Nice Seaside Home for Under 1.5 Million!

It is not often one can find a home in Seaside for under 1.5 million that has already been remodeled! Built in 2005, this 3 bedroom 3.5 bath home epitomizes the charm of Seaside.

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Celebrating 4th of July at the Beach!

Celebrating Independence Day Emerald Coast-Style

No matter where you live in the United States, the 4th of July represents a day of national pride and an opportunity to set aside differences and reflect on all the things that make our nation strong. From backyard barbeques and neighborhood parades to festivals and spectacular fireworks displays, families and friends will gather in every community to enjoy traditions that are as American as baseball and apple pie.

In the neighborhoods served by the Premier Property Group, visitors and residents get to experience all this excitement against a backdrop of some of the nation’s most exquisite coastal environment. In fact, many take in the region’s amazing fireworks displays from a boat in one of our region’s bays, intercoastal waterways or the Gulf of Mexico. For those who prefer the stability of terra firma, the beach provides a front row seat to many of the Emerald Coast’s best pyrotechnic displays.

Whatever your preference, be sure to take advantage of one of these Emerald Coast 4th of July specials!

Destin/Ft. Walton Beach Happenings

Destin Commons Smoke on the Coast

Get ahead of Independence Day mania and take in the annual Destin Commons Smoke on the Coast event, featuring plenty of barbeque, live music, street performers and kid fun. The July 3rd gathering is entering its 9th year as a charitable event driven by culinary teams that partner with local non-profit groups and compete for the People’s Choice grand prize. The Forrest Williams Band will kick off an evening of live music at 5 p.m., followed by the Heritage Band at 7 p.m. A fireworks extravaganza will cap off the evening that typically raises more than $85,000.

Red, White and Baytowne

Locals and visitors alike can always count on The Village of Baytowne Wharf for family fun and excitement on most holidays. Beginning at 6 p.m. on July 4th, the streets will come alive with plenty of live music and a variety of kids entertainment and crafts, including face painting and balloon sculpting. Then, the skies will light up at 9:15 p.m. with the district’s annual fireworks display over the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Harborwalk Village will feature live music with Eli Hannon and Crushed Velvet starting at 7:00 p.m. on July 4th, along with its annual fireworks display over the Destin Harbor at 9:15 p.m.

For those who can’t make an Independence Day fireworks gathering, the weekly fireworks display from the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and over the beach at The Boardwalk will be held Wednesday, July 3rd at 9 p.m.

While the details have not officially been announced yet, a celebration is also scheduled for July 4th at Ft. Walton Beach Landing.

30A Celebrations

Nearly every community along the Highway 30A corridor—from Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach to Seaside and Watercolor—will feature a stunning fireworks display as part of their Independence Day festivities. The annual 30A 4th of July Parade will also kick off in front of Seagrove Plaza at 8 a.m., featuring an array of costumed participants, bikes, cars and floats decked out in full patriotic regalia. Contestants parade 1.5 miles to Seaside, where a panel of judges selects the winning entries. Family fun and music are then provided at the Seaside amphitheater.

Panama City Beach Fun

The 6the Annual Laguna Beach Golf Cart Parade is slated for July 3rd at 6 p.m., offering a great opportunity for family fun decorating golf carts, bikes, scooter—or whatever is available. Independence Day will feature the impressive Star Spangled Spectacular fireworks display launched from the M.B. Miller County Pier near Pier Park.

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Underwater Museum of Art off the Coast of Grayton Beach

Emerald Coast Exclusive: Underwater Museum of Art

Beyond the obvious beauty of the Emerald Coast, there’s a deeper, more elusive splendor situated less than a mile off the shores of Grayton Beach State Park. Recently showcased in Time’s famed Greatest Places of 2018, the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) resides about 57 feet under the Gulf of Mexico’s emerald green waters, marrying the beauty of sculpture and the life-sustaining power of artificial reefs.

