by Lori Allen, Local Foodie
At Milagro on 12
33 Charlotte Street
Odd birds you say? Odd Birds was a Pop up Bar located at 33 Charlotte Street, but has put down its roots and is here to stay. The concept of the Odd Birds bar originated during the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine celebration when the owners created a craft cocktail bar where the rule is oddness.
I have been watching this unique craft bar blossom. You probably have walked right passed it a thousand times. But if you dared to open the door you would see this quaint little patio which leads to the bar where all the magic happens. It epitomizes the hole in the wall concept along with a friendly casual vibe.
I had heard that you just need to let the spirits designer (bartender just doesn't describe the magic these guys create) talk to you for a bit and bam! He’s creating a masterpiece for your senses. So, my not so shy self… discussed with this spirit designer all my likes and dislikes and he concocted this really cool blue drink in a juice box! It wasn’t too fruity nor too sweet, it had a little tang to it (anyone that knows me knows I like my lime!) with just the right amount of all their natural syrups and juices to make it oh so good. Back off kids, this is not your average juice box!
For my next visit I started off with one of their craft cocktails on their menu. A Ganario which is made up of rum, ginger, turmeric, lemon, simply syrup and bitters. It was light and refreshing. As I enjoyed my beverage I chatted with Scott ,the spirits designer, about all the craft cocktails and how cool it is that people are coming up with such unique cocktails. He shared with me a little secret about craft bartenders and said if you are fellow craft bartender (spirit designer) you offer them a shot of Fernet to welcome them. So of course he was kind to offer me some seeing how I was talking his ear off. This was such unique liquor that it’s entirely too hard to describe. The best I can do is Yager meets something earthy meets something medicinal. It goes down smooth and leaves this weird aftertaste. I noticed that they had several drinks made with this liquor so if you are willing, give it a try!
I ended my evening with their most popular drink, the Old Fashion. I had to laugh thinking that this drink has been around for decades. Of course Odd Birds put their spin on it with the perfect glass, cool square ice cube (so not to water it down) and just a splash of this and that to make it interesting and new again. If you are an odd bird like myself, give this place a try! Its kooky and fun!
by Lori Allen
525 State Road 16, Unit 101
Saint Augustine, Florida
So the 210Tasting Group was out and about again searching for fun unique places that put a “twist” on food and we found The Press! I had heard about their award winning burger and wanted to give it a try so we packed up and headed down to the corner of a small plaza on State Rd 16. As you walked in the aromas from the grill and the friendly smiles at the bar made you feel instantly comfortable. They have a great selection of specially selected wines and hand-crafted beer so we all grabbed a drink as we waited for our table to be ready. So you get the idea, this is not a huge place but one that smells and feels very inviting.
On to their award winning “best of” burger called The Conquistador! The description reads, "a datil pepper stuffed burger topped with bacon, chorizo, manchego, onion straws, lettuce tomato raw onion, pickles and chimichurri, all on our house made bread". So to break it down; it was a fresh made to order patty stuffed with a cream cheese and datil pepper(medium spice) mixture in the center; a Spanish, not too strong, melted cheese on top; then chopped up bacon and sausage on top of that, crisp onion straws that give a little crunch but get soft when mixed with all the cheese and creaminess that add just enough onion flavor but not too harsh; some fresh veggies on top of that to lighten it up (yeah right??); some of their homemade bread and butter pickles, then homemade chimichurri sauce consisting of parsley, garlic and vinegar, among other things, which does give it a brightness from all the rich flavors. And finally it’s all stuffed into their house made bun. It is for sure more than a mouthful but I attempted to taste all of the flavors at once and it was definitely an award winning bite!
Our group tried the Datil Burger which was a made to order patty stuffed with that creamy somewhat spicy datil pepper and scallion cream cheese served on their house made bun, so if you want to try a stuffed burger that oozes out some spicy cream cheese give this a try!
