Latest Area News

Highlands House opens new 1946 restaurant

SANTA ROSA BEACH — For years Highlands House on 30A has been known as a lovely bed and breakfast inn and wedding venue. But not long ago as I drove by I noticed an outdoor bar was open downstairs. When I investigated further I found that there was also a restaurant.

The food
The menu at 1946 at Highlands House is the culinary version of resort casual dress. Everything is beautiful but comfortable at the same time.

Local seafood items share the menu with beef, pork and chicken. Enjoy a few small plates, a casual meal of a burger or salad, or a more elegant meal with one of the big plate entrees.

The best dish of the evening was a small plate of fried green tomatoes. Crisp breading gave way to a tangy tender tomato. It was topped with a remoulade that tasted of tarragon, crawfish and avocado salad for a nice balance of flavors.

We also enjoyed a plate of breaded fried artichoke hearts accompanied by a sauce that was similar to a Caesar salad dressing with a hint of anchovy, and a delicious Romesco. Brightness from the roasted red peppers made the Romesco my preferred sauce.

Other small plates included goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, ceviche, boiled peanut hummus, and bruschetta with a goat cheese mousse and roasted tomatoes.

Salads can be had as a side or an entrée, and grilled chicken, shrimp or fish may be added to either of the two salads.

One option is a Caesar with cornbread croutons, Parmesan cheese and cubes of tasso. It was tasty, but would have been improved with a little less dressing and croutons that were cut larger so they were crunchy on the outside and more tender at the center.

The other option is a wedge of butter lettuce with candied bacon, grape tomatoes and blue cheese dressing.

Sandwiches are served with nicely crisp fries. There is a beautiful blackened shrimp BLT, a burger with candied bacon and caramelized onions (cheese is also an option), and the Bibimbap Burger.

Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish, and the burger echoes the original by adding spices to the ground sirloin burger and topping it with kimchee, a fried egg and gochujang (Korean chili paste) aioli. It is a very messy and very tasty burger.

Entrees run from island inspired dishes such as ahi tuna with ginger-lime vinaigrette and grilled or blackened fish with coconut rice, to bistro fare of steak frites and pan-seared duck breast, to comforting Sweet Tea Fried Chicken with Malted Pecan Waffles and grilled double cut pork chops with sweet potato mousseline.

Dessert is different each evening. On our visit, the single dessert offered was a pair of profiteroles. Each crisp shell was filled with a rich peanut butter and banana frozen custard. They were topped with a generous drizzle of caramel, chopped peanuts and bits of bacon. The effect was sweet, salty and savory all in one decadent dessert.

Some of the dinner dishes make an appearance on the brunch menu, along with crepes, French toast and egg dishes.

Beer and wine are offered, with a small selection of wines by the glass or bottle to complement a meal.

The atmosphere
There is plenty of seating at 1946. Inside has the feel of an inn, with soft colors and comfortable chairs.

The most popular seating was on the large porch. It is a beautiful place to enjoy a relaxing time spent catching up with friends. And after dinner the boardwalk provides an easy walk to the beach.

Because of the beautiful setting, Highlands House is a popular wedding and special event venue. That means that some evenings the restaurant is closed. Be sure to call ahead, or check their Facebook page to find out.

The service
Service at 1946 was excellent. Our server was pleasant, and had excellent knowledge of the menu and wine list.

A final taste
Since its inception Highlands House has been limited to those who are staying there or attending an event there. Happily, the rest of us can now visit there for good food in a lovely place.
 

Berrydale Volunteer Fire Department celebrates 40 years

The Berrydale Volunteer Fire Department invites the public to help celebrate 40 years of service by attending their open house Saturday, Sept. 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the station, 13000 Hwy. 87 North in Jay.

The free community event includes lunch, tours of the facilities, Lifeguard1, trucks and other displays. Bring the entire family for a fun-filled day and support our volunteer firefighters.

