This past weekend I was in Pensacola Florida for my nephew Quint’s wedding(congrats Quint and Julie)….and not having really spent any time there(except for a hot, week long childhood vacation), I didn’t know much about the place. This I will put out for your consideration….think about going there for a vacation. Seriously. The numerous reasons why I will share with you this week….but let’s start with the obvious…food. You cannot have a good holiday in a town that does not have good cuisine. You just can’t. And Pensacola has it goin’ on, in that category.
I decided to do …let’s call it…an informal grits competition….the various ways one can prepare grits. Without a doubt, the most over the top version was at a highly recommended restaurant at a marina, called simply enough, The Fish House. Its humble weathered grey facade conceals the look within….lots of large beautiful aquariums scattered about the room and white table cloths…that kind of place. And on a Sunday night ,we had to sit at the bar it was so crowded, but that’s fine with me. The tuna and salmon sashimi was impeccably fresh, but the reason I was there was for their famous Grits a Ya Ya….a dish in which grilled gulf shrimp sit atop a saute of spinach, portebello mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon, garlic shallots and cream, over a heaping bed of smoked Gouda cheese grits. Need I say more? One order was plenty for the two of us..it was just that rich…and at $19.95, a relative bargain. Oh, and I found a recipe online that claims to be Grits a Ya Ya….here’s a link….and when you read the ingredients you’ll want to sit down. Oh, ya ya.
I had read about a famous dish in Pensacola called Nassau Grits. I had no idea what that was, and it wasn’t easy to find someone who did know….however, in the article about “greasy spoon” restaurant…the Coffee Cup Restaurant was evidently the place that served Nassau grits by which all other Nassau grits in Pensacola grits are judged(since 1945).
And as someone else says about the Coffee Cup…..” it’s the place where cops and attorneys, drywall hangers and artists, dilettantes and debutantes gather to eat grits and eggs in the morning“….good enough for me. We cruised by Sunday morning….no luck… closed tight. But never one to be deterred so easily from grits at least, we were back Monday before a flight home….and in luck. Even at 10 am, the place was packed….and of course nothing would do, but Nassau grits…plus a couple of eggs over easy, and a nice slice of Southern ham. Oh, and easily the best cathead of the trip(cathead is what my late Dad always called biscuits). When the grits arrived…those suckers were red. Clearly, tomatoes were involved.
When I asked the waitress what was in them, she replied a touch wearily, as though it had been a long morning with yahoos like me around…but said, “Tomatoes, onions, green peppers, hot sauce and ham“. They were deliciously different….and just in case you want to make them yourself…here’s recipe for Nassau Grits. Don’t say I never gave you anything.
But it was hard(impossible?) to beat the simple grits preparation at The Seville Grill in Pensacola. I ordered the pesto, spinach, mushroom and swiss cheese omelet…with grits, naturally….and they nestled up to one of the best omelets I’ve ever tasted…in their little white stoneware bowl. The waitress had asked, “Do you want cheese in ‘em?” After only a moments hesitation, I replied in the afffirmative. They were topped with cheddar and a diet devastating dollop of butter. In all honesty, you can gild the lily in many, many ways….but stone ground grits(which these clearly were) with butter and a little cheese is ….well…to me at least…a simple dish of true perfection. It was a great breakfast at the Seville. Tomorrow…more on Pensacola and why you should be planning a trip there, right now.