We hear it all the time, from locals and visitors alike: “Apalachicola Bay oysters are the best.”

It’s not an opinion to Forgotten Coast diners — and those around the country, for that matter — it’s a fact. Compared to the bivalve competition, the award-winning oysters are cleaner and meatier, with a naturally mellow flavor that makes them the star of any dish or simply when they’re served naked on the half shell.

Our oysters are so good they are the cornerstone of some of the coast’s most successful restaurants and signature dishes. And they can be the rock stars of home kitchens everywhere, too. But if you’re going to don the glove and pick up the knife, then you need to make sure your skills are on point.

No one wants to be accused of butchering an Apalachicola Bay oyster.

Folks staying on, or around, St. George Island can pick up a sack of fresh oysters at several different markets, including Lynn’s, Best, Barber’s, and Island View across the bay in Eastpoint, and Water Street, Royalty, 13 Mile, Leavins and Allen’s in Apalachicola. Although market prices vary from season to season, on average a sack will contain between 12 to 14 dozen oysters and cost around $80.

Once you get the bounty back to your “shuckin’ station,” take a scrub brush and lightly scrub the shell of the oyster, just to remove any silt or sand to keep your presentation nice and clean. When it comes to gloves, we recommend one made of chain mail or another substance that’s puncture-proof should a slip occur. And use a good, sharp oyster knife, if you have one. If not, a paring knife will do, as long as it’s sturdy.

Here’s what you need to know about oyster anatomy. The bivalves have two specific shell halves, attached with a hinge. One is curved like a cup, and the other forms the flatter lid. On a hard surface, like a cutting board, you want to open them lid side up.

Gently slip the blade into the hinge, and wiggle it back and forth until you feel it open a little. Then slide the blade along the lid’s ceiling, which will disconnect the oyster’s abductor muscle and allow you to remove the lid. Then carefully move to the underside of the muscle to separate it from the cup side of the shell, leaving the oyster free-floating in its own juices. Clean off any pieces of broken shell, place it on a tray or serving dish and then repeat.

Beginners should be able to move through a dozen in about half an hour, but you can easily shave serious time off with practice. And if you’re serving them on the half shell, traditional garnishes include lemon wedges, horseradish, cocktail sauce, hot sauce, and saltines. But if you’ve gotten this far with your pride and reputation intact, serve them however you want!

And so you know the company you’re in as a successful shucker here on the Florida Panhandle, Panama City’s Honor Allen was the U.S. Oyster Shucking Champion in 2016 and 2017, shucking two dozen oysters in an average of two minutes at the national championship in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. In 2018, Allen placed 5th in the World Oyster Opening Championship in Galway, Ireland.

And while it’s not necessary to be the world’s best, with the right skills and amazing Apalachicola Bay oysters, you can be the best on your block in no time.

There are a lot of great restaurants on St. George Island, and elsewhere along the Forgotten Coast. But visitors and locals alike love the challenges of preparing their own gourmet meals, and when it’s time to choose from the best area seafood, they usually have two names in mind: Dail’s and Doug’s.

The two seafood trailers have been staples on the island for more than two decades, and offer a wide variety of the fresh bounty harvested from local waters daily. They are usually parked within a couple of blocks from one another in the central business district, near the two grocery stores that sell the items every chef needs to complete the perfect recipe.

Most days you’ll find Doug McKinney sitting in his red chair under the awning of his Doug’s Seafood trailer. Around him are usually several coolers filled with the day’s catch, which often includes local oysters, shrimp, scallops, snapper, and grouper, among others.

 

“I try to be the best I can be and offer the best seafood money can buy, seven days a week,” McKinney says. The former millwright went into the seafood business more than 25 years ago, and said his seafood is “known around the world” because of the vast diversity of visitors who come to St. George Island each year.

“I have people who have been buying from me for 25 years,” he says. “They’re like one big extension of my family.”

Doug's and Dail's Seafood Trailer on St. George Island

Family, and the connection with their customers, is something that’s cherished across the way at Dail’s Seafood as well. There, Anna and PeeWee Carmichael man what they like to call “the Wagon,” and dish out as many stories as they do pounds of shrimp and oysters.

“We have quite a tremendous, loyal customer base,” Anna says. She loves to talk with the folks who walk up to the trailer, which was originally opened in the 1990s by PeeWee’s parents, Dail and Betty Carmichael.

Anna’s journey began away from St. George Island, but she remembers her family vacationing here when she was a child. Eventually those regular trips turned into something even more lasting when she “married a shrimp man.”

