In my world, food is more than survival. It is a way of life. For many, it is a part of cultural identity. By breaking bread together, a phrase as old as time, we bond as a family, make friends, fall in love and, of course, count our blessings.
Recently, I had the opportunity to host our soon-to-be in-laws who drove to the area to see where our daughter grew up, and to get a taste of how we lived. Fortunately, we adore her fiancé and his entire bunch of beach and sun loving foodies.
This particular adventure was all about the women, a girls trip of sorts. They were in awe of South Walton’s sugar-white beaches, emerald green waters and the wonderful dining establishments available in Seaside.
The gastronomic tour first included a trip to Modica Market where our daughter, Caroline, spent many days getting hugs from Mrs. Sarah Modica after attending Seaside Neighborhood School. She would dive right into Ms. Lisa Black’s chicken salad (still her favorite) for a snack before biking home. Modica Market was also where she obtained her first job outside of babysitting for the Pritchett’s, who later employed her at Mercantile, their clothing store, throughout high school and college.
I explained that on a warm summer Saturday, I highly recommend ordering a large freshly squeezed mimosa to sip on while strolling through the Seaside Farmers Market.
One of the most wonderful things about Pickle’s Burger and Shake is the mister cooling system than offers solace on a hot afternoon. We grabbed a few barstools and I shared my knowledge about the organic beef and chicken used in the burgers from White Oak Pastures, a farm in Bluffton, Ga. Will Harris, the owner of White Oak Pastures, has set the bar high. It was nice to see our families bonding over the double stacked, free range, grass-fed cheeseburgers and creamy frozen milk shakes. For patrons in bathing suits with sandy feet who want to eat on the go, or dine under the shade of the scrub oak trees nearby, a walk up window is also available to place an order.
Last, we were off to hear the bell ring and watch the sun begin to set as it dipped below the horizon on the rooftop at Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant. It has been a tradition in our family since we moved to the area when our daughter was completing kindergarten. The fresh no-filler jumbo lump crab cakes are always on my radar, as is the savory house smoked tuna dip, perfect to nibble on while we got to know our new family members.
Not taking the moment for granted, and as our guests departed, I could not help but to think of M.F.K. Fisher’s quote from her renowned book, “The Art Of Eating,”: “With good friends … and good food on board … we may well ask, when shall we live if not now?”
Susan Benton is a food and travel writer, blogger, and the owner of 30AEATS.com, where for over two decades she has shared her recipes, stories, and her commitment to promoting local farmers, fishermen, chefs, artisans and restaurants along the Gulf Coast.
Gulf Coast Smoked Tuna Dip
• 1 pint white wine
• 1-pint water
• 1/4 cup Salt
• 2 1/2 lbs. Fresh Yellowfin tuna, cut into 3/4-inch steaks
• 1 1/4-cup Dukes mayonnaise (use more or less depending on your preferred consistency)
• 2 tablespoons heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon white pepper
• 1 tablespoon garlic powder
• 1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce
• 1/2-teaspoon light soy sauce
Combine salt, wine and water. Soak tuna steaks in a salt-water brine for one hour before smoking. Pat dry, rub with soy sauce and transfer to smoker on indirect heat (about 250 degrees) turning after one hour, until cooked through (do not overcook). Chop smoked tuna steaks to your desired consistency. I like rough chopped.
In a stainless steel mixing bowl, combine chopped smoked tuna, mayonnaise, cream, pepper, garlic powder, lemon juice, parsley, onion, and Tabasco and mix well (folding mixture). Scoop mixture into a serving dish and surround with lavash.