Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, Cincinnati


I think steak is the ultimate comfort food, and if you are going out for one, that is not the time to scrimp on calories or quality—Tom Colicchio

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for some people to dissolve the dietary restrictions and throw off the shackles of government recommendations, it is time to eat a big ‘ole steak.

The missus and I took the 75-minute drive down I-74 to have a celebratory dinner at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Cincinnati, Ohio. We celebrated 37 years of me being married to this wonderful creature with sparkling blue eyes, and her hanging in there.

Jeff Ruby is a restaurateur extraordinaire. He has fine dining establishments in Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Lexington, and Columbus. He has shown this tri-state population that we too can have fine dining like those persnickity diners on each coast.

So I pulled out my gift card from Christmas, for fine dining ain’t cheap. Nevertheless…

Mrs. Big Surf and I had a lovely table outside, some very nice wine and gazed into each others eyes like we did at that altar so many years ago. (I was gazing and she was thinking, “Could I have done better?”)

Our appetizer was the delicious breads and the butter placed before us.

The staff and service was impeccable. The servers were so courteous and knowledgable.

The blue-eyed darlin’ settled on the Halibut Forte, served with King Crab, Shiitake, and Beurre Blanc. This may have been the best halibut dish I have ever tasted. She put on her big girl pants and consumed it all. I had the 14-oz Center Cut New York Strip, served with a Bèarnaise Sauce. And at the risk of repeating myself, at this stage in my life it is expected, it may have been the best steak put in front of me. I, of course, not to be outdone by the fairer partaker of swimmy things, devoured all of my medium-rare steak. We also had their award-winning Baked Mac and Cheese, made with six imported cheeses…yeah that’s right you Manhattanites, this is Mac and Cheese in the Midwest.

Jeff Ruby establishments are known for their steaks but they also can produce wonderful seafood dishes like this Halibut Forte.

The New York Strip was cooked perfectly to medium-rare. The Bèarnaise Sauce was so very delicious and complimented this steak, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were gliding effortlessly across by taste buds.

This Mac and Cheese is probably the best you will eat.

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Cincinnati offers a wonderful dining experience. Tastefully decorated in old Hollywood Art-Deco, live music at the bar, wonderful service, and of course the food.

When someone wants to give me another gift card to use, I will more than happy parlay that into a great meal.

July 4th in Waldron, Indiana

If our Founding Fathers wanted us to care about the rest of the world, they wouldn’t have declared their independence from it—Stephen Colbert

To me nothing says “America” like small town celebrations. And Waldron, Indiana puts on a beaut. They call theirs “Freedom Fest”.

As soon as you drive into this small town in southeast Indiana you see what seems like all of the townspeople assembled out on their front yards and the rest of southeast Indiana looking for a parking spot. People dressed in the red, white, and blue are everywhere. Cars are everywhere. There are food trucks and vendors. There is a live band and a dunking booth. There is even a hot-air balloon giving rides to the extent of the length of the tether. But everyone is there for one thing…FIREWORKS!!!

So our mission was to somehow find a place to park, eat some food and leave before the fireworks. We knew how difficult it would be to try to leave this congestion after the fireworks with two small grandchildren and a granddad who is always an intestinal twitch away from a public spectacle.

So we parked about two miles out of town on the road by a cornfield. This is something we couldn’t do for previous fireworks shows in eastern Kentucky, big hills and all. Flat land is great for fireworks and avoiding traffic.

When there are two food trucks serving BBQ, it was hard to decide. So…of course I started eating one serving of rib tips from one truck while waiting in line to get a brisket sandwich from another. This was an excellent plan.

The rib tips from Mel’s Catering were very tasty and tender. When you can eat them with a plastic fork, you know they are very tender.

Mel’s Catering had a great menu for festival eating.

My second BBQ meal was from Dave’s Double Barrel BBQ. This was my second time eating Dave’s food and it was just as good this time. The brisket sandwich was really good and the cole slaw may have been some of the best I have eaten as a BBQ side dish. I loved the sweetness of the dressing.

The brisket sandwich from Dave’s Double Barrel BBQ is so good, especially with Dave’s sauce.

I was very impressed by this cole slaw from Dave’s. Even my grandson loved it.

Check out this line for the pineapple whip.