Dail’s Seafood offers many of the same staples you’ll find at Doug’s, with the addition of yellowfin tuna and scallops, which aren’t commercially caught in local waters. And Anna also makes several gallons of her now-famous fish dip each week, which has become a favorite item for visitors and locals alike.

“We do everything but catch the fish,” she says. Her dip is made of mullet or mackerel which they smoke at their fish smoker at home, and she mixes up the rest of the secret recipe herself. Dail’s also offers crab cakes made by another local fishing family, the Amisons from Apalachicola. That family operates a seafood warehouse across the bay and partners with the Carmichaels.

For Anna and PeeWee, success is all about connection. They get lots of customers from social media and web advertising, but it’s the stories they share with one another that breed loyalty and fellowship between retailer and customer, they said.

“We love our customers, they’re the ones who support us year in and year out,” PeeWee says. To which Anna adds, “Engaging our customers is one of the most important things we do. In this new age of interaction through technology, human interaction is absolutely necessary.”

Savor the taste of seafood during your vacation on St. George Island! No trip to the Gulf of Mexico is complete without at least one delectable dish of mouthwatering marine cuisine. The Forgotten Coast is home to a wide variety of restaurants and casual dining spots, where expert chefs serve up the best catches of the day to our visitors at all times of the year.

Restaurants on St. George Island

If you’re hoping to find your favorite seafood right on the island, never fear – plenty of favorite eateries are here! Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe is popular for surf and turf and for an unbeatable view of the Gulf of Mexico. Another excellent option is Paddy’s Raw Bar, which has earned its sterling reputation by offering locally sourced oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp and a diverse selection of beer. Other great choices for seafood include the Beach Pit or Black Marlin’s Bar & Grill.

Mainland Seafood

Once you’ve sampled the best of St. George Island’s fare, consider an excursion to nearby Eastpoint to select a dining spot among a number of local restaurants, including the Red Pirate Family Grill and Oyster Bar and Family Coastal Restaurant.

Then, cross the John Gorrie Memorial Bridge to explore the charming streets of Apalachicola before selecting the perfect dinner spot. Up the Creek Raw Bar, The Owl Cafe and the Apalachicola Seafood Grill are all excellent options, and they’re but a few of the local restaurants at your disposal.

Seafood Markets and More

Travelers who prefer to cook their own seafood will enjoy shopping at the region’s excellent seafood markets. Doug’s Seafood and Dail’s Seafood are both conveniently situated right on SGI; our Eastpoint guests often head straight to Lynn’s Quality Oysters.

Finally, there’s the crown jewel of the Forgotten Coast’s seafood scene: the annual Florida Seafood Festival. The festival takes place over several days each November and features an array of events and – you guessed it – a whole lot of seafood.

Savor the flavors of the Forgotten Coast!  Plan your trip to St. George Island today by contacting Resort Vacation Properties.

Some say variety is the spice of life, but for “chiliheads,” or those who enjoy chili peppers and other spicy foods, the spice of life is—well—spice! And maybe they’re onto something: studies show that capsaicin, the molecular compound that gives piquant foods their kick, has a wide range of health benefits. We’ve rounded up the top four benefits of capsaicin:

  1. Capsaicin contains antibacterial properties that fight chronic sinus infections, such as sinusitis. This works exactly like you’d suspect—the spice helps the nose to stimulate mucus production to clear up congestion. These same effects work well on allergy symptoms, too!
  2. Capsaicin can also relieve pain. Some studies indicate that this is because it blocks the pain signals being sent to the brain, while others suggest that it’s due to the endorphin release associated with spicy food. There’s a long history of it being used topically for pain relief by Native Americans, but ingesting it can have the same perks!
  3. Another surprising effect of Capsaicin is its benefits for a variety of diseases. Although it seems almost ironic, it can help with intestinal troubles, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and H. pylori, and it has been used to manage or even prevent diabetes. Some studies even show it can help fight certain types of cancer!
  4. If you’re trying to shed some weight, look no further than chili peppers. Not only does capsaicin add flavor to sometimes-bland diet food, it can help to fight the buildup of fat and speed up the metabolism. A little kick in the form of a chili pepper also can decrease a hormone involved in promoting hunger, meaning it can curb your appetite, too!

