Latest Area News

Classic Mexican restaurant comes to Destin Commons

A small Mexican chain has opened in the location adjacent to Bass Pro Shops in the Destin Commons. El Jalisco serves Mexican favorites from fajitas to flautas and from shrimp to soups.

The food
El Jalisco serves a mix of Tex-Mex favorites such as burritos, chimichangas and tacos, but also offers more authentic style dishes such as carnitas and caldo de camaron or shrimp chowder.

The menu is pretty vast and it took us a while to settle on our orders.

After some internal debate, I ordered the fajitas Tapatias, which was a combination of steak, chicken and shrimp. My mom ordered the fajita burrito with steak. My aunts were dining with us as well, and they ordered chicken nachos and chicken enchiladas.

We started the meal with the standard chips and salsa and added an order of cheese dip.

The cheese dip was as good as any I’ve had at other restaurants. Our entrees were delivered quickly and were huge.

My fajitas arrived sizzling on a skillet and with a plate of fixings including pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, limes, beans and rice. I did wonder why there wasn’t cheese, but ended up not missing it so much. I also was given four or five tortillas, which were more than enough to fill me up.

My mom’s fajita burrito was giant and filled with steak, beans, grilled onions and peppers and topped with cheese sauce. She enjoyed it, but we ended up bringing a lot of it home along with some of my fajita fixings.

My aunt’s simple chicken nachos (just chicken and cheese on tortilla chips) were huge as well, cover-ing what seemed like a platter. We ended up throwing those in a box as well.

Like most Mexican restaurants El Jalisco also serves a variety of combination meals and has lunch specials.

The atmosphere
El Jalisco is in the former Groovy Grouper Grill. This location has a hint of upscale décor, with its large banquettes and open kitchen plan. The new owners have added some Mexican flare though with bright colors on the walls.

They’ve also kept the nice bar that sits in the middle of the dining room.

The service
Our waiter was attentive and kind, refilling drinks and needed.

A final taste
Destin isn’t overflowing with Mexican restaurants, so it’s nice to have another choice, especially at the Destin Commons.

 

Quick Bites
Location: 4304 Legendary Drive in Destin

850-323-1023 | Eljalisco.com

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Reservations: Not necessary

Handicap accessibility: Good

Children’s menu: Yes

Prices
Appetizers/Dips: 
$3.99 to $10.99

Combinations: $9.99 to $10.99

Favorites: $9.99 to $13.99

Lunch Specials: $6.40 to $10.99

Payment: Major credit cards
 

Students shine at thespian festival; Golden Globes have lost some luster

Good publicity can make all the difference.

Case in point, “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

I wasn’t all that interested in seeing the touring production coming to the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in February until I saw the publicity campaigns designed by some high school students.

The musical coincidentally was one of the plays students could choose from for the Publicity Direction event at the District One Florida State Thespian Festival held last weekend at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.

Other possible play choices were “Aida,” “City of Angels,” “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Electra” “War Horse,” “Noises Off” and “Pippin.”

More than 800 students from across the district, which encompasses pretty much from Tallahassee to Pensacola, participated in the multi-day festival.

I don’t get to keep a list, but I think there were 16-20 students in the Publicity Direction event that I helped judge along with Susan Shaw and Jerre Brisky, both from the University of West Florida.

It was my fourth year as a judge, and I learn something new every time.

Publicity is more involved than you might think. Here’s what the students are required to produce and present to us:

Poster design on 11x17-inch paper.

Ticket design.

Program design and full layout of no less than four pages.

Two press releases; an informational article and a feature article.

A proposal for a promotional project.

A budget for the publicity campaign and justification of expenses.

A bibliography documenting all sources.

Of course, there are additional rules and requirements they must follow as well.

Actually, there were two impressive presentations featuring “Peter and the Starcatcher.” However, we judges were unanimous in picking Emma Fitzhugh of Fort Walton Beach High School for our Critics’ Choice Award.

Congratulations to Emma and to all of the students who commanded the spotlight at the festival.

And now I need to go buy tickets to “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

***

Maybe I’m suffering from awards show fatigue. It seems these days, I may turn them on, but I pay only limited attention to them while I do something else.

The Golden Globes used to be talked about in hushed tones as being a fairly reliable predictor of the Oscars.

These days, not so much.

Now the awards bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are known primarily for being the party of the year for celebrities that they let the rest of us watch.

Still, I tuned in to last Sunday’s presentation although I took a break in the middle of it to check on “Downton Abbey.”

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were hilarious, as usual, but mostly just during their opening bit. They managed to illicit a gasp from the room with a couple of Bill Cosby jokes that weren’t all that funny, but the celebs’ reaction was interesting.

The joke about George Clooney’s wife and his Lifetime Achievement Award was the best.

A running gag with Margaret Cho as a North Korean entertainment writer fell flat. The best moment was when Benedict Cumberbatch photo bombed her and Meryl Streep. That was funny.

ECTC offers children’s musical theater programs centered on Disney classic

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Sun, 01/11/2015 - 11:41am

MIRAMAR BEACH — Emerald Coast Theatre Company will focus on the "simple bare necessities" this spring with the launch of three children’s musical theater programs centered around Walt Disney’s 1967 animated kids’ adventure film, “The Jungle Book.”

Specially adapted from the classic film, this musical includes favorite Disney tunes, such as “The Bare Necessities,” “That’s What Friends Are For” and “I Wan’na Be Like You.”

ECTC’s immersive three-month long program incorporates theater games, learning songs and simple choreography, and, of course, bringing to life the story of Mowgli, Baloo and King Louie.

Inspired by the Rudyard Kipling‘s book of the same name, “The Jungle Book” tells the story of Mowgli, a child raised in the Indian jungle by wolves, as his friends Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear try to convince him into leaving the jungle before the evil tiger Shere Khan arrives.

ECTC’s three workshops of “The Jungle Book” are as follows:

The ECTC program at Destin Elementary School is open to grades 1-4. Rehearsals are on Wednesdays from 3 to 4:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 14 through April 15 (skipping March 25). A final performance will be staged on April 15 at 6:30 p.m.

The program at Destin Community Center is open to grades 4-12. Rehearsals are on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. beginning Jan. 24 through May 2 (skipping Feb. 14 and March 28). A final performance will be staged on May 2 at 11 a.m.

The program in Santa Rosa Beach (location TBD) is open to grades 1-8. Rehearsals will be held on Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. beginning on Jan. 22 through April 23 (skipping March 26). A final performance will be staged on April 23 at 6:30 p.m.

Tuition is $180 per child. A 20 percent discount is offered for sibling and a 10 percent discount is offered for children with parents in active duty military with proper ID. Space is limited and advance reservations are required. 