Most of the festival was set up at the Waldron High School athletic complex.

A large crowd awaited the fireworks.

I hope they stopped the balloon rides when the fireworks started.

Some of the fireworks pictures that were taken outside of town.

The “pinwheel”.

I know some folks were unhappy with America this 4th of July but I didn’t find any in Waldron, Indiana.
And Big Surf had the freedom to eat as much BBQ as he could handle.

Let freedom ring!!

Taste of Shelby County, Indiana

The more street food we have, the more it’s embraced by every income strata, the better world we have—Anthony Bourdain

I love festival food.

Mrs. Big Surf and I took to the streets of Shelbyville, Indiana, our new hometown recently. No not to voice our dismay or celebrate anything but to eat, which is my favorite new pastime.

We partook of the Taste of Shelby County 2022. Incidentally, this is part of Shelby County’s Bicentennial celebration. In 1822 the president of the US was James Monroe and future presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes were born. Matthew Brady, known for his civil war photos, was also born in 1822.

OK, enough history.

Shelbyville is a picturesque small town in southeast Indiana, about thirty minutes SE of Indianapolis. It has a pretty center circle or actually more of an ovate shape. The buildings in the town center have lots of character and flowers abound. Also on the this day the aroma of festival food was rousing my senses.

Now I know that man does not live on festival food alone since we usually can’t get breakfast at festivals. However, festivals usually provide good tasting food in a community setting where people are generally happy to be there. And Taste of Shelby County was no exception.

After perusing the layout of food, the missus and I settled on Dave’s Double Barrel BBQ. It was a very good choice. I had smoked ribs and the blue-eyed darlin’ had pork nachos. We sampled other treats and my apologies to the other vendors but I can’t remember their names. I was too focused on maximizing my food-to-time-to-ticket ratio. I do have pictures though.

The ribs and pork nachos were very good from Dave’s Double Barrel BBQ. He has a food truck, lives in Shelbyville and caters.

I maximized my tasting by buying a half of two different sausage dogs.

Taste of Shelby County is an annual event and I hope you can be there next year, you will see me with a smile on my face hiding a mouthful of something grilled.

Cholula Mexican Restaurant, Shelbyville, Indiana

When you roll something this good, it’s usually illegal…Anonymous burrito shop sign

I was a late-comer to the Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine, only having the occasional drive-thru taco or just ordering tacos in some of the finest Mexican restaurants of Houston when I lived there. I wish I could go back to my early twenties self and slap him in the face with a seafood enchilada and say, “What is wrong with you?”

Now I love foods from Mexico and whatever Tex-Mex is.

We visited Cholula Mexican Restaurant in Shelbyville, Indiana (now my home) for a Sunday lunch with some family. This was the first visit to this establishment and I loved the festive atmosphere. The menu was filled with dishes I want to try and the staff was very friendly and service-oriented.

Now I don’t mean to sound derogatory to the country of Mexico and its chefs, but I consider the appetizer of chips and salsa the best part of the Mexican eating experience. Let me explain…the salsa can tell me a lot about what is to come and heighten my expectation. Everyone is excited to see the chips and salsa and they usually start digging in and the conversation starts. These chips were warm and crunchy and the salsa was delicious.

I ordered the Burrito California, filled with chicken, beans, rice, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and cheese. And let me emphasize the cheese here, because there was a lot and if you don’t like melted, gooey, delicious cheese, I suggest you look elsewhere on the menu. I loved this burrito.

Everyone at the table loved their food and I will be back.

I highly recommend the California Burrito at Cholula’s.

The colorful, festive decor set the tone for an enjoyable meal.

I will compliment the chefs at Cholula, hopefully…”¡Qué rica comida”.

Voy a volver (I will return).

Eating in Milan and Lake Como, Delizioso

L’Appetito Vien Mangiando!—Italian phrase

The above phrase basically means “appetite comes with eating” or explained, as people always want more than they already have.

This is Big Surf Daddy in a nutshell. I am always planning the next trip when I am on a trip. I think about the next meal while I am eating a meal. I’m not proud of this trait and it drives Mrs. Big Surf absolutely batty.

