Port St. Joe, Florida

And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop.’ —God to Job .

I am always humbled by the ocean. I love standing or sitting in the sand and just looking into the seemingly eternity of the endless sea. It gives me peace and I know that comes from the Eternal Creator.

So the next few paragraphs may seem like a living oxymoron…

In the paraphrased words of Clark W. Griswald, we packed up and headed out for a good, old-fashioned, family-fun vacation…six adults and five children, the oldest being five yrs old. Yeah, that’s right. Big Surf has guts, courage, lunacy, or a death wish.

It’s amazing how the synergistic effect of the energy of five children can overpower the synergistic effect of the tranquility of six adults. To make matters worse, the winds on the beach were above a soothing breeze and we adults were not allowed to go into the water due to the risks of riptides.

By midweek, I was ready to run up a white flag and replace the double red flags that blew as a constant reminder this beach trip was going to be different from all the others.

The locals kept telling us “This is so unusual for this area to have winds like this for this many days in a row.” As if somehow that was supposed to give me comfort. But nonetheless, Big Surf Daddy is still a beach animal and on the beach he must be.

We were able to spend two full days in the water out of six. One of those being at a lovely small beach called Windmark Beach near Mexico Beach. It was much calmer and we could swim.

Now don’t misunderstand me here, we all had a grand time, exhausting but grand. After all, we were on a beach in Florida for a week. Yes it was “breezeful” (to quote a former teacher), but we powered through and built castles and the kids played. We read books and talked and even built a few fires and roasted wieners and marshmallows and Big Surf wouldn’t have changed it for all the humid in Kentucky.

Port St. Joe is a beautiful small beach town just southeast of Appalachicola on the coast of the eastern Florida panhandle. There are wonderful seafood restaurants and markets. With the small children, we cooked a lot and ate out only a few times.

I will report of these food delicacies we sampled…

Our first night out, we had to go to plan B. Our first choice was, as always seafood, but there was a long wait. We went instead for some Mexican food at Pepper’s. We still had seafood, most of us had the Mahi tacos which were very good. So definitely no disappointments here.

These Mahi tacos were delicious and so fresh at Pepper’s.

Our go-to seafood market for the week was St Joe Shrimp Co. on Cape San Blas. This market had great service and selection. The tuna and shrimp were excellent. The frozen scallops were very good. The frozen crab cakes were good (but could have used a little more crab) and easy to fry up. The frozen hush puppies were great. They even serve lunch there daily of fried foods and sandwiches.

While our crew was eating lunch there one day, I bought some seafood for our dinner that night. I took a grouper sandwich basket and a bowl of seafood gumbo for lunch back to our house for Mrs. Big Surf and me.

There are two locations of the St.Joe Shrimp Co. One is on Cape San Blas and the other is in Port St. Joe.

One of our traditions on a beach trip is a Big Surf Low Country Boil. It is so easy. However in our rental house there wasn’t a pot to accommodate the size of the dish, so I had to divide it into three different pots. So not as easy as usual. This makes for a nice and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy with our family.

And if you have some left-over shrimp, just throw them in with some scrambled eggs and salsa for a great breakfast dish.

We cooked scallops, crab cakes, and hushpuppies with sides. Of course there are an abundant amount of PB&J’s for the younger diners. The seafood and delicious hush puppies came from St. Joe Shrimp Co.

Mrs. Big Surf and I took a little sanity break and headed over to see Apalachicola and found this nice little restaurant that was so good, The Hole in the Wall Seafood and Raw Bar. If you make it to this restaurant, try to get a seat at the bar, you will have a good experience.

These butter and Parmesan oysters were very good at The Hole in the Wall.

The Fried Grouper Basket may have been the best ever at The Hole in the Wall.

Our final meal out was a wonderful meal at Provisions in Port St. Joe. We ate outside and the staff was very accommodating for our group with children.

Big Surf started the meal with the Sesame-Seared Tuna. This was incredibly good.

My entree at Provisions was the St. Joe Sauteé. I highly recommend this dish also.

Our final meal was a take-out from Uptown Raw Bar & Grill. This was a spur of the moment decision, a good one, after spending the day at Windmark Beach. This restaurant is owned by a nice young couple.

I know food doesn’t photograph very well in styrofoam take-out containers, however these oysters were so good. This is the Uptown Special. Big Surf was well pleased with his selection here.

There are many opportunities to eat good seafood in Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, and Apalachicola.