Established in October 1974 with Holley Phillips as chief, the fire department had only one truck. Since 1974, Berrydale Volunteer Fire Department has responded to thousands of calls in our community and now has 12 volunteer firefighters, a tanker, pumper and rescue truck.
 

Diving in: FWBHS grad lands role in 'Dolphin Tale 2'

A Fort Walton Beach High School graduate is slowly achieving her dream of a career as an actress.  

Tamara Austin, who graduated in 2008, recently appeared in “Dolphin Tale 2” and “ The Vampire Diaries.”

“It was just something in me,” she said. “I knew acting was it.”

Watch a video clip of Tamara Austin.

She has two scenes in the recently released movie, including one with actress Ashley Judd.  

Austin plays the nurse’s aid in the scenes where a turtle is brought to the emergency room for treatment.

The now-Tampa resident spent one day on the Clearwater set and said the director and Judd were great to work with.

“You can feel the energy in the room completely change (when Judd arrives),” Austin said.

“Dolphin Tale 2” was Austin’s first professional booking and helped land her a two-episode role on “The Vampire Diaries,” she said.

In the television series she played a character named Maria in episodes 20 and 21 of the show’s fifth season.

Austin arrived at Fort Walton Beach High School for her junior year after her father was stationed here. The family settled in Navarre, but Austin got a waiver to FWBHS so she could participate in the school’s theater program.

In spite of the commute, Austin doesn’t regret the decision to travel to work with theater teacher Christa Whittaker.

“There’s a lot of qualities to this day, I take from her lessons,” Austin said. “It was well, well worth it.”

From the moment she arrived until the day she graduated, it was clear Austin had her sights set on an acting career, Whittaker said.

“She just put herself out there and was really diligent,” Whittaker said. “I’m thrilled for her because this is just the beginning.”

Austin said she plans to stay in Tampa awhile longer and focus on her craft before moving to Atlanta in 2016 to pursue more jobs as a
“character actor.”

“I don’t want to be famous,” she said. “I know a lot of people expect that ... I want to work.”

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Katie Tammen at 850-315-4440 or ktammen@nwfdailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieTnwfdn.

Buzzworthy events for Sept. 26-Oct. 2

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
Moos Bros concert: The Moos Bros. will give a concert Sept. 26 to benefit FloridaOne DMAT, Inc. FL-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Doors open at 6 p.m. at the Elks Club on Okaloosa Island. Bands start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advanced, $25 at the door.

Hurricane Party: Bud & Alley’s in Seaside will host the 10th Annual Hurricane Party 6-10 p.m. Sept. 26 with all proceeds benefiting Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Inc. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $75 in advance and $100 day of the party.

Saturday
Beaches to Woodlands: Two events of the 11th annual Beaches to Woodlands Tour of Santa Rosa County launch Sept. 27 and end Nov. 2: the Sweet Season Farms Corn Maze and the Holland Farms Pumpkin Patch and Hay Ride Fall Festival. Visit www.thebeachestowoodlandstour.com.

Pyramid Players: The Pyramid Players present “That’s So 80s” Sept. 26 and 27 at the Fort Walton Beach Municipal Auditorium, 107 Miracle Strip Pkwy. Call 862-7139 to get free tickets. Doors open at 5 each night with a silent auction and an art show. Curtain is at 7.

Sunday
Pensacola Seafood Festival:
The 37th annual Pensacola Seafood Festival will take place 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday in Seville Square, Fountain and Bartram Parks. Visit FiestaofFiveFlags.org .

Sand sculpting: Nine master sand sculptors will gather at Navarre Beach for the 5th annual Soft Pack National Championship, Sept. 26-28. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. all three days adjacent to the Navarre Fishing Pier.

Monday
Tri-County Fair: The Northwest Florida Tri-County Fair runs Sept. 29-Oct. 4 at the fairgrounds on Lewis Turner Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 2-10 p.m. Saturday. Call 862-0211 or visit nwffair.com.