A chicken sandwich was also given a shot, but it was not your ordinary bird. Pollo Rustica was its name. Blackened chicken breast, with goat cheese, roasted peppers, and balsamic onions (yes they took the onions and marinated them til they were soft from the balsamic vinegar) then topped with their house basil dressing and of course served on the bun!
One of our adventurous girls opted to try their nightly special - Mahi Mahi Francaise with a lemon, mushroom garlic and white wine butter sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, flaky and tender and not overly battered. The garlic lemon, wine and butter sauce added a nice zing to the fish which kept you coming back for more.
We read about their house brined fried pickles so an appetizer was ordered to share. They were the bread and butter kind not dill so they had a sweet saltiness which was so good. They came with a horseradish mustard dipping sauce that brought out even more flavor.
I know I keep talking about their bread and there is a reason. House made buns that do not get used that day are used to create this amazing white chocolate bread pudding. They serve it topped with whipped cream and a caramel sauce. It’s not the heavy kind of bread pudding you are used to, this is light and fluffy and went so fast at our table I almost didn’t get to try a bite! Luckily my wandering fork (or should I say spoon) found the last spoonful. It was the perfect bite after such a world of flavorful food!
Off The Beaten Trail
19 St George St, St. Augustine, FL 32084
by Lori Allen
I love finding off the beaten trail hidden away restaurants. Whats even more of a find is one that has been refurbished revamped and has come alive again. Milltop Tavern is just that restaurant. If you blink an eye you will pass its entrance which is right off of St. George Street in St. Augustine. Upon entering you will find a cool bar area, a place for a band and seating overlooking several courtyards. You can enjoy drinking, dining and dancing al fresco! A group of us girls tried several of their specialty drinks, the Pick me up was just that! Made with Baileys, Amaretto, half n half, coffee and all topped with whipped cream. So cool and creamy it gave you that “pick me up” to continue going the rest of the day. The other favorite was the Purple Lollipop, made with grape vodka, grenadine, blue curacao and lemonade and came with a purple sucker. So refreshing and so fun! The food has been revamped as well. The peel and eat shrimp was plump and juicy. The pretzel bites were tossed in just enough garlic and parmesan that kept you reaching for more. We were just snacking that day but my mom and I went back for dinner to give the fried shrimp a try. It had a nice light seasoned floured batter and tasted very fresh. I opted for the potato salad instead of fries and it had just the right amount of mayo, not too overpowering that you couldn’t taste the potatoes. Yum! They had a limited menu during spring break but they will have their full menu up and running in April. So if you are in the mood for some great drinks, fun, food and entertainment and want to take a break from all of the hubbub downstairs…search for the Milltop sign and head on up!
Fun facts: The Milltop was originally a gristmill, built in the 1880s. It first became a bar in the 1950s. The building was expanded in the 1970s and became known as Milltop Tavern and Listening Room. They were well known for their live music, the unique treehouse feel, and wonderful location on St. George Street. In 2016, this building required a complete renovation. Because of the historic site, the city of Saint Augustine performed an archaeological dig, and unearthed interesting items like pottery shards, a well, and even a two foot diameter gopher tortoise shell! After Hurricanes Matthew and Irma they are finally rebuilt. They were even able to salvage their Pecky Cypress paneling and reused it on the stage and bar!
by Lori Allen, Local Foodie
Here we are, out and about again and have traveled over to the Mandarin area in search of some fun food finds. Season’s Dumpling and Bakery did not disappoint. It is located in a small older shopping plaza on Old St Augustine Rd but it is relatively new and you can see at first site when entering that everything is bright, clean and modern. What first catches your eye is the dumpling making in progress right as you walk in! The kitchen is all clear glass which enables you to watch your meal making in progress. I thought it would be fun to add a twist on the Perfect Bite Foodie Blog and so the 210 Tasting Group evolved. This is a group of friends that like to eat and try new things as much as I do and give me their opinions as well. Now I get to taste even more dishes and see what other places others have found to try! This was our first adventure.