To end this episode, I will show some of Big Surf’s beach scenes. I love beach photography and beachscapes. I apologize for the many photos.

Port St. Joe Lighthouse

Port St. Joe is part of the Florida Panhandle lovingly referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”. I think this moniker is by design. After spending a week in this serene part of the Sunshine State, I don’t think I will forget it anytime soon.

Character’s Famous BBQ

Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it’s too sweet, it’s bound to be hiding something.—Lyle Lovett

So we tested fate on our recent vacation to Port St. Joe, Florida…

We decided to drive through Georgia, north to south, not a short haul. Now normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to drive through Georgia, but at that time there was a gas shortage…or so we heard. But MapQuest said it would be a lot less time on the road than going through Alabama. And when my kidneys and bladder have to filter four cups of coffee and some sweet tea before 8:00 AM, the stopping time adds up. So Mrs. Big Surf said, “With all of your pee breaks, the odds are one of those gas stations will have gas.”

I was perplexed as we entered Georgia on I-75. For a state that seemingly had no gas, the folks were driving as if gas was in abundance. It does take more fuel to drive 90mph than 65mph, right? Someone seemed delusional here. Surely it wasn’t the media??

My worries would be calmed when we found Character’s Famous BBQ in Adairsville, GA.

From the time we pulled into the gravel parking lot, I knew this would be good. With BBQ joints, the less pretentious the better. It was obvious that the emphasis was on the food here. The ambiance was simple and clean but the aroma was so intoxicating.

OK so going back to the quote from above, there was nothing being hidden here, just good flavor from the sauce with a good balance of sweet and tang and a little heat. The helpings of the pork were more than enough. The sides were delicious. I had potato salad and slaw. They even served a piece of delicious pound cake with the meal.

Part of the wall art at Character’s Famous BBQ was a poster of Muhammed Ali. Of course being from Kentucky, I approved.

But alas, the stop in Georgia that gave us the most angst was in Rome, Georgia, but nothing to do with gas, of which we found plenty (however the Missus did not allow me to drive 90).

We pulled into a Krispy Kreme. From here the next few minutes are a little fuzzy. I heard the voice through the speaker say, “We are out of glazed.” I didn’t know how to respond. I had never actually heard that sentence at a Krispy Kreme in all my born days. Surely the speaker had a short, or we had driven into an alternate universe through the black hole of the unlit HOT DONUTS NOW light. Mrs BS had to throw the last cup of coffee from my half-gallon Contigo in my face to bring me out of my stupor. We ordered a dozen chocolate for the grandkids, and their parents, and Mrs. BS then headed south, all the while Big Surf was in a state of denial over the glaze.

If you happen to find yourself driving through or past Adairsville, GA. on I-75 slow down and stop in for a wonderful meal at Character’s Famous BBQ. They got nothin’ to hide.

It Was a Mediterranean Kind of Day

I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is fourteen days.—Totie Fields

So yesterday was kind of a Mediterranean day.

No I wasn’t on a Greek Island, or on the Italian Coast, or the south of France, or dining in a Tunisian cafe, or on beach in Turkey…I was home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. My wife and I had just returned from the closest thing we have to the Mediterranean, the Gulf Coast of Florida.

So, yesterday I decided to reinstitute a new dedication to the Mediterranean Diet. I don’t know if it was the sea, the salty air, the breeze, or the fact that I ate everything in sight for a week and it hurt to bend over and tie my shoes.

Beginning with breakfast, a Greek yogurt with honey, walnuts, and berries.

For lunch (pictured above), a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, olives, mozzarella, and topped with tuna. It was dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano.

For supper (pictured below), Big Surf’s stuffed peppers. The peppers were roasted and stuffed with a vegetarian chili of crushed tomatoes, quinoa, cannelloni beans, and topped with cheese.

All of these dishes were very good and I loved them all. And the bonus, I felt so good about myself.

Until…

For lunch today, I made myself a bologna sandwich and chips. Hard to get away from that Eastern Kentucky DNA.

Hey!! Wait a minute, Bologna is in Italy, right? So Italy is on the Mediterranean…

So come on self esteem, get back over here. You can’t go anywhere yet.

Homemade Wheat Crackers

Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks.—Marilyn Wann

My name is Big Surf Daddy and I have a problem…

I am a snack-a-holic.

My snacking event each evening begins as a small wake and swells to a large tidal wave of power that can’t be overcome. I start with something as healthy as an apple, move on to grapes, and as the tidal wave crescendos…chips, salsa, peanut butter, crackers, and Cheez-Its all come pounding down on me in a calorie-filled billow of salt and fried breakers. Duuuude!!

