Crystal River – 1st 2021 trip!

Ahhhhhhhhh finally back to one of my favorite spots in Florida. It’s been so long, Eric had a lot of work to do on the boat, getting it up to (my) boating standards. Don’t kid yourself – he LOVES working, cleaning, waxing, cleaning, waxing the boat.

Weather had the potential to be dicey, but it looks like any storms will have passed by the time we arrive. Driving through them with the boat on the trailer wasn’t a lot of fun – just saying.

Yeah!!!! I’m back on the water.

We usually pack lunching items while on the boat and today was no different. Our choice of lunch was not the norm………tuna salad – yes, crackers – yes, fruit of some sort – yes, oysters – not usually. Don’t forget the cookies in the upper left corner of the photo. Sit them on top of the deck for a few minutes and YUM, they taste like they just came out of the oven with ooey gooey chocolate chips.

Eric has been keeping some on ice these past weeks from a local purveyor and thought they would be the (perfect) thing for our lunch on the boat. Perfect for who??????

There were enough leftover for a mid-afternoon snack once we returned to King’s Bay Lodge.

Seafood Sellers continues to be our restaurant of choice and dinner that evening had some of the usual items ordered.

Fried tomato chips and grouper sandwich – yum!

If you’ve read any of my earlier Crystal River posts – there’s only one thing on the menu that Eric will order, if available………………..crayfish.

All washed down with a locally brewed beer.

It was a bit chillier the next morning.

Saw this eagle in one of the slow zones we pass through. My photo isn’t the greatest, but if I had the latest I-phone………………think how much better it would have been.

We got a quick photo of me with my first snook – not a keeper.

Before hooking this puffer. LOVE their puffiness.

Each of these keepers were hard-earned: 3 trout and 1 mackerel.

This white egret was very persistent as Eric was filleting out catch. He/she was bound and determined to steal one of our fish – he was not successful.

Always a great day on the water when you catch (keeper) fish and are with good friends.

Eric and I were able to extend our stay for one more day. This enabled us to (1) have one more meal at Seafood Sellers and (2) catch a few more fish – black sea bass (top) and a grunt.

Always LOVE coming to this area and catching fish makes it sweeter.

Ginny

FL Tankful – Cocoa

Seems like we’re making trips to the ‘other’ side of Florida and visiting parts of the east coast – which hadn’t happened in a number of years.

Destination Cocoa – 70 miles and 1 hour and ten minutes later…….we arrived.

While Cocoa was our ultimate destination we were ‘technically’ heading to Port Canaveral since our restaurant of choice was Seafood Atlantic.

The sign above indicates it was established in 1984 but there’s history. It was a multi-step process. Their roots were in commercial fishing 1984 and they fished & marketed their catch domestically and internationally. They buy from over 200 independent commercial fisherman in four Florida counties. That’s pretty cool!

In 1994 they opened their retail market. They had lots and lots of good looking fish they day we were there but alas it’s hard to buy fish when you can catch your own. 🙂 Our catch is very different, but waaaaaaay fresh.

They began serving in 2009 cooking the fish you find in their retail market. Here’s some idea of what’s cooking.

While these bikes would n.e.v.e.r. be our choice of transportation, behind the fence was the outside seating (which is your only option). The place was advertised as ‘casual, outdoor, waterfront open-air dining. Yep, good description.

The oysters were a big draw for this locale and accompanied by a bloody mary and coke – guess which one was mine. Wowser – look at all of the extra ‘stuff’ in the bloody mary – that’s a meal in itself!

Another top draw was the smoked fish dip. It was very yummy. Eric got a bowl of chowder before his meal arrived.

Eric’s selection was ‘sizzling scallops’ while I got the grouper sandwich. We both really enjoyed our choices. Alas, chips not fries came with my meal as that choice was pat of their menu. At least they were great chips.

One last photo before heading to our Cocoa destination. With the sun beating down, none of my photos were good. This was the best of the lot.

First stop……..Dirty Oar Beer Company. Loved their mural on the side of the building!