The UMA’s permanent underwater sculpture garden, launched in 2017, draws a wide variety of marine life and provides a vital habitat in the form of a living reef. Conceived by Allison Wickey, president of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), the UMA attracts art lovers and marine wildlife in a mutually beneficial partnership.

Wickey called the local UMA a perfect storm of ideas. She developed a love for the snorkeling reefs established by the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA), and she simultaneously discovered the existence of other sculpture reefs around the world.

“I wondered why we weren’t doing something like this ourselves,” Wickey said. “We have so many artists here, but I wasn’t sure if it was even possible because the idea seemed so pie-in-the-sky.”

She pitched the idea of the sculpture garden to the SWARA board, and the organization immediately embraced her vision and joined forces with the CAA. And the rest is history.

The UMA offered its first call to artists in 2017 and dropped its first round of sculptures in 2018. By the end of 2019, the garden will be home to 19 permanent underwater sculptures.

The sculptures must be made of marine concrete, stainless steel, aluminum, limestone, marble, or other natural material to avoid harming the environment. As the team learns more about the process moving forward, Wickey expects it may lean more toward concrete pieces because of the increased durability.

Each year, the UMA determines how many sculptures it intends to add and issues a call for artists. Interested artists can submit an application with a sculpture idea. The top submissions are then reviewed and chosen by a jury, and new sculptures are added to the museum.

The entire effort has morphed into a collaboration between a number of local organizations. Emerald Coast Scuba in Destin has adopted the UMA, providing scuba certification for some of those in leadership and also by working to keep the site clean. Additionally, when Walter Marine out of Orange Beach comes to Walton County to drop a reef for SWARA, the UMA is able to piggy-backs onto the trip and drop its own sculptures. The partnership reduces expenses for the UMA and makes for a very efficient process.

The sculpture garden is a dive-site only due to its depth and isn’t suitable for snorkeling. While there is currently no tracking of visitors to the UMA, Wickey said that Emerald Coast Scuba takes people out to the site weekly. She also said that those interested in seeing the sculptures should contact Emerald Coast Scuba for more information.

“This began as a grassroots effort and we had very little experience with anything like this,” she said. “We’ve learned every step of the way, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves over time.”

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WaterColor Phase 2 3 Bedroom Home for Only 1,097,000

I know you see this a lot, but truly this one will be gone fast! 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 1,999 sq feet this home is on Thicket Circle which is just 2 blocks from the new Camp WaterColor and backs up to nature preserve with a park in front.

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Gearing up for Summer Fishing

Gulf Coast Anglers Gear Up for Summer!

Upcoming fishing seasons and tournaments

The Florida Gulf Coast is widely-recognized for its amazing sport fishing opportunities and tasty catches—many sought out by even the most discriminating foodies. It’s why the city of Destin has long been coined the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and why ardent anglers travel from all over the world to get in on the action.

The good news is that our region offer endless options for wetting a hook year-round, whether trolling or bottom-fishing on the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico or fishing in the Emerald Coast’s plentiful bays and lakes. But, not all months offer the same opportunities, and fishing aficionados will want to be aware of the seasons for various species of fish. Notably, the summer months offer some of the region’s most sought-after fishing opportunities that visitors and residents alike will not want to miss.

17th Annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic

One of Destin’s premier offshore fishing events, the Blue Marlin Classic is recognized as the “Richest Fishing Tournament” for its sizeable prize purse. In fact, the tournament set a Gulf Coast record in 2016 when the purse reached a whopping $1.95 million. Scheduled for June 29-23, 2019 at the Baytowne Marina, the event features cash categories for billfish, dolphin, tuna and wahoo as well as individual angler prizes. Nightly entertainment is offered and open to the public, including a live cooking demonstration, fireworks and live music.

Redfish Tournament Series

For those who prefer the quieter, more laid back atmosphere of inshore fishing, the Emerald Coast Redfish Circuit tournament schedule runs year-round. Next dates up include May 18 in Gulf Breeze and August 17 in Navarre. The organization promotes itself as a family-oriented club for all levels of anglers.

