps, burritos and bowls. The kiddos have a choice of quesadilla or turkey cheddar roll up, both served with chips.
“Power Bowls are becoming one of our most popular lunch options,” Swift admitted. “They’re brown rice, smothered in pinto beans and our kale and collard greens. You can then add chicken or steak to that and we top it with cheddar, jalapeño, onion, pico de gallo and our cilantro lime dressing.”
Those who like to plan ahead will enjoy the convenience of online ordering, which makes feeding a large group that much easier – no minimum order, no fees required. You can even bypass the line when picking up your order.
In addition to making your morning easier, the quality of the product is superior to anything you might pick up off the grocery store shelf, and Swift encourages patrons to support local.
“With the pandemic still affecting businesses, it’s a great time to support family-owned businesses,” he acknowledged.
Business has been booming, causing BMB to temporarily pause its cake and cupcake program; however, they plan to have custom cake orders rolling again by mid-summer.
If the name Swift sounds familiar in the local culinary scene, sister business Swiftly Catered shares its commercial kitchen space just down the street from BMB. The catering menu is also available on the bakery’s website, and includes cinnamon rolls, frittatas, pies, muffins, quiche and more.
Blue Mountain Bakery is located at 2217 W. Co. Hwy. 30A, Suite E, in Santa Rosa Beach. Reach them online at www.bluemountainbakery.com or by phone at 850-267-0400. The kitchen is serving breakfast 7 to 10:59 a.m., and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m, Monday to Saturday.