Tag Archives: Seafood

“The Gulf” Adds Some Needed Juice to the Orange Beach, Alabama Dining Scene

12 Jan

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The structural design is striking, for sure. It is a beautiful space and it flows nicely with its surroundings. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the creation of The Gulf, an exciting new restaurant concept in sun-drenched Orange Beach, AL. The colors blend nicely. The logo (featuring Neptune’s trident) is hip and attractive. GM Johnny Fisher, a former baseball pitcher at the University of South Alabama, tells me the logo was designed by Big Communications in Birmingham, AL. They are the same folks who created the successful Alabama Gulf Seafood campaign. Sounds like they have a nice little niche going.  

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Fisher, who is obviously passionate about this exciting new venture, explained that this original concept was something of a Food Truck 2.0. Clever … and true. The enclosed kitchen structure is not large and the menu is short but sweet. All of the seating is outside — including the bar and the upstairs “balconies.” You can sit upstairs for the best panoramic views. Or you can sit on the wooden deck. Or on the grass — yes, real grass. It’s almost like a putting green. Or you can sit in a chair or comfy couch on the white sands of Perdido Pass. Talk about options! I really like the tiered approach for the outdoor “dining room.”

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OK, time to talk more about the menu board. Here it is (above). It gets tweaked from time to time, but the burger and grouper sandwich have become staples — and why not? Music by the 70′s R&B band WAR was spinning on the house turntable when I stepped up to place my order. Vinyl??? You bet. I heard Dave Mason, War,and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass during my first visit. This feature scores major points with this longtime vinyl junkie and thrift shop denizen. Getting back to the food, the Gulf Burger is just $6 and made with Meyer Ranch (based in Colorado) Natural Angus Beef. None of the cheap stuff here. The Grouper sandwich is $12 and always fresh. Grab an order of fresh cut french fries ($4) as a side or take my lead and skip right ahead to dessert. More on that later.

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These cool T-shirts at The Gulf are moving fast

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My beach view as the food was being prepared

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Even the seats & indoor/outdoor carpeting are cool

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I’m pretty sure the open air bar will prove to be a smashing success

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The space heaters are here — if they are needed

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The Gulf Burger arrived looking all hot and tasty. It was. I was impressed with the attention to the little details. The brioche bun was soft and delicious. The tomato slices fresh and juicy. The lettuce is chopped fresh daily. The house aioli delivers a nice lemon, garlic tang. Even the kosher dill pickle was impressive. This was no sliver, people — this was one half of a big, fat dill. I take notice of this stuff, don’t you? All the food is served on brown paper trays, which only further reinforces The Gulf’s casual vibe and food truck mentality. Place your order at the window, grab a seat overlooking the water, dig the tunes, and prepare thyself for a solid meal. It is on the way, baby.

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The grilled brioche bun made the burger even more memorable

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As for the previously mentioned dessert, the Meyer Lemon Pound Cake (above) was sublime. It’s basically a lemon cupcake topped with a stunningly sweet, tart Meyer Lemon icing. Plenty of it too. You can even see the lemon zest in the generous blob of icing on each piece of citrusy cake. It was a sunny January day when I visited and the heat of the sun’s rays slowly melted my icing into a soft, warm consistency. My entire meal including the juicy, flavorful burger and tangy pound cake came in at under $10. Pretty hard to beat that. And the views were worth a million bucks — especially in the heart of the winter here along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

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Talk about your table with a view? Incredible!

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Cool day on the beach. Grab yourself a Hot Buttered Rum and chill.

Let me put a bow on this thing by saying that I am thrilled that The Gulf has arrived in our little nook of the world. This place is very hip, the people really care about the food, and the beach views and casual, sandy vibe are second to none. And did I tell you they spin vinyl??? Oh yeah, guess I did. Got any old, neglected vinyl laying around? Take it to Johnny — he’ll give it a good home. And speaking of home, I have found a new one at The Gulf. I’ll be a regular in the Summer months. And I’ll visit when I can in the chillier months too.  Can’t think of a better way to wash away the Winter blues — short of another trip to Hawaii.

Great job, Johnny Fisher and crew. We love your new place. Thank you for giving us this little piece of paradise. Like Neptune’s trident, The Gulf is quite sharp — and “on point” too! 