Seasonal Salt-Water Fishing

Anglers will find that summer is popular for many saltwater species including wahoo, dolphin, tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, king mackerel, chicken dolphins, snapper and grouper.

Red Snapper

For many Gulf Coast anglers, catching the coveted red snapper is the holy grail of summer fishing. This sought-after, flavorful fish has not only put Emerald Coast dining on the map, but it’s great fun to catch for people of all sizes and experience levels. Caught in deep water (60-440 feet), red snapper typically top out in size around 25 pounds, although Destin holds the record for Florida’s largest weighing in at 46 pounds. The Emerald Coast is home to many species of snapper including blackfin, cubera, dog snapper, gray snapper, queen snapper, lane snappers and the schoolmaster, but the popularity of the red snapper has resulted in restrictions that many of the other categories don’t share. Overfished due to its value, red snapper season is typically limited and varies by year. The 2019 red snapper recreational season will be open from June 11-July 12. For federally-permitted for-hire vessels, the season runs from June 1-August 1, 2019.  


Grouper is another popular catch along Florida’s Gulf Coast that is celebrated for its mild, sweet flavor. Also caught in deep waters, many categories of grouper exist including black, gag, red, scamp, snowy and warsaw. Grouper size varies widely depending on the type. For example, a black grouper can reach nearly 100 pounds while a gag grouper typically ranges in size between 15 and 30 pounds. While restrictions also exist for catching and keeping gag grouper, June 1st marks the beginning of the 2019 season, which runs through December.

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Your Dream Beach Wedding

Emerald Coast Weddings: What’s Trending

It’s not surprising that hundreds of couples choose the Emerald Coast each year for their destination weddings. Not only does our region’s natural splendor provide a one-of-a-kind backdrop, but the offerings here are as unique as the brides and grooms themselves.

For example, couples can get married on a boat, at a resort, in a state park, in a lodge, in a chapel, and of course, at the beach. They can opt for simple or extravagant, indoor or outdoor, any time of the year.

Certified wedding planner Kristi Purvis of Kiss the Bride Wedding & Event Planning said that 95 percent of the weddings she handles are destination weddings, with the lion’s share coming from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. She has spent the last eight years planning weddings and events in South Walton.

Perhaps surprisingly, she has seen a trend away from beach weddings, with couples choosing to be near the beach without actually being on the beach.

“I tend to do luxury weddings, and the brides often want to be able to have their pictures on the beach without necessarily having their toes in the sand during the ceremony,” Purvis said. “They don’t want their guests getting sandy, and the brides often want to be able to wear heels for the ceremony.”

That trend toward weddings near the water drives her to partner frequently with WaterColor Inn and Resort, Alys Beach, Vue on 30A, The Pearl, and the Hilton Sandestin. These venues have become her go-to because they are sought after, and they have so much to offer in terms of accommodations, event venues and amenities.

Alys Beach and WaterColor, for example, have gorgeous lawns steps away from the beach, while The Vue has a terrace overlooking the Gulf. The Hilton Sandestin has Gulf-front decks, and The Pearl has a rooftop space with European architecture that is perfect for weddings.

Unique to Alys Beach, couples can personalize the event food by building an on-site kitchen for caterers to use, while the other properties include their in-house catering staff as part of the venue package.

Purvis pointed out that there’s a misconception about what beach weddings “look like,” and that many people are surprised to find that weddings here can be elaborate and luxurious.

“People assume a beach wedding means a couple of chairs on the beach with people standing in the sand, but that’s not even close,” she said. “People might not think they can find luxury here but places like Alys Beach and WaterColor are known for their beautiful architecture and gorgeous lawns.”

Some brides host weddings that exceed $100,000, with chandeliers, drapings, and clear-top tents, as well as beautiful head tables and seating lounges for their guests.

