I spent the last part of August and the beginning of September on a family vacation to the South. The two weeks away were exciting, relaxing, hot + humid, totally enjoyable and an absolute blast. I'm still recovering and trying to settle back into a "normal" lifestyle.
The vacation started with a family trip to the famous spring break oasis, Panama City Beach, FL. We then traveled up to Alabama where my parents currently live on beautiful Smith Lake in Jasper. The last stop was in Seattle where I met John and his family for the big NFL opening season game where the hometown heroes, the Green Bay Packers, took on last year's Superbowl Champs, the Seattle Seahawks.
Throughout the trip, I got to experience some awesome sights, meet really interesting/hilarious/bizarre people and best of all, eat some delicious grub.
First stop: Panama City Beach! Or as the spring breakers say, PCBin'!!!
The first morning in PCB my dad made omelets. For as long as I can remember, omelets have been my dad's go-to dish. And for good reason -- they're delicious. These were stuffed with ham, cheddar cheese, poblano peppers, onions and mushrooms.
To accompany the omelets were hashbrowns and a terrific view.
After we were done eating we headed out to the beach for excessive amounts of cornhole and ice cold Yuenglings.
That night we ventured to Pier Park for music, drinks and dinner. After stopping at a tiki bar en route, we made our way to Tootsies, a famous Nashville bar with a PCB location. There, we enjoyed Bushwhackers, a famous drink in the south. As the bartender described, it's like a Wendy's Frosty, but loaded with alcohol. She was right. They were crazy good.
Tootsies also had an awesome band performing that night. I never did catch their name, but they were pure country and so fun to listen and dance to. They were so great that I couldn't stop talking about them for the remainder of the trip -- just ask my sister :)
For dinner, we ventured to a small, seemingly local seafood restaurant. They had a lot of great options on the menu, but I opted for the seafood steamer pot. The pot contained shrimp (which tasted like lobster), snappy sausages, corn on the cob, buttery red potatoes and crusty bread.
Minus the rubbery corn, it was perfect. Such a wonderful end to a great day relaxing on the beach with family and new-found friends.
The morning of Day 2 we did a little hiking and beaching at a Florida National Park which was a short drive from our condo. We saw some wildlife, especially birds. There were quite a few "Beware Of Alligators" signs that definitely kept me on my toes. We also saw a large family of raccoons hiding out in the beach's rocky jetty. They were not afraid of people and very willing to steal unaccompanied beach-goer's picnics.
After the park we headed to Hunt's, a local seafood joint, for a snack of oysters and deep-fried goodness.
The atmosphere of this place was pretty great. Lots of locals, old men behind the counter shucking oysters at an insane speed, packaged saltines pilled up in the corner, and the constant ring of an old bell each time the counter staff was tipped.
We ordered 2 pitchers of cold Land Shark, salty deep-fried pickles, deep-fried mushrooms with a creamy, peppery sauce and 2 dozen fresh oysters.
I think all of this food was gone in 10 minutes or less. We really worked up an appetite sunbathing and bird watching.
Although the oysters were extremely tasty, they were definitely different than the Pacific NW oysters I'm used to. They were bigger, not as salty and didn't have that super creamy texture like many NW oysters do. It was also customary to eat these oysters on saltine crackers, something I had never heard of.
It was a new oyster experience for me. I liked it.
Later that day we headed back to the condo for taco night with all the fixin's, including guacamolly's guacamole!
It was simple, satisfying and super tasty.
We spent the last day on the beach playing cornhole with our new friends, Tennessee Tony, his wife, Chas-t-i-t-y (the 'tity' was pointed out to us), Lin, the suspected Nashville executive, and the brother-sister duo from the south of New Orleans (who knew there was a town south of NOLA?).
Half way through the day we had a bloody mary competition. Everyone made their version of a bloody mary using a variety of ingredients and submitted it for judgement. The brother of the brother-sister duo was a weekend bartender who wasn't afraid to offend, so he became our judge.
The competition was fierce. Here are the results:
- Most Creative: My mom, Mary -- the celery stalk forest had a face made out of sausage and capers.
- Most Salty: Mine -- however, the judge did say that if I pulled back on the salt, mine would have been the clear winner. I'm still bitter.
- Best to Drink All Day: My dad, Dan -- not bad, but sorta boring if you ask me ;)
- Most Creole-y: John -- seeing as the judge was from New Orleans, John thought adding 1/2 a bottle of creole season was the right way to go.
- Most Fishy: My brother-in-law, Jack -- it's surprising because he only put in 3/4 of a can of sardines...
- I can't remember what my brother Alec got. Least Memorable I guess :)
And the winner goes to...
- Best Overall: My sister, Anna
For the last night at the beach we had a shrimp boil and did wine tasting with my mom's homemade wines. Again, the shrimp was on-point. So flavorful, tender and cooked to perfection. Complements to the chef!
We tried 4 different kinds of my mom's wines: Cranberry, peach, grape concentrate and a chardonnay. They were each very unique and the flavor of the fruit really came through. My favorite was the chardonnay.
We ended the night out at Pineapple Willy's, a huge bar right on the beach. We drank massive tropical cocktails and danced up a storm.
We all had such a great time in the Sunshine State. Delicious food and drinks, family and new-found friends, the beach and lots of laughs. You really can't ask for anything better than that.
Stay tuned for Southern Adventure - Part 2 - 'Bama y'all!