The Gulf  – 27500 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Orange Beach, AL

(251) 424-1800; http://www.facebook.com/#!/thegulfal?fref=ts 

Gulf Coast Foodways Organziation is Officially Unveiled

24 Mar

 

Gulf Coast Foodways is a new community of foodies on a mission to preserve and promote the rich culinary culture along the US Gulf Coast through education, events, documentaries, seminars and more. Gulf Coast Foodways will be a member driven organization and we’re currently looking for charter members and sponsors.

How exactly are we going to do all of this, you ask?  Through the development of thematic maps and tours, we can drive food tourism to our region. Through video documentation, we can capture and show off the unique culinary culture of our coast.  Cookbooks and published compilations of local food writings and treasured family recipes will draw attention to the traditional foodways of our area. 

We plan to hold periodic meetings for members to make connections and network. These events will include guest speakers on local topics and you can always count on a good meal or two along the way. Our annual symposium weekend is now in the initial planning stage.  Hotel and restaurant industry members will always benefit from the trails, meetings, and symposiums.

We’d like for you to play a key role in the creation of this tasty “gumbo.” 

 Your annual membership or sponsorship will:

 *Help finance research projects

*Promote food-related businesses along the Gulf Coast

*Document local traditions & businesses preserving them

*Promote and grow food tourism along the Gulf Coast

*Underwrite any necessary administrative costs

 In return, your benefits will include:

 *Bi-annual e-newsletter

*Profile feature on the Gulf Coast Foodways blog: www.gulfcoastfoodways.wordpress.com 

*10% off all Gulf Coast Foodways event registration

*Priority registration for events

*Discounts at participating restaurants/shops

 We urge you to join this worthy cause today.

Contact Eileen or Gary Saunders at gulfcoastfoodways@yahoo.com.

***Pass this note along to your friends and LIKE us on FACEBOOK.

Good Eats around Bon Secour, Alabama

22 Aug

Down South BBQ is near the intersection of AL Highways 59 and 10. It’s close enough to 59 to make this a quick &  easy stop for tourists vacationing in nearby Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. They seem to stay very busy year round, but especially so during the steamy summer months along the Gulf Coast of Alabama.

You order at the window. Carry out or dine at screened-in picnic tables. Lots of unique menu choices. Service is friendly and fairly brisk. Thank goodness because it’s hot as hell this time of year. The nice young gal working the window this day had a German accent. That’s something you don’t get much at Alabama roadside BBQ stands.

This may be one of the best T-shirt slogans I’ve seen in quite some time.

We couldn’t resist the BBQ sandwich served on cornmeal pancakes. Man, it was huge — I had no idea it was gonna be so massive when I ordered it. I ended up sharing the sandwich with my son, Travis. He woofed it all down in short order and pronounced it delicious. It was indeed good, although the cornbread “bun” didn’t hold together as well as the more traditional bun or Texas toast. Make sure you get plenty of BBQ sauce to balance out the natural dryness of the thick cornmeal pancakes.

I would definitely return to Down South but would still rate Robertsdale’s Hickory House as the very best BBQ we’ve enjoyed along Alabama’s Eastern Shore. Try ‘em both and let us know what you think. We’re all ears!

www.downsouthbbq.com 

  Captain’s Galley Restaurant is a short ride west of Down South. Confused yet?

I was excited about this first visit. I’d been told that they serve smoked mullet. Now I love smoked mullet, yet I hadn’t enjoyed any since our visit to Ted Peter’s Smoked Fish in St Petersburg, FL more than a year ago. The smoked mullet at Captain’s Galley was good, if not up to the world class standard at Ted Peter’s. My order was a little dry — but still extremely flavorful! Just be careful as you savor all the smokey goodness — there are little bones throughout the entire fish. Yes, you get a whole smoked mullet for just $4. Are you kidding me? The smoked mullet platter at Ted Peter’s (which comes with warm German potato salad) runs about $14.

Had to show you this table tent (above) to prove the smoked mullet was just $4!

Learn more about the Captain’s Galley of Bon Secour, AL at:

http://www.facebook.com/CaptainsGalley

Secrets from the Hot & Hot Fish Club

23 Dec

Terrific cookbook from Running Press featuring sophisticated Southern recipes. Also includes a pretty nice source guide in the back pages. Be sure to visit this wonderful restaurant the next time you’re in the Birmingham, AL area.

