Book Signing Thursday

Hello Beasties! 

I'll be at The Bookmark in Neptune Beach tonight April 23 starting at 7pm - signing copies of my new book - Jacksonville Food Trucks - Stories and Recipes from the Road!

See you There!


St. Simons Island's Southern Soul

The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting nearby St. Simons Island for the first time, as a guest of The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort. My travelling companions were fellow travel and food writers, and we were given a taste of the good life on this quiet coastal island.

The beautiful vista from my room in the Resort's Oceanfront Building made it tough to venture out, lest I should miss a moment of the spectacular sunrise or sunsets. But venture we did. Along the way, we met some of the people who call St. Simons home, and tasted some solid down-home Southern cooking. 

We started our visit with drinks in the lobby bar and "living room" area at the Resort. It was like sunshine in a glass. 

Dinner at Echo, the Resort's showcase restaurant and the island's only oceanfront restaurant and bar, after dinner drinks in the "living room" and breakfast in the sunny bar area showcased the best the island has to offer, with fresh, plentiful Georgia shrimp as a culinary focus during our stay. The name ECHO pays tribute to the Resort and St. Simons Island's naval history during World War II. 

The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort recently completed a comprehensive renovation project, and the resulting spaces are fresh and elegant. They integrate natural light and gorgeous views of the Resort's 30,000 square foot pool complex, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The only oceanfront hotel on the island, The Resort was the perfect home base for our adventures. While they housed and fed us generously, our trip included visits to a few choice off-site restaurants as well. One standout spot was just a short trolley ride away from the Resort, and featured a bangin' breakfast buffet.

Tim and Melissa Wellford have owned and operated local favorite Sandcastle Cafe and Grill at 117 Mallery Street since it opened in 1989. The breakfast buffet is an outstanding value, and most of their breakfast and lunch entrees are under ten dollars.

Their cinnamon rolls were a big hit. They usually only do them on weekends, so plan accordingly if you want to sample them!

The island has plenty of places for shopping and refreshment. We loved combing through these little shops on our way back home.

I was thrilled when our trolley tour stopped at nearby Southern Soul Barbeque for lunch. 

Griffin Buffkin and Harrison Sapp started Southern Soul with just $700 and a smoker. They've come a long way from those humble beginnings.

Pittmaster Harrison told us how they rub, then smoke low and slow, basting with apple juice throughout the process. 

The resulting pulled pork was some of the best I've ever eaten. The ribs were completely crazy-good too, but the baked beans and Brunswick Stew really got me going.       

I've been wanting to give this place a try since Guy Fieri visited them a few years ago, on the Northern end of his swing through Jacksonville. Now I know that no trip to St Simons, or any of Georgia's coastal islands, is complete without a visit to Southern Soul. It's just that good. NO FRILLS, just honest to goodness real deal Southern Barbeque.

We toured Christ Church and its cemetery, and learned about its significance in John and Charles Wesley's founding of the Methodist and Episcopal Churches. The church's history is a tale for another day, one that launched a series of historical romance novels by Eugenia Price. 

There were some beautiful stained glass windows in the church. This one caught my attention!

No doubt, I'll return to St. Simons Island in the Spring, when everything is in bloom. If you're anywhere in the vacinity, I suggest you plan a trip, tour the island, grab some world class barbeque and soak in the sights. It really is a beautiful place.

If you need additional incentive, The King and Prince is running a Melt Away Your Everyday special, with discounted rates on select dates through March 26, 2015.
Find them online at kingandprince.com

Thanks to our hosts and tour planner for your gracious hospitality, and for creating such a lovely experience for us.  


Southern Roots Grand Opening

Southern Roots Filling Station celebrates their Grand Opening Saturday, January 24, at 1275 King Street in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood. Saturday hours are 9am-3pm, and their grand opening celebration is from 4pm - 6pm.

JP and Mariah Salvat, Southern Roots Filling Station.
Featuring goods from local farmers, growers, crafters and artisans, shop owners JP and Mariah Salvat say their mission is to create delicious simple vegan products that are eco-friendly and organically sourced with no artificial preservatives and unnecessary additives. Offerings include coffee, tea, prepared foods, and bulk/buy-by-weight items.

The Beacon
I stopped in for a Chai Latte and was gifted a lovely open-face sandwich. The Beacon features Smokey seed spread, carrot slaw and local micro-greens served on bread or a bed of greens. It was so delicious I had to pick up a container of the smokey seed spread to make my own at home! There are fresh house-baked muffins, and coffee from Miami-based Panther Coffee.

We be Jammin'
Sundays promise to be delicious, with a weekly "Jam Bar" for your toast! Find their current menu and list of bulk items online at southernrootsjax.com, visit them on Facebook at SouthernRoots, and check out their daily specials on instagram @mysouthernroots.


