Twice In A Lifetime

WINEormous at the King and PrinceWhen 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.

WINEormous enjoys southern culinary traditionsFor 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.

WINEormous at the King and Prince Golf ResortWe 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.

WINEormous shrimp saladLunchtime 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.

WINEormous with Cap Fendig

Cap Fendig

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.

WINEormous at the King and PrinceWe 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.

WINEormous with Heather Hardman

Heather Hardman

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.

WINEormous at St. Simons LighthouseWhile 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.”

A WINEormous low country boil

Low Country Boil

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.

WINEormous bacon wrapped scallops

Bacon wrapped scallops at the King and Prince

WINEormous at the King and Prince

WINEormous at Christ Church

 

 

Bidding Farewell to Saint Simons Island

WINEormous dines at Palmer's Village Cafe on St. Simons Island, GA

Chef John Belechak

My whirlwind three day visit to Saint Simons Island this past April was drawing to a close. Part of Georgia’s wilderness coast, it’s one of 15 beachfront islands along a 90 mile stretch. We began Wednesday morning with a visit to  a local favorite for lunch and dinner, Palmer’s Village Café. This charming spot is adorned with local art on every wall and the smells are heavenly. Chef John Belechak made sure we started our day with full bellies beginning with a mini biscuit with Café sausage and pimento cheese accompanied by Challah French Toast with blueberry orange compote. Trust me on this. That would have been plenty, but he was just getting warmed up. Following that we were presented with The Islander Southern: Egg Whites, Bacon Crumbles, Garden Herb Cheese, w/ Seared Tomatoes, Watercress, Cucumber Ribbons & Reduced Balsamic. For dessert, yes we had dessert at breakfast we savored a dessert stack with vanilla and honey marscapone and spiced pecans. We waddled out and headed for the Lady Jane. Lady JaneCap’n Larry Credle has been taking folks shrimpin’ for many years now, and with the help of first mate John Tyre and Cliff Credle, we cast of for a leisurely cruise on the creek that leads to the intercoastal. Shortly after we left Brunswick, Cliff lowered the net and we sat and waited.

Let’s Go Shrimpin’ from Tom Plant on Vimeo.

Cliff pulled in two nets, both filled with a variety of sea creatures including fish, shrimp, squid, sharks, sting rays, sea turtles and horseshoe crabs. I said  to him I imagined the job never grew old and he replied “I’ve been doing this since I was 13 and I haven’t worked a day yet.” John boiled some shrimp on deck. Sweet and tasty, you just can’t get it any fresher.

Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil

We adjourned to the King & Prince where Chef Jeff Kaplan and Food & Beverage Director Vinny D’Agostino hosted The Georgia Food Experience featuring a bounty of Georgia food and drink. The Tea Lady, Angela Cunningham of Serenity House Tea Society shared her iced  non-alcoholic Green Chatham Artillery Punch and Three Tea Green, three green teas with flavors of mango, papaya, coconut, ginger, cardamom, rose blossom and more. They were both exquisite. The resort’s culinary team then presented us with a platter containing the fixin’s for a Low Country Boil. As I was taking pictures, one of the crabs got a hold of my pen and virtually destroyed it. What better to follow tea with than honey? Ted Dennard is the founder of Savannah Bee Company and he shared his passion for honey as well as tastes of several different honeys including orange blossom, black sage and my favorite, Tupelo. Insert Van Morrison song here. David Lane III from Lane Southern Orchards gave a presentation on Georgia’s signature fruit and sent us home with freshly baked peach bread. Wine in Georgia? You bet. Muscadine is king here and Still Pond Winery makes a fine one. Muscadine has a distinct nose and flavor.  Winery owner Charlie Cowart led us through a tasting and recounted a time when a sommelier with an attitude asked about their peach wine “What would you pair with this?” Without batting an eye he replied “a rocking chair and a front porch.” Their Savannah River Red is blended with Tupelo honey. Sandra Bland of Bland Vidalia Onion Farm extolled the virtues of Vidalia onions and told us they’re often imitated, but there’s nothing like the real thing. “Ours only make you cry when they’re gone.” We tasted chocolates with Ms. Dale Potts, founder of Sugar Marsh Cottage. She led us through a tasting of four different chocolates and had us rate them on appearance, chocolate flavor, aroma, other flavors and mouth feel. These are divine and beautifully packaged treats. We wound up our culinary afternoon with a cocktail reception hosted by Elizabeth Warnock of 13th Colony Distilleries. They produce two vodkas, a gin and a Southern corn whiskey bottled at 95 proof. They spirits were blended into some wonderful Southern themed cocktails which we enjoyed with the incredible Low Country Boil.