From Publishers Weekly

Husband-and-wife team Chris and Idie showcase the best offerings of their Birmingham, Ala.–based restaurant, the Hot and Hot Fish Club. More than a cookbook, this is a personal tribute to seasonal offerings and the hardworking, dedicated purveyors who supply the restaurant with the freshest ingredients. The authors focus on honest, unassuming dishes with a Southern flair that highlight rather than bury the natural flavors of the ingredients. Organized by month and availability, recipes include rabbit tamales with black bean salsa, the unusual hot and hot tomato salad, which is topped by a crispy bacon strip, seared foie gras with brioche bread and wild persimmon jam, and pomegranate sorbet. Their dishes are not unfamiliar yet are distinctive, such as their devil’s food cake, which includes grated red beets. Dispersed throughout are sidebars on cleaning soft-shell crabs, roasting whole pigs and wading for watercress along with family stories that convey the Hastings passion for and connection with food. They include a useful section on basic recipes, including not only the standard stocks, sauces and vinaigrettes, but also crème fraîche, risotto and hush puppies.

SHRIMP AND CORN FRITTERS with Chive Aïoli

SEAFOOD FRITTERS WERE ALWAYS SERVED AT THE BEACH WHEN CHRIS WAS A CHILD. FRITTERS HAVE LONG BEEN AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE SOUTHERN DIET AND HE GREW UP EATING THEM FOR LUNCH ALONG WITH SLICED TOMATOES AND SUCCOTASH. HIS GRANDMOTHER LOVED TO SERVE THEM WITH A DOLLOP OF HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE. TODAY WE SERVE THESE FRITTERS AS HORS D’OEUVRES FOR COCKTAIL RECEPTIONS OR SNACKS AT THE BEACH WITH CHIVE AÏOLI INSTEAD OF THE MAYONNAISE. FOR A DIFFERENT TWIST, TRY SUBSTITUTING FRESH CLAMS OR LUMP CRABMEAT FOR THE SHRIMP.

 Y I E L D :  A B O U T 5 0 F R I T T E R S

 1 POUND FRESH, PEELED MEDIUM (25 TO 30 COUNT)

SHRIMP, DEVEINED AND CUT INTO 1/2-INCH PIECES

1 ½ CUPS FRESH CORN KERNELS, ABOUT 2 EARS

½ CUP FINELY DICED RED BELL PEPPER

½ CUP FINELY DICED YELLOW BELL PEPPER

½ CUP FINELY DICED POBLANO PEPPER

¾ CUP CHOPPED GREEN ONIONS (GREEN PART ONLY)

1 ½ TEASPOONS KOSHER SALT

¾ TEASPOON FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

¼ TEASPOON CAYENNE PEPPER

½ CUP ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR

1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER

2 QUARTS PEANUT OIL, FOR FRYING

3 LARGE EGG WHITES

1 CUP CHIVE AÏOLI, FOR SERVING

Combine the diced shrimp, corn, peppers, and green onions in a large bowl; cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Once chilled, season the shrimp mixture with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, stirring until well seasoned. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the shrimp and vegetables and toss until the vegetables and shrimp are well coated with the flour. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pour the oil into a deep-sided skillet to a depth of 3 inches. (Alternately, a deep fryer can be filled with peanut oil.) Preheat the oil to 350°F.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-third of the whipped egg whites into the shrimp and vegetable mixture. Repeat with the remaining egg whites, making sure the egg whites are incorporated before adding the next third. (At this point, the fritter batter can be used immediately or chilled for up to 2 hours before serving.)

 Carefully drop rounded tablespoon-size scoops of the fritter batter into the preheated oil and fry for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the fritters with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel–lined plate. Season the fritters with additional salt, if needed. Serve the fritters in towel–lined baskets or on platters alongside a small bowl of chive aïoli.

www.hotandhotfishclub.com

New Waterfront Dining Spot in Osprey

6 Jan

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This joint recently opened in nearby Osprey, Florida.

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It’s right on the bayfront — great views!

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The setting for outdoor dining is beachy & comfortable

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Menu changes daily with fish specials, wine offerings, etc.

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Sitting on the dock of the bay — almost!

Can’t wait to give ‘em a try. We have heard good things.