For more information on Emerald Coast Theatre Company, call 687-1637 email info@emeraldcoasttheatre.org or visit www.emeraldcoasttheatre.org. Find ECTC on Facebook at ECTheatreCompany.
 

23rd Southeast Regional, Otoupalik art exhibits to open

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 10:53am

The Mattie Kelly Arts Center Galleries at Northwest Florida State College will host two new exhibitions from Jan. 12 to Feb. 13 in the galleries that are in the art wing of the fine and performing arts complex on the college’s Niceville campus.

A Preview Reception and Awards Ceremony will be held in the Galleries 6-8 p.m. Jan. 10. The event is free and open to the public.

Regular gallery hours to view are Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 90 minutes before most mainstage theater performances. All exhibitions are free of charge.

In the McIlroy Gallery, the Arts and Design Society of Fort Walton Beach, Inc. presents the 23rd Southeast Regional Juried Fine Arts Exhibition. This competitive exhibition perennially attracts top artistic talent from across the southeastern United States and showcases works in a variety of media. This year’s juror is Julie Bowland, Professor of Art and Director of the Valdosta State University Fine Arts in Valdosta, Ga.

The Holzhauer Gallery features the 2014 ADSO Best-in-Show winner, Rick Otoupalik. His exhibition, “Artifice & Artifact,” includes both free-standing and wall sculptures. Otoupalik works in clay and many of his pieces focus on the traditional modeling of the human figure, but he includes mixed-media elements that place his aesthetic in the contemporary.

He combines unexpected materials to create visual surprises and make meaning. The artist is a resident of Fort Walton Beach and is involved in several Florida Panhandle arts organizations. In addition to his 2014 Southeast Regional win, Otoupalik also won Best of Show at ADSO’s 15th Annual Photography and Digital Arts Exhibition.
 

Branson performers coming to FWB

FORT WALTON BEACH — Branson performers Barbara Fairchild & Roy Morris and George Dyer & Family are coming to the Fort Walton Beach Municipal Auditorium for shows on Jan. 10 and Feb. 6, respectively.

Show times are at 2 and 7 p.m. for both acts and dates. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Air Force Enlisted Village and American Business Women’s Association.

Tickets start at $17 and discounts available for seniors and military. VIP Seating and Meet the Entertainers Reception tickets available also. Call 243-3809 for tickets or more information.
 

Youth Village presents book fair fundraiser

Youth Village Inc. will host a book fair fundraiser at Barnes & Noble in Destin 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Jan. 10 as a fundraiser for its Capital Campaign. The book fair will be held in-store and online.

How it works: Youth Village gets credit for items that are purchased in store and online with a special voucher. So that means if you are unable to come to the event in the store you can still help by using the voucher with online purchases on the Barnes & Noble online store.

Theme for the day: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Entertainment:
• Improv show (think: Whose Line is it Anyway)
• Nerdy Runway Show: Best Dressed Nerdy Contest winner will receive a Barnes and Noble Gift Card
• In-store café: Cupcake decorating
• Cheryl Jones
• Lisa Morgan book-signing: Get Beached Slapped
• Dharbi Jens book-signing: Doc McStuffins (Dharbi is the voice of Melinda
• In-store stations: Face-painting, Youth Village information booth, Games, Story-time, and more!

Youth Village Inc. is a 501 (c) (3), non-profit organization located in Fort Walton Beach whose mission is to provide a safe place, a fun place, a learning place, a place for kids where people care. Since inception, Youth Village has served more than 2,000 children in the community.

For more information: email Nellie Bogar, njbogar@yahoo.com or see website: www.nelliesyouthvillage.org or call Valerie Bogar 460-5649.

Buzzworthy events for Jan. 9-15

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:24am

Want a few suggestions for what to do, where to go and who to see? You’ll find them here each week. Look for details and more ideas throughout Showcase.

Friday

Friends book sale: The Friends of Navarre Library book sale will be held in the Navarre Library meeting room, 8484 James M. Harvell Road, as follows: today, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. - noon.

Pyramid Art Show: The Arts and Design Society will host the Pyramid Art Show through Jan. 16. A reception is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Jan.9. Admission to the reception and the gallery is free and open to the public. The gallery is at the Art Center, 17 First St. S.E. in Fort Walton Beach.

Saturday

12th Night: Navarre Krewe of Jesters will have a 12th night celebration at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Navarre Elks Lodge, 2002 Elks Way Navarre. Tickets are $15 per person. Entertainment by Steve Hall. Cash bar/ heavy hors d’oeuvres. Dress is business casual.

Beethoven & Jeans: Don’t miss the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra’s Beethoven & Blue Jeans concert at 8 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola. Wear your best denim for a blend of upbeat symphonic music. Tickets start at $22. Call the PSO office at 435-2533 or order online at www.pensacolasymphony.com .

Sunday

Lakeview concert: Hear a live performance of fine music when the violin/piano duo of Alfonso Lopez and Michelle Tabor performs for the Lakeview Concert Series Guild at 3 p.m. Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in DeFuniak Springs.

Monday

Hong exhibit at library: The Destin Library will host a mixed-media exhibit by Destin artist Mary Hong in the library’s Calhoun Room through Jan. 15 during regular library hours. Hong is the South Walton 2014 Artist of the Year and a full-time working artist in Grayton Beach.

Tuesday

Independent films: The Friends Guild of the Destin Library Inc. sponsor a movie night featuring independent films and documentaries on the third Tuesday of each month beginning at 4 p.m. “Alive Inside” will be offered on Jan. 13. The program is free and open to the public.

Wednesday

Shelves to Shores: Beginning in January, CBA and Walton County’s Coastal Branch Library in Santa Rosa Beach will jointly host "From Shelves to Shores." Once a month, CBA will host an activity for children. Activities will occur at 3:30 p.m. on: Jan. 14 (Let’s Learn about Dunes).

Thursday

Snowbird Day: The City of DeFuniak Springs and the Special Events Committee will sponsor the annual Snowbird Day 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, Circle Drive.
 

Snowbird Day returns Jan. 15 to DeFuniak

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:19am

Again this year, the City of DeFuniak Springs and the Special Events Committee will sponsor the annual Snowbird Day 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, Circle Drive.

This popular event is open to all seniors and snowbirds in Walton County and surrounding areas. One highlight of the day will be a lunch prepared by Ellen Mayfield and served in the Chautauqua Building overlooking Lake DeFuniak.

There will be tours of the circle including stops at the Walton County Historic Museum in the train depot, the historic red caboose, a tour through St. Agatha’s Episcopal Church (circa 1896) and the DeFuniak Springs library.