So, we all got seated and were excited to try a multitude of different things. Each girl ordered their favorite and we all shared with the group. It was a great way for everyone to try something that they may not normally try and at this place there were definitely things that I personally have not tried before!
Seeing how we are at a dumpling restaurant, the dumplings are a must of course. There were many variations to try from. So to start we ordered what they call the soup dumpling (XIAO LONG BAO). This comes in one of those metal steamer type pans and is served piping hot. So don’t be an amateur like I was and try to put one in your mouth as soon as they come out because they are hot! hot! hot!, as in heat not taste. So let them cool down just a bit before digging in. The dumpling is made out of soft wonton like dough, and there is a rich broth in there and then you have some ground pork mixed with their seasonings such as soy sauce, rice wine, cilantro, just to name a few. You just need to surrender to the aromatic symphony of the filling tickling your senses. Ok, now go ahead, slowly bite into it. An explosion of rich, steaming, hot juice oozes into the groove of your tongue, dribbling down the side of your chin, and you try to catch any escaping broth with your spoon. No, don’t just stop at one! The looks on the girls faces was priceless as they ate these. It was first curiosity then delight and then a little laugh as they wiped their chin and dug in for a second one.
On as side note, if you are curious like me…. Inside the dumpling are little pockets of gelatinized broth made from chicken, pork and cured ham. When you steam the dumpling, the broth gelatin melts which of course creates the delicious broth. Voila! Xiaolongbao, or literally, "little basket bun", is thought to have originated in Shanghai. Legend has it that its inventor was a man named Huang Mingxian, a restaurateur in Shanghai.
We also tried some of pan fried and boiled dumplings that were different than the soups ones. They did not come filled with any liquid and were created more like a pot sticker. We had some filled with pork and cabbage and beef and mushroom. Both of them had a mild seasoned meat and noodle that tasted great when dipped into some sesame oil the flavor popped. We liked the pan fried ones the best though because they came with a spicy peanut sauce over them that gave them a little extra punch.
We moved on to the buns, or Guabao. It is a flat, clam-shaped steamed white bun with soy sauce braised pork belly, pickled mustard vegetables, peanut powder, sugar, and cilantro inside. When you first bite into it you get the taste of the richness of the pork belly and the soft bun, then your taste buds move on to the brininess of the vegetables and the sweetness of the peanut powder. It’s a pretty interesting combination and works really well together.
Our favorite shareable by far was the stuffed chive pies. It took me a second to figure these out but I didn’t mind because they tasted so good! The chive that they use is much different than what we would consider a chive. The Japanese chives are big leafy greens and aren’t as bitter as our chives. They have a fresh herb taste which is tossed in some of their special spices, stuffed into some fresh wonton dough and deep fried. They kind of look like a little tart. Each mouthful is filled with the fresh herbs and seasonings and then the crunch of the wonton. Really good. We also love the Fived Spice fried Calamari. It comes tossed in a seasoned beer battered mixture then flash fried. The breading is a light and the calamari sweet and tender. They are prepared with a lot of seasoning on them so you may want to add a little duck sauce for dipping.
Veggie stir fry was the next on the menu. This is seasonal so for our dinner we got a plate of steaming baby bok choy that has been seasoned to perfection. I am not sure what their method is for adding flavor but it allows the fresh veggies to shine. This would make any vegetarian satisfied.
Even with all our appetizers and shareables we did manage to order one bowl and I was so glad we did! It was called 3 cups chicken. It was a stir fry of chicken, scallions and fresh basil. It was a bit spicy but I loved it. The chicken was coated so it held in all the different spices that they use, you could taste the sesame oil, soy sauce and some other Taiwanese spices. If I had to guess they spiced it up by using the red chili peppers that Taiwanese are famous for. When you go you will notice that there is no salt or pepper on the tables, but chili oils, sesame oils, and soy sauce to flavor and salt your dishes.
