Tag Archives: restaurants

A DAY ON 30A

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I have been going to 30A since I was a kid, so if you want to know the best way to spend a day on 30A, take it from me.

So I went to the 30-A area in Florida to hang out, and had an awesome time! Beach shells, swimming in the ocean, grubbing at Modica Market, walking through the lovely Seaside sand swept streets at night, cozying through the small little nook walks here and there—the green spaces, the food, the white sand beach, the people, nothing beats Seaside, except Watercolor right next door! I really like all these communities along the Gulf Coast down the highway 30-A from Grayton Beach to Alys Beach to Rosemary! They all have their unique appeal, cool shops, and great food! Just south of Destin, Florida, Seaside was born in 1980 and features a sprawling array of cottages built close together in a new urbanist community based on small towns of the South.

Sitting out on the beach in my blue chair with my umbrella, watching the waves roll in while reading a nice book was how I spent my late mornings and early afternoons. I also spent a lot of time in Seaside’s swimming pool, which came equipped with its on towels and lounge chairs to lay out on. Another thing I did was cruised on foot everywhere. Be sure to stop at Sun Dog Books and Record store. It’s like awesome reading for me there, plus off the wall LPs upstairs. Get a coffee across the way at Amavida and browse the grove marketplace (an open-air market!). That’s right, I said it, an open-air market! There’s a pizza joint there also that hit home runs on my appetite, but nothing really appealed to me more than sitting in an Adirondack chair right next to the beach, listening to singer songwriters being pumped through the stereo system, and drinking a cold beverage. It was like that for me right out in front of the Shrimp Shack (that’s where my beer came from). Up and down 30-A, the Shrimp Shack is my pick for the freshest, quickest seafood to eat. Nothing beats their marinated crab claws I tell you. They also serve Dreaming Tree wine and have a whole cooler full of beers and beverages alike—anything to cool you down when you’ve been in the hot Florida sun. The atmosphere is unbeatable with screen doors and sand coming up to the back door entrance. You feel like you’re in paradise—some kind of Jimmy Buffett song I guess. A cool breezeway for eating at picnic style two-seaters is a great place to take it away on the food or out back at the big gazebo overlooking the Gulf. Just take it away there and trust me, it’s the place to be. Another place to check out is Bud N’ Alley’s in the grove. More of a sit down place, they offer anything you could want seafood-wise, plus they have a killer bar upstairs that overlooks the Gulf. It’s a great place to catch a game—we saw the World Cup there! For fancy dining, don’t forget Thirty A up the road. Named after the legendary drive and area, it has simply the best high dining fare you could ask for. I had the scallops and loved it.

Back at Seaside, check out the Airstream trailer line-up anytime you’re hungry or parched. Go to Raw n’ Juicy for a fresh green juice after body surfing in the Gulf or to Frost Bites for ice cream! At night, the green space offers outdoor movies sometimes, and there is also an awesome theater. Also, nothing beats just walking around gazing up at the stars. While we were there, two rainbows lit up the sun baked sky! It’s that kind of place. Magical things happen there all around you. Check Seaside out, it’s worth the trip. Rent a house or a condo or stay at Watercolor Inn! Thank me later.

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CAFE CARLYLE – STEVE TYRELL

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Next time you’re in the Big Apple, you might remember the Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel on 35 East 75th Street as an intimate place to see a few wonderful musicians. I first went to the hotel Café to see Bobby Short there when I was little, and I remember how amazed I was at the size of the room. I wish seeing every musician was like this. He was singing right next to our table! While we ate and had drinks! What a wonderful room it is also. Upon a recent visit, the piano and drums literally floated in the audience. Elegant paintings by Marcel Vertes hung on the wall, with plush seating beneath them. In the back, a full bar nestled in a corner. The meal was a four-course encore and we had martinis also. We went around Christmas time and saw Steve Tyler. He’s that guy from the Father of the Bride soundtrack who sings Give Me The Simple Life, but he’s also one of the best standard singers since Sinatra in my opinion. He belted out Sinatra and Burt Bacharach songs, while we snapped pictures and recordings. He was dressed in a suit with a black tie. Although he seemed a little hot, the room felt nice and cozy to me. Highlights included This Guy’s In Love With You, The Way You Look Tonight and Bewitched, Bothered and Bedazzled. Towards the end, he did a Santa comes to town song. The set was solid and long. The price was cheap, considering. I think you can go and not eat and just have drinks, if you want to save money. Either way, go there and see him or Woody Allen’s band, they play there also. It’s literally unbelievable and unforgettable how close you are too the musicians and how intimate it is as they tell stories and rap with the audience, you feel like they’re in your living room! Steve even told a story about him and Bill Clinton when the former president showed up. Like Bill, he’s also got a Southern accent and a swagger about life that adds to the humor to the event. Check him out here!