They opened in 2017 and their name identifies with the area. The oar (paddle) is used for mixing grains but is remiescent of a boat paddle and the seaweed ties into the area’s waterways.

Three indiividuals (NY, VT and NJ) moved to the area for family/friends/job and when at a time became unemployed, their wives pushed them forward with their dream as they enjoyed craft beer.

One beer each before our next destination.

BUGNUTTY. What a great name. Just saying it is fun. HAD to look up the meaning and found this:

>Being in a state of overwhelming emotion (drinking great beer – I added that 🙂 )

Their brewery is in a former 1932 Buick dealership and the owners/operators have a combined 50+ years of experience in brewing. Their goal is a complete experience with beer, pub grub, 12′ screen, live music and great service.

We had a few brews before ordering their HUGE preztel. If a place has fish dip or pretzel – we’re in!

This was another nice drive to one of our Florida’s coasts – not too far – yet enough of a drive to feel like you could ‘get away’ even temporarily.

Ginny

Eric’s Easter Eats or E3

Easter Eating for Eric was a time for a special meal and this year was no different. He had been planning this for a number of days. Me? My plans involved a bunny and plants. We named her Georgette.

We started our morning with early brunch at ROOT & BRANCH bistro + bar, in Clermont. It’s a nice local chef-owned eating establishment having cozy (but spaced out) seating and a locally-sourced menu. Their farm to table concept incorporates ingredients sourced from farms within a 200 mile radius of Orlando.

While waiting for a plate of their delicious homemade biscuits, we enjoyed a beverage.

Snapaloopza Spritzer on left, Bloody Maria on right.

Drinks were quickly followed by the biscuits – BTW ordered before the drinks! Yes, we were that determined to order them.

Biscuits with a side of strawberry preserves.

Oops, another bunny photo of Georgette. Hanging out in the driveway with the blue sage.

I ordered the Egg Sammie and almost forgot to take a photo. Deliclious eggs were accompanied with smoky cheddar cheese, sitting on a slab of ham. Mixed cut potatoes accompanied my meal. You can almost see my sammie at the bottom of the photo.

Eric ordered a new entre for himself: House Benedict (one of my previous choices and a top contender for me).

We were waaaaaaay too full to order any dessert. Let’s just say we were keeping any extra space for our afternoon Easter meal prepared by Eric.

We leisurely enjoyed the fine weather (Yes, really! Excellent weather, sun, with clouds, temps in the 70s) as the meat was cooking. What meat you ask?????? Hang on, you’ll see very soon. We broke up the afternoon with a few other delicacies, Texas oysters. Definitely not something that was any part of my Easter tradition growing up, but hey! We live in Florida.

While they were very tasty, I was ‘jonesing’ for some salty popcorn. Never expected that did you. It’s a typical Sunday snack when we’re out and about tasting craft brews.

Voila!

Eric came outside, grinning from ear to ear…………with a bowl of salty goodness. I knew there was a reason we’ve been married for 26+ years.

Georgette slipped in again! This time sitting with the amaryllis blooming in the back yard. Sneaky bunny.

One of the best ‘foodie’ things resulting from our Iceland trips were adding lamb to our meat menu. Okay, okay, it had always been in Eric’s food realm, not so much mine. He has searched for Icelandic lamb (it’s something very special) but availability is limited, in the fall and generally a special order or request from the butcher. Truthfully, I’d rather journey back to Iceland for my next lamb meal – just saying.

Meat prep included deboning a leg of lamb, salt/pepper/herb rubbing while sitting in the (garage) fridge two days, drying to concentrate the flavors. Braised for 5 hours adding red wine, some garlic and herbs from our garden. Here you go.

Okay, maybe not my most photogenic meat shot, but hey, we were hungry and they were breathing down my neck!

Green beans & new potatoes along with an interesting radish salad rounded out the meal.

Plated

One more thing is needed to take the meal over the top – dessert. Strawberries are a favorite spring treat. Pair them with angel food cake, topped with cream cheese icing and a dollop of freshly whipped cream. This was a meal fit for a king and his family.