Experienced tour guides will conduct visitors around Circle Drive and provide historic information on the beautiful homes that surround Lake DeFuniak, one of only two naturally round lakes in the world. There is even the possibility that one or two homes may be open for viewing.

Goody bags filled with information, product samples and coupons supplied by local merchants, will be available to attendees. Attendees will be encouraged to take advantage of shopping specials along Baldwin Avenue and the side streets in the historic downtown shopping district as well as other great shopping opportunities provided by local merchants throughout the community.

If you are visiting our area for the winter months, newly located in our community or a senior who has lived here for a while, you are welcome to be a part of the activities, great food and fun that make up Snowbird Day. For more details, call 892-8500.  

Headliner: Strange Tang

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:18am

What do you think your favorite local band or musician does before a performance? Listens to on his or her MP3 player? Believes are influences on their own music?

In its semi-regular feature “Headliner,” the Daily News asks local or visiting bands and musicians those questions and more.

This week, let's get to know Strange Tang.

The Opening Act:

Name: Strange Tang
Members (and ages): Price (30) & Obliq (29)
Homebase: Fort Walton Beach
Genre: hybrid hip hop
Website: www.iHeartStrangeTang.com
Facebook: Strange Tang
Twitter: @StrangeTang

The Performance:

How did you come up with your band name?
We were in Kentucky, where we moved to Florida from, trying to come up with a name for the band we had just put together. The band had a crazy, diverse group of guys in it. Four 40-plus white hippie-rockers, a black hipster from Atlanta and a biracial country boy from Kentucky. So needless to say we were very different. We are also part of the generation of musicians that hate the word “swag.” Price and I were sitting in the studio one day and it just came to us. Different swag. So Strange means “different” and Tang means “swag.” The meaning has evolved since 2010 into “different energy.”

How did you get started?
We met in 2005 as just mere acquaintances through a mutual friend. From there we created a great friendship, a friendship that surpassed friendship into a brotherhood. We began creating music together in 2009 and by 2010 we had our first CD, “Hell Yeah,” completed. We put it out in Kentucky and quickly began to generate a buzz. From there, we both released solo projects. They did extremely well in our region.
Later that year, we picked up our third member, the late Zeus Flower. We began working on our debut album, “I dunno But I Like It.” But, on Nov. 21, 2011, Zeus was murdered.
It took us a while to recover from the devastating loss we experienced, but 2012 we released our debut album, renamed “No Worries.” That album is our best-selling album to date. We relocated to Fort Walton Beach, and we’ve been working hard to make a name for ourselves locally.
We’ve just signed with new management and have been putting together our new band. We have a lot of shows booked through much of 2015 already.

Who are your influences?
We are old school, classic kind of guys. We love The Eagles, Earth Wind and Fire, The Beatles and classic hip hop like Outkast, Nappy Roots, The Roots, Tupac. I’d say our style is more similar to Outkast and Nappy Roots. Not in terms of sound, but in terms of authenticity.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Of course, we do. We are both meditators. We both meditate in our own ways before shows. We try to visualize the outcome that we want. We know that when we bring our vibrations to a higher place, people will feel it too. They always do.

What do you hope your listeners think or feel after hearing your music?
We hope that our listeners feel free after listening to our music. Our music is all about freedom, truth and love. We want people to feel like we get them. Our music is for anybody, but not necessarily for everybody. We talk about the world from a perspective that some people understand. But, if you are still plugged into the matrix, you may not get it. However, we are what you would call “serial optimist.”

What are some top songs you listen to on your "playlist" (i.e. iTunes playlist)?
I think it would be easier to tell you what I don’t listen to on my playlist. But lately Price and I have been listening to Big K.R.I.T.’s new album, “Cadillactic.” That guy is so talented and we are very alike in spirit and energy frequencies. He just makes good, true music.

What song (or songs) are you embarrassed to admit you listen to?
Honestly, I can’t say I’m embarrassed to listen to anything. My playlist has anything from Britney Spears to Young Thug on it. I am a music lover and I generally can find something to respect about anything, even if it’s just the beat. I like to study the game and because our music is so eclectic I listen to as much music of different genres as I can. I will say the “Shrek” soundtrack is dangerous for me though. I’m known to get speeding tickets when I listen to it.

Do you have anything you'd like to share (upcoming shows, new music, etc)?
I definitely want to say check out our website www.iHeartStrangeTang.com and Google Strange Tang. Besides that, I just want to thank the Emerald Coast for receiving us as its own. We love being here and we can’t wait to rock more stages up and down the coast. Peace & Love. Namaste.

The After Party

Want to participate? Readers can nominate a local or visiting band, or bands can participate by contacting Features Reporter Lauren Delgado at 850-315-4406 or LDelgado@nwfdailynews.com.
 

Step by step: Fun outings can include exercise

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:09am

While you're out and about, it's rare to think about the calories you're burning simply by walking around enjoying yourself.

We decided to stroll around a few of the area's entertainment and shopping spots ourselves to see how many steps we took, calories we burned and more.

Although these numbers vary by individual, this at least gives you ballpark calculations as a starting point.

Destin Commons
Where: 4100 Legendary Drive in Destin.

Hours: Mondays-Saturdays 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Route: I circled the Commons, with my start and ending point at Bass Pro Shops.

Steps: 1,775

Calories burned: 52

Distance: 0.8 mile

Time: 18 minutes.

Highlights: Great people-watching and window-shopping. They also decorate for the holidays. Heads up — there's not a lot of covering if you're going to walk in the rain.

Downtown Crestview
Route: I circled the downtown area.

Steps: 1,902

Calories burned: 54

Distance: 0.8 mile

Time: 19 minutes

Highlights: Local specialty shops line some of the streets. The Okaloosa County Veterans Memorial is a nice stop along the route.

Harbor Boardwalk 
Where: Destin
Route: I started near Crab Island Cantina in HarborWalk, and walked to the Destin Yacht Club and back.

Steps: 2,218.

Calories burned: 68

Distance: 0.8 mile

Time: 26 minutes

Highlights: Good people-watching, particularly at HarborWalk. At certain parts of the day, you can watch fishing boats bringing in the day's catch. There are always plenty of seabirds hanging out on the docks to photograph or watch.

Merchant's Walk 
Where: Merchant's Walk in Niceville

Route: I started and ended near the Bank of America. I didn't follow a set route, instead exploring through the "pockets" of shops.

Steps: 1,840

Calories burned: 53

Distance: 0.8 of a mile

Time: 18 minutes

Highlights: If you like quiet when you walk, this is the route for you. I didn't see many people out and about.

Navarre Park 
Where: 8513 Navarre Parkway in Navarre.

Hours: Daily 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

Route: I started and ended on the west side of the park.

Steps: 1,229 steps.