It’s Stone Crab Season in FL

14 Nov

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Stone Crabs are awesome. If you’ve ever visited Joe’s in Miami, you’ll know that they are most often served with a mustard based dipping sauce. The key is to enjoy the crabs while they are fresh. The spoil rather quickly and turn into a mushy, mealy mess. I must say that I have typically been disappointed with stone crabs that have been frozen, so get ‘em while they’re fresh! 

www.joesstonecrab.com

Here’s a recipe from our friends at Saveur magazine.

SERVES 4

Stone crab claws are sold pre-cooked. They’re usually served chilled, which allows the meat to slip free of the shell easily, and also gives it a finer, clearer flavor.

1 cup mayonnaise
1⁄4 cup prepared yellow mustard
1⁄4 cup prepared horseradish
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
32 large stone crab claws, chilled

1. Make the mustard sauce by mixing together mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, hot sauce, and lemon juice in a bowl.

2. Crack shells of crab claws with a hammer or dull side of a cleaver. Serve with mustard sauce & lemon wedges.

 
This recipe was first published in Saveur in Issue #57
 

Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island

9 Nov

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Saturday found us on the road again. This time it was a short day trip to Anna Maria Island, which is due west of Bradenton, FL. Really nice place — and a pretty well kept secret. The island is a little oasis from the hustle and bustle (if you can call it that) of the mainland. The north end of the island, just a short ride from Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach, offers the most laid back, tucked-away vibe.

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Along North Shore Road you can find the Rod and Reel Pier (and restaurant). What a cool joint — right down our proverbial alley. Or should I say pier? Anyhow, the Rod and Reel Pier was not recommended to us … we just kind of stumbled across it while exploring this part of the world. Built in 1947, the Rod and Reel is sort of a combo diner, bar, bait shop, seafood market, motel. How’s that for multi-tasking?

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As you stroll down the long pier towards the main building, you can’t help but notice all the names and messages etched in the pier’s wooden planks. These planks have recently received a face lift. How do I know? Well, the first time I visited I was not quite sure whether I would get to my lunch before cracking a weathered plank and plunging to the Gulf waters below.  

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 The bar and bait shop are downstairs, the grill is upstairs. Great views!

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The day’s special was the Wahoo sandwich with fries and slaw for just $7.95. How could you possibly go wrong with that? It’s a good thing I acted quickly because they promptly erased the marker board and replaced Wahoo with Swordfish. Not that swordfish is a bad thing, but the Wahoo was very fresh without a hint of that kind of fishiness that most diners fear. Really good slaw, fries splashed with Crystal hot sauce, housemade tartar sauce, freshly caught fish on a Kaiser roll — what, I ask, is not to like?  

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We ate outside on the deck looking back towards shore. The kids noticed that the deck was leaning a touch, which we guessed allowed for some drainage after a heavy rain. Or maybe the place is just really old and we’re all about to join the manatees for a swim?  

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This mural of FL palms was seen right above the table where we dined  

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Our vista as we stuffed our faces with Neptune’s bounty 

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Inboards & Outboards? Funny! The kids were left scratching their heads 

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The one story bungalow with Carolina blue shutters is the original fishing resort. Hey, it’s not exactly the Ritz but it gets the job done. A hearty Rod and Reel breakfast in the morning, a couple hours angling on the pier, a fresh catch for lunch, an afternoon out on the water, a few cold ones at the Tiki Bar later that evening, and a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunset. Top that!  

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We’re so lucky to live on the FL coast. Natural beauty simply can’t be avoided.

Dining Around In “Apalach”

1 Nov

The Boss Oyster is a popular waterfront eatery in Apalachicola, Florida

The Oysters Rockefeller (with spinach & parmesan) were really superb 

This cute little boat could be seen from our table at the “Oyster Republic”  

Indian Pass Raw Bar is about 15 minutes west of town – and worth the trip! 

This even dozen on the half shell were the freshest & best of the weekend

I would have devoured these shells too – if they weren’t so darned crunchy 

Hard to argue this claim after our recent experience 

This dude was making it all happen — aww shucks! 