The other trend Purvis has observed over the last couple of years is the move toward weekend-long gatherings as a way to capitalize on their visit to such a great area. Rather than hosting a one-day event, couples are scheduling bonfires, parties, lunches, and a variety of activities for their guests while they are in town.

Purvis admits that the weather often presents a unique challenge for couples getting married on the Emerald Coast, with anomalies like 80-degree weather for February weddings and 55-degree weather for April weddings. Because these venues are accustomed to hosting weddings in the uncertain Florida weather, the professionals involved work together to implement a plan B when necessary.

Purvis points to the close-knit community of the Emerald Coast as a selling point for brides considering a destination wedding here. She says it’s important to have “boots on the ground” who know how to match your needs and your budget without having to rely solely on information from the Internet.

“Everything operates like a well-oiled machine here because so many of us have established working relationships,” she said. “The venue managers know the people involved in the logistics of the wedding and everything runs like second-nature because of the trust and relationship among those people.”

For those considering an Emerald Coast destination wedding, Purvis clarified that though many brides begin their planning a year in advance, she has worked with brides who planned their entire event over the course of about three months. Though she doesn’t recommend it, she said it is possible.

She considers the 30A area the best-kept secret anywhere because of the broad range of things there are to do during a stay, whether it’s for a wedding or a vacation.

“These are the most insanely beautiful beaches in the world, and they are surrounded by golf courses, breweries, shopping, and anything else visiting couples could hope to do.”

WaterColor Inn courtesy of Kristi Purvis

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Brand New Luxury Beachfront Home East End of 30A

138 Camp Creek Point: Setting the Standard for Luxury, Gulf-Front Living

The Emerald Coast’s famed Highway 30A has become synonymous with thoughtful residential planning, laid-back coastal living and a blend of new urbanism and eclectic culture. It is also home to some of the most distinctive architecture and luxury developments available.

As one of the latest residential offerings,138 Camp Creek embodies the essence of what makes this celebrated highway special. The spacious 6,423 square-foot residence features the contemporary elegance, state-of-the-art offerings and robust amenities that today’s luxury real-estate buyers expect from a 30A Gulf-front lifestyle.

Along with the home’s more than 6,400 square feet of air-conditioned space, an additional 3,021 square feet of covered outdoor area is available, capitalizing on our area’s abundant beauty and natural resources. A large covered deck extends from the property’s great room overlooking the magnificence of the Gulf of Mexico’s emerald green waters, and a private boardwalk leads out to more than 130 feet of shoreline.

Designed to make the most of natural light, 138 Camp Creek Point features a generous display of windows and French doors that extend the full height of the home’s 12-foot coffered ceilings. Perfect for entertaining, folding glass walls frame the property’s great room and open to a pool deck and spa, as do the two master suites. The pool deck is also equipped with an outdoor kitchen with grill and sink for entertaining or enjoying quiet dinners watching sunsets over the Gulf.

Residents will enjoy added amenities that include a large wine cellar, game room, elevator and 3-car garage. The residence also features a large chef’s kitchen complete with 10’-wide island anchors, Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances and a Butler’s pantry.

Located just west of the Alys Beach neighborhood, 138 Camp Creek Point resides in a gated, non-rental community and is listed $10 million. For more information, please contact Cathy Turner at 850.502.3422

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Buying a Second Home on the Emerald Coast

Some things to consider before taking the plunge

The Emerald Coast is an attractive area for investing in second homes. In recent articles we’ve told you about the area’s healthy tourism and economic outlook and why the future of real estate sales is expected to remain promising. Just as a refresher, visitor numbers in South Walton alone grew from 3.2 million in 2015 to 4.1 million in 2017. The Emerald Coast enjoys a high volume of return visitors (more than 10 times for many), and the majority rent condos or homes during their stay.

