by Lori Allen
Its that time of year again! Shopping for the holidays and enjoying some good food and wine! Here are a few places to check out.
Coastal Wine Market & Tasting Room
(Nocatee) 641 Crosswater Parkway b, Nocatee, FL 32081 . (904) 395-3520
So when you open the door to this ornate yet not pretentious, quaint Tasting Room you are greeted right away with warm friendly smiles and hellos. You can see all the wonderful wines displayed and a chalkboard listing all the specials. Because it was the holidays my friends and I decided to go with a little sparkling Rose seeing how it was the special of the evening. It was light and somewhat fruity with lots of bubbles, a perfect pairing for some cheese and crackers. We went with just one cheese, a nice sharp Manchego that was served with toasted bread and herbed Pecans. This set the tone right away with every bite complimenting the sparkling wine. Our next wine was a Pinot Noir and we choose some Coastal Wine Potato Wedges or as others would refer to them as loaded potato skins. They were filled with wild boar, Karst Cave Aged Cheddar and were served with a side of Lemon Chive Aioli for dipping. They were not huge, hence the name “small plates” but they were packed with flavor! You could taste the meatiness of the boar and sharpness of the cheese cooled down with the Aioli. Really good. We also tried the Rustic Stuffed Mushrooms and had to fight over who got the last one! These are filled with Italian cheese and crispy prosciutto and of course a nice tangy cabernet reduction. Swipe those thru the reduction and pop them in your mouth for a bite of rich creamy mushroom flavor with just a tad bit of “zing” from the wine. YUM! Our last bite of flavor was their market meatballs. You can order as many as you want because they are priced per piece. They come with what they call “Homemade Jersey Gravy” which is essentially a wonderful garlicky red sauce that the meatballs are simmered in and then they top it off with some fresh Basil Ricotta Cheese. You can’t stop dipping your meatball in that soft creamy cheese!
The Cellar upstairs at San Sebastian Winery
157 King St, St Augustine, FL 32084. (904) 826-1594.
The cellar upstairs at San Sebastian Winery is another great place to stop by in St. Augustine. Their food menu has grown and they have choices such as a cheese platter, meat and cheese platter, Beef Carpaccio- my favorite which is espresso rubbed shaved beef tenderloin served with a 3 pepper sauce, topped with shaved parmesan. This dish is meaty and savory but yet light because of the thinly shaved beef. It pairs well with a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. Baguettes, pretzels, sandwiches are also on the menu as well as some local craft beers. Live music can be heard most weekend afternoons and Saturday nite from the roof top bar which also boasts of a great view of the city and sunsets.
Cooper's Hawk Winery
& Restaurant 4850 Big Island Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32246. (904) 559-4999.
For a fun place to take a break at while shopping at the town center hit the bar at Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant where there is always something going on. Most evenings they offer wine tastings and sometimes if you are lucky free samples as you walk in the door! There is a full service restaurant but the bar area is lively and offers lots of great deals. They have what they call Dana’s Pineappletini which tastes as good as it sounds, tart and sweet all rolled into one. I like to get the Ahi Tuna Tacos blackened and Seared Rare and then topped with citrus Slaw, Pico de Gallo, Avocado, and Cilantro Wasabi Cream. The blackened tuna is so tender and the cilantro Wasabi cream adds the tang and heat. Flatbreads are on the menu and there are several choices. My favorite is the one with Italian Sausage& whipped Ricotta, Pesto, Mozzarella and grated Parmesan which goes excellent with their house red.
Cheddars Scratch Kitchen.
4954 Town Center Pkwy, Jacksonville, FL 32246
If you are thirsty and need an extra pick me up to continue on shopping at the town center stop on by Cheddars Scratch Kitchen. They have this insanely good watermelon margarita that is served with a huge slice of watermelon, so cool and refreshing. It goes great with their Spicy buffalo Cauliflower bites, just enough heat to go along with the cooling margarita. I love that they have a Spiked Cherry Limeade which brings back some old time memories. If you really want to quench your thirst try their Texas Sweet Tea made with Firefly Sweet Tea vodka, amaretto, lemonade, and more vodka. Limit 2 per guest! So don’t be trying to shop afterwards because who knows what your Visa will say in the morning!?