Calories burned: 36 calories.

Distance: 0.5 mile.

Time: 13 minutes.

Highlights: Besides being right next to Santa Rosa Sound, the park has a butterfly garden (courtesy of the Butterfly House), small pond, and playground.

Santa Rosa Mall 
Where: 300 Mary Esther Blvd. in Mary Esther.

Hours: Mondays-Saturdays 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sundays noon-6 p.m.

Route: I walked in through the entrance near Old Navy and followed the inside track of the mall back to my starting point.

Steps: 1,298

Calories burned: 36

Distance: 0.5 mile.

Time: 14 minutes.

Highlights: There's a lot of fun people-watching, courtesy of the kiddie zones as well as the food court. Bonus points if you duck into a few stores for a quick walk.

Silver Sands Premium Outlets 
Where: 10562 Emerald Coast Parkway in Destin

Hours: Mondays-Saturdays 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Route: I started and ended at Corningware Corelle and More.

Steps: 3,710

Calories burned: 108

Distance: 1.6 miles

Time: 40 minutes.

Highlights: The mostly covered pathway takes you along good window-shopping.

Uptown Station 
Where: 99 Eglin Parkway N.E. in Fort Walton Beach.

Route: I started and ended outside the Landrum Human Resources office.

Steps: 2,458.

Calories burned: 63.

Distance: 0.9 mile.

Time: 20 minutes.

Highlights: Central Park is a fun place to stop if you have kids in tow.


How I kept track:
I downloaded the Pacer app to my iPhone. It keeps track of calories, active time, miles, steps, and even lets you jam out to your own "walking" playlist.
 

Simon Family Restaurant down-home dining

Simon Family Restaurant is on the south side of Main Street in downtown Crestview.

The food
Simon’s specializes in down-home food.

The first item on the menu is the fried chicken in just about every combination you can think of.

Thighs and legs, dark meat, mixed light and dark, wings, tenders and even gizzards and livers.

Most of the guests the day we visited were having just that, fried chicken – most with just chicken and a roll.

The chicken comes in a combo that includes fries and a regular drink or a dinner that comes with two sides and a roll.

My guest chose a deluxe fried chicken sandwich combo. The sandwich came topped with lettuce and cheese with ketchup and mayonnaise condiments.

Instead of the French fries, he opted to substitute collard greens.

The chicken itself was crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, in other words, a good chicken sandwich.

The highlight of his meal, though, was definitely the collard greens, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

They were well seasoned and reminded me of those that my Alabama aunt used to make.

The chicken sandwich also comes grilled if you prefer.

My choice was the six- piece shrimp combo. I substituted coleslaw for the fries.

The shrimp were hot, lightly breaded and tender.

The coleslaw was good – not too sweet.

Simon’s also offers fried fish by the piece or as a sandwich. They also have chicken salad sandwiches.

Sides are available in either small or large sizes and include: Mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, baked beans and coleslaw.

Specialty items include: fried pickles or peppers, hush puppies, corn fritters, fried okra, onion rings and corn dogs.

Don’t forget wings.

Simon Family Restaurant offers hot, mild and sweet wings by the piece, in combos and dinners.

Make sure you check out the specials board to the left of the cash register.

We arrived a little early for their Saturday special, which is chicken and dumplings.

For dessert, they offer banana pudding.

The atmosphere
Simon Family Restaurant is a basic, no frills restaurant. You place your order at the counter and find a table.

They do bring your meal to the table if you are eating there, but you get your own drinks and plastic utensils.

The service
We were greeted by a friendly young lady who took our order. It was a little difficult to find someone if you needed something, but everyone was friendly and willing to help.

A final taste
If you’re looking for a down-home meal, give Simon Family Restaurant a try.

 

QuickBites

Location: 196 North Main St. in Crestview
423-1499

Hours: Monday – Thursday 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Friday 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Reservations: Not necessary

Handicap accessibility: Good

Children's menu: Yes

Price range
Appetizers 99 cents - $3.99
Sides $1.69 - $3.99
Sandwiches $3.99 - $4.99
Entrees $2.99 - $11.99
Dessert $2.99

Payment: Credit cards accepted

 

Time to catch up on things now that holidays are over

As much as I enjoy Christmas, it’s nice to start getting back to a more regular routine.

Holiday deadlines and schedules tend to unleash a certain amount of havoc here at the newspaper, and things sometimes slip away from me.

For instance, Katie Ott sent an announcement about the DeepSouth Bluegrass Band performing at Point Washington United Methodist Church in perfectly good time to be included in the music briefs today.

I, however, overlooked it, so I’m sharing the details here.

The free concert starts at 2 p.m. Sunday when toe-tapping music on the banjo, fiddle, guitar and upright bass will fill the sanctuary.

The church is at 1290 N. County Highway 395 in

Santa Rosa Beach. Katie suggests arriving early to get a good seat.

Call 231-4928 for more information.

 ***

Tommy Siren from Rock for a Cure also emailed me the day after Christmas.

As he put it, “It’s that time of year again.”

Rock for a Cure 7 will take over The Block on Eglin Parkway in Fort Walton Beach starting at 6 p.m. Jan. 18.

Featured bands include Ray Scott, Cowboy Troy, Heritage, the Helvetica Effect, Something to Yield and the Owsley Brothers.

“We have some great acts this year,” Tommy wrote. “Food will be provided by Fokkers and Helen Back.”

More details for the event, which benefits the American Cancer Society, are available at www.rockforacurefwb.com.

***

Jean Davis is getting ready for the 53rd annual Antique Show & Sale at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds in Fort Walton Beach.

She mentioned it when I visited her shop, A Second Chance, during its Christmas open house, and now I have details.

The show, which will include glass repair on site, is scheduled for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 23 and 24 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 25.

Admission is $5, good for all three days, and it benefits Fisher House of the Emerald Coast.

***

S.M. Donaldson is hosting an event she calls the Down and Dirty Destination Destin Author Bash.

“There will be over 40 local and non-local authors at this event for the signing,” she said Tuesday in an email. “We will have au-thors from several genres new adult, adult, young adult, paranormal, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, urban fantasy, contemporary, suspense and erotica romance writers.

“All VIP tickets are sold out, but we still have general admission tickets available at https://www.eventbrite.com for $10 each.”

The bash will be held 1-4 p.m. Jan. 31 at The Emerald Grande in Destin.

***

And finally today, something a little whimsical:

Join Dorothy, Toto and the others as they’re off to Emerald City for a special two-night event by Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“TCM Presents: The Wizard of Oz” will be shown in select U.S. cinemas — including the AMC theater at Destin Commons — on Jan. 11 and 14, for two show times each day at 2 and 7 p.m.