Here at The Premier Property Group (PPG), we understand why so many people fall in love with the communities we serve and want to own property here. It’s our goal to make sure that customers make the best choices for their own unique circumstances. Recognizing that many factors will come into play before an individual is ready to make an offer, PPG Broker Barbara Schott offers insights into some preliminary steps that should be considered before beginning the second home investment process.

1. Identify your short-term and long-term goals
While all property purchases are investments on some level, the factors influencing purchases will vary greatly depending on an individual’s goals. If the end-game is to generate a steady revenue stream or turn a profit within a couple of years, then the approach to buying becomes much more about value than personal preferences. For instance, many investors look to the shoulder seasons—spring and fall—to make a purchase as the inventory for good investment properties tends to go up. A buyer may consider a rehab property during the fall, giving them time to spruce it up and either put it on the rental or buyer’s market before the high tourist season.

In contrast, a family interested in having access to a vacation home or a retired couple looking to invest in a winter home will have much different goals. In these cases, the decision to buy becomes much more emotionally-based, and personal preferences may outweigh value.

2. Learn about the area
It’s true that many potential 2nd home buyers have visited the Emerald Coast multiple times and have some familiarity with the area. But, when it comes to making a 2nd home investment, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the varying neighborhoods and communities that exist. Some important questions to consider may include: What are the demographics of a community? Are most homes primarily occupied by owners or visitors? How does the high tourism season impact a neighborhood? How convenient is a neighborhood to shopping, dining and entertainment? What are the homeowner’s association dues and requirements?

While there are no wrong answers to any of these questions, they can be important considerations when trying to align with a buyer’s specific goals and needs.

3. Determine your price point
Having a clear understanding of financial parameters is a critical first step before embarking on a second home purchase. For instance, if a family wants to purchase a vacation home in our area’s popular Watercolor community, it’s important that they evaluate a realistic budget before investing a substantial amount of time looking.

At PPG, we suggest potential second home investors pre-qualify with a bank early in the process. In addition, it’s important to consult with a certified public accountant or financial advisor to fully understand tax liabilities of property investments.

4. Consider how you will manage the property
Property management is an important consideration, especially since many second home owners along the Emerald Coast live outside our geographic boundaries and in other states. Those seeking to invest in property should consider how they will address such things as repairs, general property upkeep and yard maintenance. They will also want to determine how decisions align with any homeowners association requirements. The good news is that many options exist along the Emerald Coast, from use of a property management company to concierge services and self-management.

5. Align with a Strong Real Estate Partner
The best way for potential investors to make smart second home investment decisions is to align with knowledgeable, customer-focused real estate group. At PPG, we are one of the top, locally-owned, independent real estate firms in Northwest Florida and have ranked in the top 10% of luxury sales from the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors since our first year of operation. Simply put, we know the Emerald Coast and pride ourselves in being the local experts across the region’s top communities including South Walton, Destin, Miramar Beach and  Scenic Highway 30A.

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Thirty-One on 30A: Newest Gulf Front Luxury Condominiums

There is a lot to celebrate about The Premier Property Group’s (PPG’s) Thirty-One on 30A’s development. Namely, it’s the first gulf-front condominium project introduced along scenic Highway 30A in more than a decade, making it a rare find. Not only does the $70 million project encompass the most up-to-date, contemporary design elements, but it is state-of-the-art in terms of building codes and technological offerings when compared to neighboring luxury developments.

While that differentiator alone makes the project particularly attractive, it’s the attention to lifestyle details that truly make Thirty-One exceptional in the market, according to the property’s lead sales agent, Oliver Robbins. “We are essentially offering a high-end luxury hybrid that blends the best in condominium living with the privacy and attractiveness of a single-family residence,” he said. “Thirty-One is setting a new standard for lifestyle amenities, and our residents have a real sense of ownership that is uncommon in most Gulf Coast condominiums.”

Thirty One on 30As differentiators start with the size of the residences. While most Emerald Coast condominiums offer less than 2,000 square feet, residences at Thirty-One start at 2,200 square feet and reach as high as 4,500 square feet, each offering a large gulf-front balcony overlooking 335 feet of beach frontage (the size of a football field). That means that each of the 27 residences is afforded more than 12 feet of beach compared to just over one foot in many neighboring communities.