Georgette? Where did she go? She’s hiding in our veggie and herb garden. Can you name plants seen below? There are 5.

I can’t believe it. Started a post in the morning and posting before bedtime – that’s a first for me. I’ve got my last 2021 S.G.I. post to complete (yikes – way, way over due) and another one lined up for street tacos.

Soon, I promise.

Ginny

What were those plants with Georgette?

bottom left, clock-wise: kale, cabbage, collards, fennel and bronze fennel. I will admit, the cabbage is hard to see behind Georgette’s head – but it’s there.

S.G.I. 2021 Chapter 4

Rain greeted us mid-week.

Along with fog – thick as pea soup. Yikes! Driving into town, you can barely see the river from the Apalachicola bridge.

They say take lemons and make lemonade. We’re taking rain and eating oysters! The day was the perfect time to head west for Indian Pass Raw Bar. Outside seating in a screened room was perfect for the current Covid environment.

This is the place that operates on a honor system.

First up was oysters two ways: raw and baked.

Preceded by some fish dip and cups of seafood gumbo.

Cole slaw was my choice of side, to go along with my chicken tenders – sorry Eric. At least the corn dogs were not my choice. Spoiler alert – they were Audry’s, both of them.

Topped it off with a slice of key lime pie before heading back to Apalachicola. BTW – Eric and I both got our own slices. That makes a lot more sense if you read the blog posts for S.G.I. 2020. 🙂

A trip into town was not complete without going to Piggly Wiggly.

I am always amazed at their intense selections. Look at these options for canned artichokes on the top row in the photo – at least 6. My Publix at home doesn’t carry that many! Party-size condiments and veggies underneath. How long would it take to get through that jug of mayo?

What place needs this many BBQ sauces? I stopped counting at 55. Really? Really.

This next photo was intended to show their jelly/jam selections (55+) but then I noticed the nut butters (15+) and that doesn’t count the ones chopped out of my photo.

Okay, you can laugh now. I love to visit grocery stores when we travel. There are usually items I’ve never seen, locally-made product (great for souvenirs or gifts) and just ‘stuff’ that is interesting. Eric just lets me wander as he gathers items on his grocery list.

Still two more stops before leaving town: 13 Mile Seafood Market and OCB. Googled 13 Mile Brand and discovered the name refers to a tiny community 13 miles west of Apalachicola. The family business began in 1957 and four generations harvest oysters, shrimp and fish from the Apalachicola Bay and Gulf of Mexico. Their seafood market opened in 2009 along the Apalachicola River.

Directly behind the seafood market is one of their shrimp boats.

OCB = Oyster City Brewing. Instead of cans, he gets the growlers filled. Also picked up their local newsletter The Forgotten Coastline. It is always interesting reading.

Oops, meant to include a third stop – our lot. It looks rough and definitely needs mowing and some tree trimming cleanup. It’s just not an attractive sight. Ugh.

But no, we can’t head to the rental yet. On SGI are several local businesses and one we occasional visit is Sometimes It’s Hotter. Usually it’s to pick up some locally-baked bread, which was our original intent this day.

They have an amazing wine selection for such a small community. This is only 1 of 4 walls that contain their wine choices.

Although not a purchase – since we make our own – I like they have things made from the area.

By the time we got back, the rain had stopped and I had a chance to walk to the beach. I started walking along the coastline, no storm in sight, just clouds. But boy, was I glad I wore my raincoat. The weather changed that fast and I would have been soaked in just a few minutes.

One more post is coming to finish out the week. Stay tuned.

Ginny

S.G.I. 2021 Chapter 1

Yeah! We headed back to St. George Island. The drive up was going to be a bit harrowing with this storm in our path. But, the mighty Tundra pulled us through.