In addition to the feature, classic film fans will see a special introduction from TCM host Robert Osborne.

Tickets for “TCM Presents: The Wizard of Oz” are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com.

Celebration On Ice youth, group discounts available

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 10:08am

NICEVILLE —Experience world-class ice skaters in a one-of-a-kind show with the national tour of Celebration on Ice, appearing Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. the Mattie Kelly Arts Center.

Youth and group rate discounts as well as adult tickets are available.

Celebration on Ice is a first-class theatrical variety ice-show that combines the beauty and excitement of figure skating with the intimacy and passion of a musical-theatre production. The show has performed around the world and is embarking on a U.S. Tour starting in early 2015.

The Celebration on Ice cast consists of professional figure skaters, specialty ice acts, comedians and a feel good theme that makes the show great fun for audiences of all ages.

From the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, to the exhilaration of Broadway and Hollywood, the family-friendly show is performed to the sounds of American classic tunes from the 1950s and ‘60s Rock ’n’ Roll to Motown and today’s most popular radio hits.

Celebration On Ice will be performed on a state-of-the-art synthetic ice stage in the center’s 1,650 seat mainstage theater.

Tickets are on sale from the Mattie Kelly Arts Center box office for $35 adult and $20 for youth ages 18 and younger. A group discount of $30 for adults and $15 youth is available for groups of 10 or more tickets purchased together.

The Mattie Kelly Fine & Performing Arts Center is a non-profit entity of Northwest Florida State College and a portion of all ticket sales supports NWF State College scholarships.

By contract, there is a $2 per ticket box office processing fee additional to all ticket sales for the national touring Broadway and Artist Series events at the center.

Contact the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Box Office at 729-6000 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CT) Monday-Friday or online at www.MattieKellyArtsCenter.org.

A record nine nationally touring Broadway/Artist shows and national special events appear from January to March 2015 at the fine and performing arts complex that is on the college’s Niceville campus, at 100 College Blvd. East.
 

AP’s top 10 movies of 2014

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 10:04am

The top 10 films of 2014, according to AP Film Writer Jake Coyle:

1. "Ida" — Where did this perfect little gem come from? Its director, Pawel Pawlikowski, wasn’t previously a major name in international cinema. Yet at a time when most filmmakers can’t keep their movies under two hours, Pawlikowksi plunges into Polish history and back again in less than 90 minutes. Yes, an austere, black-and-white Polish film doesn’t sound like the most appetizing stuff. But it’s a hauntingly beautiful film, and thanks to the tremendous Agata Kulesza, there’s humor here, too.

2. "Boyhood" — One of the most memorable parts of film in 2014 was seeing the movies play with time, capturing it in elapse ("Boyhood"), bending its particles ("Interstellar") and wryly gazing at its courses across centuries (Jim Jarmusch’s excellent "Only Lovers Left Alive"). Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making "Boyhood" is a landmark, for sure. But for a much-lauded masterpiece, it’s incredibly humble, warm and humanistic.

3. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" — Wes Anderson’s heroes are, like him, devotees of brilliant escapes: the beachside oasis of "Moonrise Kingdom," the play land of Rushmore Academy, the pre-war elegance of this film’s Eastern European resort. Dreams are inevitably punctured by outside forces, and a new, compromised life must be found — some melancholy combination of fantasy and reality. Usually, Bill Murray’s there somewhere.

4. "Mr. Turner" and "Birdman" — In a year rich with colorful portraits of artists (the obsessive, rigorous drummer of "Whiplash," the arrogant, oblivious author of "Listen Up Philip") these two most stood out: "Birdman" for its blisteringly kinetic flow and the raging ego of Michael Keaton’s actor; and the masterful "Mr. Turner" for its total lack of pretention and Timothy Spall’s gruff, grunting painter.

5. "Interstellar" — Admittedly, I’m a sucker when it comes to stories about dads and daughters. Many critics poked holes in the imperfectly stitched cosmic fabric of Christopher Nolan’s space epic, but I found the time-traveling epic — science fiction build on science fact — grandly moving. So I’m a sentimentalist who digs space. Sue me.

6. "Inherent Vice" — Obviously, I’m also an easy mark for a glorious mess. Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaption of Thomas Pynchon is probably a noble failure in an impossible task. But there’s no movie I’m keener to return to, to again feel its electric songs and its scruffy sadness.

7. "The Immigrant" — A number of films in 2014 weren’t shy about their Big American Themes. Bennett Miller’s "Foxcatcher" was the most mesmerizing; JC Chandor’s "A Most Violent Year" the most atmospheric; and Clint Eastwood’s "American Sniper" the tautest. But James Gray’s period Ellis Island tale was the most majestic. The film’s powerful last shot is an absolute knock out.

8. "Under the Skin" — Equal parts beautiful and terrifying in its alien mystery, Jonathan Glazer’s extraterrestrial shocker (with Scarlett Johansson as the other-worldly being that touches down in, of all places, Glasgow) made for a searing cinematic experience of sound and imagery.

9. "Leviathan" — There’s a stout Russian muscularity to Andrey Zvyagintsev’s bleak, Job-like tale of corruption in a coastal Russian town. A framed portrait of Vladimir Putin above the police chief looms large.

10. "Starred Up" — Four walls, a father and a son, plus a whole lot of violent rage. The ingredients of this British prison drama are simple, but its force is ferocious. In one of the more remarkable father-son dramas you’ll see (a young punk gets locked up in the same facility as his dad), Jack O’Connell (the star of Angelina Jolie’s "Unbroken") dramatically arrives. But the movie’s also a reminder that there’s no more riveting actor in movies than Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the father.
Also just as good: "Two Days, One Night," “The Babadook," “Selma," “Ernest & Celestine," “Locke," “Citizenfour," “Stranger By the Lake," “Dear White People," “Timbuktu," “The Trip to Italy" and "Neighbors."

***

The top 10 films of 2014, according to AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck:

1. "Boyhood" — This movie just pulsates with the feeling that it’s something utterly unique — something rare and exciting. It’s not just that director Richard Linklater managed to shoot it over 12 years, creating an astonishingly fluid view of a boy’s life; It’s how the film makes us FEEL. By the end, we know Mason (the sensitive Ellar Coltrane) so well, it feels wrong to leave him. Shouldn’t he be coming home with us?

2. "Birdman" — Absolutely bracing in its verve and inventiveness, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s meditation on fame, relevance and self-worth is a marvel. Michael Keaton is raw and vulnerable as an aging actor trying to exorcise his superhero past; Edward Norton is superb as a charismatic jerk. The cherry on top: Emmanuel Lubezki’s stunningly seamless camera work.

3. "Selma" — Talk about a movie that comes just when the country needs it. A beautifully restrained performance by David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. anchors this stirring account of events surrounding the famous march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. Director Ava DuVernay is equally adept at depicting intimate moments — like a testy Oval Office exchange between LBJ and George Wallace — as she is conveying the sweep of a historic movement.

4. "Ida" — Pawel Pawlikowski’s film is pure, austere, and powerful — exactly how one might describe its young star, Agata Trzebuchowska, who plays an orphaned novice about to take her vows when she learns she has an aunt, her only living relative. Ida’s subsequent journey, in which she explores Poland’s dark wartime past to discover both who she is and who she wants to be, is mesmerizing.

5. "Mr. Turner" — Timothy Spall studied painting, drawing, even Greek and Roman architecture — all to play the great landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. And it shows: The wonderfully gruff Spall doesn’t seem to act in this movie as much as inhabit it, messily and fully. Mike Leigh’s gorgeously detailed biopic doesn’t fall into typical formula — and the visuals do Turner proud.

6. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" — Wes Anderson, we surrender — to your whimsy and singular imagination. This movie is a visual delight; it’s also a madcap caper and, a layer deeper, a more serious look at a dying way of life in Europe. Mostly, it’s a perfect vehicle for Ralph Fiennes, as a wonderfully pompous concierge, to display his lesser-known comic skills.

7. "Whiplash" — None of us would ever want to be in a classroom with the abusively demanding jazz instructor played by J.K. Simmons — it’s hard enough to be in the movie theater. But boy, Simmons grabs the role by the throat, thrillingly. Miles Teller is excellent, too, as the driven student who accepts this abuse, all to be a jazz drummer.

8. "The Theory of Everything," “The Imitation Game" — Both are biopics that feel somewhat formulaic, but both feature lead performances that must be seen. Eddie Redmayne is remarkably effective as Stephen Hawking, eventually using only his eyes and a crooked smile to express what’s inside a blazing mind. Benedict Cumberbatch’s nervous energy is perfect for the role of Alan Turing, the mathematician who cracked the Germans’ Enigma code.

9. "Foxcatcher" — Grim and unrelenting but expertly rendered, this real-life tale of the Olympic wrestling Schultz brothers and benefactor John DuPont is worth seeing both for the shocking story and the acting. Steve Carell makes a striking physical transformation, but it’s his reedy voice that’ll really creep you out. Mark Ruffalo, the more nurturing brother, and Channing Tatum, the more troubled, are just as compelling.

10. "Still Alice," “Get on Up" — Two more films to mention because of stellar central performances: As an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient, Julianne Moore is sensitive, warm, heartbreaking — and deserves all the awards buzz she’s getting. In "Get On Up," Chadwick Boseman is truly galvanizing as James Brown — and deserves way more buzz than HE’S getting.
Honorable mentions: "Only Lovers Left Alive," “Locke," “Interstellar," “American Sniper," “Into the Woods."
 

Headliner: FingaFAYA

What do you think your favorite local band or musician does before a performance? Listens to on his or her MP3 player? Believes are influences on their own music?

In its semi-regular feature “Headliner,” the Daily News asks local or visiting bands and musicians those questions and more.

This week, let's get to know FingaFAYA.

The Opening Act:

Name: FingaFAYA.
Band members: JoE Fingas, 62, on keyboard; Warren Hontz, 52, on drums; Josh Carter, 18, on guitar; Ron Stanley, 55, on bass; and P-nut, 59, on vocals and percussion. Lionel "The Showstopper" Crocket, JB Lawson and Will Russo are also adjunct members of the band. They fill in at a moment's notice and have been featured at gigs for a one-set showcase.
Homebase: Okaloosa County
Genre: Blues band always willing to throw some soul, old school/New Orleans R&B, classic rock, zydeco, reggae, country, original tunes y un poco de musica Latina into the set-mix.
Facebook: Search for Finga F A Y A

The Performance:

How did you come up with your band name? How did you get started?
JoE Fingas came up with the idea of FingaFAYA in late January/early February of 2013 when he was in Memphis representing the Blues Society of Northwest Florida at the International Blues Challenge. It had been an eventful and, ultimately, disappointing couple of days for JoE, so he sat alone in his motel room writing songs and pondering the reality of his music.

That's when he came up with the acronym: FAYA. When pressed, JoE said, "FAYA can mean 'For All Y' All' because that's what music is: a gift offered by music makers to every and anybody willing to listen." Finga was added to represent the "lagniappe" (that little something extra) this band brings to the stage.

FingaFAYA was formed less than four months when P-nut said, "JoE, why don't we start our own band?" The other members of the band were asked to join and they accepted immediately. The rapport between band members is obvious and the good vibe is contagious. FingaFAYA emphasizes solid musicianship, great tunes, good time entertainment and audience participation.

Who are your influences?
FingaFAYA's musical influences are many and varied. Ron Stanley: Tommy Shannon (bassist for Double Trouble) and Jaco Pastorious. Warren Hontz: Billy Cobham, Buddy Rich and Steve Gadd. P-nut: Albert King, John Lee Hooker, and Little Milton. JoE Fingas: All piano players and songwriters from Albert Ammons to Tom Waits.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Our primary performance ritual is: "You ready? OK. Let's do it. When I say Finga, you say FAYA."

What do you hope your listeners think or feel after hearing your music?
After a performance, we want folks to think, "That was the best time I had in a long time. FingaFAYA's the best." And we want them to feel like dancing till the sun comes up.

What are some top songs on your playlist?
Some of the best song's on our playlist are: Allen Toussaint's “Get Out of My Life Woman” (Albert King version), Stevie Wonder's “I Wish,” Blind Willie McTell's “Statesboro Blues” (Josh Carter version), and a Fingas' original “Worried Bout My Baby.”

What song are you embarrassed to admit you listen to?
Ron Stanley is embarrassed to admit he listens to “Animals” by Nickelback and JoE Fingas is embarrassed to admit he loves Tiffany's version of the Tommy James classic, “I Think We're Alone Now.” The other members of the band are shameless and will listen to anything.

The After Party

Want to participate? Readers can nominate a local or visiting band, or bands can participate by contacting Features Reporter Lauren Delgado at 850-315-4406 or LDelgado@nwfdailynews.com.
 

Buzzworthy events for Jan. 3-8

Saturday

Biophilia Center: Become a MAD Scientist at the E.O.Wilson Biophilia Center 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 3 Activities will include a live interactive science show at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. General admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children. Children 2 and under free. The center is at 4956 State Road 20 East in Freeport.

Park history tour: First Saturday History Tour will be Jan. 3 at 10 a.m. at Camp Helen State Park, 23973 PCB Pkwy. in Panama City Beach. Come learn the history of this park. The tour is free with $4 per car entrance fee into the park.