Designed with a distinctive, refined lifestyle in mind, Thirty-One offers owners an unmatched level of privacy and security. Residences are accessed from a secure, underground garage via eight private elevators, each providing entry to four residences—one on each of the development’s four floors. The garage is also equipped with a secure storage area for each residence.

Convenience is central to the vision behind Thirty-One on 30A, where the end-goal for residents is a maintenance-free lifestyle. To that end, the development offers a wide variety of concierge packages and services through Live Well 30A and La Dolce Vita. Owners can leave all the menial tasks associated with managing or visiting a property up to local experts and focus their attention on relaxation and quality time with friends and family. No more standing in line at the grocery store upon arrival or running to the car wash before leaving. Owners and visitors can look to these concierge partners for nearly any task including booking fishing trips, hiring babysitters or building a beach bonfire. The possibilities are endless.

Convenience extends well beyond Thirty-One’s concierge partners. For example, beach service is automatically included with all residences to ensure a seamless, hassle-free experience for owners. A fleet of street legal golf carts are also available that residents can use for dinner outings or simply enjoying the eclectic offerings of nearby 30A communities. An onsite catering kitchen, club room, outdoor kitchen and owner’s area with firepit make entertaining easy. The property has spared no expense to ensure the satisfaction of owners and their guests.

Of course, the development would not be complete with its 2,500-square-foot resort-style pool, offering an expansive terrace and temperate waters. The development is also home to a fitness center that overlooks the pool and Gulf.

Complementing Thirty-One’s unmatched lifestyle amenities is a commitment to high-end service by those who work at the property. For instance, Robbins recalls one instance where an owner realized that her four-carat diamond was missing upon returning home to Mississippi. The diamond was later found at the Waffle House in DeFuniak Springs, an hour north of Thirty-One on 30A. Building Manager Karac LeCercq drove to the restaurant and retrieved the diamond for the owner, leaving it securely in her Thirty-One residence.

“Thirty-One on 30A is bringing something new and truly special to the market, standing out for its superior offerings from all vantage points,” Robbins said, adding that the price point is attractive when compared to other single-family offerings. Currently, residences are still available and range in price from $2.2 million to $4.0 million.

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Emerald Coast Chefs Craft Flavorful Food, Memorable Experiences

(My favorite YaYa Gritts from Great Southern Cafe in Seaside’s recipe is at the end of the Article!!) Distinctive experiences come in many shapes and sizes along the Emerald Coast. A feast for the senses, our region is home to stunning water views and lush natural surroundings, soft, sugar-white beaches, the smell of warm Gulf breezes and, of course, tastes that will delight even the most discriminating palate.

Award-winning restaurants and celebrated chefs are abundant across the communities served by The Premier Property Group. Whether you are seeking a Gulf-to-table experience, Southern cooking, healthy fare or international cuisine, the chefs of the Emerald Coast strive to create dining experiences that will keep you coming back for more.

Here are a few of our favorites.

Jim Shirah, executive chef at Dewey Destin’s Seafood, grew up fishing the waters of the Emerald Coast with his family. Local to the Destin area, when the family launched the restaurant 10 years ago, the plan was to serve locally-sourced seafood, which can be a bit of a challenge sometimes.

“Locally-sourced seafood is the freshest possible, but it sometimes means we don’t have every fish available on the menu because it’s out of season,” Shirah said. “Changing the menu keeps the work interesting for our team and the food interesting for our customers.”

Shirah works in a kitchen that once belonged to his great aunt and uncle, and though the building in Destin Harbor has expanded over time, Shirah’s team serves an extensive menu of fresh fish from a surprisingly small kitchen. With four locations along the Emerald Coast, Dewey Destin’s serves original Destin recipes as well as Gulf Coast recipes pleasing both locals and visitors alike.