Tuesday
Fair Fine Arts Show: The 31st Northwest Florida Tri-County Fair Fine Arts Show, sponsored by the Arts and Design Society, will take place Sept. 29-Oct. 4. Opening reception is 2-4 p.m. Sept. 28 at the fairgrounds in Fort Walton Beach.

Wednesday
Museum anniversary: The Destin History and Fishing Museum is marking their 9th Anniversary on Oct 1 with free admission to the museum at 108 Stahlman Ave. The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Thursday
Memories of Elvis: Chris MacDonald’s Memories of Elvis in Concert is returning to the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville for a special tribute to the King of rock ’n’ roll at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2. Get tickets at 729-6000 or mattiekellyartcenter.org.
 

Brick & Spoon: deliciousness with Louisiana flair

DESTIN — Plenty of resorts line the coast of Destin, but I’ve yet to visit any of them.

If I’m not staying at a hotel, I feel awkward about stopping by their restaurants.

I got over that hang-up quickly when I checked out the menu of Brick & Spoon, a new restaurant inside the Palms of Destin Resort & Conference Center.

Brick & Spoon’s Louisiana flair is clear in its menu filled with dishes that include Louisiana oysters, tasso ham (a seasoned, smoked pork), Creole-influenced condiments and more.

The food
My guest and I ordered the “Deviled on the Bayou” — deviled eggs — to start our breakfast.

The chilled eggs and their doctored up yolks made of tasso puree were crowned with Sriracha aioli and freshly fried Louisiana oysters. A nice hot-cold contrast.

For my entree, I went with the seafood stuffed avocado salad. It’s not often that a salad really fills me up, but this one kept me happy until lunchtime.

A seafood salad that included shrimp and crab (think pasta salad consistency) was stuffed into half an avocado, which in turn lay on a bed of greens glazed with a balsamic reduction and sun dried tomato vinaigrette. Cashews dotted the salad portion.

The combination was refreshing and rich. We sat inside, but my salad would have been a great choice to munch on in the restaurant’s outdoor area.

My guest ordered the “Killer Creole Omelet.” Gulf Shrimp, tasso, red and green bell peppers, cheddar jack cheese and onions spill out from this stuffed omelet.

He’s a saucy guy, so the housemade hollandaise he drizzled overtop truly won him over.

We also grabbed some side items — parmesan truffle fries and pecan-smoked bacon — from their decadent list (I’ll be back for the smoked gouda mac).

We tasted only a hint of truffle on the fries. They were only $1 extra with my guest’s entree.

The generous bacon side came with four thick-cut pieces of bacon. They were crisp and smoky.

The atmosphere
There’s a lot to look at inside the Brick & Spoon. An outrigger canoe hangs from the ceiling, while TVs (all of which were turned to sports channels during our visit) hang on the walls.

A large backlit bar is stacked high with liquors and glasses. Football helmets line some of the bar’s back shelves.

An outdoor area has cushy couches along with tables near a small stage.

The service
Our waitress was attentive. She ensured that our drinks were refilled and that our dishes came out exactly as we wanted them.

Our bacon initially was forgotten in the kitchen, but she was quick to track it down and bring it out.

A final taste
My only regret after breakfasting at the Brick & Spoon was that I went on a weekday.

The restaurant has a wealth of morning “spirited” drinks that look just as delicious and unique as their main menu.
 

Mid-Bay Rotary rolls out 20th Annual Oktoberfest

The Mid-Bay Rotary Club presents its 20th annual Oktoberfest Friday and Saturday.

Festivities will be held in front of Winn-Dixie in Bluewater Bay, and admission is free.

An estimated 9,000 people attended last year’s event. Together volunteers sold more than 2,000 bratwurst dinners that included 150 gallons of sauerkraut.

An abundance of live music, arts and crafts booths, children’s activities, German food and Oktoberfest beer will be on tap through 10 p.m. Saturday.