NEW ENGLAND SEAFOOD MEMORIES

seafood memories

One of the coolest places for fresh seafood that I have been to other than Seattle’s Pike Fish Market and neighboring seafood restaurants are the restaurants / seafood markets in Westport, Connecticut. Nothing beats the fresh raw oysters, clams, salmon, tuna, haddock, halibut, and many other delicacies you will find right on the water there on The Long Island Sound. I grew up going to boarding school in Kent, CT and loved it, so Connecticut has always been close to my heart. Just 47 miles northeast of New York City and home to artists and writers alike, Westport’s oceanic ties conjures up images of old craggly men sitting on flipped over wooden boxes that were once full of crabs, chatting about the tides and their last time at sea. Last time I was in Westport, Connecticut, I went to eat at Splash. A serious place for clamshells and oysters on the half, Splash is a hip restaurant that sits right across from the water and contains its own seafood market upfront. I also managed to pick up some stellar quality milk and cheese at the market across the street. We dined on Little Neck clams and Blue Point oysters, and they were briny sweet oysters from around the way that knocked my socks off. I wondered if Paul Newman himself, a lifetime resident, had eaten there once. The atmosphere was outstanding also with a spacious, intimate and interior decorated space that had a New York feeling in a small town setting. Check it out sometime if you’re around the way. Other names we ran across for seafood were The Whelk, The Mansion Clam House and Westfair Fish and Chips!

There is something about New England seafood that distills memories that never go away. I can literally taste meals I had at Shelly’s in New York. That gorgeous space filled with Peter Max paintings created memories for me that are just like yesterday—even though they have since closed or moved, and gone away. I will always return to New York for the seafood. We ate at Nobu there and had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Even though it was high and outrageous, it was also unforgettable. Let’s not forget, Maine lobster and clam chowder houses. All the way up the coast there I’ve had simply the best small town seafood hut stuff you could desire. Keep New England seafood alive! Also, speaking of Connecticut we had some of the best dairy I’ve ever had—grassfed cows and raw artesian sheep cheeses—at a dairy in East Lyme’s, Connecticut. Check it out sometime! It’s always cool to do the homestead thing on a brisk drive through the country side. Pike Fish Market has that too if your on the other side.

GOONIES ICE CREAM

my favorite ice cream

If you’re in any city that has Goonies ice cream and you’re needing ice cream, look no further than a Swensen’s. I grew up going to Swensen’s, and aside from their cheese soup and delicious shredded chicken salad, their ice cream hits home runs on my mind. Maybe you’ve seen it in Goonies, maybe you haven’t, but if you haven’t, look again, because it’s also Chunk’s favorite food! This isn’t a movie endorsement really either. Just know, Chunk’s food works for me. They have earthquakes, banana splits, milkshakes, carfaits, everything. They are like a 50’s ice cream parlor with 33 flavors or something. Check out Strawberry Bananas ‘n Cream and Turkish Coffee to name a few. Sure there’s Cold Stone which I love, but do they have Bubblegum? I think not. What about a Gold Rush? Try that! It’s like a better sundae. Started in San Francisco, this place really knows how to hit homers like the San Francisco Giants on major ice cream scoops, fudge and cherry combinations. Hence the name Earthquake. Try that! Go for it on like the best thing I’ve ever had with eight scoops of ice cream. Split it with your girlfriend or your guy. What makes it unique is they just have all these like mini chocolate sundaes that just completely execute on the quality, design and taste. They also have carfaits, which are similar to sundaes, but are like stacks of scoops of ice cream surrounded by good stuff. So go for it at Swensen’s if you can find one. If you live in San Francisco or Miami, you shouldn’t have a problem. The cherry on top is the atmosphere of these places with their marble slab tabletops—it just feels cold in their like Christmas mornings and ice cream. All things good to you. Here’s a cheers to your Gold Rush at 33 flavors of goodness! (You can also buy their ice cream in stores sometimes, if you can find it, just like Chunk, you can have Goonies ice cream also!)

