Saturday, June 23, 2012

Back From the Beach...

Whew!  Last week I was at the beach and this week, I have had training all day long, every day, with homework at night.  If you are reading this, thank you for putting up with my sparse posting the last couple of weeks.  I did pretty well last week because I had a few posts prepared ahead, but this week has been mostly empty.  If you have sent me a message, I have probably not answered it.  And yet, I have quite a bit to post about, so this coming week should be much better.

The picture above is taken from the balcony of our condominium in Panama City Beach, Florida.  For those that don't know, Panama Cit Beach is on the Florida panhandle on the the Gulf of Mexico.  The gulf is just about my favorite place in the world.  It can be a crazy place with lots of partyers, but I go just to spend time with family, stare at and get in the gulf, and of course, eat fresh seafood. While I am going to talk about the beach itself a bit, this post is going to be primarily about the food we ate while we were there.  That is, the food we ate out at restaurants.  The food we cooked will be several blog posts all their own.  I really had a hard time deciding what order to do the restaurants in because they are all so unique that they are incomparable, so I decided to go in chronological order.  It also occurred to me that unless you are used to seafood in the southern United States, that this might be quite the cultural experience for many of you.  Also, please excuse the awful photos.  All of the restaurant photos were taken with my iPhone, primarily in poor lighting, but the food was really great!

First, let me say that it is quite difficult to find really good seafood on the beach.  Most beach restaurants are there for tourists who come from areas where seafood isn't really that fresh, and they assume that the tourists won't know the difference.  And, even if it is fresh, most restaurants overcook seafood, so finding the really good stuff is hard.  My father grew up in Panama City, so I was raised going here and knowing the difference.  So, our first night at the beach (and, actually our last night too) we went to Roughstock's Steak Pit and Seafood in Lynn Haven.  If you want super fresh seafood cooked just right, this is the place to go.  They do have other types of seafood as well as steak, but this is where we go for the county southern fried type.  The atmosphere is casual but nice and very family oriented (They do not sell alcohol and do not allow profanity).
This is a typical tossed salad that comes with your entree.
This is a fried shrimp entree.  One of the side options are these cheese grits that are absolutely wonderful.

We didn't have dessert at Roughstock's - though their dessert tray looked decadent, and we are going to have to try something there sometime, but instead we waited for the Homemade Ice Cream Shoppe on the beach.  This is the only ice cream I have every had that actually tasted homemade, but wasn't actually made at home.  This is the real thing.  And, they have lots of flavors!  If you like homemade ice cream, you have to go here!

I almost always get vanilla because it is my favorite, but I got adventurous this year and got Oreo.  Yum!

This is my dad's.  He had two flavors, and I don't remember one of them, but the other was banana.

This is a picture of the beach the next day.  As you can see, it was stormy out and the gulf was rather turbulent and had quite a few jelly fish.  It was actually closed due to the rip tide, but as you can see many people were still disregarding that at this time.  Later, the beach patrol helicopter came and literally blew people out of the water.  Well, it didn't pick them up and blow them, but it blew air and water to the point that people were uncomfortable enough to get out.

That night we ate at the Captain's Table.  I always get soft shell crabs here because they are a little hard to find, and they are good here, so I really can't speak about their other offerings, but the soft shell crabs are great!
Soft Shell Crabs at the Captain's Table

And, then there was Hunt's Oyster Bar.  We go there for the raw oysters and steamed shrimp, but they have other things too.  This is a super casual place that is a true southern cultural experience. It is loud, and you will get messy.  I don't usually mention people drinking because I'm a teacher and that is just not something teachers do around here, but the the lady drinking wine out of a solo cup with Bud Light printed on it brings a totally new meaning to the word casual.  If you are getting the peel your own shrimp, be warned that you will also be removing their heads so, don't get a manicure before you go and don't wear something you are too attached to.  You will likely have shrimp and butter up to your elbows, but it will be worth it.  If you have never been to this kind of place the experience alone is worth it, but the food is even better!

As you can see here in this sunset photo, and from the first photo, things did clear up and get beautiful - though I was so busy enjoying it, that I didn't take many pictures and actually none in full sun.  The picture below was taken on a night we ate in.  I'll let you know what we ate in a later post.

Next, we have Pickles Beachside Grill in Seaside Beach.  My daughter and I ate there on our shopping trip to Seaside (west of Panama City Beach on 30A). I had a pimento cheese sandwich, and she had a cheeseburger.  It is a bit on the pricey side for sandwiches and fries, but everything is really good, and the fries are the best I have ever eaten.

And last, but certainly not least, we have George's at Alys Beach.  George's has a little dressier atmosphere - though people are not dressed up at all, it is just atmosphere, and is the place to go if you want gourmet food instead of the southern specialties.  Actually, they have the southern specialties too, but I have never been able to resist their more creative dishes, so I have not had them. It is located at Alys Beach west of Panama City Beach on Hwy. 30A (before you get to Seaside Beach).  This is where my husband and I went on our 'date night.'  Everything we have ever had there was wonderful.  And, the entrees are divided into behave and misbehave categories.  Both of ours were off the behave portion, but I can't say that I felt like I was behaving at all.  

We both got this Fried Goat Cheese and Zinfandel Poached Pear Salad - reminded my of the goat cheese salad I had in Monte Carlo years ago.

I had these Seared Sea Scallops with Mint Pea Ravioli and Yellow Tomato Coulis - one of the best dishes I have ever eaten!

My husband had this Jerk Crusted Gulf Snapper with Green Banana Salsa and Mashed Yucca - delicious!

And, one last look at the beach...


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