Oktoberfest kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. with music by accordionist Walter Kasprzyk followed by The High Steppers. The final two hours of the evening will be accompanied by German polka music by the Joe Occhipinti Band, so bring your dancing shoes!

On the Rotary Club’s menu will be grilled bratwurst, homemade authentic German sauerkraut from an old Bavarian family recipe and German Oktoberfest beer.

Traditional festival fare, and soft drinks will also be available.

Volunteers from the Niceville High School Rotary-sponsored Interact Service Club will help with concessions.
Saturday’s festivities begin at 11 a.m. Entertainment begins at 2 p.m. with folk musicians Tom Phillips and Gary Schmitz. It continues through the day with accordionist Walter Kasprzyk, The High Steppers and the Joe Occhipinti German Band.

A wide variety of arts and crafts will be available for purchase.

Children’s activities include Coco the Clown both days as well as giant and small slides, face-painting, a bounce platform.

On Saturday, North Bay Fire Department will have a fire engine and other fire safety displays.
All profits from the Oktoberfest will go the support local area charities.
 

More Oktoberfest on tap

We found these additional Oktoberfests scheduled in the area:

Oktoberfest at Downtown Panama City
When: Sept. 26, 4-10 p.m. and Sept. 27, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Where: Harrison Avenue in Panama City.
Food/Drink: Bavarian food and a beer-tasting in the beer garden.
Entertainment: More than 40 retail booths, extended store hours, Panama City Dog Fanciers “Doggy Wet T-Shirt Contest,” children’s activities, live bands and Bavarian music.
Admission: Free admission.

Perdido Key Chamber 5th Annual Oktoberfest
When: Oct. 3 and 4.
Where: Perdido Key Visitor's Information Center at15500 Perdido Key Drive in Perdido Key.
Food/Drink: German food and beer.
Entertainment: Authentic German music, German-themed competitions and more.

Oktoberfest at Juana's Pagodas/Sailors' Grill
When: Oct. 4, noon-4 p.m.
Where: Juana’s Pagodas/Sailors’ Grill, 1451 Navarre Beach Causeway in Navarre Beach
Food/Drink: More than 50 craft beers, microbrews and imports.
Entertainment: Live music.
Admission: $15 for beer-tasting. Includes a Juana's logo cup for tasting.
Benefits: Navarre Beach Marine Science Station.

Oktoberfest at Flora-Bama Lounge
When: Oct. 4.
Where: Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar, 17401 Perdido Key Drive in Pensacola
Food/Drink: Brats, sauerkraut and a variety of German beers.
Entertainment: Live music.
Admission: Free until 6 p.m., after which a cover charge will be in place. $5 for those 21 and over and $15 for 18- to 20-year-olds.
 

Be a MAZing with Star Charity; Festa Italiana returns to fall lineup

Autumn arrives in a big way on the Emerald Coast this weekend, and you know what that means: The next five weeks are going to be crazy.

Crazy fun!

Festivals, fairs, festivals, concerts, festivals, Halloween fun, festivals, Broadway shows, festivals, new events, festivals, favorite traditional events … did I mention there would be festivals?

We enjoyed a small taste of the festivalmania that fall brings to our area last weekend with the FWB BBQ
Festival, Hispanic Festival and first Freeport Bayfest. Keep reading Showcase and our other feature sections for information about some of the season’s biggest events.

I’m delighted to report the return of one the most popular. Festa Italiana will take place Oct. 10 and 11 in Fort Walton Beach at the Sons of Italy lodge.

The festa was canceled last year, and its future was in doubt. We will feature the food-centric celebration of Italian culture on our Oct. 8 Food page.

The nearly perfect weather that accompanies October on the Emerald Coast inspires many outdoor activities and events, even some that aren’t festivals.

My friend Deputy Steve Baldwin with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office stopped by a couple of weeks ago to brief me on an event that will give folks a chance to get “lost” in the country as well as to be scared silly.

Gum Creek Entertainment LLC is partnering with the OCSO Star Charity to present the Baker Corn Maze and the Nightmare on the Old Spanish Trail. Both attractions open this weekend.

