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If you're planning a vacation...

If you're planning a vacation. . .

I'm a nester; I don't travel much. But when I do, I always search out a special place to eat, and on the Space Coast of Florida, that would be Grill's Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar.



The name is unfortunate, yes. But the food is exactly as the name implies -- all grilled, all seafood, all the time. The atmosphere? Well, there are pelicans, quite curious, fearless, very tall and intimidating brown pelicans. Let me explain.



Grill's sits on a dock at the port, directly across from where Disney World cruises (others, too, I imagine) depart for Bermuda, the Bahamas (the photo, above, offers a glimpse). It's also where fishing charter boats tie up, and their catches are cleaned at dockside. Hence the draw for pelicans.



Have you ever seen a brown pelican up close? He/she can stand waist high to a 5-foot-4 woman, and the port's brown pelicans wander right into Grill's if the staff lets them get away with it. The day we were there, one waddled up to the outdoor bar, and the bartender had to shoo him/her away with a rolled-up newspaper.



The waitress had barely set down our food -- pepper seared tuna sandwich, bacon-wrapped scallops, coconut shrimp, cheese bread, conch fritters and new potatoes -- when something bumped my shoulder from the other side of the push-out West Indies shutters.



I turned and found myself eye-to-eye with a rude but hungry brown pelican determined to get a bite of my sandwich. Too much like Wild Kingdom? Maybe, but it's worth the trip over from Orlando if you happen to be planning to visit The Mouse there (maybe an hour east on the BeeLine).



Can't get there? Mark time with this recipe from "Crazy Sista Cuisine," a fabulous cookbook from Jimmy Buffett's sister Lucy Anne. Visit her restaurant, Lulu's at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Ala., or visit her Web site to order the cookbook.

CRISPY COCONUT FRIED SHRIMP


1 pound large headless shrimp in the shells


1 can (12 ounces) Coco Lopez cream of coconut


1 egg, lightly beaten


2-1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes


1/2 cup self-rising flour


1 tablespoon sugar


1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1/2 teaspoon salt


6 cups peanut or vegetable oil, or enough to fill a skillet about 2 inches deep


Orange Horseradish Dipping Sauce (recipe, below)


Peel shrimp, leaving tails on. Devein and place shrimp in a bowl of ice. Refrigerate until ready to bread.


Place Coco Lopez, beaten egg and coconut in three separate bowls.


Combine flour, sugar, cayenne pepper and salt in a shallow baking pan.


Holding shrimp by the tails, dredge in Coco Lopez, then in flour, then in egg.


Roll shrimp in coconut, pressing firmly to coat completely. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for a minimum of 15 minutes.


In a cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat oil to 355 degrees over medium-high heat. (Use a candy thermometer for accuracy or heat until a little flour flicked into the oil sizzles.)


Fry shrimp in small batches, turning once during cooking, for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on each side or until golden.


Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with dipping sauce.


Orange Horseradish Dipping Sauce: Combine in a bowl 1 cup orange marmalade, 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate. Makes about 1 cup of sauce.
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