Then I do the walk of shame to the bed and curl up in a fetal position and think about what I’ve done.

As I try to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into my everyday life, the Sea of Salt calls me back nightly, and the pounding of the calorie surf starts all over.

OK, enough of the metaphor.

I CAN’T STOP SNACKING AT NIGHT.

Mrs. Big Surf says I am a stress-eater. She is right, because I stress out if I can’t get enough snacks in me before going to bed.

Since the nightly Sea of Saltiness undertow drags me back into the calorie-infested deep (OK, last one), I decided to try to lessen my calorie and salt intake. I made my own crackers…less calories and less salt and less preservatives, right? Sounds like a good idea anyway.

I found Whole Grain Alice on YouTube: https://youtu.be/WyKzTJkGDCQ

This is such a simple recipe and easy to do. I added Everything but the Bagel spice, also extra salt, pepper, chia seeds and flax seeds. These are great with salads, cheeses, and just as a snack by itself.

I don’t know if it will lessen the shameful walks to the bedroom at night, but I feel better about myself and maybe I won’t be drawn into the seedy world of food porn.

Risotto with Lemon and Shrimp

I hate the opera. I think I must have a tin ear. No matter how hard I concentrate, it still sounds like a bunch of Italian chefs screaming risotto recipes at each other.—Aristotle Onassis

So, I had this crisis of morality…

Mrs. Big Surf found this incredible recipe of Giada De Laurentiis on line. I wanted to make this incredible recipe, for I love Giada’s recipes. Frankly I haven’t found a bad one yet. And risotto is one of my new food loves.

Growing up in eastern Kentucky did not provide a lot of opportunities to eat risotto, so let’s just say I came to this love affair later in life.

I love everything about risotto. I love the versatility of risotto, it is the utility player on the Italian team. I love cooking risotto and the time it takes for the creaminess of risotto to come to fruition. I also love the fact that this is included in the Mediterranean Diet and I can check that box to make me feel better, since we are having trouble fully converting to this diet. (The two pizzas and quarter pound of bacon we ate this weekend would have sent us spiraling into a pit of self-loathing if we hadn’t enjoyed them so much.) However, cheating on the Mediterranean Diet was not my crisis of morality.

This is my crisis of morality…if I did not fix the risotto exactly like Giada’s recipe says, do I have to give her credit or can I just call it mine?

Her recipe calls for fennel. I used leeks and fennel seeds.

Her recipe calls for arugula. I used spinach.

My attorney friend tells me there is a little thing called “intellectual property” I have to abide by. Since I am not very smart, “do I have to abide by this intellectual property?” He says, “nice try.”

So in light of the above conversation, I will not call this my own recipe and I will not post the recipe. However I will give you the link where I found it. I have enough intellectual properties about me to accomplish that.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/lemony-shrimp-and-risotto-recipe-2018344

Cauliflower with Turmeric, Lemon, and Caper sauce.

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education—Mark Twain

The Mediterranean Diet has been my goal since this past holiday season. It is still my goal, so no, Mrs. Big Surf and I have yet to transform our diet. It’s like we are mired in this quicksand of calories and carbs and occasionally we find a vine from the Mediterraneanus Dietus plant that we can grab and pull ourselves out.

This cauliflower dish was the lifeline that may just save us.

This delicious cauliflower recipe came out of the New York Times Cookbook, called “Cauliflower with Caper Sauce”. We ate this as an entree with a salad.

Now Mark Twain may have thought cauliflower a bit too pretentious, but some would say cauliflower is the “Work-a-day-Joe” of veggies because it is so versatile and accommodating to your mood. I love the taste of cauliflower. I eat it raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, and sauteed. This sauce elevated the cauliflower to another degree. Maybe Mark Twain would have awarded it an honorary doctorate if he would have eaten this dish.

West Liberty Christian Church Rolls

Taste and see that the Lord is good—Psalm 34:8

Church traditions date back to the earliest gatherings of Christians, some have even continued to these modern times.

Of all the traditions that still continue, my favorite has to be the potluck dinners.

Our West Liberty Christian Church in West Liberty, KY has had a tradition of wonderful potluck dinners, for we have had wonderful cooks over the years. I have loved every one of these dinners. I was in such good standing with one of these lovely ladies that she would hide me a piece of her lemon pie so I would be sure to get some of that deliciousness.

