Southern Culinary Traditions tour at St. Simons Island, Georgia
As the resident East Coast member of the Value Luxury Travel team, I was not at Blogworld LA this past November. As you will learn there were clearly other fish in the sea that needed my attention. Instead I attended the first “Southern Culinary Traditions” event at the King and Prince Resort on Saint Simons Island, Georgia.
Combine culinary touring of one of Georgia’s truly stunning barrier islands with a group of excellent food and travel writers and bloggers; add all you can eat shrimp, and it’s time to count me in. In other words, when Leigh Cort called, I knew I was being asked to live out a childhood fantasy.
First I should give you some background: Picking a freshly steamed blue crab clean in 30 seconds flat is a mad skill that according to my mother I was gifted with about the same time I could walk. I’m only somewhat less proud that my earliest memory is of a family wedding where I was the flower girl. I remember the shrimp bowl, and nothing else.
The first night, Vinny D’Agostino, Director of Food & Beverage, who would be our companion for most of the week, put to rest any battle that may remain in the minds of the uninitiated that shrimp and grits does not make for elegant dining. Another evening barbeque, ribs and the local Brunswick stew were consumed at Southern Soul Barbeque, one of the most outstanding such joints in the region. We consumed our pork products happily at picnic tables, with lots of beer, nearby rolls of paper towels and an assortment of sauces in squirt bottles.
Not that there were any grotesque eating competitions on the schedule, but the culmination of the multi-day event came in the form of what I have dubbed the “Foodie Olympics.” The only competition that took place was within ourselves from among the Georgia food products vying for space. We received a primer on the state’s unique white shrimp and famous peach products and then explored the area’s more surprising culinary items such as Italian quality cheeses and artisanal chocolates. During my first formal chocolate tasting session, my biggest concern was that I seemed to have eaten my samples in the little baggies out of order.
Of all the gastronomic moments scattered throughout the week, when I would take a sip of wine or knibble a piece of cheese and say to myself, “wow,” there is one that like the shrimp bowl at the family wedding, will most likely remain with me always. I was standing on the deck of the Lady Jane shrimp boat; significant because in one of my adolescent, “girl meets shellfish” fantasies, I’m pretty sure I had myself marrying a shrimp boat captain. Seagulls hovered and divebombed above as we dredged the bottom of the saltmarsh. I examined the complicated harvest that we pulled in of sea creatures, flotsam and jetsam, and remembered what it felt like to be a kid on a field trip, worrying about the soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich that awaited me back at the bus.
Then the smell that stands above all foodie smells for this shellfish lover wafted from the galley of shrimp, not 10 minutes out of the water being quickly steamed in Old Bay seasoning. Next on the agenda was a wine tasting, and I couldn’t help but see that life indeed sometimes exceeds the fantasy.
I’ll be writing more about this trip over on The Travel Belles in upcoming weeks.
All photos by Margo Millure ©