Modern Florida cooking applies to both simple and adventurous preparation methods for what may be best described as history on a plate. Young local chefs abound are competing to tout our finest ingredients and Gulf Catch. For the first time since the 1990s, a food style is emerging that feels unique for this state; distinct, yet garnered from the loins of the Florida Food Movement. It’s my opinion that the Panhandle, Pensacola specifically, is the epicenter of Florida’s Southernmost-influenced foods. This trend of the modern palate includes lighter foods, healthier ingredients and an adventurous approach using Gulf Coast horn-of-plenty produce and new handcrafted foods that sweep the region.
Here are a few Pensacola staples to look for when visiting the area.
As a coastal city, the Pensacola Bay Area prides itself on quality fresh Gulf Coast Seafood. In the Summer, find the treasured Red Snapper on the menu, in the Fall and Winter months raw oysters the size of your hand, in the Spring Cobia migrate through and mullet, well that’s year-round. Have it blackened, steamed, fried or fresh; on a bun, in a basket, nestled into a taco shell or on a plate.
Something unique to southern cuisine is that it is limitless to the time it is consumed and the combinations developed just so long as it remains true to one thing, comfort.
Crispy fried chicken can be combined with sweet-savory waffles to be consumed at brunch. Crab cakes and fried green tomatoes can be wedged into a breakfast sandwich, served over a bed of greens at lunch and made a full entrée by dinner. An absolute staple of the Pensacola culinary scene is grits.
For those unfamiliar, a grit is a coarsely ground corn kernel boiled to creamy perfection. Pensacola Bay Area chefs have mastered the art of grits, some combining them with simple cheeses and cream, others loading them with anything in the kitchen. Grits can be served as a plain side, as an appetizer balled and fried or as the main event loaded with shrimp.
Have a Pensacola Bay Area culinary staple we forgot to mention? Tell us in the comments!
This article was contributed to by Jackson’s Steakhouse Executive Chef Irv Miller.