Amelia Island Restaurant Week

January 16 through 25 is the 7th Annual Amelia Island Restaurant Week. 30 of Amelia Island’s most popular restaurants are participating this year. Each will offer a prix-fixe menu, including three courses and a non-alcoholic beverage, at either $19 or $29 per person.  New for 2015, select restaurants will offer a prix-fixe lunch menu with a non-alcoholic beverage for $12 per person. Details and a list of participating restaurants are available online at ameliaislandrestaurantweek.com

The week officially kicks off Thursday, January 15, when Executive Chef Andrew Yeo of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island will gather a group of local Chefs/Owners of Amelia Island Restaurants for a special themed meal. 

A Tribute to Modern Southern Cuisine begins with a 6 p.m. wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres and a 6:45 p.m. dinner seating in Café 4750.  Each chef will prepare a personal interpretation of a Southern classic food.  

From The Salty Pelican, T.J. Pelletier offers Butternut Squash and Shrimp Bisque with a Southern Style Shrimp Po’Boy. 

Espana Chef Roberto Pestana will prepare Panco encrusted Diver Sea Scallops over Lobster, Bay Scallop and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya. 

From The Ritz-Carlton, Andrew Yeo will present Sherry Glazed Crispy Pork Belly, Tomatillo Relish, Bacon Powder, Collard Greens. 

29 South Chef Scott Schwartz offers Braised Veal Cheek on Congaree and Penn Sweet Corn Middlins, Brown Butter Carrot Mousse, Hickory Smoked Almonds.

The Ritz-Carlton’s Sheldon Millett presents Key Lime Cream, Strawberry Shortcake, and S’more Chocolate Sorbet. 

Tickets are available with advanced reservation, and are a great value at just $68 per person plus gratuity. Call 904-277-1987


Meet Joy of Kosher Author Jamie Geller

Jamie Geller - Photo courtesy of Winn Dixie
and Joy of  Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine
Celebrate Delicious this Chanukah season during a special kosher cooking demonstration featuring world-renowned kosher food celebrity Jamie Geller. 

To help brighten your holiday, Geller will whip up several of her family’s favorite fast, fresh Chanukah recipes for tasting, including savory and sweet treats such as latkes and donuts, along with tips and tricks to wow holiday guests.

 Thursday, December 11
5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

 Lakewood Winn-Dixie Store
1520 W. University Blvd.
Jacksonville, Fla. 32217

The best-selling author will also host an in-store book signing, and the first 40 attendees will receive a complimentary copy of Jamie’s Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes cookbook.

For more ideas on how you and your family can Celebrate Delicious in your kitchen, visit Winn-Dixie.com/Chanukah or JoyofKosher.com for Jamie’s quick and easy kosher recipes and download a free copy of Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Chanukah e-recipe book. 

Jamie is the best-selling author behind Quick & Kosher: Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing  and Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes cookbooks, the founder of Kosher Media Network (KMN), which includes award-winning magazine Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller and website JoyofKosher.com.


"If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him." ~ John F. Kennedy


Sweet and Sassy Meatball Contest

So - y'all know I like it hot. That's why I'm thrilled to have been asked to be a judge in the Sweet & Sassy Meatball Contest,  celebrating the 10th anniversary of St Augustine's Hot Shot Bakery and Cafe.

Ten finalists will be invited to join owner Sherry Stoppelbein on Saturday, November 15 at her Hot Shot Bakery in historic St. Augustine, for a tasting competition, where their meatballs will be sampled and judged by yours truly (Nancy White, bloganista in chief here at Nourish The Beast, and Dining Notes columnist for the Florida Times-Union), my friend, the lovely Allie Olsen, who OWNS St Augustine  at Simply St Augustine, and uber-fab food photographer Monica Stouder.

Win a St. Augustine Vacation!
One Grand Prize winner will receive a getaway at the historic St. Francis Inn (circa 1792), plus take home a yummy collection of Hot Shot Bakery’s datil sauces, jams, mustards and jellies. (Mango Dipping Sauce, Nolby's Hot Mustard, Sloppy good BBQ Sauce, Datil Pear Relish, Datil Citrus Jam and 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Degree Burn Hot Sauce.
One Grand Prize Winner Receives:
  • An overnight stay for two at the beautiful, historic St. Francis Inn (Sunday thru Thursday excluding holiday periods). All Inn amenities including breakfast and afternoon social hour with homemade refreshments. www.StFrancisInn.com
  • Sumptuous breakfast buffet for two at the St. Francis Inn
  • Complimentary bicycles for two to tour St. Augustine
  • Evening desserts at the St. Francis Inn for two
  • Lunch for two at Hot Shot Bakery
  • An assorted case of Datil B Good Jams, Condiments and Hot Sauce
  • The prize-winning recipe will be incorporated into one of the restaurant’s menus!