King & Prince Oatmeal Raisin MuffinsThursday morning we gathered for breakfast in the King & Prince’s elegant Delegal Dining Room. Following breakfast we broke into teams as we were guided through the preparation of the King & Prince’s Oatmeal Raisin Muffins. As an added treat, we all took home a package of them. I tip my cap to the amazing staff at the King & Prince, in particular Bud St. Pierre, Director of Sales and Marketing and Food and Beverage Director Vinny D’Agostino. I will definitely make a return visit.

Palmer's Village Cafe

Palmer’s Village Cafe

King and Prince Management

Bud St. Pierre, Vinny D’Agostino, Jeff Kaplan and General Manager Michael Johnson

King & Prince

Farewell breakfast at the King & Prince

 

 

 

Saint Simons Island Beckons Me Back

WINEormous visits the King & Prince Resort on St Simons Island, GA

Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict

It’s only been a few months since my visit, but I miss Saint Simons Island, Georgia tremendously. The majestic King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort was my home for my all too brief visit, and I left feeling officially spoiled. We began our first full day on the island with an amazing breakfast in The Kings Tavern. The resort’s newly hired Executive Chef Jeff Kaplan wowed us with fried green tomatoes eggs benedict. His impressive resumé includes stints at The Inn at Great Neck in Long Island, The White Elephant Resort in Nantucket and the Sawgrass Marriot Golf Resort and Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach. It took him no time at all to put his signature on the King & Prince’s kitchen. Every meal he prepared for us was tantalizingly good.

WINEormous visits the King & Prince Resort on St Simons Island, GAI’m not a big golf nut, so I wasn’t too excited by the prospect of visiting the King & Prince Golf Course, but my attitude soon changed the moment I laid eyes on it. Set amidst a marsh, the course is stunningly beautiful.Rick Mattox, the Director of Golf as well as Golf Club GM was a gracious host who showed us the many natural splendors of this course. During our visit we saw an eagle in its nest and several alligators. I got within about six feet of a big one to snap his picture. I grateful he didn’t snap me! After the tour, Rick gave us some swing lessons. After a few observations and suggestions, I was able to hit a couple of pretty decent shots. For a flyover view of the course, click here.

WINEormous visits the King & Prince Resort on St Simons Island, GA

Eagle In Nest

WINEormous visits the King & Prince Resort on St Simons Island, GA

Now That’s What I Call A Hazard!

WINEormous with Chef/owner Dave Snyder at Halyard's Restaurant on St Simons Island, GA

Dave Snyder

Lunchtime was upon us and we made our way to Halyard’s for a seafood feast prepared by owner/chef Dave Snyder. Three large tables were laden with every type of fresh seafood imaginable: several varieties of fish, crabs, oysters, shrimp and clams. Local commercial fisherman Captain Charlie Phillips joined the conversation and told us about the bounty of fresh seafood in the area. Accompanied by beautiful side dishes of vegetables and salads and icy cold wine, lunch was delightful.

WINEormous samples Southern Soul BBQ on St Simons Island, GAFollowing a short break to digest lunch, we met with Bud St. Pierre, Director of Sales and Marketing for a “cocktail to go” at the hotel’s pool bar. Drink in hand, Bud led us on a tour of the hotel and shared with us its storied past. We boarded Cap Fendig’s Lighthouse Trolley and headed off for dinner at an island institution: Southern Soul BBQ. Co-owner Griffin Bufkin made sure we had our fill of some of the tastiest barbecue I’ve ever had. You may have seen Guy Fieri’s visit on the Food Network’sDiners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I had the Southern Soul Sampler with brisket, ribs, collard greens and hopping John. I was curious about Brunswick Stew, having never heard of it, so they gave me a taste. It’s a tasty tomato based stew with Lima beans, corn, okra and meat. We had one full day left on the island and I’ll finish the tale soon.

WINEormous enjoys Southern Soul sampler at Souther Soul BBQ on St Simons Island, GA

Southern Soul Sampler

WINEormous visits the King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort on St Simons Island, GA

Saint Simons Island

St Simons Island Sea TurtleI returned recently from an all too brief visit to Saint Simons Island, Georgia. It was my first and certainly won’t be my last visit to Georgia’s Barrier Islands. I stayed at the majestic King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort. In less than three days, I went shrimping, toured the Maritime Museum, enjoyed a low country boil and met with several purveyors of incredibly delicious Georgia fare. The people I met are incredibly proud of their island home, and many who have left couldn’t resist the island’s pull and have returned. Please enjoy this photo collage while I prepare more in depth stories of this amazing trip.