When I visited St. Simons Island and the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort last April, it was so magical I thought it would be a once in a lifetime event. Luckily for me, I was wrong. On very short notice, I received an invitation for a return visit in October. A group of sommeliers were doing tastings there and the hotel thought I might enjoy coming back. They were right! A large storm in the southeast bypassed St. Simons Island altogether and I was greeted with picture perfect weather. Having stayed at the King and Prince before I can say this with confidence. You will not go hungry at the resort nor will you be left wanting an extraordinary culinary experience. Food and Beverage Director Vinny D’Agostino has assembled a team that knows how to wow all of your senses.
For starters we enjoyed signature cocktails prepared with spirits from 13th Colony Distillery and Georgia wines, paired with fresh fruits, local cheeses and honey. Dinner highlights were bacon wrapped scallops, fried green tomatoes and wild Georgia shrimp and grits. Vinny did a great job pairing wines with each course, and having a group of sommeliers in house certainly didn’t hurt. I adjourned to my beautifully appointed room overlooking the gentle surf and called it a night.
The next morning we gathered in the hotel’s solarium for a hearty breakfast and listened as Curt Smith brought St. Simons Island’s fascinating past to life. Curt has spent his life on St. Simons and shares many personal stories as well as tales of its first native American inhabitants, occupations by the Spanish and British and the island’s critical military role during World War II. He is also intimately familiar with the islands geological history . When you visit the island, make it a point to visit the Historical Society and ask for Curt. St. Simons has a most colorful past.
We returned to the King and Prince Golf Course where Rick Mattox was there to give us the grand tour. No ‘gators this visit, but we did spy another massive eagle’s nest. The course is impeccably maintained. I challenge you to find a more pristine course that brings you as close to nature. Even if you’re not an avid golfer, a visit to the course is well worth your while. Rick was even able to improve my swing a bit.
Lunchtime beckoned and we made our way to Halyards. Executive Chef Dave Snyder was in Detroit attending the World Series, but Glen Mikowski did a much more than adequate job as a fill in. Chef Mikowski brings thirty years experience to the table and we all gathered in the kitchen for a a demo while they started the shrimp boil. Quail eggs, clams, crabcakes and beef were also on the menu. At Halyards, fresh and local top the list. Every bite was a delight to be savored.
We hopped on the Lighthouse Trolley and joined local legend Cap Fendig for a mini island tour. Cap exudes southern grace and is a master storyteller. Ask him about the time he ran for President, yes, of the United States. We stopped at Christ Church, where John and Charles Wesley, considered the fathers of the Methodist Church, preached to the natives. Christ Church dates back to 1776 and has been rebuilt after being partially destroyed in wartime.
We returned to the hotel for cocktails at the Terrace Grill poolside and then took a tour of the hotel with Bud St. Pierre, the Director of Sales & Marketing. There are many nooks and crannies to explore, some lovely historic stained glass and we took a look at the different types of rooms and suites. There truly is a room to accommodate virtually every traveler, most with a picture perfect view of the water.
Dinner was a short walk out the driveway at the Beachcomber BBQ. You may know this place from the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Brother and sister Roger and Heather Hardman run this place and the bbq is nothing short of extraordinary. I love brisket and this was exceptionally tasty as were their ribs.
The next morning we caught the edge of the storm. Winds were whipping, flags were snapping and we headed downtown for breakfast at Palmer’s Village Cafe. Palmer Fortune has turned this into the place to go for breakfast on St. Simons.Colorful local artwork adorns the walls and in the kitchen Chef John Belechak is doing his best to please your palate. His philosophy is to create food that falls between the rough and refined. It’s hearty fare, and we enjoyed an Islander omelette and the Coastal Delight, an open face sandwich with shrimp and tasso, fresh mustard green and sautéed mushrooms.
While most of the group went shrimpin’ on the Lady Jane, I decided to explore town as I had already done that activity in April. I walked along the waterfront and watched the furious whitecaps and then explored the island’s majestic lighthouse. I returned to the King and Prince for lunch, and then settled in for an afternoon of “The Georgia Food Experience.” David Lane III represented his family’s Lane Southern Orchards, the irrepressible Ted Dennard gave us the colorful history of his Savannah Bee Company, Charles Cowart shared Still Pond Wine with us and we wrapped it up with a chocolate tasting with Dale Potts, the founder of Sugar Marsh Cottage. Charles tells one of my favorite wine related stories of all time. Once a female sommelier asked him haughtily what he would pair his wines with. Without hesitation he replied “a front porch and a rocking chair.”
Our St. Simons experience came to a close with a low country boil. Wild Georgia shrimp, blue crabs, sausage and corn simmered together and we reminisced about how much fun we had had in two short days. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this magical place, do it. I’ll warn you, many who have, never returned.