Official Rules: 
Send your Sweet & Sassy Recipe via email to Leigh Cort Publicity ~ leighcort@bellsouth.net  by November 1, 2014.

  1. Recipe & NAME OF RECIPE
    (No previously published recipes will be considered).
  2. A brief story about the recipe, not to exceed 100 words
  3. Name, address, telephone # and email 
  4. All ingredients and preparation instructions.
  5. A photo of the dish

Judging: Top 10 Finalists will bring 12 meatballs to Hot Shot Bakery on November 15 at 12:00 noon for tasting competition.
Who can enter: Entrants must be 18 or over. There are no substitutions or transfer of prizes. Prizes are not redeemable for cash. By acceptance of prizes, winners consent to use of their names and/or photographs for publicity purposes without further compensation. Finalists will be notified by November 3, 2014.

For 25 years, Sherry Stoppelbein has been growing the hot little Datil pepper that thrives in St. Augustine, where the climate, soil and humidity are perfect. At her Hot Shot Bakery, one of St. Augustine’s fave breakfast and lunch spots, many dishes are prepared or garnished with her Datil B Good condiments and sauces.

*See contest details online at: www.leighcortpublicity.com/contest.htm

Hot Shot Bakery and Café
8 Granada Street
St. Augustine, Fl 32084


Soul Food Bistro: Satisfy Your Craving

My review of The Soul Food Bistro's Arlington location is in the 
Florida Times-Union this week, so I thought I would indulge you with a few more photos here, since the paper has only so much space to indulge my obsession with food-porn.

Don't tell my mama, but these are some of the best dang pork-chops you could ever want to eat! SMOTHERED is the way to go, here, people. Trust me on this one. You're gonna want to eat all that rice, too...

Chef Celestia Mobley created the OXTAIL WONTON for a chef's competition a few years ago. They are completely craveable. This photo shows them served family style.    

Chicken is a popular choice at the Soul Food Bistro. Fried, Oven Roasted, Smothered, Grilled...
Just get you some.

The BEST Mac n Cheese in Jacksonville, people. IMHO, that is. 

There is so much more at the Soul Food Bistro - both locations do a rockin' business. Read my review of the Arlington location in the Florida Times Union, and go. Sit. Eat. Get cake. There is a lot of cake. Pie. Cheesecake. You get the drift. 

Oooh - and they cater! Get the traditional soul food stuff or call and talk about custom menus - they have a real fancy-schmancy catering staff, including a wonderful pastry chef!  They specialize in delivering soulful, healthy food. 

Let me leave you with this thought, from the Soul Food Bistro website:

Soul Food Bistro on Urbanspoon

Soul Food Bistro

11876 Atlantic Blvd
Jacksonville FL 32225


Thanks to Chef Celestia Mobley and her crew for inviting us to join the fun at the one year anniversary celebration of this location, where at least a few of these dishes were served to us gratis, with no expectation that we would share other than through social media.  


Much Ado About Moxie

Scallops with three cheese grits and lobster sauce. Get this.

Chef Tom Gray's Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails in the St John's Town Center is one of my new favorite places to grab a bite. I have enjoyed most everything I've tried there, some more than others.

My review of Moxie is in the Florida Times-Union this week, so I thought it would be good timing to drop a couple more photos here, since the paper has only so much space to indulge my obsession with food-porn. I wouldn't want you to miss out on some of the tastiest lunch, dinner, brunch and happy hour options that await hungry diners.

Mexican Street Corn Toasts - share this.
It took me a few months to get out to Moxie after it opened last November, but I have been making up for that lately by stopping in whenever I'm in the area. I've dubbed the little table at the end of the downstairs bar "the blogger's table" since the two large windows ensure there will be plenty of natural light for snapping pics. Also it is a little off the beaten path, so it is usually quieter than most other areas. 

Chicken and Waffles makes me want to lick the plate.
I usually have a go-to dish when I frequent a place. With Moxie, I am content to switch it up and try something new every time. Soon, though, I will need to get back around to this decadent dish of Chicken and Waffles, maple mousse and pepper jelly.  

Charcuterie selections make for a light nosh.
Behold, The Moxie Burger. 
With the selection of better burgers growing as new eateries come into the market, the double stacked Moxie Burger, with patties of beef, pork, and BACON ranks pretty high on my list. What this dish says to me is, don't wait for a special occasion to eat at a special restaurant. YOU make it special.  

Don't miss brunch - Saturday and Sunday 11 - 2:30

Desserts are an art form at Moxie - but not too precious to eat.
See you at Moxie!

