Savoring a food tour in Florida’s Flagler County
November 16, 2015 - accent chair
As a parochial Southerner, we imagination myself a boiled steep and biscuits kind of girl. My nation roots foreordain that we indulge in anything fried, smothered and covered, or slimy, like okra and boiled peanuts.
So, then, when friends invited me to Palm Coast, on Florida’s Atlantic coast, for a tumble getaway, we leaped during a event to barter out all those Southern vittles for a freshest of seafood. My coastal culinary journey, with plates heaped with shrimp, scallops, grouper, and lobster, was about to begin. But first, a logistics to get a clarity of place.
Palm Coast, a friendly beachside community, is in a heart of Flagler County, named for oilman, tyrannise developer, hotelier and all-around aristocrat Henry Flagler. A apportionment of ancestral Highway A1A, a aged scenic track that runs a whole Atlantic seashore of Florida from Key West to Fernandina Beach, slices true by a county, with Flagler Beach on a southern corner and Marineland – yes, it’s indeed a town, race 16 or so, not including dolphins – on a northern fringes.
Flagler County’s 19 miles of beachfront, in places a silt a tighten reproduction of cinnamon in both tone and texture, are underdeveloped and uncrowded and a ideal place to watch for dolphins, Northern right whales and sea turtles.
Or to eat a boatload of shrimp.
After settling in during Hammock Beach Resort, one of those oceanfront condolike hotels for that Florida is famous, off we go in hunt of seafood, armed with a flare in one palm and a crater of melted butter in a other. Turns out, we couldn’t devise a some-more elegant start to a Flagler food debate than a Restaurant 386, A Fusion of Fine Eating.
The impulse we’re seated, a really Italian and utterly charcterised owners Frank DeMaio charges out to a table. “Everything here is done from scratch,” he proclaims in a complicated Jersey-Italian accent as we peruse a menu. “Everything!” When we couldn’t select between a just-caught fish of a day, that was trout, or scallops, Frank stairs in. “Let me select for you,” he booms. “It will be a surprise.”
As we wait for my warn and a other orders, Frank brings out a delicious wheat bread so uninformed from a oven it was still steaming. He also selects for a appetiser a Hammock Flatbread piled with char-grilled, cooking steep and slathered with caramelized onion, pears, spinach and a gorgonzola fondue. Oh, my. Call it a feast before a feast.
Despite a swarming restaurant, a orders came quickly, and we am gay that Frank comparison a scallops. In all honesty, they are celestial and among a best I’ve ever had. They are honeyed and plump, pan-seared to a somewhat crunchy membrane and afterwards served over prosciutto risotto with a balsamic reduction. But that is usually a beginning. After a subsequent morning’s debate of Princess Place, a scenic 1,500-acre inlet safety that is best famous as a one-time winter getaway and competition shelter for Henry Cutting, a diver from New England, off we go to lunch during High Tides during Snack Jacks.
Snack Jacks, as many locals call it, is in Flagler Beach and one of those classical 1950s-style surf-in, surf-out, flip-flops-are-fine seafood shacks right on a beach. The must-try in a sea of must-tries is a smoked fish dip, a smoky, tainted mixture churned to a fibre of pate, and a sharp peel-your-own shrimp that tasted unbelievably good with a backdrop of sea waves serenading a meal.
Just down A1A from Snack Jacks we stop in during Beach House Beanery, where we sip coffee before renting one of their golf carts to try Flagler Beach. After removing despotic orders to stay off bustling A1A lest we get mowed down by speeding Yankees streamer south for a winter, we apparatus around and check out all a shops, among them Toes in a Sand, a quirky, fun Parrothead’s bliss that sells all from flip-flops to ukuleles.
Later that afternoon we find Old World Europe on a seashore of Florida in a form of a epicurean booze and cheese shop. Stepping inside Hammock Wine and Cheese in Palm Coast, a organisation of gal pals meets Derek Vidal, a owners of a shop.
He hand-selects a abounding Vina Maipo cabernet sauvignon and afterwards delicately cuts large slices of a onion and chive Cotswold from England and fume rambol, a hickory smoked cheese from Belgium. Other cheeses throng a plate, too, though we most warp over a Irish Porter, a mature cheddar with a mosaic settlement that is as delicious as a taste. By a time a cheese settles, a inner cooking bells rings, so we take off for La Piazza in European Village in Palm Coast. Some in a organisation are overpowering of all seafood, all a time, though we am not among that number. After checking out a menu, we settle on a pesce del giorno – a fish of a day – and was happily rewarded when John, a server, announce it as pan-seared flounder, a fat and tasty nonetheless amiable fish packaged with season and pointed seasonings. The sides of risotto and asparagus, baked to usually crisp, are a ideal accompaniments for a flounder.
