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South Walton festival showcases local restaurants, food artisans, celebrity chefs

MIRAMAR BEACH – Foodies will delight in the delicious dishes prepared by both local and celebrity chefs specially designed to pair with the impressive roster of imported and domestic wines being poured in this year’s South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.

April 23 through 26, wine and food lovers will sip, swirl … and nibble … their way through the Town Center of Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, located within the beach communities of idyllic South Walton in Northwest Florida.

Overseeing Savor South Walton Culinary Village is seasoned local chef Gary Serafin of Emerald Coast Catering. After more than 40 years in the food and beverage industry, Serafin still enjoys the art of well-catered events, and relishes his role of culinary director of South Walton’s largest wine fete.

“I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying,” Serafin says. “Aren’t the best times of our lives those that involve food and wine?”

Serafin is tasked with reviewing the wines and designing a menu of dishes that will complement them. “We approach this event as a food and wine experience, so whether you prefer white or red wine, we will have a variety of foods — vegetarian, meats and seafoods — to try to have something everyone will enjoy,” he says.

In addition to traditional food favorites, Serafin always present something new each year to keep the Festival menu “unexpected and exciting.” One such dish is a creamy Risotto featuring roast duck and mushrooms. To complement South of France wines being poured in Culinary Village, Tartiflette, a French potato, bacon and cheese dish will be served as well.

A classic feature this year will be a variety of artisan cheeses by ANCO Fine Cheeses, one of the largest importers of specialty cheeses in the United States. And back by popular demand are the artfully inspired and award-winning sushi creations of Yoshi Eddings of Harbor Docks in Destin as well as gourmet olive oils and gorgeous, garden fresh nibbles harvested from the organic gardens of Mac Farms located in Santa Rosa Beach. Rounding out the tasting menu is a sampling of delicate almonds, assorted charcuterie and other small bites.

Fifth generation wine pioneer Marc Perrin of Château de Beaucastel will make a special appearance in the Culinary Village. For more than a century Famille Perrin has trailblazed the wine industry to become the largest owner of vineyards in the best terroirs of the France’s Southern Rhône Valley. Francofile foodies will savor food pairings prepared by accomplished Chef Laurent Deconinck of L’Oustalet, a Mediterranean-inspired boutique hotel restaurant in the heart of a winegrowing village in Gigondas, France, also owned and operated by the Perrin family.

Foodies can also tuck into a series of tasting seminars also held within the Culinary Village. Perrin and Deconinck will team to present a food and wine seminar on Saturday at 1 p.m. The series continues with David Laird of Balvenie Distillery at 2 p.m. and Pierre De Agostini of ANCO Fine Cheeses speaking on how to select the perfect cheese to pair with wine at 3 p.m.

On Sunday, wine superstar Jean-Charles Boisset of Boisset Family Estates and La Famille Des Grands Vins speaks at 2 p.m. followed by Wes Henderson of Angel’s Envy at 3 p.m.

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival will showcase more than 800 domestic and imported wines, 216 of which earned medals from a panel of 24 industry judges during a blind tasting in January. In addition to two days of tastings and seminars, wine lovers will be treated to live entertainment and special features such as Champagne Lane, featuring floating bubbles and dozens of Champagnes and sparkling wines.

One of the weekend’s highlights is the annual Destin Charity Wine Auction to be held on Saturday afternoon, which invites auction attendees to bid on luxury travel packages, collectable wines and other fine living lots. Proceeds from the auction and festival go to support more than a dozen children’s charities in Northwest Florida.

Presented with support from Visit South Walton and Wine Enthusiast magazine, the festival offers the ideal backdrop for a beach getaway. South Walton beaches are consistently named among the best beaches in the country. ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals is the Official Lodging Partner of the festival and many of their accommodations are beachfront, beachside or a short stroll to the beach. At this time, they are currently offering festival discounts that include discounted tickets. Go to Wyndham Vacation Rentals for details.

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival is made possible by the generous support of the following Founding Partners: Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, Visit South Walton Tourist Development Council, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Wine World of Northwest Florida and Grand Boulevard at Sandestin.