Papa Joe’s is a popular locals hang out on waterfront

Florida’s Forgotten Coast

27 Oct

We just returned from a wonderful weekend along Florida’s panhandle. Our home base was the historic fishing village of Apalachicola. What a great little place — lots of history and character. Also lots of characters! The area is inhabited with very prideful, down to earth folks who are clinging to their time honored ways of life. Development is rapidly encroaching around them, but these residents remain hopeful that their delicate eco-system will not be spoiled. They celebrate the slower pace and older ways of doing things and are fighting hard to protect it all.      

The economy here has always been based on the seafood industry. Apalach oysters and Alligator Point clams are quite famous to foodies everywhere. The area boasts countless seafood markets, oyster houses, bait & tackle shops, and the like. But there are also a growing number of trendy book stores, elegant cafes, and coffee shops. Oh yes — and antique shoppes — everywhere you turn. It certainly appears that the yuppies are coming.

We witnessed a beautiful Saturday sunset on the Apalachicola Bay. There is such a simple charm to watching the sun disappear in the evening … especially when you’re also looking at boats and shorebirds of all kinds. Herons, gulls, pelicans — they’re all here in bountiful numbers. They are no dummies, these feathered friends. If I was a bird (or a cat for that matter), this would make for a pretty nice hangout.

We got a chuckle out of this diver chilling out on a downtown sidewalk. This snapshot was taken just outside the entrance to the Apalachicola Sponge Company. Yes folks, there is a store here that caters to all (well, virtually all) of your sponge needs. The sponges are all-natural and harvested from the surrounding brackish waters. You can pick up a shower sponge and an oval of magnolia-scented goat’s milk soap for about $8. Put a few of these combos on your Christmas list for those loved ones you deem either in need of a good bath or “spongeworthy.” 

Room 309 in the Gibson Inn is said to be haunted by an old sea captain. We learned that he booked that room so he could keep an eye (Get it? Eye??? RRRRRRRRRRR!!!!) on his ship, which was usually docked just a block or so away on the waterfront. The old salt once dated one of the early innkeepers and he’s said to have quite a sense of humor. For example, some guests have sworn that someone was tickling their feet at night. Room #309 is the most asked-for unit in the inn, so make your plans well in advance if you wish to spend a night with this friendly sea-faring ghost.  

The town’s graveyards are shaded by live oaks & creepy hanging moss. We learned that a number of the graveyard’s “residents” were victims of shipwrecks and other ghastly ways to go. Our two sons were a little spooked and didn’t stray too far from us that night. It’s a good thing. Our bed & breakfast (the exquisite Coombs House Inn) was situated directly across Avenue E from the cemetery. OOOOOOO!

We came across this star fish on the secluded beach of St George Island. It was huge and still very much alive. We admired it for a while and then let it slowly move on. The white sand beaches of St. George Island were simply loaded with great shells and all varieties of tiny sea creatures. We spotted horseshoe crabs, slimey sea cucumbers, clams, sponges, coral, olives, sea pansies, cockles, tortoise eggs and scallops. A fellow adventurer even spotted a black bear roaming nearby as we were combing the shores of Alligator Point on Sunday morning. That news sent all of us scurrying for the comfort of Momma’s Ford mini-van. Sorry, I don’t mess with bears or snakes.   

This oyster boat was floating off the deck of The Boss Oyster restaurant. Look for my review of the Boss in the next few days. This trip provided so much great material — it will take me days .. maybe weeks to get it all out. The caption on the side of the boat stated, “Shut Up and Shuck!”

I snapped this sign on the facade of the historic Indian Pass Raw Bar. This is an awesome old place located way, way out in the boonies. You will pass a gazillion (no lie, I counted them) towering pine trees on your drive from beautiful downtown Apalachicola. Grab a cold brew from the cooler and then watch with admiration and awe as a master shucker prepares your heroes on a half shell. This joint is rumored to be haunted as well, so slurp quickly before the house goblins re-develop a taste for these fresh, briney bi-valves.

What’s Next? Long John’s Sushi?

20 Oct

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Yum Brands Inc’s Long John Silver’s on Sunday said it would roll out its first non-fried fish menu items later this month as the restaurant industry responds to consumer calls for healthier food.

The new menu, called Freshside Grille, is lower in fat and calories than the quick-serve seafood chain’s standard fare. Entrees and side dishes will include grilled Pacific salmon, shrimp scampi, mixed vegetables and seasoned rice.

Louisville, Kentucky-based Long John Silver’s will begin introducing the new menu in late October at its U.S. restaurants.

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