Palm Valley Outdoors Bar & Grill
377 South Roscoe Blvd Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
When you are done with shopping Palm Valley Outdoors is right under the bridge heading out or coming back from Micklers. Not to be confused with another similar named restaurant (although both are good) this one is more casual and you can rent water sporting equipment from them. They have a large selection of some great wines and crafted drinks but at this place I’m all about the buckets! Anchor Bucket, Treasure Chest and my favorite Totally Crushing it! Stoli Crush Grapefruit, Pineapple, Champagne and more! It goes great with their blackened fish tacos or one of their specials of the month. I was lucky enough to get the lobster special and it was cooked to perfection along with a little Ol’bay seasoned button and beautiful sunset. Definitely a place to go and “chill”.
South Kitchen & Spirits
Ponte Vedra (Nocatee)
150 Pine Lake Drive, Suite A Ponte Vedra
Another good stop before or after the beach is South Kitchen & Spirits. You can have dinner or just a snack and drinks. The menu is seasonal so you never know what inventive and exciting new entrees or snacks will appear. They make everything in house so no matter what you try it’s gonna be good. I love their crispy chicken legs with molasses buffalo wing sauce. Sweet and heat can’t be beat! And of course their homemade blue cheese cools everything off. This goes great with a drink called the Ice Pick which is Citrus Vodka, Double Strength Tea, Lemonade served in their Mason jars. It kind of reminds you of the Long Island tea but Southern style. They also have plenty of good wine choices and serve half bottles of wine which you don’t see often. Their Happy hour is every day! And you get half off any drink (no matter what it is) and half of appetizes as well served in the bar or out on the Patio. Now that that weather is cooling off this is a great deal and a fun way to relieve the shopping stress!
Carrera Wine Cellar
35 San Marco Ave.St. Augustine
If you are heading down to Saint Augustine to find that unique gift and need a break give Carrera Wine Cellar a try. They are close to all the antique shops on San Marco so they are great spot to take in a nice glass of wine and figure out your next stop. There is a small outdoors area as well which is nice when the weather is good. They have an extensive choice of wines as well as a small snack menu. I love that they offer all kinds of fun classes and events throughout the months but what is really cool is their Enomatic. It is apparently America’s favorite Wine Sampling Machine which is a fun and interactive way to taste a variety of wines, so give it a try!
While you are in the Nocatee area don’t forget to stop by Coastal Wine Market and Tasting room. You can pick up that last minute gift (who doesn’t like a nice bottle of wine or a basket) and have a glass for yourself while you are there.
Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays!
630-14 Atlantic Boulevard
Neptune Beach Florida
So I ventured out of our 210 area to see what all the rave was about down at Atlantic Beach. That’s right, a new place in town that boasts of the best lobster rolls. So you know this New England Girl had to give them a try! Cousins Maine Lobster food truck has set up a permanent shop (and Yes these are the people that won on Shark tank!). Their menu consists of several New England favorites but I got right to the point…Lobster.
They have the Maine – with mayo and the Connecticut - with butter so of course I had to give both of them a try! The Maine- is not overpowering with mayo it is just lightly tossed in it which makes the lobster taste cool and creamy. The Connecticut- is not dressed with anything that I could taste but possibly lightly poached in butter. This roll is served with melted butter for either pouring over or dipping in so the lobster is warm and buttery. Both of these lobster rolls are served in butter toasted New England style hotdog roll. This roll is a must for us New Englanders. It is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle which makes it a perfect vessel to hold the succulent tender lobster. These rolls had nice large chunks of tender lobster meat that were perfectly cooked, fresh tasting and full of flavor. I did indulge and got the “extra meat” on the Connecticut and it was worth every bite! I have tried a few lobster rolls around town (but not all, I’m working on it) and so far this one most replicates the Lobster rolls that I’m familiar with from the North. Nothing overly fru fru just down to the lobster and the roll.
