Disclaimer: Visit Jacksonville paid for airfare, meals and activities.
Remember the TV show “The Everglades“? Don’t feel bad if you don’t, it only aired for one season in 1961. That’s where I first saw an airboat and I remember always wanting to go for a ride on one ever since. That wish came true on this day. Drew Mesiano operates Trophy Inshore Charters at the Old Florida Fish Camp. Four of us joined him aboard his airboat and set off for about a 45 minute ride through the Intercoastal. It’s clear Drew knows these waterways intimately. He was able to point out eagles’ nests from quite a distance and showed us several things we clearly would have missed had he not drawn our attention to them. It was loud, fast and a hell of a lot of fun!
Moxie was weeks away from opening its doors during our visit, but what I saw made me want to return to Jacksonville to experience a meal there. Owner/Chef Tom Gray says he wants you to “feel like you’re in our home.” It’s a pretty big home, 7,000 square feet with 180 seats inside and another 80 outside. The idea for Moxie came to Tom more than ten years ago. Simply put, Moxie means courage and determination and it took a lot of both to get this project off the ground. The kitchen prepared small bites for us, emphasizing his focus on fresh and local. Moxie has eight beers and/or ciders on tap and an extensive wine list with a majority of the wines from California. I can’t wait to dine there.
With our appetites warmed up, we headed to Ovinté. Ovinté is young, hip, noisy and delicious. Managing partner Chad Munsey made certain we tried a wide selection from their menu, including bacon-wrapped date, ceviche and a tender and flavorful New York strip. They call it “European Dining” with an emphasis on tapas, small plates so everyone can share a taste. Chad is also a sommelier and is well-versed in Ovinté’s extensive wine list.
That evening we visited Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas. If you’re looking for a wine bar that has a terrific selection paired with a staff who know their wines, look no further. Operating partner Kori Blacker made us feel right at home and chose a few selections from their more than 1200 bottle selection. As if that wasn’t enough, they also have an amazing menu and we tasted several of their “tapitas” including seared calamari and the incredible Royal Palm salad.
I could easily have been satisfied staying there for dinner, but we took a short drive to Azurea at One Ocean. One Ocean is drop dead gorgeous. Seeking the right adjective is challenging because it is truly extraordinary. Lighted water features await you outside and contemporary design inside. We were seated at a long dining table and Executive Chef Ted Peters and his team had prepared a “Chef’s Adventurous Palate” dining experience for us. Had I know what was in store I would have gone without eating for a week. Decadent is simply the best word I know to describe it. Following an amuse bouche in a spoon we enjoyed a silky butternut squash bisque. After that was a fennel dusted Hawaiian sea bass with Maine lobster. Our second entrée was pheasant with red lentils and grilled Bermuda onion. To cap it off was a chocolate peanut butter torte with cocoa coulis and a gold chocolate croquant. Each dish we had was paired with just the right wine. I can’t think of a better way to end an exceptional trip. I can’t wait to visit Jacksonville again.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701! Ask about special discounts.