The Craft Beer & Spirits Jam kicks off the festival Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; the Grand Tastings are on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $50 for Friday; $85 for Saturday and Sunday (tickets include Champagne Lane, wine and food tastings, seminars and live entertainment); and $165 for the VIP Tasting with entry to the Grand Tasting. The VIP Tasting is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Grand Tasting starting at 1p.m. To purchase tickets and view the full festival schedule visit

Tickets on sale for REVfest Art & Musical Festival

Advance tickets are on sale now for the 3rd Annual Okaloosa REVfest Art & Music Festival, which will be held March 21 from noon to 2 a.m. at KC's Sandbar, 190 Miracle Strip Parkway in downtown Fort Walton Beach.

A celebration of art and music, REVfest will bring together 14 bands performing on two stages throughout the day, as well as multiple vendors with original artwork on display and available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the 7th Special Forces Association. For more information on the 7SFA, visit

Event lineup includes: Heritage, New Earth Army, Displace, Lucky Costello, The Owsley Brothers, Treehouse, Captain Green, Post Pluto, Flat Land, Continuum, Tribe Zion, Sway Jah Vu, Soul'd Out and The Good Lookings.

"The main reason we started RevFest was to bring together our community of musicians and artists," said co-founder Mike Flatau. "All of us are stronger than any one of us. That's what the Revolution of Art and Music is all about!" 

A limited number of early bird tickets are available for $5 online at General admission tickets are $10 and will be available the day of the event. 

For more information, visit the event Facebook page at, or contact organizer Mike Flatau at (850) 508-5322 or by email at

The mission of Okaloosa REVfest is to promote, foster and provide a medium of exposure for quality original music and artworks in the Northwest Florida region. Attendance exceeded 1,000 in 2014. The event is hosted by New Earth Army.


'Flicks on the Field' starts March 6

Santa Rosa County’s “Flicks on the Field” movie series starts March 6 with the showing of “The Penguins of Madagascar” starting at 7 p.m. on the fields of the PARA Football Complex located at 3536 Limbaugh Lane in Pace, approximately one-half mile north of the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 90 and Woodbine Road.

Each Friday in March, families are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets and enjoy a movie under the stars. The free community event offers newly released family movies on a 43 foot screen.

The 7 p.m. Friday movie lineup includes:

- March 6 - The Penguins of Madagascar

- March 13 - Big Hero 6

- March 20 - How to Train Your Dragon 2

- March 27 - Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Concessions are available or moviegoers can bring their own food and drinks. Smoking and alcohol are not permitted in Santa Rosa County parks.

In addition to offering a fun outdoor activity for residents, Flicks on the Field is a fundraiser for PARA Youth Sports. A variety of event sponsorships ranging from $250 to $2,000 are available.

Email or visit for more details. All concession sales will also benefit PARA youth sports programs.

‘Second Best’ Marigold Hotel lives up to its title

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 11:58am

If you’re going to do a movie sequel that doesn’t quite measure up to the original and seems rather hurriedly cobbled together, well, OK. Many filmmakers have done the same.

But actually putting the words “Second Best” in the title? Now, that’s just asking for the unflattering comparisons.

This isn’t to say that “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” — so named after an actual hotel in the movie — won’t appeal to the same fans who flocked to the first film. And it’s hard to quibble over the value of spending two hours with the likes of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Indeed, Smith’s exasperated rant over the state of lukewarm tea in the United States is alone worth the price of a ticket.

But much of the film feels like a hastily arranged class reunion, where you show up but have less to talk about than last time. You still have some fun, but, like a cup of — er — lukewarm tea, it’s definitely second best.

The sequel brings us back to Jaipur, India, a few years after the British retirees first made their home in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where they discovered that although the place wasn’t as luxurious as advertised, it was full of life — and life lessons.

Sonny (Dev Patel), the ambitious and very talkative comanager, is his usual hyperactive self, taking roll call every morning of the elderly residents, who’ve all settled into some sort of productive activity.

There’s the widowed Evelyn (Dench), now a textile buyer for an overseas company. There’s her would-be beau, Douglas (Bill Nighy), who’s trying to summon the guts to declare his love, while serving as the least-qualified tour guide in all of India. There’s romance-starved Madge (Celia Imrie), dallying simultaneously with two rich suitors, and there’s Norman (Ronald Pickup), the play-boy who’s now seeking a different kind of happiness.

And there’s Muriel (Smith), now Sonny’s co-manager, keeping him as grounded and practical as she can.

The film, directed by John Madden (who wrote the script with Ol Parker) opens with Muriel and Sonny on a road trip to a California retirement company they’re hoping will fund Sonny’s franchise dreams. Sonny’s plan centers on buying a second hotel — to be christened, of course, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Back in India, Sonny is too obsessed with his plan to pay any attention to his impending wedding — an obvious source of frustration to his fiancee, lovely Sunaina (Tina Desai).