I also had to try their whole belly clams. I understand that these are an acquired taste because you are eating the entire clam, belly and all not just cut up strips. These were definitely some of the best I’ve had in Florida. They had the light flour batter (not the cornmeal that they use in the south) and were cooked to a golden brown, so crispy and briny, a true taste of the sea. Served with a house made tartar ("tada") sauce you really did feel like you were at a clam shop in Cape Cod.
My friends gave the Lobster tots a try so of course my wandering fork made it over to their plate. These tots were amazingly crunchy with all the stuff they had piled on top of them. From the Pico de gallo (tomatoes and onions) to the cilantro lime sauce and of course the tender lobster meat one forkful of these and your mouth just had a flavor explosion. So if you are tater tot fan these are definitely worth a try. My friends were also a huge fan of the lobster bisque. So creamy with a hint of Sherry and tons of lobster flavor!
For the sweet tooth in y’all give the whoopee pie a try. I grew up on this chocolate cake-like cream stuffed delightful treat. It’s not too sweet but the perfect bite after your lobster meal.
I see that I may need to go back to try their Haddock (not often found here in the south), Lobster grilled cheese and possibly their Lobster tail and tots. And of course another Lobster roll..or two. So if anyone is heading that way, give me a shout so I can tag along! YUM!
by Lori Allen, Local Foodie
150 Pine Lake Drive Suite A,
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32081
Chef Driven Southern Food Done Right!” Ted Sumner Chef de Cuisine
I don’t know about you but I’ve been looking for a fun brunch place that is close by and has great food. Well I think I found it at South Kitchen! They are not a buffet type of brunch place but they offer so many choices for breakfast and lunch (brunch) that you don’t even miss the buffet. The cool thing is that they do offer their unlimited Mimosas, Poinsettias (champagne and cranberry juice) and Bloody Mary’s that are often seen at those brunch buffets. But the difference is at South Kitchen you don’t have to choose just one…you can mix and match! Have one of each or more! Their Bloody Mary is a homemade mix which is full of spices along with a smoky flavor that I thought went nicely with one of their breakfast bowls. The one I chose was filled with creamy smoked Gouda grits topped off with some really tender pulled pork and once I stirred them all together the two flavors had a creamy cheesy meaty goodness. Add the spicy sausage gravy and top it all off with a sunny side up egg that just oozed out the rich yoke, your taste buds are in for a real treat! Along with the Smoky spicy Bloody Mary now that is some serious brunch food at its best!
Well you know I can’t order just one thing, so to start off the meal I decided to go with a southern tradition of fried oysters. These oysters are buttermilk soaked along with Sambal which I found out is a hot sauce made from a mixture of chili peppers, garlic, shallots, scallions, lime juice, rice vinegar and can be combined with several other ingredients to make this sauce unique. (Sambal is native to the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Brunei and Singapore.)
It gave the oysters a nice what I like to call “back heat” you can taste the heat after you have eaten the food not before. They also came with some made-to-order coleslaw that had Napa cabbage tossed in a homemade Greek yogurt ranch which was tangy and cooled off some of the heat from the Sambal. Then there was this cocktail sauce for dipping. The cocktail sauce itself is worth mentioning. This sauce comes from homemade ketchup (yes none of that store bought stuff for them) along with other spices but what is interesting is that the recipe came from an 1803 cookbook from the White Star liner Titanic, so it is no joke. The mixture of sweetness from the homemade ketchup, spicy from the horseradish and tang from the other ingredients makes it all that more special. I could just eat it alone on a cracker and be happy!
