Ever watched Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern? I have, a few times. Recently, as in last week, we watched an episode about the Gulf Coast of the US. One of the cities visited was Pensacola, FL. Coincidentally we had plans to be in Pensacola this past weekend. So we paid closer attention to this segment of his show. The two places he visited were The Fish House and Chet's.
Andrew had fried Grouper Throats and a Gazpachie Salad at The Fish House and Fried Mullet at Chet's. Andrew raved about the Gazpachie Salad, not so much the Grouper Throats. The Gazpachie Salad was served to him in a large trifle bowl. It had layers of red and white. I guess the red was tomato and we never determined what the white would have been. We do know it was made with hard tack.
Per Wickipedia: Hardtack (or hard tack) is a simple type of cracker or biscuit, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting, it was and is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages and military campaigns. The name derives from the British sailor slang for food, "tack". It is known by other names such as pilot bread (as rations for ship's pilots), ship's biscuit, shipbiscuit, sea biscuit, sea bread (as rations for sailors) or pejoratively "dog biscuits," "tooth dullers," "sheet iron," "worm castles" or "molar breakers". Australian military personnel know them as ANZAC wafers
He had nothing good say about the Mullet at Chet's. I believe the best thing he said was "rubbery".
Well, we decided since we would be in Pensacola we would go to these places and order the same items and review them as well. We start our journey and decide to try The Fish House first, because it was easy to find. Now, we are dressed ULTRA casual because that's the way we roll and it was about 100 degrees. No kidding....we were in Hell. So we enter the restaurant, me in my 28 year old shorts and tee shirt and my "dressy" flip flops, and to our surprise it is a white table cloth, dark wood (polished no doubt), business lunch kinda' place. Of course they seat us in the very back of the restaurant. We felt sorry for all of those beautifully groomed well dressed business folks who had on suits and ties and some of the women....get ready for it.....pantyhose! No S#(*.
So, we are seated and start to review the menu, no where on said menu is there a mention of Grouper Throats or the FAMOUS 500 year old Gazpachie dish. Hmm....yo' Kent! Kent was our super cute preppy waiter. I ask him about the Gazpachie Salad. A puzzled look crossed his face, nope never heard of it. How about grouper throats? Hmmmm......no. I start to mention this TV show we had seen and a light bulb goes off over Kent's head. Oh Yeah! That weird food show!! right.....now we are getting somewhere. Sooooo do you serve these items? Kent " oh No!" That was just made special for that TV show. Oh. Bummer.
So, we decide to order an app of the mussels.
One pound of sautéed mussels in a roastedgarlic and thyme cream sauce with grilled
Gambino’s bread. Great to share! 12.95
The dish arrives, see above picture. