Readers looking for articles about dim, corrupt politicians, the police blotter, chaotic and confusing city and county commission meetings, and angry and incoherent letters to the editor, needn’t bother reading the Amelia Islander Magazine. It’s as squeaky clean as the monthly “United Church Observer.”
Co-publishers and editors, Philip and Deana Kelly, produce a glossy 75-page plus, full-color publication sprinkled with articles about local do-gooders doing good; local painters painting paintings; sculptors sculpting sculptures; profiles of kindly and generous folks doing kindly, generous things; and more righteousness than you’ll find at a rural Georgia evangelical tent revival.
The magazine is also jam-packed with dozens of ads containing photographs of local realtors for those readers who buy property based on the appearance of real estate agents. It also contains a generous supply of ads for restaurants, local stores and products that the magazine’s writers have so slavishly and glowingly written about. This editorial back scratching and ego massaging apparently generates a steady cash flow.
If you run a restaurant hereabouts and “The Islander” calls and says it wants to do a review of your eatery, jump on it. No matter what you offer, how it’s prepared, the degree of service, or the atmosphere, don’t worry, the reviewer will praise it beyond your wildest expectations.
The one thing the magazine’s restaurant critics lack is criticism. They also have a tendency to go over the top —- waaaaay over the top. For example, in the February issue (I’m a little behind in my reading) writer Michael Gass penned a slobbering full page review of the Ritz Carlton’s Salt where he was launched into a state of unbridled ecstasy after his first bite of two small potato chips. Really, I’m not making this up. Here’s what Mr. Gass wrote about something called “an amuse bouche” that he described as: “…. garnished with a piquillo pepper jam, mico mustard greens, and two of the tiniest most perfect potato chips you can imagine. These flavors swirled in my imagination as aromatic memories danced across my palate.”
Now, when it comes to potato chips, I don’t want ruffles, ridges, sour cream flavoring, or dancing. I want plain old fashioned potato chips, not ones that will do a tango on my tongue like the two tiny ones this guy described. Maybe the Ritz only serves the tiny ones because the larger pricier chips break out into a conga line causing serious dental damage.
But Mr. Gass was just warming up. Sounding like a man who hadn’t eaten in days, he described what followed the miniature chips as “a parade of brilliance,” adding: “No sense went unseduced. Foie Gras with berries, and a sweet Aszu wine, a dark chocolate covered Quennell of decadence. We were blown away, and only halfway through our meal.”
Reading this guy’s sensual description of his meal, I wondered if other Salt diners in the vicinity of his table were prompted to adapt the classic line from “When Harry Met Sally” and tell their server: “I’ll have what he’s having.”
For his fifth course, Salt brought Mr. Gass its version of a Ritz Carlton Meat ‘n Three: “…an Andouille-stuffed quail, with carrot, black-eyed peas, and collard greens with pickled blackberries.” He said: “It tasted just as southern as it sounded with precise and sophisticated clarity.”
I suspect you won’t find Jolene poking her head into the kitchen at Salt, barking her order to Eugene Lamar saying: “Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it, frog sticks, whistle berries and one from Atlanta.” And, if so, would she tell Eugene Lamar to make sure that her order of a well done burger with lettuce, onion, tomato, sides of French fries, baked beans, and a Coke was prepared, “precise with sophisticated clarity?”
Mr. Gass also told readers that he tucked into “slices of bison tenderloin, seared on 250-million-year-old blocks of salt.” How do you order that? Do you ask your waiter: “By the way do you happen to have any buffalo steaks seared on 250-million-year-old blocks of salt?” And if they do, where do they get salt blocks that old? And how do diners know they’re that old? If they aren’t that old can they send the buffalo back? “Waiter, do you really expect me to eat buffalo tenderloin seared on salt blocks that are only 100 million years old?”
At the end of his orgasmic dining experience Mr. Gass summed it up saying: “There aren’t enough adjectives in the thesaurus to describe this meal in its entirety.” There aren’t now, he used them all.
For some inexplicable reason the prices of meals at the eateries the magazine “reviews” are never mentioned. Perhaps the reviewers think if you have to ask about the cost, particularly at Salt — one of the priciest restaurants in north Florida and southern Georgia — you can’t afford it. I checked out the online Salt menu to see what Mr. Gass might have paid for these meals if he hadn’t been reviewing the place gratis for “The Islander.” The al a carte menu didn’t list all the items Mr. Gass described that he and his two guests were served. However, there was a four course tasting menu listed at $120 per person with two wine pairings listed at $55 and $95. But since he mentioned at one point that he was tucking into a fifth course I assume he and his group went beyond that, so my low estimate, based on the online menu, is that the total for the meals these three were served would have come in at about $750 not including gratuity — an amount that would have Jolene requesting some Salt smelling salts to bring Eugene Lamer back to consciousness after being presented with such a bill.
In “The Islander” September issue Mr. Gass visited Cucina South, a south island Italian restaurant in A1A’s Palmetto Walk Shopping area and penned a piece that read like the owner’s doting mother wrote it. I’ve never eaten there so I have no idea if his evaluation is accurate or not.
Take out all the superlatives of his review and his almost one-half page tribute would have shrunk to a couple of short paragraphs because once again he poured it on thicker than Nonna Rosetta’s Marinara sauce. Here’s a sampling: “…the restaurant is a comforting experience, like entering the home of a friend. ..warm and inviting, incredible pizzas, delicious bread, big, sharp flavor, how delicious they were (mussels), gave the broth a lovely sweetness, complimented the delicate flavor of…” Even the lettuce got a shout out: “The vinaigrette was the perfect accent to the subtle flavor of butter lettuce (Hey, I didn’t make that up, honest).
