I was planning our Annual Midsummer Supper and Birthday Party: [I am June, Garrett is July, Stephen is August, and Haley is September.] For several years, we have yearned to return to Angelo & Son’s Seafood Restaurant in Panacea, Florida, exactly 37 miles [56 minutes], due south from our home. Angelo’s has been a famous landmark on the coast for almost 70 years. It is not a fancy place: it is family-friendly and the attire is casual. However, over the years, the prices have steadily climbed. Then, a few years ago, a hurricane decimated the building. The remodeling and revamping required extensive time and money. As a result, the prices are now “a little out of our league.” Even so, I pitched the idea to Stephen. He replied, “There is no way I am going to pay those exorbitant prices!”
That was when I suggested, “Well, then, let’s do an Angelo’s Theme and host our supper at home!” Stephen readily agreed and mused, “How hard could that be?” And, so, our Culinary Adventure began.
Stephen & I visited our local seafood shop and ordered our supper, fresh-off-the boat: an eight-pound grouper and three pounds of shrimp. I forgot to specify “fish fillets.” The shop owner deftly removed the gills and a few other items but handed us our grouper intact and on ice. He was massive. I named him [the fish] “Popeye,” because of his bulbous eyes. Even with a gift certificate, Stephen and I were a little surprised at the hefty size of the invoice.
We returned home and I prepared the rest of the supper, inspired by Angelo’s Menu: Fresh Green Salad with Greek Trim and Greek Dressing, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Freshly-Baked Bread with Herb Butter, and Iced Tea with Lemon & Lime Slices. I spared no expense and used all fresh, organic ingredients from our member-owned food co-op.
Later, our son arrived to help Stephen grill the grouper; they slathered it with olive oil, dusted it with Greek seasonings, and encased it in foil. They threaded the shrimp onto bamboo skewers. In spite of careful planning, the grouper required a much longer grilling time than the shrimp. So, the grouper was moist but under-done and the shrimp was dry and over-done. Stephen had difficulty removing the foil from the grouper. In disgust, he crushed up the empty foil, threw it back on the grill, and closed the lid.
The seafood was, I admit, a bit of a disappointment but the rest of the supper was superb. We turned our attention to dessert, which would provide the Crowning Glory of the Evening. That morning, Stephen had whipped up his famous Home-Made Cream Pies, settling upon Banana and Coconut. For the benefit of our grandson, however, he made the pie gluten-free and substituted oat flour for wheat flour. I prepared a teapot of Organic Chai with Cocoa to complement the pies. Stephen retrieved the pies from the refrigerator and, with a flourish, set them on the kitchen counter. Upon closer inspection, they might have passed for puddings. I handed out spoons and bowls and everyone partook. No one asked for seconds.
After our guests left, let me tell you, it was a JOB cleaning up that kitchen! I froze the leftover seafood, with plans to make chowder. Stephen hurled the rest of the pies into the kitchen trashcan, along with the inedible seafood remains, and carted it all outside, to the City Trash Container. It was too late to suggest that he freeze the seafood remains in a large zip lock bag, until Trash Pick-Up Day, which was now five days away.
We worked together for two hours and, weary to the bone, climbed upstairs to go to bed. I was philosophical about the difficulties of the evening. However, the culinary mishaps had shaken Stephen’s confidence and identity as a former Grill Master and Pastry Chef Extraordinaire.
The next morning, another hot and humid summer day, I walked out of doors and the air reeked of day-old fish. Over the next few days, the odor reached a crescendo, until it attracted every cat in the neighborhood. Various neighbors, on their daily walks, gave our property a wide berth and finally, they began to avoid us all together. I complained that, oddly, the odor was even stronger near the detached Laundry Room. Finally, Stephen investigated and removed the offending grouper-encrusted foil, still inside the grill, located on the porch outside the Laundry Room.
Now, please allow me to be your Tour Guide, in your perfect evening of seafood dining in Panacea:
Choose a fine afternoon and enjoy a leisurely, peaceful drive, through the Apalachicola Natural Forest. You will pass The Wakulla Springs State Park and Forest, The St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, and the Ochlocknee River State Park. When you pass through the vast, marshy, protected wetlands, and Oyster Bay, you are almost there. Just over the crest of a hill, you will see a bridge, spanning the glittering water of the St. George Sound, at the confluence of the Ochlocknee River and the Apalachee Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. The bridge leads to the pristine St. George Island and State Park and the St. Vincent Island Wildlife Refuge.
Before you reach the bridge, Angelo’s will come into view: It is an imposing all-wooden structure, built upon sturdy pilings, and perched over the water. If the weather is perfect, be sure to dine al fresco on the wrap-around porch, which offers an unimpeded view of the coastal panorama: the fishing boats returning to the marina, the seagulls wheeling, the pelicans diving for their supper, and the mullet jumping. After supper, right before sunset, order your dessert, Homemade Cream Pie and Coffee. Then, transfer over to the wide, western-facing porch. Position a rocking chair close to the porch railing. Reach for your dessert and cup, rest your feet up on the railing and savor every delicious morsel and sip, as you rock and watch the sun set over the water.
“Panacea,” as you may remember, means “a remedy for all diseases, evils, or difficulties; a cure-all,” from the Greek “pan” = “all” and “akos” = “cure.” Evidently, “the establishment of Panacea began with the Panacea Mineral Springs, a concentration of small sulphurous springs known for their ‘healing attributes’.” [Wikipedia]
And oh! Did I mention that Stephen decided that he is taking us all to Panacea next midsummer?