Sunday

‘Downton Abbey’: Season 5 of the international hit show debuts with the Crawley family and the staff struggling with responsibilities and choices as they adjust to the Roaring Twenties. Showtime is 8 p.m. on WSRE with additional airings on Jan. 5, 6 and 11. Visit wsre.org.

Geek Lights: Free public performances of Season 7 of the “Geek Lights on the Corner” Christmas lights and music show run nightly through Jan. 4 at the corner of Bluewater Boulevard and Antiqua Way in Bluewater Bay. Shows begin on the hour and half hour starting at 6 p.m., with the last show starting at 9:30 Sunday-Thursday, and 10:30 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Monday

ADSO Window Gallery: To showcase the work of local artists, the Arts and Design Society presents month-long exhibits in their studio windows, facing First Street. In January, the display features the art of Carolyn Williams, who works in watercolors and acrylics. The Art Center Gallery is at 17 First St. S.E. in Fort Walton Beach.

Tuesday

Winter programs: Walton County Coastal Library “Winter Community Programs” are held at 10 a.m. Tuesdays Jan, 6 –March 17 featuring artists of theater, music, local historians, musicians and authors. Call 267-2809. The Coastal Library is at 437 Greenway Trail in Santa Rosa Beach.

Wednesday

Snowbird movies: The Destin Library will host a free weekly movie matinee for winter visitors beginning Jan. 7 and continuing through Feb. 25. Films will be held on Wednesday afternoons and will begin promptly at 2. For film titles, call the library at 837-8572.

Thursday

RadioLive 2015: RadioLive is a monthly acoustic variety concert produced by WUWF Public Media. Normally held on the first Thursday of each month, the January 2015 concert will be held on the second Thursday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. – rather than on New Year’s Day — at the Museum of Commerce on the Historic Pensacola Campus of the University of West Florida. Admission is free. Donations of non-perishable items are accepted at the door.
 

Emerald Coast Winter Wonders

The Emerald Coast turns into a different kind of wonderland in winter.

While the Gulf of Mexico becomes a bit chilly for swimming, and flip flops and T-shirts give way to boots and sweaters, the beach is mostly deserted — perfect for long walks and shelling.

More positives include events and activities that come around in the wintertime.

We’ve dubbed those “Winter Wonders.” Have a wonderful time enjoying them!

Baytowne on Ice
This might be the best idea since sliced bread: ice skating in Florida.

The outdoor skating rink will let you try your foot at ice skating or hone your skating skills.

Sure, sunny Florida weather is right outside the tent, but the winter fun will take you to a “different place.”

Details:
Where:
The Village of Baytowne Wharf at the Apex Broadcasting Skating Pavilion.

When: The rink will be open until Feb. 1. Visit www.baytownewharf.com for exact times.

Cost: $11 to skate for 90 minutes. $2 skate rental. There are also skating packages available.

Brad Paisley Concert
The frosty north sends more than snowbirds our way. Big-name acts typically head south as well to take advantage of the weather while on tour.

Country music star Brad Paisley in particular will blow into the area soon.

Details:
Where:
Pensacola Bay Center at 201 East Gregory Street in Pensacola.

When: Jan. 23 at 8 p.m.

Cost: Tickets are $38.80-$69.95, and are available at the Bay Center box office, Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster.com or by phone at 800-745-3000.

Choctaw Bay Music Club Opera Brunch
Learn more about the plot and hear the music from Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème” at this opera brunch.

The event precedes the Jan. 23 and 25 performances of “La Bohème” by the Pensacola Opera. It's also a fundraiser to benefit the CBMC Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Details:
Where:
Niceville Community Center at 204 N. Partin Drive in Niceville.

When: Jan. 10 at 11:30 a.m.

Cost: $25 for adults. $15 for students.

RSVP: Brunch tickets are available at P.S. Gifts in Fort Walton Beach, UP Beat Music in Crestview and Bayou Books in Niceville. For information or tickets, call Karen LeGrand at 855-0068 or Gloria DeBerry at 642-0756 or send an email to ChoctawBayMusic@cox.net. Advance reservations or ticket purchase is required by Jan. 6.

Mardi Gras Parade
Get a head start on Mardi Gras at the annual parade on Okaloosa Island.

The 12-year-old tradition brings beads and other throws, colorfully festive floats and walkers, food and drink booths and more along the route.

Details:
Where:
The parade route is along Santa Rosa Boulevard from Tarpon Drive to the Tom Thumb on Okaloosa Island.

When: Jan. 17 at 1 p.m.

Extras: Helen Back on Okaloosa Island’s post-parade party offers Abita beer sampling, red beans and rice, gumbo, a crawfish boil, jambalaya, beads, and live music from the Blues Brothers for a $15 entry fee. The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island will throw a family friendly after parade party, with a Kids’ Fun Zone with inflatables, a rock wall, face painting, games and carnival style vendors.

Winter Guest Fest
This is the area's most popular trade show for winter guests — and locals can check it out, too.

There will be coupons and giveaways, and local shopping, dining, local entertainment, resorts, hotels and more will be represented.

Details:
Where:
Emerald Coast Convention Center at 1250 Miracle Strip Parkway on Okaloosa Island.

When: Jan. 16 from 8 a.m. to noon.

Cost: Admission is $1.

Extras: The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island will hold a Winter Guest Fest Mardi Gras Bash, with $6.99 lunch specials at The Crab Trap and Floyd’s Shrimp House, jazz music throughout the venue, and Bourbon Street drink specials.
 

Bijoux brings elegance to new location

SANTA ROSA BEACH— One of the most remarkable transformations of a restaurant space I have seen in this area is the change from a Beef O’Brady’s sports bar to the elegant Bijoux.

There is nothing that hints at the former tenant in Bijoux’s beautiful bar and dining rooms located in the Market Shops at Sandestin (which has undergone its own transformation).

The food
Those who dined at Bistro Bijoux in Sandestin’s Baytowne will recognize the style of the dinner menu. It is filled with high quality ingredients that have been prepared with care.
While there are nods on the menu to Asian flavors and French classics, the primary focus is on coastal and Southern fare.

A starter of crab beignets featured small fritters, packed with rich lump crab, served over a tart apple slaw for balance.

The same balance was achieved in a starter of lush whisky-cured pork belly. It was accompanied by pepper jelly, pickled mustard seeds and a jumble of crisp sweet potato.

Other starters include pickled shrimp, a lobster spring roll, and roasted oysters. Or go all out with a chilled seafood platter featuring lobster, pickled shrimp, oysters, mussels, and crab.

Soup options are a parsnip, apple and brie bisque with apple ginger chutney; and duck and Andouille gumbo.

