From Tennessee we set a course for Florida to better survive the two coldest weeks of The Typical Year. We camped for a few days at Top of Georgia, the all-Airstream RV park near the Bavarian hamlet of Helen, GA. TOGA had had a lot of rain, and we got stuck twice. A fellow with a F-250 4X4 pulled us out, then did the most remarkable job of trailer-backing I’ve ever seen using our Red Sled. The camp speed limit is just 10 mph, but he might have been doing 15 in reverse pushing our trailer 200 yards straight as a rifle shot into a safe, dry site. I’ve seen 18-wheeler cowboys do this kind of thing, but never a civilian. Maybe Floyd once drove big rigs, or did he get this good from jockeying his 34’ Airstreams?
Our next stop was a return visit to Pensacola’s Fort Pickens campground on Santa Rosa Island. We have learned to seek out fresh seafood when we’re near water, and unlike this past spring when we found an excellent grocer, this time we hit the jackpot! Kat’s Amazon buds had turned her on to a beach café called Peg Leg Pete’s. We went there for lunch and were blown away by the quality and quantity of Pete’s appetizer servings. Gulf oysters on the half shell went for just 69 cents each, and the $10 fried shrimp featured at least four dozen lovelies. But wait, we’re just beginning.
Pete gets his seafood from a local wholesaler with a retail outlet: Maria’s Seafood on East Cervantes St. So the very next day we paid Maria a visit. It turned out that she’s a mural character on the wall, but her shop has a bigger selection than any we’ve seen in New Orleans or elsewhere in south Louisiana. Maria offered fresh (never frozen) swordfish, four sizes of iced shrimp, three kinds of snapper, squid, red and white tuna, flounder, sheepshead, catfish, tilapia, redfish, and the local favorite, mullet. All of this was fresh, but their freezers were just as well stocked. We bought shrimp and swordfish at very reasonable prices.
A campground neighbor suggested we visit Captain Joe Patti’s for fresh seafood. It seemed unlikely Cap’n Joe could beat Maria’s, and we had no plans to go there until one day she had no blue crabs or cherrystone clams to put into a pot of cioppino. Desperate times require desperate measures: off we went to Joe Patti’s. And oh my goodness … Cap’n Joe has thrice the selection of Maria’s, including crabs, mussels, and clams, at similar prices.
We enjoyed our Airstream galley’s renditions of Sriracha shrimp, cioppino, Emeril’s seafood gumbo, and the swordfish was so dang good I cooked it twice. Here’s a link to the recipe, but don’t try it with frozen swordfish. Only fresh will do, and the fresher the better.
Until next time, bon appétit.