In Italy, I can’t wait to eat. I am always thinking about the next thing to eat or drink, while I am already eating or drinking something. Of course in Italy it is easy to do. My thoughts are constantly swimming in pasta, sauce, gelato, cheese, wine, coffee, pastries, and pizza.

As some of you know, who read this blog, we travel a lot with our family and that includes small grandchildren, five to be exact (6 yrs old and younger). Eating with this group takes more planning than the D-Day invasion and also the ability to bob-and-weave like being in the ring with Ali.

As you could imagine, the food on our recent trip to Milan and Lake Como was delicious and easier than I thought it would be.

Beginning with the best food for children…GELATO!!

This was a great spot for gelato, Dulcis In Fundo Gelateria on Piazza Garibaldi in the beautiful Lake Como town of Menaggio. I recommend the limone (lemon).

The Gelato Fatto Con Amore, near the Cadorna train station was a big hit with all of us. I thought the name was a subliminal message to us Americans, but actually it means “made with love”. I could taste the love. The lead photo is the gelato bar in this gelateria.

At Gelato Fatto Con Amore, you get a piece of waffle cone with your cup, so innovative.

Venchi is a really nice gelateria, chocolateria, coffee cafe, and crepe-ateria. This is a large chain with quite a few locations in Milan. We had wonderful gelato here one day and breakfast crepes the next morning along with wonderful coffee.

This crepe with chocolate sauce was so good at Venchi.

The coffee at Venchi was very good and notice the little square of dark chocolate served with the coffee, a nice touch.

Ok, the last image of gelato (because it is causing a great yearning for me to return to Italy). This lovely treat was from Veranda Beach in Calozzo on Lake Como.

A big part of eating in Italy for me is the quick bites that you can take away and eat on the piazzas. We found this at Panzerotti Luini, a small cafe about a block away from the Duomo in Milan.

At Luini’s you get the panzerotto. This simple Milan tradition is made from flour, cheese, and tomatoes. It costs about 2.70 Euro and it may have been the best thing I ate all week. Mrs. Big Surf and I took ours to the steps of the Duomo and ate while watching the activity in the piazza. I advise you to do the same. You can also get a glass of red wine at a vendor in the piazza. We complimented our panzerotto with one of those.

Miscusi served a wonderful pasta dish called Paccheri Tricolore. While we were debating about going in, a very nice young local couple convinced us to eat here. It was their go-to pasta and I must say it was a good piece of advice.

We had a simple lunch at La Marmora. We noticed a lot of young people eating here after school. Normally this would not be the information I would use to choose a cafe, but this is Italy and young people evidently like good food in Italy.

This panini sandwich was Italian bologna and cheese. It was so wonderful. I would put it right up there with Kentucky bologna. The Missus had a pizza panini and it also was very good.

This small pizzeria was located across the street from our AirBnB apartment in Milan. I hadn’t planned on ordering from here and that would have been a big mistake. We were only Milan for two nights and our other family got in later on the last night, so we had to decide what to eat with the kids, so pizza it was. Johnny Takeue was a great place for carry-out pizza. It was the best pizza I had this trip.

With this pizza oven at Johnny Takeue you know it had to be good.

On to Lake Como…

We had two wonderful evening meals and a really nice lunch. Our breakfasts consisted of walking to town and getting some breads, cheeses, and pastries.

Since Signore Clooney and his lovely wife did not invite us to dinner, we were on our own.

Our best meal on Lake Como was at La Baia Ristorante in Cremia. In addition to wonderful food and a lakefront setting, they went out of their way to accommodate our large group with our small children and made us feel welcome.

Risotto is a traditional dish in Milan and Lake Como. This dish, called Persicotto, served at La Baia Ristorante, with lightly-breaded, fried lake perch was so good. It was the best meal I had on the trip.

The lovely blue-eyed darlin’ went with another risotto dish, served with pesto and a creamy cheese with red prawn carpaccio. This is their best selling dish and I could see why…so good.

This plate of small lake fishes was gathered from some of our parties seafood dishes and eaten like fries. I loved them, some of us weren’t so sure…couldn’t get past the heads.

This beautiful restaurant is called Veranda Beach in Calozzo. It was mentioned earlier as a place to get gelato. We came back later for our evening meal. It is a lovely restaurant on the lake, with an Italian menu and operated by a very charming lady.

