A Denverite Abroad – Northwest Florida
While there is no shortage of fun things to do in and around Denver, sometimes change is good thing. So for the last week my family and I headed south to get one last taste of summer before the Colorado snows rolled in. Located outside of Pensacola, Florida, Seaside is a community inspired by the New Urbanism movement; an urban design campaign promoting walkable, efficient communities that combine residential and various job functions. The town is lined with brick paved streets, classic Northern Florida styled beach homes, and groves of sand pines and mangroves. At the center of it all is the town square grouping several restaurants, retail stores, and offices around a semicircle enclosing a pavilion and green space.
While the town itself is worth going to see all on its own, the real draw is the pristine coastline, (along with the unique and architectural significant beach access pavilions). All along Highway 30A there are gorgeous beaches, such as Rosemary, Grayton, Seagrove, and of course Seaside. Each one has a fine white sand, more the consistency of flour than anything else, which makes it great for sand castles and laying out to tan. Better yet the Gulf’s gentle sloped beach and the local’s respect for it keeps the shore clean of debris and trash. Truly, for miles and miles of beach you’ll be hard pressed to find enough debris to fill a milk jug. Also, with some of the warmest waters in the US, the shoreline is built to play in. 80 degree water, rolling sandbars, and multiple wave breaking points create one of the best places to play at the beach. Also, with miles of bike paths in the surrounding state parks there is no shortage of fun pedaling through some of Northwest Florida’s most scenic countryside.
And while the beach is where you go to play, everybody’s gotta eat; here are just a handful of the great places to checkout around Seaside, Florida!
Bud & Alley’s Rooftop Bar and Restaurant
The quintessential rooftop bar is a must for anyone looking for good shrimp po boy sandwich, an ice cold Grayton Beach Beer Company Pale Ale, and a beautiful view of the sunset down the shore. Named after the Seaside’s architectural founder, Robert Davis’ dog (Bud) and an alley cat that he came to love like his own (Alley), this bar is as old as Seaside. The names have stuck since the town’s inception and are now an integral part of the community, showcased best by the wonderful views and warm atmosphere found at Bud & Alley’s Rooftop Bar and Restaurant.
Just up the road is Café Thirty-A, a casual, fine dining restaurant with a superb line up of fish entrées. Taking part in their 2 for 1 deal between 5 and 6 pm, we ordered a plate of seared tuna, southwestern grouper, grilled salmon, and a tasty dish of scallops and pasta. Each dish was better than the next, culminating with the Sesame Crusted Rare Yellowfin Tuna, served with an Asian Stir Fry, Wasabi, and Infused Oils. Easily some of the best tuna I have ever eaten and was well presented on the plate.
The Great Southern Café
The tenant restaurant of Seaside, The Great Southern Café is located in the center of the town square, in between Sundog Books and Heavenly Shortcakes. Known for its full-scale breakfast and brunch menu, my family and I enjoyed a late dinner on their outdoor patio. Being in the middle of the action in town, the patio provides a great means to people watch without standing out in the crowd. The seamlessly easy dialogue between the restaurant and the street is all part of the New Urbanism flow. While there we sampled come of their famous crab cakes (no filler, all meat), grilled fish, and presumably the best burger in Seaside. Topped with crumbled bleu cheese and bacon this hearty half pound burger is a healthy change of pace from a steady week of seafood.
For something a little more relaxed and low-key, look no further than Barefoot BBQ. This food stand, operated out of a classic airstream trailer, serves a wide assortment of Texas and Caribbean inspired BBQ, including their trademark ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. But what really sets these guys apart is their sides. Their baked beans add a real kick as they are simmered with onions, peppers, bits of brisket, and various spices. Their coleslaw is truly Southern inspired, featuring a sweet “purple” sauce. Saving the best for last, their potato salad finds the right balance between potato chunks and salad mixture, giving the perfect consistency to pair with spot on flavor.