And he’s so driven that when a guest named Guy Cham-bers (Richard Gere) shows up — and yes, that does sound like a porn star, but actually he’s a novelist — Sonny’s convinced he’s the inspector that the retire-ment company’s CEO said he’d send, incognito, to check out the place. Much stress ensues.

As Chambers, the silver-haired Gere is sure to cause a frisson with the ladies, both onscreen and in the theater, but Gere pretty much floats through the film without much exertion — and the suddenness of his attraction to Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey) is not very convinc-ing.

Also perturbing is a subplot involving a poten-tially sad fate for one of the characters. It’s hinted at strongly and then dropped, or at least made so subtle that you wonder if, mid-shoot, the filmmakers changed their minds.

In any case, it all boils down to that final wedding scene. Without spoiling much, we can tell you the colors are gorgeous (check out Sunaina’s red sari), and as for the obligatory dance sequence — it may be obligatory, but it’s huge fun. Keep your eyes on Patel: he’s having a ball, and it’s infectious. If the rest of the film were this appealing, it wouldn’t feel “second best” at all.


“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America “for some lan-guage and suggestive comments.” Running time: 122 minutes. Two stars out of four.

Hornby’s ‘Funny Girl’ takes readers to 1960s London

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 11:52am

The author of “High Fidelity” has a new novel out, and it’s a sweet sojourn to 1960s London, where a cast of writers and actors embark on a groundbreaking television show that changes the course of their lives.

“Funny Girl” by Nick Hornby follows Barbara Parker, who has the looks to be crowned Miss Blackpool, but who wants nothing more than to be the next Lucille Ball.

“She wished that she could be happy, of course she did; she wished she wasn’t different,” Hornby writes. “Her school friends and her colleagues in the cosmetics department at R.H.O. Hills didn’t seem to want to claw, dig, wriggle, and kick their way out of the town like she did, and sometimes she ached to be the same as them.”

When she goes to an audition and is finally in the same room with fellow comedy buffs who also assiduously study “I Love Lucy” episodes, Barbara — who now goes by her stage name Sophie — bursts into tears and her relief at finding her “people” is palpable.

The feeling is mutual: “They loved her. She delivered her lines with an ease and sense of timing that had been beyond the reach of every other actress they’d seen that week.”

The chemistry between Sophie and the other characters is real and deep. Hornby, whose other credits include “About a Boy” and “Fever Pitch,” has a knack for crackling dialogue and well-defined characters.

There’s Clive, the gorgeous but insecure actor; Dennis, the BBC producer who’s more decent than any person should be. There’s the writing duo, both gay — Bill, the unabashed cynic, and Tony, who’s married and whose beautifully complex relationship with his wife is captured in a difficult but kind conversation the couple has at a dinner celebrating their first anniversary. “‘I don’t know what I am.’ June looked at him. ‘Really?’ ‘Yes. I thought I did. And then I met you, and now I don’t.’”

Their comedy series is a hit — it pushes the characters to do what they weren’t sure they could do and their invigorating high point comes with a hint of sadness that it won’t always be this way.

The final section of the book — after the series ends — is slow and misses the easy fluidity of the earlier sections. Whether this is by design — to mimic the letdown of passing your peak years — or simply the author losing steam, it’s a shame.

Nevertheless, the ending manages to be mostly satisfying and the reader closes the book feeling like it was a journey worth taking.

Buzzworthy events for March 6-12

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 11:46am

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.


Pensacola Film Festival: Downtown Pensacola’s newest art film theater, Pensacola Cinema Art is the venue for the Pensacola Film Festival on March 6 and 7. The nearby J. Earl Bowden building and the newly opened and remodeled Rex Theater on Palafox Street will also be used to show 12 films in two days. Admission is $5 per film or $20 for weekend pass. Buy all tickets at Voices of Pensacola Building; cash only. Visit for a schedule and more details.

30A Wine Festival : Wine lovers will gather for the fourth annual 30A Wine Festival March 6-8 to benefit Children’s Volunteer Health Network. The schedule includes: March 6, Bourbon, Beer & Butts, 6-9 p.m. March 7, Baby Blue Blending Seminar, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Riedel Tasting Workshop, Arboleda Park, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Wine Seminars, 1:30–3:30 p.m. Grand Tasting, 3:30–6 p.m. Visit Wine Under the Stars, 6–8 p.m. March 8, Fruits de Mer & Sancerre, 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Purchase tickets and passes online or at Alys Shoppe, Fonville Press, and Alys Beach Bike Shop.

Home Show: The Home Show will be held 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 7 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. March 8 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center on Okaloosa Island. Advance tickets are $2 each at all Eglin Federal Credit Union Branches. They can also be purchased for $5 at the door; children under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult. Call 863-5107 or visit

ECCAC Gala: The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center’s annual Kieran May Memorial Golf and Gala Weekend is March 7 and 8. The weekend kicks off with the Gala at 6 p.m. March 7 at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. Guests will enjoy a fun Roaring 20’s theme, dinner, music, dancing, live and silent auctions, and a cork wine pull. The golf tournament follows on March 8, at the Raven Golf Course in Sandestin with a noon tee time. Call 833-9237, Ext. 256 to make reservations.

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 March, the art on display are the clay works of the students in Marcy Eady’s classes for children and adults. The Art Center Gallery is at 17 First St. S.E.

Lakeside concerts: The University of Tampa Chamber choir will present a free concert at St. Agatha's Episcopal Church, 150 Circle Drive, at 7 p.m. March 10. The historic pipe organ of the church will be used in solo performance and to accompany the 24-voice choir, composed primarily of music majors under the direction of Ryan Hebert. The concert is free and open to the public. An offering will be collected at intermission to support future performances offered by St. Agatha's Lakeside Concert Series.

Coffee Talk Book Club: Coffee Talk Book Club will meet at Gulf Breeze Library 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. March 11. This month’s selection is “The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father .. . and Finding the Zodiac Killer” by Gary L. Stewart. The nonfiction book club meets at the Gulf Breeze Library study room on the second Wednesday of every other month. The library is at 1060 Shoreline Dr.

6 ways to get the spring break vibe

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 10:53am

It’s that time again.

Spring breakers will descend on the Emerald Coast over the next few months.

Remember the old saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”? We have some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for enjoying our area as spring breakers do — forgoing the negative aspects.

1. Rent a house in (preferably) South Walton.
Besides Panama City, South Walton is one of the “happening” local places for spring breakers.

The house should be on or within walking distance to the beach for a shorter commute to beach bumming. Get a bunch of your friends to stay with you and split the cost.

If your house is a little farther out, consider renting scooters for a stylish way to get around.

2. Sleep in until at least noon.
The only benefit to getting up early is scouting a good spot on the beach, but let’s face it, you wouldn’t be able to get up earlier even if you wanted to.

You likely had a pretty late night (see No. 6).

3. The first meal of the day.
Some call it breakfast, but it’s usually eaten by a spring breaker during the brunch/lunch hours.

This is NOT the most important meal of the day for a spring breaker. Just grab whatever’s around.

Leftover “punch” and a Pop-Tart? Don’t mind if I do.

4. Pack up the “necessities” and spend the rest of your day on the beach.
Necessities: Towels, snacks (they will be your midday lunch/early dinner), sunscreen and, of course, a cooler filled with beverages.

A beverage staple should be water. 

If you’re of drinking age, make some “punch” or simply grab some beers (think Budweiser or Natural Ice). If you’re not, stick to sodas or risk having your fun cut short by local authorities.

At the beach, set up camp in a good spot — you want to be in the middle of the action. Close enough to the water for a dip, but also near other spring breakers to hang out.

Games like beer pong or flip cup will keep you entertained.

If you’re feeling particularly productive, build your own seating or beer pong table in the sand. Don’t forget to fill in any holes at the end of the day!

5. At sunset, pack up and head out to a local bar.
With your new tan set and your earlier hangover abated, it’s time to enjoy the local nightlife.

Get yourself a designated driver if you plan to imbibe. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to try out — Whale’s Tail, The Red Door, Pompano Joe’s — or head over to check out Panama City Beach’s spring break scene.

There are also plenty of fun events to experience, like the Tequila and Taco Fest at HarborWalk Village on Saturday 1-5 p.m. The event features live music, tastings from over 20 different tacos and 30 different tequilas and more. An after-party will take place 5-8 p.m. at Crab Island Cantina.

St. Patrick’s Day events will also be in full swing in the next two weeks with parades, pub crawls and more.

6. Stay out until the next day.
Soon you’ll be back at school, studying hard. Might as well get some fun in now.

You don’t have anything to do tomorrow anyway. Just wake up and follow the above schedule all over again!

George’s does food, everything else right (PHOTOS)

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 10:43am

ALYS BEACH – At one end of Alys Beach, a little shake shingle-sided cottage with pale green shutters and a welcoming porch punctuates the stark white Bermuda-style buildings of the town. Home to George’s, during lunch and dinner hours that cottage is filled with activity as happy people enjoy wonderful food.

See more photos of the food. >>

The food
George’s serves lunch and dinner, with some dishes crossing over from one to the other. When perusing the menu, the first thing you have to decide is whether you are going to order from the behave or the misbehave menu (or have a little of each).

At lunch, behaving might mean starting with cucumber edamame, then having a salad of jumbo lump crab and avocado in a sesame dressing on fresh vegetables, or a coconut curry chicken wrap.

Behaving at dinner could be bronzed sea scallops with spiced pears and Moroccan carrots, or the satisfying Surf & Turf Noodle Bowl (pork belly, baby bok choy, shiitake, egg, lobster tail and broth).

On the other hand, if you choose to misbehave at lunch, you can start with fried oysters or shrimp, and move on to a burger, tempura lobster sliders, or a seafood combo with hushpuppies and collard green slaw.

Dinner time misbehaving includes Short Rib Wellington with parsnip puree and glazed baby carrots, and ribeye with brown butter hazelnut mashed potatoes.

One of my favorite dishes on the menu is George’s Famous Fries. A bowl filled with golden crisp French fries is topped with succulent pulled pork. Asian pear relish is a great foil for the richness of the pork and fries, and a wasabi-ginger-sesame drizzle ties it all together.

For homey goodness taken to the next level, try the crab and hearts of palm pot pie. A flaky pastry crust gives way to a rich and savory filling packed with crab. I like to share this dish, or order it with a salad to provide some light contrast.

George’s take on Spicy Salt & Pepper Shrimp combines plump shrimp, sweet melon, Brussels sprouts, and sugar snap peas with a spicy sauce for a great mix of hot and cool and soft and crisp. The dish is served with a side of fragrant basmati rice.

There is a thoughtfully conceived wine list of red, white and sparkling wines by the bottle or glass. While the list isn’t long, there are some lovely bottles, and the selection complements the menu items.

George’s has a fun frog theme throughout the restaurant. It is at its best with the kids’ (tadpole) menu. Kids can choose from Ribbit Fingers (chicken tenders), Croaker Grouper Bites, Froggie Mac & Cheese (with frog shaped pasta), and Toadily Hoppy Shrimp (fried shrimp with fries).

And be sure to save room for one of the spectacular desserts. George’s takes the time to prepare classic desserts in a not-so-classic manner.

Banana Crème Pie is a small tart shell that has been overfilled with pastry crème, then topped with whipped crème and chocolate curls (dark and white chocolate). Bruleed bananas accompany the tart.

What appears to be a pineapple upside down cake is actually a moist, lightly sweet cornbread cake topped with smoked pineapple. A bright berry salsa and rich coconut gelato add hints of savory and sweet to this creative dish.

Other desserts include rich and sweet Warm Chocolate Toffee Goo, Crème Brulee, and Campfire S’mores (toasted merengue, dark chocolate mousse and graham cracker tuille).

The atmosphere
George’s feels like a friend’s comfortable beach cottage. Seating is available inside, on two sheltered porches, on the open front porch and in the garden.

The service
Service at George’s is always warm, friendly and professional. The staff treats each diner as if they are a guest in their home. Questions were easily answered thanks to extensive knowledge of the menu.

A final taste
George’s hits every note just right. It is a lovely place where diners relax over good food and good wine while being treated like cherished members of the family. You can’t ask for anything more than that.

Restaurant: George’s at Alys Beach

Location: 30 Castle Harbour Drive, Alys Beach

Telephone: 641-0017

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.

Handicap accessibility: good

Children’s menu: yes

Reservations: not accepted

Price range
Lunch, $9- $18
Starters, $12 - $24
Soups and Salads, $9 - $14
Entrees $21 - $38
Sides, $7 - $11
Desserts, $5 - $10

Payment: major credit cards

I’m Tallahassee bound next week; local musician scores with novella

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 10:31am

Tallahassee is going to be a happening place next week.

For one thing, I will be there. Haha.

Seriously, though, March 11 is Florida Tourism Day. The event is designed to inform the Legislature, media and public about the important role tourism plays in Florida’s economy. 