Quite the ambience at Veranda Beach.

This take on a caprese salad with burrata cheese was the star of the meal, we all had some of this.

Our last meal on Lake Como was at the Grand Hotel Menaggio, a beautiful old hotel on the lake. Most of us had the spaghetti, a truly wonderful dish and one of us had the Insalata Nizzarda, a salad with anchovies and tuna.

This was our lake view for lunch on the patio at the Grand Hotel Menaggio.

Spaghetti at the Grand Hotel Menaggio was a dish of comfort.

The Insalata Nizzarda tasted as wonderful as it appeared on the plate.

We had to fly out of Milan back to the US. We had to have a negative Covid test to get back into the states, so it was easier to stay at the Sheraton Hotel at the Milan Malpensa airport. This turned out to be a good thing. The kids and adults got to swim and we had a lovely meal at the hotel restaurant, IL Canneto.

I had the salmon poke bowl, a delicious choice.

Mrs. Big Surf was presented with a lovely leek soup. She felt the presentation was better than the flavor.

It was a whirlwind trip for us, not much planning since we didn’t decide to go till about a two weeks before departure to meet the rest our family. I left everything up to the next generation and they didn’t disappoint us.

Until next time, buon appetito.

SHORE BIRDS

 Lying in the sun, he follows the unhurried paths of seagulls and sailboats, the azure breeze, the ebb and flow of foam on the water and in the air— Eduardo Galeano

I love the above quote for it explains my mood when I am on the beach.

I recently returned from a week’s stay at the beach. I seem to experience God’s creative power, and His awesomeness, and omnipotence, and my littleness when I am on the beach. For me there is no other place on earth that I have seen that gives me that feeling, other than being in the mountains, or looking at the lake, or being in the city, or riding my bike, or drinking coffee…well God can be near everywhere. But you get my point, I love the beach.

One reason for my love of the beach, that is where the seagulls and shore birds hang out. I love watching them and I am forever trying to capture interesting pictures of them. They mesmerize me and of all the bird, they seem the most human.

Here are a few I have taken over the years.

Forsythe Park Fountain, Savannah

Savannah is so beautiful that the dead never truly depart—James Caskey

Savannah, Georgia has quickly become one of my favorite cities to visit. It is a soft summer breeze in a world of urban storms.

This lovely southern US city has no tall skyscrapers, instead a few tall church steeples and a gold dome are the dominant pinnacles, much like many European cities. There are lots of Spanish moss, cobblestones, so much history, great food, many parks and respites and one really lovely fountain in Forsythe Park.

This fountain, perceptively called The Forsythe Park Fountain, has an interesting history. It was erected in 1858 after being ordered from a catalogue (thinking what a bad day that delivery guy endured). It is modeled after a French fountain in a central park to be gathered around. In fact there was a wedding going on the at the time we were there.

The Forsythe Park Fountain is definitely a destination in a destination city.

I guess you noticed the daisies were in bloom.

Maui…Wowie! (part 1)Food !

I believe Hawaii is the most precious jewel in the world—Don Ho

With my apologies to Chuck Mangione, the title of this blog was how Mrs. Big Surf and I felt the whole week we were in Maui.

This blog is about the food we ate in Maui, other blogs to follow will entail the rest of our trip because with me the food is the most important part of the trip.

I’m sorry, but this blog is lengthy because I eat a lot. And since Hawaii was still in the throes of Covid protection, most of our food was take-out and styrofoam and plastic doesn’t photograph as well as fine china.

Now realize I researched many restaurants on all parts of the island and was ready to put my eating plan in action on the first day. So no matter where we were on Maui, I had multiple restaurants on my radar. Until we discovered….FOOD TRUCKS!!!!

We did sit down in a few restaurants, but due to Covid, if you needed reservations, some were hard to come by. Also I discovered the Maui sunset from our patio on the beach. So whenever a restaurant was marketing their sunset view, and somewhat elevated prices, and the wait for reservations, the option of a delicious meal from one of these food trucks looked a lot better. We just took the food back to our patio for our own private table to view a sunset like the one in the above photo, taken from our patio on Sugar Beach.