Heavenly Shortcakes & Dawson’s Yogurt
Finally, dessert time! Both of these delightful little shops are located in the town’s central square, and both serve cold treats on warm summer nights. Heavenly Shortcakes specializes in ice cream, sorbet, and gelato. After getting a cup of mint chocolate chip I can attest to their quality; it was the perfect way to end the evening. And things only got better at Dawson’s Yogurt and Fudge, that’s right they also serve fudge. But after a day in the sun nothing sounds better than a cool cup of frozen yogurt, and their pistachio flavor answered the call. My personal favorite of the trip, they gave out an ample serving and the flavor was delicious.
No vacation would be complete without a few good reads, especially when you’re plopped down by the beach. Yep, the cool sea breeze, the sound of waves crashing over the sand, the sand between your toes, and a good book in your hand!
The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water
Beginning where I left off with Alex Prud’homme’s The Ripple Effect, Fishman offers dozens of case studies highlighting water’s global use and what is in store for the future. Bouncing between Western Australian rice farmers to dolphin in Las Vegas to a drought in Atlanta, Fishman certain asks eye-opening questions about how we source our water and what we can do to be more efficient and responsible using it. Though Fishman uses many of the same sources that Prud’homme relied upon, his focus is certainly more global using case studies from a variety of countries, including Australia and India, and even dedicates a chapter towards the globe’s original source of water: creation. Furthermore, while Prud’homme spent much of his book discussing problems with damaging water, water treatment and water law, Fishman focuses on the use of water in farming and irrigation, as well as commercial and residential usage. Fishman looks into the reverse osmosis technology used by both desalination plants and sewage treatment facilities as a current method to “re-use” our exsisting water supplies. But most interesting is Fishman’s ninth chapter, It’s Water. Of Course It’s Free which asks the tough question about devising economic market systems to manage the world’s most essential resource. While there is no ideal framework for distributing water across the globe, Fishman lays out a starting point. For anyone curious about the globe’s most precious resource I highly suggest this read, you won’t be let down.
A Walk in the Woods
While this was the first time I picked up one of famous travel author Bill Bryson’s works, it certainly won’t be the last. Armed with a wonderful sense of humor and a seamless way of interweaving history with his own anecdotes, this tale of hiking the Appalachian Trail is one that kept me riveted. Perhaps its the uniquely funny circumstance that Bryson and his hiking buddy Katz find themselves in, or the thrill of adventure that comes with walking across 2,200 miles of pristine United States, but this book is the perfect armchair traveler’s read. I felt their pain trudging through a fierce Georgian winter in March, their appreciation of beauty through Virginia’s Shenandoah Park, and their ultimate respect for nature in Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness. Anyone who is considering hiking the trail, or is looking for a great escape from their day-to-day shuffles, should give this tale of man and nature a try. And while I haven’t read his other works yet, I’m sure Bryson does the same justice to Australia throughout the pages of In a Sunburned Country, I can’t wait to get started.
Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future…And Locked Us In
So the social media geek in me picked this book up, thinking that it would summarize the notions of my peers and mainstream media, that smartphones are making us socially awkward and hurting our interpersonal communication. And while this subject is a reoccurring theme throughout the book, Chen expertly finds evidence on both sides of the aisle to the benefits and detractors to always being connected to the wealth of information and processing that is the Internet. He dives into dozens of case studies showcasing the many effects that this little device has had on the global community. Everything from an earthquake survivor’s use of an iPhone to save his life to one college’s experiment of using smartphone technology in the classroom (university wide). But more interesting than the many uses of today’s smartphones is Chen’s expert take on Apple, Google, and Microsoft’s business models that impact how phones are distributed, how we can use them, and the many pressures on app developers. Chen uses his MacWorld and Wired.com writing history to deliver a concise and well laid out testimony to the power of the iPhone and what possibilities are in store for this “Always On” century.
Posted on October 16, 2011, in Denverite Abroad and tagged A Walk in the Woods, Always On, Barefoot BBQ, beach, Bud & Alley's, Cafe Thirty-A, Duncan's Yogurt, Florida, Heavenly Shortcakes, New Urbanism, Seaside, The Big Thirst, vacation. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.