Back from Northwest Florida
Just returned from another trip to Northwest Florida.
Haven't been for two years, so I was apprehensive
about returning to one of my fav restaurants anywhere,
Criolla's in Grayton Beach. There has been such a boom
in that area, I was wondering how some of our
mainstays were holding. I shouldn't have worried. The
food was as good as it gets, with a decidedly
Carribean push on this weeks menu. I opted for the 4
course "Y-2K Jamaican" Prix Fixe menu for 45 vacation
bucks. I am a huge fan of Jonny Earle's starters and
these were no exception. First,a crawfish and boniato
accra served over just-fished #1 tuna carpaccio. The
fritter was topped with a creamy cho-cho remoulade,
and the carpaccio finished with ripe mango and vanilla
bean viniagrette. It worked beautifully; shades of
Patria. Second, Blue crab pepperpot soup, an aromatic,
broth with chunks of blue crab and calabaza, shredded
greens and hints of scotch bonnet chilis and allspice.
Third, roasted rack of jerk-spiced lamb with a
plantain samosa ,guava & smoked tomato coulis; green
papaya-mint slaw. I thought the sauce was a little
heavy on the smoke, but every thing else was perfect.
Dessert was a fresh baked banana torte with gingersnap
crust, coconut rum sauce and house-made tamarind ice
cream. Anything banana at Criolla's is a winner. Aside
from the lamb sauce, the only flaw was my hubands'
Mahi Mahi, (over vindaloo crawfish), being overcooked.
There are hundreds of places to go for fried and
broiled seafood, and to get the obligatory fried meal
out of the way, we went to Nick's " The best shrimp on
the beach". I don't know about the best shrimp, but
they certainly had the best onion rings I've ever had;
really crispy, light batter reminiscent of tempura.
The fried gulf shrimp were good, as the Apalachicola
oysters. I'm not a big fan of these warmer water
oysters on the half shell, but they are beauties in
We lucked out and had really good pizza and calzone
(a couple of times), from Angelina's in Seagrove
beach. See y'all later.
Grayton beach is my kind of place. It still retains
some the funky-artsy essence of the area, complete
with many old-timers. I had an opportunity to meet a
couple of Grayton old-timers barside at Pandora's, a
restaurant to get a great oak-grilled steak and
drinks. The ambiance is still reminiscent of a former
self,called something like the Tiki-Room, so the rooms
feel kinda polynesian/steakhouse! Anyway, these gents
suggested we take the time to drive out to
Apalichicola to see what this former sleepy town
looked like before the mass development hit.
Unfortunately, our schedule did not permit. If you are
interested in shopping, there are some boutiques in
Grayton. I can't guide you specifically. Thre's also a
popular bar with music, The Red Bar in Grayton.
Seaside offers a plethora of activities, you should
check their website for the calendar. I don't know
which weekend you are going, but I believe there's a
wine-tasting event the weekend of april 30th, and the
weekend of May 15th offers an architectural house
tour.Speaking of wine tasting, I was happy to see a
wine bar, Fermentations, open at Seaside and they were
holding an Australian tasting the Friday I was there
for 10.00 per person. Seaside also has a nice
bookstore, Sun Dog Books. Also interesting is the
precious charter school recently opened at Seaside. I
met a young lady from Seagrove who attended; 61
students and five teachers. She loves it. I don't
usually eat much at Seaside, I like the restaurants
away better and if we stay there, we cook in much of
the time, but a square of pizza at Spiazzia is usually
a good quickie. Warning!!! Do not eat at the cafe
Bouzouki Kiosk. They were formerly a full service
establishment, but now everything is packaged and pre-
made and nuked. Nuked spanakopita is just nasty.
Seaside frequently has open-air concerts on the
commons, check the
The bartender at Criolla's suggested we try another
new restaurant, Cafe Thirty-A (I think?), we didn't
make it. It's just past Seaside in Seagrove before you
get to Angelina's.
We don't venture much into Destin, but there are some
good restaurants there and stuff for kids to do if you
want that kind of entertainment. We also pick-up fresh
head-on shrimp and other goodies with some Zatarain's
crab boil and do a big shrimp boil in whatever kitchen
we may be inhabiting, that is always the most fun. I
can't recall the name but ther's a good fish market in
Destin just over the bridge, but I've seen others open
closer. Just ask around.
Well, I seem to have covered lots of territory, bit
if you want more specific shopping or kid activities,
e-mail me. Oh yeah, I get a kick out of the local
"Beach TV" (I think channel 12), shows lots of cooking
at local eateries. I hope this is helpful.