We knew from last year’s drive open restaurants were few and far between. Some old favorites had fallen on hard times and were no longer open. Although we had eaten breakfast at home before starting, driving all the way to St. George Island was quite a stretch. Maybe I should clarify…..there were plenty of fast food joints, but we make every effort to eat local. BBQ was Eric’s ‘snack’ of choice – really? BBQ is a snack? He thought a few ribs would carry him over until supper. Me, I just wanted the fries. Dipped in hot BBQ sauce – mighty tasty!

We can’t check into our rental until after 5pm due to all the enhanced cleaning protocols. Rats! In the past it was 3pm and sometimes we could ‘cheat’ the check-in if no one had been renting our selection. Not now. What to do?????? Drive into Apalachicola of course.

Eric needed (I use that word loosely) to fill his 2 Oyster City growlers and this task would help eat up some time.

While waiting in their line, he started up a conversation (I know, everybody’s shocked) and the gentlemen turned out to be a real estate agent……..who could help with selling our land, east of Tallahassee – great! Eric needs to keep that connection going.

Soon enough time passed and we could check into our rental. First you had to get onto the island. BTW they really could upgrade this welcome – just saying. The grass is scraggley, shells in disarray not really a beautiful spot.

Leading to our next sign……….

Houses are a bit pricier here, but winter fishing is most successful at The Cut. Did you notice, we didn’t bring the boat. This time of the year, boating was not the preferred method of catching fish. Plantation is a gated community at the far west end of SGI and The Cut is the furtherest point of land.

FAITH was the name of the rental. Yep, we drove right past it the first time.

Typical SGI beach house: parking underneath, first floor had the bedrooms.

Top floor had the kitchen and gathering spots.

Have to walk to the beach! We can see glimpses peeking between the pine trees and the few houses built nearby.

Interesting boardwalk and literally right across the street from our rental.

The unsettled weather had the beach churned up quite a bit as seen by the erosion. Besides myself, there are a few hearty souls.

If you look waaaaaaay in the distance of the photo below, you can just about see evidence of The Cut – large rocks lining the opening. That’s where the guys and the kids will be spending most of their time fishing – not me.

First dinner on the island is rarely about seafood, or at least not about seafood we have caught. This time was no different, except for our appetizer. Naturally, oysters start the evening.

Grilled steaks, Eric’s homemade scalloped potatoes and Dennis’s famous brussell sprouts rounded out our meal.

I just need a little something sweet to finish the night – Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies – delicious!

Ginny

2020 S.G.I. – Chapter 7

The beaches of SGI are a main attraction for most and we were no exception during our visit. Even when the weather was dicey, it’s interesting to see the beach in all its various moods. Our last day we visited the Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park at the east end of the 28 mile long island – occupying 9 of those miles.

We got Eric here with his fishing poles.

Even in the surf, he caught something – a small whiting, edible but not needed on our last day.

Feathered wildlife joined us, curious why we were invading ‘their’ beach. This little guy came over to check me out, getting closer than I expected.

This Great Blue Heron was curious and persistent.

Adrienne went over to check him out.

He kept showing up in our photos.

The same bird…………..

…………..closer and closer.

Eric was using live shrimp while fishing and this bird knew it!

Finally……………..he got his shrimp. Eric was done and dumped the remaining shrimp.

Taking off after he was full.

One last stop before packing up – Paddy’s Raw Bar. It used to be a real dive, a biker bar – pretty rough and not a place I would go. They’ve changed with the times.

Naturally, we had oysters. I get it. After awhile, oysters look like more oysters, which look like more oysters – unless you’re the one(s) eating them. They had different tastes and different levels of salinity, but all mighty tasty.

Sunday we had to head home, and found one more place to have more oysters, in Panacea. BTW – that’s a live palm tree they tacked the city sign on.

This is part of our regular route home, but had never found this restaurant.

Oysters and mullet fish dip – delicious.

Those that know us would not be surprised to know we brought oysters home. Adrienne and I had them in New Orleans several years ago ‘char-grilled’ and that was our request for the ones we got.

That evening we had them grilled, oysters rockefeller and raw.

This was a different SGI trip – still fun, but a different focus and laid-back vacation. Until next time………….

Ginny