Interested in adding more capsaicin to your life? Regardless of whether it’s for the health benefits or just for the flavor, swing by Sometimes It’s Hotter Seasoning Company on Gulf Beach Drive, where you can choose from a variety of zesty seasonings. Choose from their three bottled seasonings—the 7-pepper blend of Original, milder Jalapeno and Sweet Onion, or the fiery Habañero—or the wide varieties of fish blackening and seasonings for grilling, jerk, poultry, shrimp or jambalaya. All of their offerings are low in sodium and free of additives, preservatives, and MSG, and, if you start to feel peckish, look no further than their prize-winning snack nuts! Their blends make the perfect souvenir or gift for the chiliheads in your life, so be sure to stock up.

 

Sources:

https://draxe.com/capsaicin/

http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/06/03/29/capsaicin-7-powerful-health-benefits-of-the-stuff-that-makes-peppers-hot-004.htm

Few things are as American as apple pie, making it the quintessential dessert for your Fourth of July celebration. But who wants to be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else plays outside in the surf and sand?

That’s where this Rustic Apple Tart recipe comes in. It has all the flavor of the iconic American classic with a fraction of the fuss, meaning you’re out of the kitchen and into those waves before you can say, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Serve warm, or at room temperature, with your favorite vanilla, cinnamon, or caramel ice cream. Pro tip: it pairs perfectly with fireworks!

 

Rustic Apple Tart

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith or Golden Delicious (or a mix of both), peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1 refrigerated pie crust (1/2 package)

1 egg, beaten

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup apricot preserves or apple jelly, melted with 1 tablespoon water.

 

Instructions:

  1. Allow pie crust to come to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Toss apples, sugar, and optional cinnamon.
  4. Roll or stretch crust to slightly larger than in the package, to about 14

inches. Place crust on parchment paper on a pie pan.

  1. Arrange apple slices in a an overlapping spiral in the middle of the pie

crust, leaving about three inches of crust all around. Fold crust edges,

covering the outside edges of apples. Brush crust with beaten egg and

sprinkle with sugar. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

  1. Bake tart at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, until apples are tender

and golden. Cover edges of crust with strips of foil, if necessary, to

prevent burning, near the end of bake time.

  1. Brush apples with melted preserves. Cool and serve.

Our favorite time of year has returned to St. George Island — redfish season! This fish is just as interesting as it is delicious, so we’ve rounded up some facts, and, of course, a recipe to celebrate.

Also known as red drum, channel bass, spottail bass (for the distinctive spots on the tail that look like eyes to confuse predators), or just simply red, redfish are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. They can live to be over 40 years old, and in the warm Florida waters, they can grow to be 45 inches long and over 50 pounds! Because of the popularity of redfish, the breed was almost fished out of existence by the mid-1980s. Thankfully, aggressive conservation measures have allowed the red drum to return and thrive.

This mild, flaky, delicate fish can be prepared a variety of ways: fried, sautéed, broiled, baked, or—our favorite—grilled. Due to the flaky texture of the fish, it has a tendency to fall through the grill, so try using a mesh screen. Another way to keep your dinner intact is to cook the fish “on the half shell”—that is, with the scales still present. You simply skip the skinning and cut two fillets from each fish along the backbone, then you’re ready to go. No clean up!

When paired with a fruit salsa, grilled redfish on the half shell is the perfect dish to get you in that island state of mind.

Also included are oven instructions for rainy days, and this recipe can also be used for redfish fillets, if that’s what you’re working with—just reduce the cooking by a few minutes.

Redfish on the Half Shell

Ingredients:

6 redfish fillets, scales and skin left on

Italian salad dressing

Creole seasoning

2 large lemons, thinly sliced

1 large lemon, halved

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place the fillets in a pan, scales side down.

Pour Italian dressing generously over the fillets. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes.

Remove fillets from the marinade, draining excess.

Sprinkle with a little with Creole seasoning.

Grill or broil.

On the Grill: Preheat an outdoor grill. Grill the fish for three minutes flesh sides down with the lid closed. We’re going for grill marks here. Flip the fish so that the scales are now on the grill, and place thin lemon slices along this fish fillets. Allow the fish to cook approximately 6-8 more minutes or until just cooked through. Check thickest part of flesh for doneness. Flesh needs to be opaque all the way to the skin. Squeeze the remaining half lemon over the fish. Remove from the grill.

In the Oven: Set oven rack to the center of the oven. Place thin lemon slices along the fish. Broil fish, skin side down, for approximately 20 minutes leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Check thickest part of flesh for doneness. Flesh needs to be opaque all the way to the skin.

 

Pineapple Mango Salsa

1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup fresh, chopped pineapple

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

4 green onions, sliced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made a day or two ahead.