The homemade rolls at our church have always been a tasty tradition ever since I can remember. The rolls are called refrigerator rolls. The recipe is in our church cookbook. These rolls have been made by a few dedicated women over the years. I remember Maureen making them, Thelma making them, and lately (for at least a generation) Linda making them.

How can something so simple impart so much love and caring?

A successful after-church dinner is defined by getting at least two of these rolls and one deviled egg. Sometimes I get nervous if the line is long, so I will go grab a roll whilst I wait in line. I hope that tradition doesn’t catch on. So let’s keep that between you and me.

Below is the Holy Grail of roll recipes taken from the West Liberty Christian Church Cookbook,and unlike Indiana Jones, you don’t have to fight off the Nazi army to attain this treasure. Enjoy.

The Yoi Mañana

My whole life, I have been trying to cook an egg in the right way.—Jose Andres

It’s exciting to be present at the birth of something new, to experience an artist in the presence of painting a masterpiece, to be the first to hear a song written by a virtuoso musician, to experience the birth of your children…or to eat a brand new dish. My apologies to my kids for comparing the excitement of their entry into the world with an egg dish.

I am letting you, my scant horde of readers, in on one of those birthing experiences today.

I created this dish this morning, as I am always trying different ways to eat eggs for breakfast. This is a Japanese omelette called “tamagoyaki”. These are made in a rectangular pan. Actually it is half of a tamagoyaki, split with the lovely wife.

Most of my extemporaneous creations in the kitchen don’t turn out so great, however this one was quite good. The tamagoyaki was made with some cheddar cheese and prosciutto, served on a bed of spinach leaves, topped with fresh guacamole, and drizzled with Maggi Hot and Sweet sauce. Let’s see, we have Japan, Mexico, Italy, India, and a tomato from Morehead, KY. So a truly international dish.

To save you the time it takes to look up the name of the dish, it means “Good Morning” in Japanese and Spanish.

Surely something in here is part of the Mediterranean Diet.

Asparagus Pizza

Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?—Moe Howard

This is an appropriate quote by the leader of the Three Stooges, for Mrs. Big Surf often describes my actions in the kitchen as Three Stooges video with Homer Simpson audio.

As Mrs. BS and I try to transition to the Mediterranean Diet, it is hard to diminish our craving for our favorite foods and one of those foods is pizza. We decided two years ago to learn to fix good pizza. We bought a pizza steel and a pizza peel. We found a great dough recipe in Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza, Pasta, and More cookbook. We use it exclusively.

This asparagus pizza comes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. We love this pizza.

I never really liked asparagus until I was well into adulthood (my wife is not convinced I am there yet). Now I am eating asparagus on pizza. My pizza experience, until recently, was always accompanied by some kind of meat, now it seems meat is rarely on our pizzas.

This simple pizza recipe has graded parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, shaved asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and topped with one finely chopped scallion which is added when the pizza comes out of the oven.

I thought my wife had headed “round the bend” when she showed me this recipe. “Who would eat a pizza topped with asparagus?”, I asked. As usual, her intuition was correct. It is delicious…unless you are not an adult like me and don’t like asparagus.

Roasted Sesame Seed-Crusted Tuna with a Balsamic Drizzle

A tuna steak and a salad? Seventy bucks. Welcome to Los Angeles.—Mark Zupan

Well, in eastern Kentucky, you can buy a pack of three frozen tuna steaks at Kroger for $5.99.

I’m no expert but if I can fix two tuna steaks for Mrs. Big Surf and myself for about $4.00 and it tastes as good as any I can get in a restaurant this side of the Sierra Madres, then I am a happy man and I would say to all of you LA diners, “Sorry, Charlie.”

I got the inspiration for this seared tuna by watching a Gordon Ramsay video. He fixed an incredible looking dish by encrusting the tuna in sesame seeds. I didn’t have the time or the stamina on a Wednesday night to try to tackle all he did with his tuna steak meal, so I took a different route.

I started with reducing balsamic vinegar. Then I roasted the sesame seeds. In the meantime, the tuna steaks marinated in some Ponzu sauce. After salting and peppering the tuna steaks, I rolled them in the roasted sesame seeds. I seared them for a few minutes on each side to have a rare cook. I then drizzled the balsamic reduction over the tuna steaks and asparagus to finish the meal. It was soooo simple and soooo cheap and soooo healthy and according to Mark Zupan, I saved about $136.00.

I think this Mediterranean diet may work out after all.

Look who’s the big boy, being fiscally responsible.