The OCSO Star Charity is a new non-profit organization that gives the Sheriff’s Office “an umbrella for coordinating and channeling donations and services for the betterment of our community, fellow officers and employees in need,” Baldwin explained.

The pattern for this year’s maze, shown in the photo here, is the charity’s logo.

“Deputies helped build structures for the haunted trail and will man both the maze and the trail,” Baldwin said. “We’ll help with parking, too. It’s all volunteer time done off duty.”

In addition to the maze and trail, Baldwin said there would be a petting zoo, hayrides and corn cannons.
The maze will be open every Saturday and Sunday from Sept. 27 through October. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Last ticket sold at 5 p.m.

On Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1 first only, there will be a Flashlight Maze open 6 p.m.-midnight. Bring your own flashlight.

The Haunted Trail is open every Saturday from Sept. 28 through October. Hours are 7-11 p.m. Last ticket sold at 10 p.m.

On Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1 only, the trail will be open 7 p.m.-midnight.

Prices vary by attraction. For the maze, it’s $8 per person, kids 3 and under get in free. Kids must be accompanied by an adult. Included in the price are unlimited trips through the maze, kiddie train, hayride, petting zoo, two shots with the corn cannon and kiddie hay maze.

Pony rides are $5 extra.

Group rates are available. There’s also a discount for military and seniors over 65.

The Haunted trail is $10 per person for all ages. Haunted Hayride is $5 per person all ages.

There is a Saturday only maze-trail combo special of $20.

Admission is paid for on site, which is at 5899 Buckward Road in Baker. Follow the signs.

More details are available at GumCreekEntertainment.com or 803-2367. You can also find the maze and the Star Charity on Facebook.

In closing, I offer these sage words of advice: Have fun!
 

Pensacola Seafood Fest kicks off Friday

PENSACOLA — Savor delicious seafood and enjoy the historic surroundings of downtown Pensacola during the 37th annual Pensacola Seafood Festival, produced by Fiesta of Five Flags and presented by Florida Blue.

The free festival will take place 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday in Seville Square, Fountain and Bartram Parks.

Bring the entire family for a weekend filled with a variety of foods, arts and crafts, and live entertainment.

Among the acts are Southern rock and soul band JJ Grey & Mofro (Sept. 26), New Orleans band The Revivalists (Sept. 27) and singer-songwriter and “The Voice” Season 5 competitor Cole Vosbury (Sept. 28). Musical acts will begin at 5 p.m. Sept. 26 in Bartram Park. Guests are welcome to bring chairs and blankets.

For a full lineup and schedule, visit the website FiestaofFiveFlags.org .

Pyramid Players present show in FWB

FORT WALTON BEACH - The Pyramid Players present “That’s So 80s” Sept. 26 and 27 at the Fort Walton Beach Municipal Auditorium, 107 Miracle Strip Pkwy. Call 862-7139 to get free tickets. Doors open at 5 each night with a silent auction and an art show. Curtain is at 7.

Beaches to Woodlands starts in Santa Rosa County

Two events of the 11th annual Beaches to Woodlands Tour of Santa Rosa County launch Sept. 27 and end Nov. 2: the Sweet Season Farms Corn Maze and the Holland Farms Pumpkin Patch and Hay Ride Fall Festival. Visit www.thebeachestowoodlandstour.com.

Hurricane Party to benefit CVHN

SEASIDE - Bud & Alley’s in Seaside will host the 10th Annual Hurricane Party 6-10 p.m. Sept. 26 with all proceeds benefiting Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Inc. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $75 in advance and $100 day of the party.

Concert to benefit disaster medical assistance team

FORT WALTON BEACH - The Moos Bros. will give a concert Sept. 26 to benefit FloridaOne DMAT, Inc. FL-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team. Doors open at 6 p.m. at the Elks Club on Okaloosa Island. Bands start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advanced, $25 at the door.

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