Food with a View

Coastal Living - - EDITOR’S LETTER - SID EVANS, ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF sid@coastal­liv­ing.com; @sid­mem­phis

BACK IN THE DAY, you could have summed up a lot of coastal din­ing es­tab­lish­ments with a sim­ple maxim: The bet­ter the view, the worse the food. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced this phe­nom­e­non ev­ery­where from South Carolina to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia—pay­ing a for­tune for the ex­act same red plas­tic bas­kets of bland fried shrimp. I re­mem­ber one restau­rant (which shall re­main name­less) where you could watch dol­phins frolic in a tidal creek at sun­set as you sipped a gin-and-tonic. It had the best views for miles, but the food was that deadly com­bi­na­tion of hor­ren­dous and ex­pen­sive, from mushy crab cakes ($28) to tough, taste­less sword­fish ($33, on spe­cial). There have al­ways been ex­cep­tions, of course, such as The River Café, un­der the Brook­lyn Bridge, which since the mid-1970s has served an ex­quis­ite menu just across the river from glit­ter­ing down­town Man­hat­tan. But for years, find­ing a truly great restau­rant on the wa­ter was as rare as find­ing a pearl in an oys­ter.

Thank­fully, times have changed. One of the most fun things we did at Coastal Liv­ing this year was to part­ner with Fisher’s at Or­ange Beach Ma­rina, an el­e­gant restau­rant with out­stand­ing food on the Alabama coast. We joined owner Johnny Fisher in host­ing a “South­ern Grace” din­ner se­ries with some of the best chefs in the coun­try—Hugh Ach­e­son, Ash­ley Chris­tensen, Cas­sidee Dab­ney, Emeril La­gasse, Steven Sat­ter­field, and Fisher’s Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Bill Briand, among oth­ers. Ev­ery one of the six din­ners was proof that you can have an ex­tra­or­di­nary meal on the coast, even as you gaze out onto the mil­lion­dol­lar yachts bob­bing in the ma­rina. Like Johnny, there’s noth­ing stuffy or pre­ten­tious about Fisher’s. Down­stairs, it’s beachy and ca­sual, with fried Gulf seafood and room for kids to run around; up­stairs, it feels like a well-de­signed home, with pale blue walls, gor­geous light­ing, and world-class dishes like a crispy red snap­per over sweet corn risotto. Fisher says a lot of lo­cals doubted whether he could suc­ceed with truly fine din­ing in a beach town that’s home to beloved dives like the Flora-Bama, but his staff was de­ter­mined to prove them wrong. Th­ese days, they’re one of the hottest tick­ets in town.

There’s a lot of great food and wine in this is­sue, from chef Katie But­ton’s culi­nary tour of Spain (page 30) to chef Michael Gu­lotta’s New Or­leans se­crets (page 27) and Food & Wine Ed­i­tor Chris Hughes’s story about the re­turn of the Ch­e­sa­peake bay scal­lop (page 64). Our cover this month was pho­tographed at Tim­ber Cove Re­sort on the Sonoma Coast, where you can drink award-win­ning lo­cal wines and have a James Beard–qual­ity din­ner at the beau­ti­fully de­signed Coast Kitchen while you watch the sun set over the Pa­cific. I have noth­ing against a good shrimp bas­ket, but it’s nice to know that there are op­tions. Bon ap­pétit!

With Johnny Fisher (left) at his epony­mous restau­rant in Or­ange Beach, Alabama

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