My friends (you know I like to eat in numbers so I can taste everything) totally enjoyed their biscuits and gravy scramble as well as bacon egg and cheese benedicts. Along with Mimosas and Poinsettias of course! The menu has many choices to choose from savory to sweet. So if you are looking for fun place to have brunch on BOTH Saturday and Sunday (which is awesome) South Kitchen is your place to be!
by Lori Allen
Memphis Jax BBQ
Shoppes of St Johns
10870 US1, Ponte Vedra FL 32081
Prime Rib dinner at a BBQ place…Say What?? Yup it’s true and I got to try it out for myself and it was Delicious! I personally like all my red meat rare as rare can be. I know I know a lot of people are like “How can you even eat that??” So I thought how are they going to make my prime rib rare in a smoker? It was not rare but was served medium rare (which still shocked me because I thought all meat was well done when smoked.. Who knew? ) But the flavor was just smoky enough that made you feel like you are at a BBQ place but not so smoky that it overpowered the juicy, fatty Prime Rib beef flavor. I was not the least bit disappointed that it wasn’t rare. I think it had something to do with the way it was smoked that made medium rare work out perfectly. The beef also came with a side of Au Jus for dipping along with some really rich and creamy (a little bit hot from the horseradish) sauce…it really was the Perfect Bite!
So besides the smoky delicious prime rib I tried their creamed peas (kind of reminded me of a place on beach blvd if you know what I mean) which were sweet and creamy just like you want them. I also had to try their deviled Eggs...that’s right deviled eggs…I have not seen deviled eggs on many menus before (at Easter dinner, yes, at a restaurant not so much)so I thought it was a pretty cool side dish to try out. They had the mixture down pat! It had just the right amount of mayo, mustard and pickle to balance out the creamy egg yolk. I plopped it in my mouth for a creamy tangy eggy bite. So good.
We decided to try one of their appetizers because it intrigued me. It was a Memphis sausage and cheese plate. I thought that it was interesting that they have a Charcuterie Tray at a barbecue joint. So this tray came with some smokes sausage with just the right amount of spice to give it a little heat, pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese, and some nice sour dill pickles all of which went perfect with a nice cold beer! What a great way to start a meal.
So knowing me you know I had brought some friends along to give it a try as well along with my never ending wondering fork so that I can taste too! The combo plate was ordered and boy was it a combo! You can choose from ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork sausage, turkey or even fried catfish! My friend opted for the ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. The ribs have this great rub on them, kinda sweet, salty and peppery that gives the ribs a lot of flavor in every bite. My son even had them for the kid’s meal and even though there were plenty of them he ate every finger licking rib! But based on our opinion we think that that the beef brisket was the star. It was served up differently than most barbeque places, sliced instead of chopped up. This made you feel like you were having some sort of steak but once you cut into the tender smoked meat you knew it was darn good beef brisket. Serving it this way to us seemed to dry out the meat less which was a win win situation. Being the friendly sort that we are one of us went and complimented the chef. Well the owner Kyle came out and gave us a bit of history of the place and even shared that he worked on this brisket for weeks to get it to perfection. Well it was well worth it! So tender meaty and full of flavor!
Last but certainly not the least was the pulled pork. We laughed about how to describe this because it was so juicy and light and there were other descriptive words I won’t mention said but it was just hard to find the perfect words to describe it. Light seemed like a funny adjective to give to pork, but that’s exactly what it was. Thinly sliced, smoky juiciness and so when you douse it in some of their Memphis Barbecue sauce, stuffed it in your mouth… you are like where did it go? You got the nice pork flavor with a little bit of fattiness to it along with the tang of vinegar based barbecue sauce. Yum!