At George’s at Alys Beach, executive chef Camille Withall oversees a menu of regional coastal dishes flavored with global touches. Originally from the Philippines, Withall enjoys traveling the globe to learn about food, bringing that knowledge back to the customers at George’s.

“Food is everything. I believe that food has the ability to inspire, create lasting memories, and it can gather and unite people together almost like a universal language,” she said. “You can express love and emotion through food as well.”

The team at George’s crafts its offerings with locally- and regionally-sourced produce and the freshest seafood available for its lunch and dinner menus. Withall says that her team’s love for food is reflected through their creativity and enjoyment in crafting uncommon dishes.

Withall added that many customers are surprised to learn that the chef at George’s is female. “Although women are still not predominant in this male-driven industry, they are just as hardworking and talented as the rest of them,” she said. “Almost half of my kitchen staff are women, and I couldn’t be more lucky and proud to have them in my team.”

Chris Joyner serves as executive chef at The Saltwater Grill in Panama City Beach, which specializes in steak and seafood dishes on its dinnertime menu. Home to a 25,000-gallon tropical saltwater aquarium, The Saltwater Grill receives whole fresh fish daily, making its menu offerings among the freshest on the Gulf Coast. Joyner points to people’s increasingly busy schedules as the motivation for creating a memorable dining experience.

“As society evolves, we have less time to spend together at the dinner table,” he said. “Those 30 minutes together may be the only time that people get to spend with one another. A good meal can turn a bad day into a great one.”

Restaurant IRON, led by executive chef Alex McPhail, serves Southern contemporary cuisine driven by locally-sourced ingredients in handmade recipes. The dishes feature Gulf seafood, grass-fed beef, artisan products, and produce fresh from the on-site garden.

McPhail points to local markets like the Palafox Market in downtown Pensacola as a source of seasonal fruits and vegetables for everyone in the area, and a variety of products like locally-produced cornmeal and honey.

McPhail finds his inspiration, and the secret to Restaurant IRON’s success, in the teamwork of a talented staff, the beauty of his surroundings, and his freedom to create the freshest offerings from native ingredients.

Jim Shirley, chef and owner at Great Southern Cafe in Seaside, is affiliated with numerous well-known restaurants in the area, including The Fish House, The Atlas Oyster House, 45 Central Wine and Sushi, The Meltdown on 30A, The Bay in Santa Rosa Beach, and Baytown Provisions.

Great Southern Cafe promotes what it calls “New-Fashioned Southern Cuisine,” a mix of international cuisines with Southern cooking and locally-sourced foods. Shirley, a Pensacola native, has extensive knowledge of the waters along the Emerald Coast, and he couples that with his family’s farming history to promote what he calls “New Ruralism,” a concept that champions sustainable agriculture.

Check out Shirley’s recipe for Grits à Ya Ya, or many others at the Great Southern Cafe website.


Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound Dixie Lily grits
¼ pound butter
1 pound shredded smoked Gouda cheese

The Ya Ya
8 strips applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallots
3 tablespoons butter

White wine
1 pound peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
¼ cup diced scallions
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups smoked Gouda cheese grits

First, make your grits. Run the chicken stock into a thick-bottomed saucepan and turn on high till it boils. Mix in the grits and stir like crazy. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream if you need more liquid. Then tumble in the butter, drizzle in the rest of the cream, and stir ‘til it’s all in the family. Then shake in the shredded cheese and stir very well ‘til it’s all nice and smooth.

While your grits cook, bring a large saucepan to medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots. Sauté and then add butter and a splash of white wine. When the butter is half melted, add the shrimp. When the downsides of the shrimp become white, flip them and add mushrooms, scallions, and spinach. Sauté for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp. Pour in heavy cream and let simmer while stirring. When reduced by one-third, add salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Return shrimp to the sauce and combine. Spoon the sauce and shrimp onto heaping mounds of cheese grits.

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