Watercolor, Florida on the 30A coastal highway provided the beachside backdrop to our bachelorette affair. The area has always been considered a retreat, considering it is driving distance from Memphis with absolutely dreamy architecture and activities.
I miss the simplicity of the waves washing against white sand. But it doesn't mean I can't bring such sun-kissed beach serenity back home. Prompted by a new hair care routine, I began to reflect on the most coveted parts of vacation and motivated myself to make them new priorities in Memphis, too.
Fall break is soon arriving for the Memphis school scene -- are any of you traveling to Santa Rosa Beach? Watercolor or Rosemary, perhaps? I somehow I have yet to share the cozy new diner I tried this past summer in Rosemary Beach, Rose Brothers Soda Fountain. Unlike most trendy spots that try to out-do the good 'ole American hot dog and fries, the simple classics are celebrated in this far nook of the central neighborhood square. It's perfect for the whole family, the picky eater, and the burger expert -- all will be wowed by the speedy service and hit-the-spot taste. In fact, if you're not into the diner menu, a cup of coffee or malted milkshake would bookmark your vacation day routine nicely.
Don't be mistaken by the crimped french fries that resemble packaging from the freezer section. These were piping hot, crispy, and accompanied a buttery bun with grilled portabello mushroom slices and swiss cheese. The homemade lemonade didn't hurt either.
Rose Brothers doesn't serve you as you may expect. . .you're handed a 1-inch laminated card with an iconic American character typed across the front.
Mine was The Fonz. The 50-year-old male next to me was Lindsay Lohan.
And do not think you can hide your Rose Bros. identity, as the server will shamelessly yell out the name on the card until you shyly raise your hand for the rest of the diner to see. Quite humorous and very memorable.
I don't know about you; but after a long day on the beach, my greatest desire is a fresh and fulfilling meal with a glass of Chardonnay. Are you also raising your hand to this seaside supper request? Well, if you find yourself in Santa Rosa Beach, you're in luck -- Basmati's cuisine will wow your taste buds with flavors of both the Gulf and traditional Asia.
I was instantly impressed with the menu's ability to take traditional dishes up quite a few notches. No, Basmati's doesn't serve egg drop soup; they serve a lump crab egg drop soup with season vegetables and spice. . .Yum! I had to refrain from picking up the bowl and sipping the remaining spoonfuls. Next, I was thrilled that the gyoza (pictured above) were served steamed rather than pan-fried. The cucumber salad on the side was a cool, refreshing after-bite to the rich pork and vegetable filling.
I am not exaggerating that this shrimp fried rice was, yes, the best I've had in years. The unique flavors reminded me of an unforgettable meal at Redfarm in New York City -- the black currants and Chinese sausage added a touch of sweetness, and shrimps were plump and wok-fried beautifully. I really wish rice didn't expand in your stomach (or maybe that's just a myth). . . but I would have finished the entire platter otherwise!
Speaking of rice, these four sushi rolls mastered simplicity, yet the ingredient combinations are completely unique to the restaurant. I've never seen these anywhere else (which is sadly disappointing when I'm nowhere near highway 30A). I was "Feeling Frisky" with the namesake roll, filled with tuna, fresh basil, sesame seeds, sprouts and rose water. The "Dorothy, We're Not in Watercolor Anymore" roll (ha!) had an addicting ginger vinaigrette. Next time, I'm trying the truffled tuna, since tuna and truffle are two of my very favorite things.
For dessert, we somehow had room for homemade coconut cake. . .it's that worth it! And, while I didn't try it, I learned that the tofu chocolate cake is a silky smooth Asian version of cheesecake. Incredibly inventive. I cannot wait to get back to Basmati's for another post-beach feast.
Havana Beach Club, one of The Pearl's three dining options, is inspired by Cuba with gorgeous greenery, eclectic seating, and beautiful patio views. Alex and I stepped in on Sunday morning for the brunch, which frankly made us feel as though we were vacationing in the Caribbean. I'll take that feeling any day!
With an extra hot cappuccino in hand (although the mimosas looked wonderful), I ordered the smoked salmon bagel. The plate arrived like an art piece. I am all about presentation, and this one pleased me much. The rose-shaped salmon was a generous helping, and the sliced tomatoes with capers draped the bottom right corner of the plate. I only wish I could have applied the whipped cream cheese myself, since I prefer a light spread! Luckily, the bagel was perfectly toasted and still warm when served. Delicious.
Alex went with a traditional "Eggs Your Way;" not only was a cheesy scramble served, but also a platter of extra crispy bacon, a housemade biscuit (with whipped butter and strawberry jam on the side), country potatoes, and breakfast sausage. Oh, and two tiny roasted yellow tomatoes! It was a beautiful spread -- my only criticism being the slightly undercooked potatoes (we wanted more crisp!).
You'll be very pleased with Havana's Sunday brunch, and I have heard that their dinner menu knocks it out of the park as well. Thank you for a fabulous finale to my Fourth of July weekend!
George's is located in Alys Beach, a grecian-like neighborhood of beach houses with all white exteriors and unbelievable architecture. The angles and simplicity make me feel like I'm in Europe! George's is a tiny cafe right off the highway filled with a warm staff and small but satisfying menu. The left side of the menu is entitled "mis-be-have" for your sandwich with fries option, while the right side reads "be-have" for salads and the healthy works. The dishes, therefore, can make even the pickiest of eaters happy! And who cares about misbehaving when it comes to eating...right?!
|thai beef and noodle salad|
|crab cake remoulade roll|
Our family opted to try entrees from all over the menu. Dad got the famous grilled grouper sandwich that magazines say "you must eat before you die." Julia and her friend Dena got the best burger on 30A. I tried the crab cake remoulade roll with bacon. I ended up taking the remoulade off, but I really enjoyed the fried green tomato on top. Mom ordered the thai beef and noodle salad with avocado and mango. The thai peanut dressing was awesome - I could've ordered an extra side of it! We also got the G.A.S.P. (garlic, artichoke, sun-dried tomato, pesto) in a pita with a side of nutty kale cous cous with honey and almonds. Our plates were clean by the end of the hour!
|warm chocolate goo with vanilla gelato|
|key lime pie|
|candy bar mini cake|
But how could we ignore dessert...Julia insisted on the warm chocolate goo, which turned out to be a simply darn good brownie. The homemade key lime pie was a classic. My favorite was the candy bar mini cake. The owner, Anne, told us that she spent two full Sundays after tasting a similar dish in NYC. The cake consists of snickers, rolos, heath bar, oreo, and reese's.
Interested yet?! Good.