'Double F' locations of pizza, seafood, salads, ribs, grits
By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor
I’m a believer in bio-rhythms, synchronicity, karma.
I shot the best round of golf in my life beating my previous best score by 9 strokes on one of my birthdays. I used to play poker with pals weekly way back when, and we played cards on my birthday and I won all the money at the poker table.
Those were special birthday memories, but I just had the best birthday weekend a person could have.
My daughter Jana had the idea of bringing the Sanford clan together for a weekend at the beach in St. Augustine, and it just happened to coincide with my birthday. She also thought it would be fun to invite her significant other, Chris Heller, and his family as well so we could all get to know each other better. The Hellers had never been to St. Augustine, and they were excited about visiting this unique N. Florida tourist town. It was a party of 17 by the time everyone showed up.
I’m talking about the double Fs looming on the horizon to the east of Gainesville: 50 hours of Food and Fun and a chance to celebrate the GLOB Master’s August 14 birthday in the oldest city in America.
Friday, August 12: The celebration started here in Gainesville at Blue Highway Pizza, Jane and Kathy, my monthly lunch pals, let me introduce them to this pizza stop in the Tioga Town Center in West Gainesville.
I’m hooked on BH’s pizza. If I’m thinking pizza, it’s Blue Highway’s thin crust master piece, the Abruzzese, a belly bomb of tomato sauce, mozzarella, housemade meatballs -- quartered and spicy, sliced roasted garlic, parsley, and Parmesan, and Romano cheeses. Thinking one pizza wasn’t enough for the birthday boy, however, we also ordered a roasted chicken breast and artichoke pizza, and the mild chicken and tart artichoke complemented the richness of the Abruzzese very nicely. It was a lot of pizza for lunch. In fact all three of us took home pizza for dinner.
Then on to St. Augustine and here’s a quick snapshot of some of the great food we shared on this Leo the lion holiday:
Caps on the Water
While checking into our rooms on St Augustine Beach I asked the clerk where we could find the best oysters in St. Augustine for dinner. She quickly pulled out a map with directions to Caps on the Water just north of St. Augustine.
Oysters, seafood, pasta, veggies, and the excitement of dining on an outside patio protected with vinyl walls as a thunder storm boomed and rain pounded around us made for a unique dining experience. The happy sounds of friends having good conversation turned the sounds of the storm into just another friend adding to the conversation over excellent food:
Oysters fabulously raw. I positioned them perfectly on crisp saltine crackers and covered them generously with a combination of fresh horseradish and cocktail sauce mixed to my taste – that is, with lots of horseradish.
She crab soup that was very rich and extremely satisfying as a main course.
White Wine Garlic Pasta Linguine with asparagus, capers, peppers, and mushrooms.
The special pasta of the day – homemade pasta made with tomato, spinach, and squid ink served with pesto on a bed of silky smooth pureed squash. (photo above)
Saturday, August 13: Water in the pool. Water in the Atlantic, and everyone in the water. It had me thinking about the Muddy Waters tune where he talks about being deep down in Florida, “where the sun shines damn near every day.” (Photo by Bob Sanford.)
Entertainment Director Jana Sanford selected a local favorite dinner spot, Scarlett O’Hara’s.
I don’t mind bragging that I must have taught Jana right because this southern style, home cooking heaven was just what the birthday boy wanted. My eyes glazed over as I read the descriptions of BBQed ribs, fried catfish, fried chicken, coconut shrimp, and classic sandwiches. Lynn and I ordered a half slab of ribs and a salad with blackened chicken breast. Both excllent! The ribs were tender and had a crispy charred crust on the outside.
As dinner was winding down, dessert came in the form of a very good live band crooning some very cool reggae, rhythm & blues: “Cuz every little thing was . . . perfect.”
Sunday, August 14, O.C. Whites
The weekend was topped off with a Sunday Double Birthday Brunch – it turned out that the Hellers (Tracie!) as well as the Sanfords had August 14 birthdays. An ironic twist to this is that O.C. Whites is all about aging well: Overlooking the city marina and the historic Bridge of Lions, OC White's, with walls of coquina and well-worn wood floors, has a history dating back to 1790.
And what a brunch it was. Omelets, grits, seafood sandwiches, fish and chips, caprese salad, bruscetta, to name a just few of the dishes that everyone enjoyed.
You know what fellow GLOBers? This special weekend will be hard to recreate in the future. It was a very special time for two happy Leos celebrating a very special day. Shoot! We should have had our picture taken with the lion on the St Augustine bridge of lions.