THINGS TO DO IN ST AUGUSTINE FL

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If you’re going to Northeast Florida, one place to not miss is the oldest city in North America, St. Augustine. There are a lot of things to do in St Augustine, FL that you won’t want to miss. Founded in 1565 and discovered by Ponce de Leon, this wonderfully preserved ancient city sits almost right on the water and boasts some of the most beautiful stretches of isolated beach in Vilano Beach just north of St. Augustine that you will find in modern day Florida. One cool thing is that there are building codes in place, unlike other parts of Florida, that discourage taller ocean front buildings. I think there’s like a three-story minimum or something, maybe less! You might start out your day in the old city by doing a walking tour up and down this historic slice of old Florida. Go for it on a cup of coffee somewhere there and get the European feeling the city has to offer as you sit outside with gentle ocean breezes blowing. While there, go see some history like The Castillo de San Marcos and the Ximinez-Fatio House—it goes back to 1573—wow! Also, be sure to stroll down St. George Street in the old area. Two very old churches in town really capture the essence of this place and are worth visiting also. Next, think about the Fountain of Youth. You will learn all about the city’s history and how Ponce de Leon thought he had discovered the spring of eternal life there. Next, you might pack a beach bag for the day and go to St. Augustine Beach by the pier. You’ll cross the incredible Bridge of Lions on your way over. Feel the wonderful energy of the natives who lived in this place that you’ve learned about and the Spanish conquistadors like Leon in the vibe of this place. Hey, go surfing for the day! After a day at the beach relaxing, you could be like me and drive south to Crescent Beach just to check it out. Hit a shell shop on the way—there’s an awesome one. There are some beautiful vistas of the ocean on Crescent you won’t see in many places in Florida. On the way back, maybe check out the Alligator Farm. I know there is also an awesome dolphin/marine park, but I’ve never been to it. After running through all the above things to do in St Augustine, you might check out Vilano Beach as the sun sets. It’s beach stretches on for miles, so it’s a great place to catch the sunset. Hey, try out Cap’s On The Water up the way there for fresh seafood and a steller vibe. Next, for night, take it to one of the many bars in the old city. Walk around and immerse yourself in this place I once almost called home. It’s that cool.

TOP TEN THINGS TO DO IN MIAMI

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So, I grew up coming to Miami for vacations and always loved this wonderful city. Although, I never lived there, I have a list of my favorite top ten things to do in Miami. Here it goes:

1. Lay out on the beach!
2. Go for a sailboat cruise of the area (you may have to go to Key Biscayne to find one, but it works there also—they even have snorkeling!).
3. Go shopping in South Beach and see the Art Deco houses and hotels there.
4. Have a cup of cuban coffee at a cafe.
5. Tour the historic Italian Meditarrenean Vizcaya with it’s sweeping views of the ocean.
6. Go to Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Fish Market. Unlike Joe’s in South Beach which I wrote about, Garcia’s feels more like a local crab shack on the Gulf Coast or Maine and sits right on the Miami river. Boasting a fresh seafood market, it really takes you there on the quality of their fish. Everything is fresh. It may not always be the best extras or the best sauces, but the quality of seafood is outstanding.
7. Cruise over to Coconut Grove for cool bistros, a little more shopping and coffeehouses, plus a park on the water and great classical architecture to drive by. Getting some ice cream there to cool down is good idea for me.
8. Sitting right next to Coconut Grove, the wealthier enclave of Coral Gables boasts more big old sprawling Spanish style homes to wander by. Similar to Beverly Hills, it has tons of wonderfully designed historic houses for a driving tour. The houses literally hide behind swooping banana palms and tropical vegetation. You might check out the Venetian Pool while you’re there.
9. Go see the Miami Heat cook it up.
10. Have a drink at the hip Fontainebleau hotel.

*Don’t forget to explore cultural neighborhoods like Little Havana and take advantage of Miami’s awesome downtown museums and opera if you like that sort of thing. Look at Trip Advisor.

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JOE’S IN MIAMI

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While eating in Miami, I always make it a habit to go to Joe’s Stone Crab at Miami Beach. Touristy or not, Joe’s big mouthwatering stone crabs fill the plate and your appetite for all things seafood that come from the ocean. The last time I was there, my mouth was watering for New England Clam Chowder from Maine or something, so I got that, and what did my eyes see, low and behold, it was the Killer King Crab Claws, I believe I went for it there on the two pounder, and had Key Lime Pie for desert. It was like Key West, Maine and Miami all rolled into one for me that way. I sat alone, drank iced tea and watched the bustling South Floridan traffic brush by me as I dined in style at 11 Washington Ave. What a bar they have there also. Stop in for drinks before walking on the beach at night. Maybe a Mojito or something.

NEW YORK OYSTERS

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Hi, I am author and travel expert Duke Tate here today to talk to you about New York oysters. Living and growing up near the Gulf Coast, I’ve eaten oysters my whole life. While traveling, I also enjoy tasting oysters from different regions all over the US. Little oysters, big oysters, briny, sweet, tart, like good wines. every oyster is just a little different. I’ve had them all. One of my favorite oyster experiences was eating at the Monterey Fish House where we dined on big Pacific oysters on the half that covered half the plate. Just 6 is all you need there. Another favorite place is Wintzell’s in Fairhope, Alabama. His sayings cover the walls, bits and pieces of wisdom about life. It’s life and oysters there. But my favorite oyster experience from the 38 states I’ve traveled through, is the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City. Located in Grand Central Station, the oyster bar oozes with old world charm due to the vaulted ceilings, tiled walls and the waiters’ New York manner. One thing that makes it truly unique is the amount of oysters to sample from, provided they are in season. The raw bar features 29 different shelled delicacies from all over the Eastern seaboard. Including the Grand Central Bar, The Voice has a pretty solid list of other oyster dives and bars alike to eat at in Gotham. Check it out.

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