Day one started with an early breakfast pick up from Sugar Beach Bake Shop in Kihei. They have incredible malasadas, a Portuguese fried dough. Think of a solid cream-filled doughnut. We had these every morning. I also picked up some good coffee at the Java Cafe in the Azeka Mall in Kihei.

These malasadas were simple and delicious.

We had an early lunch from the OAO Sushi Go food truck. We had the Hawaiian Poke Bowl, the best thing we ate all week. We enjoyed this dish so much, we went back two more times for the poke bowl. We also got some wonderful sushi here during our last day, the Black Mamba roll…so good.

This Hawaiian Poke Bowl from OAO Sushi Go was the best thing we ate all week.

This Black Mamba sushi roll from OAO Sushi Go was really, really good.

We had a late lunch or an early dinner in Kahului. We stopped for carry out at Tin Roof, operated by Top Chef finalist, Sheldon Simeon. This was great food for a picnic at beautiful Ka’a Point on the north shore and a great starting point for our sunset viewing trip up to Hakalekulae Crater.

This pork belly was such a good dish, pork belly Kao Kao tin, from Tin Roof.

The Missus allowed me one of her pork belly spice wraps from Tin Roof. I was glad she did.

Day two in Maui started with another visit to a food truck, this time for coffee. Kraken Coffee served very good coffee for me and decaf for Mrs. Big Surf, this was a common stop for coffee.

After watching whales all morning and sitting on the beach, we worked up another appetite and decided to visit another food truck and eat in the setting provided for the food trucks behind the Azeka Shopping Center.

We had lunch at Vidad Local Kine Grindz food truck. We split an order of very tasty fried calamari and dry main noodles with braised short rib and had a ginger lemonade. Grindz is a local word for food.

The fried calamari and dry main noodles with braised short rib was a really nice lunch from Vidad’s.

Earlier in the morning, I stopped at Maui Farmer’s Market in Kihei and picked up some fruit, pineapple jam, and great homemade guacomole.

We couldn’t pull ourselves away from the beach and watching the whales and the sunset so we had an evening sunset meal of assorted goodies from the purchases of the day.

The Farmer’s Market Maui in Kihei had wonderful fresh fruit and very good homemade guacomole.

On day three, we went to Lahaina for a whale watching tour and had a great time. Afterward we stopped in Lahaina for lunch at Down the Hatch. Mrs. Big Surf enjoyed her fish tacos and I had a delicious local fish and fries. Very good lunch in a busy tourist town, but was really good.

On the way back to our condo in Kihei, we stopped for some fresh homemade pies at Leoda’s. This was a great idea. The pies were a delight, especially the key lime.

Fish tacos from Down the Hatch is a good choice.

If you are in the mood for some fried fish, I recommend the fresh fried fish and fries from Down the Hatch.

Satisfy your sweet tooth for some of Leoda’s homemade pies, these were coconut cream and key lime.

I highly recommend a stop at Leoda’s outside of Lahaina on the way to Kihei.

Lunch on day four was at a local favorite in Kihei, Nalu’s South Shore Grill in the Azeka shopping center. It was a good lunch menu, however Mrs. Big Surf called an audible and went for the late breakfast since she could not pass up the banana pancakes and I must say they were impressive. Big Surf on the other hand went for the raw salad to show his sensitive side.

These banana pancakes at Nalu’s were special.

The raw salad at Nalu’s is beautiful and great for a light lunch.

After snorkeling at beautiful Wakapu Beach in Wailea, we stopped for some take-out from highly recommended Paia Fish Market. We split an order of seafood pasta and clam chowder and headed back to the our patio for another Maui sunset.

This seafood pasta from Paia’s Fish Market is so good and was big enough to split for two people. The clam chowder was also delicious.

On day five of our week in Maui, we traveled north and hiked to Twin Falls. On the way back we found a roadside fruit stand and a huli huli chicken stand beside each other. The fruit and the fruit juices were so good and fresh.

Huli huli chicken is a Maui staple, often seen at roadside stands, if you are able to get some, by all means eat some of this. We love to sample local delicacies and traditional food when we travel and huli huli chicken is one of those traditions.

This lovely fruit stand outside of Paia was a great place to find fresh fruits and juices and the bonus was the huli huli chicken.

After consuming guava jelly most of my adult life, this was the first time I had ever seen fresh guavas in the wild. Now I understand my love of guava jelly.