At this stage this guy hasn’t even tasted his or his dinner companion’s main course, and despite the fact that readers had been fed an ample serving of adjectives and adverbs, there were plenty more to swallow.
The chicken Picatta got its share of the spotlight with Mr. Gass writing that its sauce was “light and tangy” and “the chicken was perfectly tender and full of flavor.” But then readers were walloped with scallops with risotto that was “scented with the rich smokiness of bacon, it was a sure hit.” The scallops he gushed, “came perfectly seared; crisp yet still a little opaque in the center, perfect.”
“Everything on the table got even better” he added, “due to the wine selection of Attems Pinot Grigio,” which he says, “was the unerring choice, juicy with hints of citrus and strawberry.” He continued like this throughout the desserts, but at that point I was so full of superlatives I couldn’t consume another one. As usual there was nothing in the place this guy didn’t like. Check please.
Again, price was never mentioned.
I probably wouldn’t make a very good restaurant reviewer for “The Islander” — not that anyone there would ever ask me — but because its editors are probably not the kind of folks who appreciate the same kind of dining experiences that Eugene Lamar, Jolene, and I do.
Just Wondering Department: I occasionally see pink balloons proclaiming “It’s a girl” and blue ones saying “It’s a boy” fastened to proud new parents’ mailboxes in various island neighborhoods. Do those loony biologically confused parents who say they want their offspring to determine their own gender, put out purple balloons saying: “It’s a ?”
Attention Local Beer Drinkers: The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that a new brewery is coming to Fernandina Beach. According to the Journal the “Mocama Brewing Company,” plans to redevelop two adjacent lots off of South 8th Street into a microbrewery. One of them is a located at 629 S. 8th Street, where the company plans to build a 16,217-square-foot, two-story brewery. The ground floor of the site would include a brewhouse and cellar room, a barrel room, a walk-in cooler, two 1,000-square-foot tasting areas, a coffee bar, 40 parking spaces, a 300-square-foot outdoor patio and a courtyard. Upstairs would have office and conference room space. Across Gum Street, a vacant parcel at 700 S. 7th St. would be redeveloped into a parking lot with 38 surface-level spaces. The main parcel, which is a little more than an acre in size, was purchased by an Athens, Georgia-based company, Super Silly Monkey LLC, in 2017 for $945,000. Mocama Holdings LLC bought the adjacent lot in March for $128,000. I think I’ll enjoy having a beer with a group called Super Silly Monkey.
Drone Fishing: Greg Robinson, a Buford, GA resident, who helped with the remodeling of the old Sandy Bottoms into the Sandbar Restaurant & Kitchen at Main Beach, likes to surf fish, but felt he would do better if he could cast his line out further. He came up with the ingenious idea of attaching his hook, line, sinker and bait to a drone and then guiding it out to drop it much further than he could ever cast. Did it work? Sandbar owner Kevin Dooner says he saw Greg bringing in some big fish using this technique. Robinson still visits to help Kevin on smaller projects and to have his drone drop a line in deep water for him.
Warning Democrats — Depressing News: It’s a sad commentary about their party that good news for Americans is bad news for Democrats including the fact that poverty rates under the Trump Administration declined in 20 states and the District of Columbia from 2016 to 2017, according to the latest Census Bureau data. The 2017 American Community Survey (ACCS) estimates show that in many states, declining poverty was the continuation of a longer trend. The number of people working full time year round increased by 2.4 million in 2017. Incomes have grown 10.4 percent in the past three years, and last year’s figure was the highest on record.– Source: Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor? A couple of weeks ago bars in the Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach communities were invaded by hundreds of British sailors from the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which docked in the northeast Florida Naval Station of Mayport. According to news reports hundreds of thirsty sailors rushed off the ship following a trip marking the 65,000-ton vessel’s first transatlantic voyage to drink to excess and fight among themselves. Sgt. Larry Smith of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department, told the Florida Times-Union that six Queen Elizabeth sailors had been taken into custody for drunken and disorderly conduct, which included public urination and fighting. Three sailors were charged with resisting arrest, and at least one needed to be tased. Keith Doherty, a general manager at Lynch’s Irish Pub in Jacksonville Beach told the Times-Union he heard the number of such skirmishes were in the hundreds. However, fights with their Floridian host were reportedly nonexistent, as they evidently managed to keep the pugilistic behavior to themselves. The carrier and its bruised crew, which left its home of Portsmouth, England, on Aug. 18, is now headed to Maryland.
Campaign Slogan Idea: The misguided marketing strategy of Nike’s signing of sad sack polarizing NFL kneeler Colin Kaepernick to a “Just do it!” ad campaign has inspired a slogan that’s perfect for Crazy Uncle Bernie Sanders’ socialist camp: “Just take it!”
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: A prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce will be available tomorrow, Saturday, September 22, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at VFW Post 4351, 96086 Wade Place Road under Shave Bridge for a $15 donation and the public is invited. Live music by Yancy will be later that evening. Que’n For A Cure – A Cancer Awareness Fundraiser will hold a barbeque on Main Beach Saturday, October 13th to raise money for research. Dozens of the area’s best pit masters will compete and plates of their pork and brisket will be on sale starting at noon for $10. Proceeds will go towards the cure for cancer. Music will be provided by the Decades Band from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm and The Honey Badgers from 1:30 – 3:00 pm.