According to a press re-lease, 10 statewide organi-zations plan to participate and will host a nighttime downtown celebration that is open to the public.

If you’re over that way, find the party on Adams Street between College and Jefferson Streets. The Free Wheelin’ Band will start the music at 5 p.m.

Meantime, I will be at-tending the Florida Heri-tage Awards that same evening in the R.A. Gray Building, which is also open to the public and free. It starts at 4:30 with a reception afterward.

The next day, March 12, the Florida Council on Art and Culture will convene its first quarterly meeting of the year.

Among other tasks, we will discuss the nominees for poet laureate of Florida and recommend five to the secretary of state. He will choose three to send to the governor, who will make the final appointment.

There are 14 nominees. None from here.


Northwest Florida may not have any poet laureate nominees, but we certainly have a generous share of writers.

I had the pleasure recently of discovering a new one: Sean Dietrich.

The name may sound familiar because Sean is a talented and popular local musician. He’s also been known to put paintbrush to canvas with beautiful results.

Now you may read his novella, “The Other Side of the Bay,” which is available on

In it, Sean tells an en-gaging story set in Northwest Florida that reflects his artistic gift for detail and his poetic sense of language.

It radiates heartache and hope as well as his genuine affection for this part of Florida.

Others are discovering Sean, too. In early February, “The Other Side of the Bay” ranked No. 18 on Amazon.


To close this week, a few quick observations about the Oscars because we haven’t “talked” since they were given out:

Lady Gaga’s “Sound of Music” medley was far and away the highlight of the evening.

Neil Patrick Harris was a fine host although he tried too hard to be “edgy,” and the locked box of predictions was a waste of time.

I thought “Boyhood” would win more awards, but then that’s show business.

Crestview woman cooks her way onto Food Network show

Northwest Florida Daily News - Entertainment - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 10:34am

Sherri Williams was feeling nervous Sunday night while watching herself on the Food Network’s “All-Star Academy,” — despite knowing exactly how the episode would play out. 

“It was just crazy,” the Crestview resident said. “I was even on the edge of my seat.”

“All-Star Academy” brings culinary stars Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli, Curtis Stone and Michael Symon together to mentor home cooks like Williams through the show’s culinary battles.

“These are the people I want to be when I grow up,” the 52-year-old joked about the stars.

The home cooks are put on a team with one of the culinary stars and will compete for $50,000 over the next eight weeks.

Williams is no stranger to competition. She’s won more than 60 recipe and cooking related competitions in the last four years.

“My little 15 minutes of fame has turned into four years,” she said.

Still, walking into the Food Network was surreal for her. Williams got a chance to chat with her fellow competitors as well as her “mentors.”

Although she’s been on local TV, “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show,” the majority of her competitions are online.

Williams is a “real true home cook,” as she puts it, using basic equipment and ingredients to make a good meal. She owns a mandolin, a good set of knives and a microplane — that’s it.

“Use what you have,” she said. “That’s what I’m all about.”

Although she’s open to any opportunities gleaned from “All-Star Academy,” she’d be just fine if she did nothing more than this. She’ll con-tinue creating recipes and giving out cooking advice.

“I’m not looking to be some celebrity food star,” Williams said. “I'm just enjoying cooking.”

Academy Encore:
Watch Crestview resident Sherri Williams compete on Food Network’s “All-Star Academy” at 8 p.m. Sundays

Here’s a recap of the first episode, which aired March 1: 

Quotable: “I am the competition queen,” Williams said. 

This week’s task: Make a dish out of chipotle peppers from a can, heirloom tomatoes, bacon and avocados. 

What she made: Chipotle citrus shrimp lettuce wrap with avocado mash, pico de gallo and crispy bacon.

Judge’s response to Williams’ meal: “I like that this is so clean,” said Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. “I think everything feels sort of raw and fresh. And that gives the opportunity for the bacon to kind of stand out.”

Williams’ team: Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, whose notable accolades include competing or appearing in Food Network shows “Chopped,” “Iron Chef America,” “All Star Family Cook-off” and “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

Want to learn more about Sherri? Check out her YouTube video:

Researchers ponder the possibilities as catches put area in the shark spotlight again

Northwest Florida Daily News - Outdoors - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 5:20pm
For the third time in as many weeks, fishermen have reeled in large sharks off local shores – not the kind of animals most beachgoers relish finding in the surf.
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