Media partner and good friend Leigh Cort has been singing the praises of Saint Simons Island to me for more than two years now. When the opportunity to visit presented itself this April, I jumped on it. I took the redeye to Jacksonville and then was driven to the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. Saint Simons Island is located in between Jacksonville and Savannah, but is slightly closer to Jacksonville. It’s one of the 13 main barrier islands along Georgia’s Gulf Coast, protecting the shoreline from winds and surf and providing a nutrient-rich marsh where marine life thrives.
We crossed the Georgia state line and drove over the causeway onto Saint Simons, passed through the small town and its quaint businesses and entered the grounds of the magnificent King & Prince. After checking in and taking a brief, much needed nap, I joined Leigh for a small bite and had my first taste of Wild Georgia Shrimp. Big, plump, meaty, sweet and juicy, these shrimp arrived atop a bed of bright green lettuce and red tomatoes with a savory Louis dressing. This visit was off to a delectable start.
Refueled and refreshed, I joined my fellow writers aboard the Lighthouse Trolley with the one and only Cap Fendig. A life-long resident of the island, Cap exemplifies what I call the fiercely proud nature of its natives. A one-time presidential candidate, Cap’s pride in his island home is clearly evident. He loves nothing better than telling visitors why he loves this island as much as he does. We took the trolley to the Coast Guard Maritime Museum, where Curt Smith, Events Coordinator for the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, gave us a thorough overview of how the barrier islands were formed. Sand eroding from the Appalachians centuries ago traveled to the coast creating the islands, and tidal and alluvial rivers deposit nutrients. After watching a video, several of us climbed the narrow ladder to the roof to check out the incredible view.
We met Cap at the beach, where he demonstrated the art of fishing Saint Simons style using basic supplies from the hardware store. We soaked up the sun and the sea breeze before heading back to the King & Prince.
Vinny D’Agostino, the Hotel’s Food & Beverage Director, comes to the island by way of Rhode Island and Italy. His 23 years in the industry includes stops at The Breakers in Palm Beach, The Ritz-Carlton in Boston and the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach. He’s a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers Association and his enthusiasm is contagious. He was anxious to introduce newly hired executive Chef Jeff Kaplan to us as they welcomed us with a Southern Culinary Traditions dinner.
We began with cocktails made with spirits from Georgia’s first legal distillery, Thirteenth Colony Distilleries from Americus, Georgia. Ample platters of local artisanal cheeses and charcuterie made for good grazing while we drank southern cocktails and visited. Bud St. Pierre, Director of Sales and Marketing joined us as we sat down to our appetizer course, Apalachiacola Oysters on the half shell with sweet corn, asparagus, tomato and cilantro vinaigrette, paired with FrogTown Cellars Chardonnay from Dahlonega, GA. The oysters were sublime and I was pleasantly surprised by my first taste of Georgia wine. Following an Intermezzo of blackberry sorbet with a mist of blackberry liqueur, we watched as Wild Georgia Low Country Shrimp and Grits were prepared before our eyes. The entrée was paired with another selection from FrogTown Cellars, the 2008 Sangiovese. Both food and wine were exceptionally tasty. All good things must come to an end and this meal concluded with a mouthwatering candied peach crème brulée with CayRum from the Dominican Republic, a favorite of Vinny’s.
How we were able to pack so much into less than half a day still astounds me. We were just getting warmed up and in the next two days we would enjoy a visit to the King & Prince’s golf course, a seafood demo, a “shrimpin’” adventure, a Georgia food experience and more. I’ll pick up where we left off next time.