After breakfast quesadillas pressed with shrimp during a Java Joint Coffee House and Eatery in Flagler Beach on a final full day of a getaway, we expostulate to Marineland, one of Florida’s initial traveller attractions in a days before Disney, to revisit a former underwater film studio incited into sea park and dolphin communication center. For a morning we watch a dolphin cotillion, with those happy creatures careening and waltzing around a pools, though afterwards it is lunch time again. We conduct a few miles southward on tree-shaded A1A to Captain’s Barbecue, where for a initial time we abandon seafood, usually since nothing is on a menu. The award-winning grill joint, a one-time outline attract shop, is where, says co-owner Mike Goodman, all is baked “low and slow” with their homemade salsas using a progression from honeyed to prohibited to spicy.
I like accumulation in barbecue, so we select a slider contingent with smoked turkey, brisket and pulled pork. The portions are so outrageous that we could not presumably eat all of it, and we wish to save room for their homemade dessert. We select a peanut butter and chocolate cake, New York cheesecake, Key orange cake and pecan pie, flitting any image around until we happily representation it all. Although we had come to Flagler County by car, we learn that had we been so prone we could have visited Captain’s Barbecue by boat, as it’s during Bing’s Landing off a Matanzas River, a shred of a Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
“Sometimes boaters lift right adult to come in and have lunch,” Goodman says. “They usually park a vessel and lift adult a chair.”
That evening, as a object sets on a final cooking in Flagler, we firm over to a Island Grille. We purposefully arrive before dusk to locate a colors of a Atlantic. In a dining room with that implausible sea view, we sup on appetizers of prohibited shrimp, lobster bisque and wasabi oysters as a sea swirls in tones of copper, red, orange and pink.
For a grand culmination of a all-too-short getaway, a following morning we take a vessel float with Ripple Effect Tours, withdrawal from Marineland Marina and production around a Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. The haven is a healthy classroom of ocean, dunes, nautical forests and lagoons. As we engine along – we can kayak, too, though that’s not my thing – we see egret, osprey and pelicans, among dozens of other species. I’m not a binoculars-wearing, bird-checklister, though I’m always preoccupied with a feathered friends. we could float all day and not tire of a scenery.
“In winter, a haven has one of a top concentrations of bald eagle in a Southeastern United States,” says Ripple Effects owners Chris Kelley. “It’s a vicious medium for migrating birds. They restore, modernise and recharge before drifting leading to their destination.” Kelley also says that a bay is a hothouse for competition fish, where he explains that, among others, grouper babies are innate here, initial as tiny as a pellet of rice though flourishing to some-more than 800 pounds.
At a discuss of grouper, and with a newfound believe that Flagler County is a end for seafood gourmands, we make a approach to Flagler Fish Company for a final dish before streamer north to a homes in Georgia. Holy mackerel. We have it all in this place that’s a seafood grill and fish marketplace all wrapped adult in one. Our list runneth over with all from shrimp to crab cakes to fish tacos. And, of course, a image of grouper, boiled usually right for this ol’ Southern girl.
(Mary Ann Anderson is a transport and inlet author who lives in Hazlehurst, Ga.)
For pushing access, Interstate 95 runs directly by Flagler County. International airports are nearby, including Daytona Beach, about an hour’s drive, and Jacksonville and Orlando, both about a 90-minute drive.
WHERE TO STAY
Hammock Beach Resort, 200 Ocean Crest Blvd., Palm Coast, 866-841-0287, www.HammockBeach.com. AAA-Four Diamond full-service beachfront review charity spa, golf, intrigue and family packages.
White Orchid Inn, 1104 S. Ocean Shore Blvd. (A1A), Flagler Beach, toll-free 800-423-1477. Renovated oceanfront motel and spa. From $139 per night.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Restaurant 386, A Fusion of Fine Eating, 5949 N. Ocean Shore Blvd., Palm Coast, 386-246-0070, www.threeeightsix.com. American favorites, including uninformed internal seafood. Entrees from $22.
La Piazza Cafe during European Village, 101 Palm Harbor Pkwy., Suite 110A, Palm Coast, 386-246-6366, www.lapiazzacafe.com. Italian classics with both cafe-style and upscale dining. Entrees from $13.99.
The Island Grille, 1224 S. Ocean Shore Blvd. (A1A), Flagler Beach, 386-693-4966, www.theislandgrille.com. Fresh seafood, steak, steep and steep with an sea view. Entrees from $15.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates Palm Coast and a Flagler Beaches, toll-free 866-736-9291, www.palmcoastandtheflaglerbeaches.com.
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PHOTOS (for assistance with images, hit 312-222-4194): UST-FLA-FLAGLER