Here is a little fun fact about Memphis barbecue vs traditional or what commonly referred to as Kansas City style barbecue…
Memphis barbecue is distinguishably different from Kansas City style barbecue. When preparing or eating Memphis style barbecue the first thing you will notice is that the sauce isn’t as sweet as Kansas City style sauce and actually may have a bit more “spiciness” to it. The other thing you’ll notice is that your ribs don’t have any sauce on them at all and the sauce is on the side. That’s because Memphis style barbecue focuses on barbecuing the meat dry – only with a spice rub that is done before cooking the meat. A Memphis style barbecue rub usually has far less sugar than a Kansas City style sauce or rub. The sauce, which is usually served on the side for dipping or pouring onto meat, is generally thinner than a Kansas City style sauce and typically is tangier and spicier than a Kansas City style sauce. But the sauce is more than a just a condiment and provides a good compliment to all of the meats!
So go see Kyle and Katy and check out their Memphis barbecue. I am sure you will enjoy every bite!
by Lori Allen, Local Foodie
152 Capital Green #18
Ponte Vedra, FL
So if you are anything like me after being out in the fresh beach air with all the sand and salt I am craving some seafood and looking for someplace casual. Well I found a place for you that is close to the beach, quick, casual and good! Timoti’s Seafood Shak has opened their 3rd location right down the street in Nocatee. The atmosphere is bright, clean and family friendly. With their community high top tables, a fenced in wooden playground so the kids can play, it’s a perfect spot to enjoy a nice cold beverage and fresh seafood. This is a counter service type of restaurant and serves most of its foods in baskets and throw away containers so it makes it nice and easy.
I gave the New England Style clam chowder a try for a start which was I found to be nice and rich and creamy. I had to give the Lobster rolls a try being from New England after all. These were what us New Englanders refer to as finger rolls, soft buttered and grilled then filled with a rich lobster salad made with lobster, celery and just the right amount of mayo. The cool thing is that these come in twos so they are good for sharing unless of course you want to try one of their great sides and a make it a meal! For my main course I went for the traditional Fried Shrimp basket which had a good amount of plump flavorful shrimp along with crispy fries and really creamy coleslaw. I loved the coleslaw because it reminded me of home because it had some kind of seeds in there. Maybe celery, maybe poppy not sure but it tasted really fresh and good!
My son decided to step out of the box (pun intended) and order one of their rice boxes. The one he chose had coconut rice, avocado, greens, Pico fresco (seasoned tomatoes, onions, etc.) black sesame seed and T’s Poke Sauce. He had a choice of shrimp, fish chicken or tofu, he went with the fish. All of the flavors combined in the box were light and fresh and the Pico and poke sauce (made up of soy sauce and other spices) added just the right amount of seasoning. So if you are looking for something a little lighter this is the way to go.
The owners at Timoti’s believe that “Local food makes stronger communities” and that they strive to use local seafood whenever they can. And they say that wild-caught seafood is better for our oceans so that’s a good thing! They also like to play it a little risky when it comes to different flavor combinations so it makes the food interesting and something new to try.
So when you are headed home from the beach or looking for a quick bite and are ready for some fresh local seafood give them a try!
by Lori Allen
There are so many wines and some craft beers to choose from and the staff is so helpful, knowledgeable and super friendly so don’t hesitate to ask. They encourage you to tell them what you are looking for or want to try. I am sure that they will be able to find a great wine for any palate. They also have this incredible charcuterie (Cheese/meat boards) to pair with those wines. There are so many different varieties to choose from…goat cheese, soft blue, aged cheddar, spicy Edam to name a few. Then you can add ham, pepperoni, dry salami, even Texas wild boar, along with some seasoned nuts and unusual crackers and maybe even a spread of jam. You won’t be disappointed. And the coolest thing is that they offer these boards TO-GO which comes in a handy portable box so you can take that short drive down to the ocean plop yourself down on a towel with your box of treasures and enjoy a beautiful sunset! Ahhhhh the Florida life!
by Lori Allen
St. Johns Mag
Assorted guest bloggers and foodies looking for the Perfect Bite