Nosey me went around and checked out several other tables and the aromas that came from all the different bowls smelled so wonderful I thought I’ll need to come back and try a rice or noodle bowl next time!
So a pleasant treat is that they have a bakery attached to their restaurant. This is so worth trying out if you want to try some authentic Japanese inspired Taiwanese-style milk toasts and buns. They only use high gluten flour to infuse protein and great texture in each loaf. Because their recipes only contain fresh ingredients it allows you to enjoy the flavor without the overpowering sense of sweetness. They use a process known as Poolish or Biga and due to their strict policies of never using chemicals or preservatives they are able to use this process to rise the dough for sixteen hours, four consecutive times, so the bread can slowly and naturally flourish. This gives the bread an incredible lightness and the soft texture and tastiness that will leave you wanting more.
Here are a few comments from The 210 Tasting group:
I loved the unique delicious flavors and extremely friendly staff, and the company of course.- Debbie G
I enjoyed trying so many different items at one time! My favorites were the soup dumplings, veggie stir fry and the stuffed chive pies!- Pat
This food was out of my comfort zone and I was pleasantly surprised with the flavors and taste. I really enjoyed the soup balls and the pork slider.- Trish
Having the opportunity to eat freshly prepared authentic Chinese cuisine is in itself a treat but nothing compares to the burst of heaven you get when you order their soup dumplings. Yum Yum!- Ali
One last thing I found very cool…they offer Dumpling classes! So you can go back and learn how to make those tasty treats all for yourself!
Just a few of our best
by Lori Allen, Local Food Blogger
Even though we may not have those freezing cold temperatures and blistery snowy we days here in Florida we still do enjoy a good cup of coffee! So I have visited a few places and thought that I would share some of them with you. I have noticed that more and more coffee houses seem to be popping up all over the place. They are also becoming more popular with the young teenager which is a great way for them to socialize in a safe environment and they really do know their coffee!
Twisted Compass Brewing Co. 585 State Road 13, Suite 101, Fruit Cove, Florida (904) 217-0916
One that has recently opened is called the Twisted Compass Brewing Co. It is located right down the street on San Jose Blvd. It is run by some fellow neighbors who have full time jobs but decided to open up a coffee house just for fun! Lucky for us they did study up and become quite knowledgeable about what it takes to make a good cup of coffee. Their beans come from Bold Bean Coffee and if anyone has been to one of their coffee houses you know it’s the “good stuff”. So many of their coffee drinks are based on how many beans are used and how much of that is diluted with either cream, or the various types of milk, soy, almond, coconut and even oat. They have really unique choices for their coffee, anywhere from twisted drip (their brewed coffee with a shot of expresso) to their Cortado which I had to give a try. A Cortado is a Spanish term for a beverage that is made up of espresso mixed with a roughly equal amount of warm milk to reduce the acidity. The milk in a cortado is steamed, but not frothy like many Italian coffee drinks. (The word cortado is part of the Spanish verb cortar (to cut), in the sense of "dilute") I had never heard of Oat milk before so I decided to go with that. My coffee was very smooth, had a somewhat nutty flavor and was served with a glass of seltzer to cleanse your palate as you drank. When you sipped your seltzer then drank the cortado you really got that rich deep flavor of the coffee and it had a natural sweetness to it so that I didn’t even need to add any sweetener. Now this type of coffee is not for everyone, but more for someone that loves expresso but wants to try something a little out of the box. I think you will really like the bold flavor along with the natural sweetness and just enough cream to make it oh so smooth. They do offer cappuccinos and lattes that are equally as delicious so of course I had to try a latte which is frothy and opted for the coconut milk. The frothy milk added just the right sweetness and it was prepared so expertly I really do think that you could compare it to any made in Italy. Twisted compass has plenty of seating and even a cute little sitting area. Some come in from the cold (haha) and relax with a nice cup of Jo!
