According to an old proverb, “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times — in water, in butter, and in wine.” The folks at the center of the Gulf-to-Table movement at the heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast will tell you it also has to be fresh. For them there’s nothing like fresh, wild-caught Gulf of Mexico seafood. After a few days dining in restaurants on what U.S. News & World Report named Florida’s Top-Rated Beach, you’ll find yourself agreeing wholeheartedly.
The emerald-green water is not only beautiful, it’s full of adventure. The legendary seas lure those who love to fish, those who love fresh seafood, and those who can’t get enough of either. Whether you plan on picking up a rod and reel or just a fork, you can’t help but catch the excitement.
The Emerald Coast is home to America’s largest fishing fleet. At any given time, there are more than 20 varieties of edible fish to be caught in the gulf waters off the coast. The charter fleet, comprised of more than 140 vessels, brings in thousands of pounds of fish daily. Their harvest inspires the chefs behind the area’s unique Gulf-to-Table cuisine, and draws thousands of visitors every year. They don’t call Destin the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” for nothing.
Fried, grilled, blackened or bronzed, nothing beats the taste of fresh fish caught off the Emerald Coast. Here, there isn’t just one catch of the day – there are several. On any given day, you can have your choice of fleet-fresh red snapper, grouper, swordfish, sea trout, flounder, wahoo, scamp, triggerfish, and cobia. Of course, shrimp, oysters, crab and scallops are always readily available. Forget about trying to save room for dessert.
Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island are home to all kinds of restaurants including many authentic, locally owned, family-run places that pride themselves on serving only wild-caught seafood. Dewey Destin, the great-great-grandson of Destin’s founder and owner of two area restaurants, said “Destin’s grown up a lot since I was a boy, but you can still find places like ours serving fresh Gulf fish, fried shrimp, gumbo, and hushpuppies prepared with old family recipes.”
Many restaurants participate in the Fish TraxTM program. When you order fish for your entrée, it comes with a QR code you can scan to discover who caught your fish and where. According to Emerald Coast Captain David Krebs, owner of Ariel Seafoods, “Fish Trax TM is a great way to ensure that the fish you’re being served is fresh, safe, and local.”
Some Gulf to Table restaurants also participate in the “you hook it, we’ll cook it” program. If you love to fish and plan on dropping a line while you’re in the area, take your cleaned catch to any of the participating eateries and they’ll cook it any way you like and serve it up with your choice of sides.
If you love great seafood, don’t miss the 40th Annual Destin Seafood Festival which will take place from October 5th through October 7th this year.