Salads are simply beautiful. The tempura-fried oyster salad on baby spinach is highlighted by bacon balsamic aioli. Bosc pear and mixed greens features port wine cherries, candied pecans and Gorgonzola.

Entrée options are evenly divided between seafood and non-seafood dishes.

Maine lobster tail is teamed with tender gnocchi and flavorful sauce Americaine. Beautiful snapper, grouper, and tuna dishes are also offered.

Large shrimp and scallops are served over Anson Mills grits with a butter sauce fragrant with tarragon.

Grits also accompany fried chicken breast. An entrée of duck confit produced meltingly tender meat surrounded by wonderfully crisp skin.

A 20-ounce bone-in rib eye is on the menu, as is a filet served with buttermilk-Gruyere mashed potatoes and bacon braised kale. A daily vegetable dish is also offered.

It is worth saving room for dessert. Caramelized pear bread pudding is prepared with brioche and served with tangy goat cheese ice cream. Or go for the blood orange crème brûlée or a banana brown butter tart.

While the main menu is worthy of an evening of dining, the bar menu makes Bijoux a casual dining option as well. Five items are $7 before 6 p.m. and $12 after, while two are $10 before 6 p.m. and $14 after.

Pork belly sliders with hoisin and slaw were my favorites. I could make a meal of those and an order of the truffled fries with red curry aioli.

Harissa spiced smoked tuna rillettes was essentially a really wonderful smoked tuna dip. Lighter, and quite delicious, options were mussels in white wine with chorizo, and fresh-tasting Peruvian ceviche.

To go with all that delicious food, Bijoux has a full bar and a good wine list, including a number of wines by the glass.

The atmosphere
The bar is just inside the front door. It is much larger than the area in the former Baytowne location, and is anchored by a stone bar that has been lighted from below so that is glows. There are also several comfortable seating areas in the bar that are separated by curtains for a bit of privacy.

The main dining room is comfortable and inviting in soothing tones of deep blue and taupe. There is private dining room that will hold up to 65, and a private wine room that will accommodate 12 for dinner.

The service
Service is exceptional. The staff is well-acquainted with the menu, and ensures courses are properly timed. We were never rushed during a leisurely meal in the dining room.

A final taste
With The Market Shops gaining new life, it is good to see a restaurant the caliber of Bijoux becoming part of it. This location of-fers more dining options with the larger bar and dining rooms, easier access and parking than Baytowne, and most important, excellent food in a beautiful setting.

Quick Bites
Location: Market Shops of Sandestin, 9375 US Highway 98 West, Suite 22, Miramar Beach
Telephone: 622-0760 or 502-0243
Hours: Daily, 4 - 10 p.m.
Handicap accessibility: good
Children’s menu: yes
Reservations: recommended
Price range:
Bar menu,
$7 - $14
Starters, $12 - $18
Soups and salads, $9 - $13
Entrees $28 - $55
Desserts, $10
Payment: major credit cards
 

2015 brings new opportunity; ‘Hobbit’ worthy of reflection

A new year offers the opportunity for new adventures, and the Features Team here at the Daily News is embarking on another one.

During the last eight months, we have revitalized all of the designated feature sections in the newspaper: Food on Wednesday, Faith on Saturday, Lifestyle on Sunday and, of course, Showcase on Thursday.

And on Jan. 6, our newest feature page, Off the Wall, debuts.

Off the Wall has been in the works since August. The guiding philosophy and motto of the page is: “A new look at home ... and the people who live there.” Even the design, thanks to Tracey Steele, is unlike any other page in the paper.

I don’t want to give away too much, though. Instead, I hope you will join us on this adventure by checking out the page on Jan. 6.

***

Speaking of homes, one of the TV-viewing world’s most popular aristocratic estates, “Downton Abbey,” returns to local PBS station WSRE-TV at 8 p.m. Sunday.

The Season 5 premiere finds the Crawley family and the staff struggling with responsibilities and choices as they adjust to life in the Roaring Twenties.

According to the website wsre.org, additional airings of this episode will occur at midnight Jan. 5, 2 a.m. Jan. 6 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11.

There are also specials and repeats of episodes from last season scheduled, too. Find them all on the website.

As much of a delight as it was to see Dan Stevens play Sir Lancelot come to life in “Night in the Museum 3,” I’d prefer it if he were still sporting the proper tweeds of Matthew Crawley.

***

I didn’t set out intentionally to see the new “Hobbit” movie twice in less than a week. Happily, however, it worked out that way, sort of like second breakfast.

My family decided to go view “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” in 2-D IMAX format. Such an epic story deserves a grand presentation, and the two of us who had already seen it looked forward to it as much as the two who hadn’t.

We weren’t disappointed.

It also gave me a chance to double check a line of dialogue that weighed upon my heart, not in a heavy way but in a thoughtful one.

In a pivotal scene, the details of which I will leave vague so as not to spoil it, Thorin says this to Bilbo:

“If more people cared about home than about gold, the world would be a merrier place.”

Although I’ve read “The Hobbit” at least twice, I couldn’t remember whether the line was from J.R.R.Tolkien’s pen or whether it was an invention of the screenwriters’. Turns out, it’s a little bit of both.

Thorin’s lament as written by Tolkien is: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Idealistic? Absolutely. True? Almost certainly.

Happy New Year, dear readers!
 

2014 in Review: An 'entertaining' year for the Emerald Coast

Surprise concert

Country music megastar Miranda Lambert astonished locals by making a pit stop along her "Platinum" tour at The Block in Fort Walton Beach on June 14.

She played everything from "Priscilla" to "Mama's Broken Heart" during the 2-hour concert.

Beer can volley

Country music singer Dustin Lynch was hit in the face with a beer can on Oct. 17 by a Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival concert-goer, who has not been identified. Lynch needed stitches following the incident. He later declined to press charges against the assailant — if they find him.

Think Pink

About 1,000 spring breakers partied at the Victoria's Secret Beach Party on March 13, picking up swag, listening to live music and enjoying the beach. The party was designed to promote the Pink brand. Spring breakers lined up outside a pink dome for freebies. Beach volleyball and a DJ were also on hand.

Here are a few other noteworthy entertainment events from this year:

  • Blue Angels made a comeback after being canceled for a year for sequestration.
  • Alan Ritchson visited NWF State College, and he was Raphael in the movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
  • Fort Walton Beach resident Heather Lynn competed for $100,000 in CMT's "Redneck Island." (She’s still in the running. Check out Sunday’s Lifestyle page for weekly updates on her progress).
  • Patti LuPone starred in the Sinfonia season gala.
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee talked with the Daily News about his life in Blue Mountain Beach prior to a performance at Northwest Florida State College.
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