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails on Urbanspoon

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails

4972 Big Island Dr,
Jacksonville FL 32246    




Favorite Hidden Gem, Jacksonville: El Ranchito

When people ask me what's my favorite restaurant, it should come as no surprise that my answer includes not just one, but several places. Over the summer I'll be sharing some of these faves - new and old. I'll start with my FAVORITE HIDDEN GEM in Jacksonville, El Ranchito.

(This is excerpted from my original review, which appeared in the Florida Times-Union.)

Columbian, Mexican, Cuban all under one roof. GOAL!
I love a good “mom and pop” restaurant, someplace you feel welcome, regardless of whether you speak the language or hail from the same part of the globe. One that makes my list of favorites is El Ranchito. Cue the collective gasp from regulars who would prefer their favorite spot to remain their little secret.

Located on Beach Boulevard in Pablo Station near the northwest corner of Beach and San Pablo, El Ranchito hums with a Latin vibe. Columbian, 

Cuban and Mexican standards are all represented, and the crowd is as diverse as the menu. One day it is a bright, quiet spot to grab lunch or dinner, the next it’s filled with cheering fútbol fans, jostling for space with a stream of regulars, including more than a few in-the-know foodies. The space is small and neat, with minimal décor, indoor and outdoor seating. Banners advertising the World Cup festoon the small counter area.

Sopa de Costilla de Res
El Ranchito’s “mom and pop” for just over four years now are Ana and Jorge Argueta. She’s Columbian, he’s Guatamalan. Son Kenny and daughter Christina work with them, greeting customers as friends old and new, waiting and bussing tables. Kenny is quick to point out their Facebook page, and recommends checking it out for the specials.

On a recent visit, I particularly enjoyed the special Sopa de Costilla de Res ($4.99). Meaty chunks of beef short rib, tender and falling off the bone, nestled in with potatoes, carrots and cilantro in a flavorful broth which gets its reddish hue from achiote. This simple, yet satisfying Columbian dish is the epitome of comfort food. Here it is often available on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Empanadas Cubana
My dining companion and I shared crispy, warm Empanadas Cubana ($3.50), two fried flour turnovers amply filled with ground beef and Cuban spices. 

In contrast, Empanadas Columbiana (6 for $4.99, 12 for $9.99) feature a slightly sweet cornmeal shell and Columbian spiced beef.

Meat lovers and big eaters in general will embrace the combination of sirloin steak, pork sausage, chicharrones (pork rind), plantains, corn cake, white rice, beans, and avocado salad that make up Colombia’s national dish, Bandeja Paisa ($12.99). It’s a lot of food. Plan to share, or take home leftovers.

Tacos de Carne Asada
Tacos de Carne Asada ($9.99) hit all the right notes – perfectly seasoned chopped beefsteak, onion and cilantro are served on steamed corn tortillas, with a wedge of lime. This simple, authentic dish shares billing as “Traditional Mexican” with more American inventions such as the Chimichanga (9.99) and Fajitas (11.99-12.99).

The Cuban classics are here –succulent Lechon Asado ($7.99 lunch / $8.99 dinner) is fresh-roasted pork, seasoned with a slightly tart, garlicy mojo; and Ropa Vieja (8.99 lunch / $11.99 dinner), shredded flank steak prepared in a savory sauce of tomato, pepper, onion and garlic. Another Cuban standout is Arroz Con Pollo ($10.99), tender chunks of chicken cooked with yellow rice.

Camarones Al Ajillo
Camarones Al Ajillo ($14.99) are sweet, tender shrimp sautéed in toasted garlic oil, served with plantain, rice, beans and salad. The crispy little bits of garlic in the oil are what transform this simple sautéed shrimp dish. I sopped up every last bit with the yellow rice.

Soupy Columbian red beans were soft and silky, and not over-salted. Alternate choices are white rice and equally delicious Cuban black beans, and your choice of savory or sweet plantains.

Tres Leches
Desserts are made in house by Ana, and the Tres Leches ($4.00) is one of the best I’ve tasted. Suitably dense, moist vanilla cake soaks in the sweetened milks and whipped cream as you eat it. Overall it is light and fresh, not too heavy, and not cloyingly sweet as it can sometimes be.

El Ranchito serves beer and wine, coffee, tea, juices, soft drinks (including Columbian, Mexican and Cuban favorites) and Horchata, a traditional Mexican drink made with rice and cinnamon.

Give me a clean, locally owned, one of a kind place with simple food made from scratch and reasonably priced, and I’ll return again and again. I’ll be returning to El Ranchito.

El Ranchito on Urbanspoon

El Ranchito

14333- 22 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32250
(904) 992-4607

    Mon-Thu 11:30-8
    Closed Tuesday
    Fri 11:30-9
    Sat 12-9
    Sun 12-8

Price range: $4-18