Crucial Coffee, 26 Charlotte Street, St. Augustine, 32084, (904) 810-2080
Being a Flaglerite I have enjoyed Crucial Coffee for many years. I always bring my out of town guests here to have a well-deserved specialty coffee after shopping up and down St. George Street. It doesn’t look like much more than a Shed but what the visitors don’t know is that these handcrafted coffees are so worth the wait. My favorites are always their specials of the day. I had one called the Milky Way and it was rich dark and creamy. It still tasted like coffee but then you get an added flavor of rich chocolate which sweetens it up then drizzled with caramel and whipped cream. I mean nothing “skinny” about this one but so worth every deep rich sip and for sure gives you that added “boost” to continue shopping in all the quaint shops! The barista can customize the perfect cup of coffee for whatever you want from something peanut buttery to just good old plain coffee. They also specialize in all types of shakes and smoothies too. I like to take a few minutes and rest my weary bones in their cute little garden and watch all the wandering travelers.
St. Augustine Coffee house, 6 St. George Street.,Suite 107 Saint Augustine, Fl 32084 (904) 819-1644
So I was surfing my FB page when I came across this little place that someone had “checked in” and mentioned frozen coffees, not iced, but frozen. So after a little Bridge of Lions 5k I did with a friend we decided we had earned a “frozen coffee’ and thought we would give this place a try. We were not disappointed. The shop is tucked away off the beaten path of St. George Street towards the end in a cute little courtyard. Their coffee beans are locally roasted by Martin Coffee Company a family owned and operated establishment. They have been called “the home of really big Chocolatey muffins and Frozen Caramel Peanut butter Mochas” but because I don’t like peanut butter with chocolate (I know, non-American if you don’t like that flavor combo) I opted to change it to hazelnut. So they mixed up the coffee with some real cream and then hazelnut flavor and blended it all up until it was smooth. The coffee mixture was creamy sweet and cold, I guess you could almost call it a coffee smoothie. The cool thing about this drink is that the ice doesn’t melt down the coffee flavor so you get you coffee fix as well as something cool to drink. This coffee house unlike others offers local beer and wine as well. They make some great sangria and mimosas. So after you get your coffee fix you can start on a mimosa…or two. Enjoy!
Nationally recognized, locally owned St. Augustine Distillery launches new bourbons and gift sets for the holidays
St. Augustine, Fla. – November 8, 2018 – St. Augustine Distillery, recently voted 2018 Best Whiskey Tour in North America, will launch the world’s first barrel-finished old fashioned bourbon, The Saint, on Friday, November 23. The Saint is a 114.4 proof, old fashioned finished bourbon. The release is limited with only two barrels and priced at $199 in a decorative 750 ml bottle.
Unfiltered and barrel strength, The Saint is created by taking three-year old stocks of bourbon and finishing the spirit in barrels which produced the distillery’s signature Old Fashioned Mix.
“This unique combination creates a barrel strength bourbon that drinks like a 90 proof and tastes like it’s 10 years old,” said CEO and co-founder Philip McDaniel. “We made only two barrels in this first release. 30 percent of the product has already been pre-ordered by our bourbon club members and we expect the remaining bottles to sell out quickly.”
The company’s first holiday gift pack, Old Fashioned Kit, will be available on Friday, November 30. The set includes a 750ml Double Cask Bourbon (93.8 proof), with one engraved 10 oz. rocks glass, two sample bottles of the distillery’s Old-Fashioned Mix, and is priced at $60.
The following week, on Friday, December 7, the distillery will release its new flagship bourbon, Florida Straight Bourbon. The bourbon is aged for a minimum of three years in 53-gallon new oak barrels and is 88 proof. The bourbon will be priced at $50.
St. Augustine Distillery is operation seven days a week with gift shop and tours open from 10am to 6pm. Free tours and tastings every half hour. Follow on Instagram @StAugustineDistillery and Facebook @StAugustineDistilleryCompany. For more information, call 904-825-4962 or visit www.staugustinedistillery.com.
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!
St. Johns Mag
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