Star fruit and passion fruit from our stop at the roadside fruit stand.

More fruit from our fruit stand purchases, mangoes and guavas. The pineapple and orange we got at the local grocery store. Don’t judge, the pineapples were local, fresh and cheap. We ate pineapple every day for breakfast.

We saved the huli huli chicken for a sunset dinner and stopped at the food trucks in Kahului for lunch. We settled on Aloha Thai Fusion. The missus ordered garlic shrimp and I ordered the Thai drunken noodles. We took back it back to our condo to consume. For some reason, I was given cashew chicken instead of the drunken noodles, but it was a very good mistake.

Though I was disappointed to not have the drunken noodles, the cashew chicken was delicious and also the garlic shrimp was scrumptious from Aloha Thai Fusion.

Day six was our last day in Maui and we finally got some Hawaiian shaved ice from Ululani’s.

Most of the blogs recommended Ululani’s for shaved ice and I have to agree. This is so refreshing and large enough that Mrs. Big Surf and I shared.

Our last meal was at Dinah’s sandwich shop at the Sugar Beach Resort. We didn’t feel like going anywhere, just wanted to stay on the beach and watch another sunset. We ordered a saimin, a traditional Hawaiian soup. I highly recommend this tasty Hawaiian staple for at least one meal while on Maui.

Dinah’s Sandwich Shop served a wonderful bowl of saimin.

Though most people don’t go to Maui for the food, you could. If you enjoy food as much as I, you can’t go wrong on Maui. This is a sample of a week’s worth of good food, not fine dining, but relatively inexpensive fare to enhance our week on Maui and I was not disappointed in any meal I was served. Part two of Maui…Wowie will be about all the other stuff we did on Maui.

Aloha and e hau’oli i kau mea’ai (bon appetit).

Mokka and the Sunset Bar and Grill in Newport, KY

Goetta is somewhat of a mystery—Paul Tenkotee

Somedays turn into wonderful days when you aren’t expecting it, when the Almighty Creator gives us a glimpse of His Mercy in the midst of chaos and angst.

Today was one of those days and it came as a revelation to me at Mokka in Newport, KY on a revitalized Monmouth Street across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, over a delicious goetta frittata.

Let’s go back a few days. Cue the harp glissando…

Mrs. Big Surf and I have been in the midst of selling a house in one state and remodeling a house in another state. I am counting down to retirement, she will begin a new job. We have just been through losing parents, cleaning out houses of memories, trying to get someone to take over my business, and just recently dealing with a beloved family member going through a medical crisis, which brought us unexpectedly to Cincinnati.

My lovely missus spent a sleepless night to be with this loved one in a busy hospital room. We were both exhausted from the previous weeks, she much more than I.

We left the hospital late in the morning to eat breakfast before heading out on the two and a half hour drive home. We settled in a booth in the above mentioned Mokka in Newport.

We started with a spicy Newport Bloody Mary for me and a raspberry Mimosa for the sleep-deprived darlin’. Now I don’t advocate any alcoholic beverage before noon but we were celebrating the incredible answered prayers on behalf of our loved one and her improved condition overnight.

Our meal was so good.

The goetta frittata was just what I needed. She had a platter of French toast topped with creme brûlée cream, a biscuit and gravy, and cheesy scrambled eggs, and to my surprise she consumed it all…who’s the big girl?!

Now I realize most folks who aren’t from the Cincinnati/Northern KY area haven’t a clue about goetta.

Goetta came from peasant German immigrants who settled in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It was a way to make meat, usually pork sausage, last longer by mixing it with oats, onion, and spices. It is cooked and dried and formed into a loaf for slicing. It has the consistency of sausage and is usually fried crispy.

This morning as I sat in that charming cafe, across from my lovely wife of 36 years, both of us in the same clothes we put on yesterday, neither one of us had showered, me unshaven, and her without makeup, I knew what Sheldon Cooper meant when he said,”The Germans are such a comforting people.”

This spicy Newport Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever had.

This plate of a Goetta Frittata with breakfast potatoes reminded me of the comforting pleasures God allows on this earth.

Mrs. Big Surf in a rare eating frenzy consumed this plate of delicious breakfasness.

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.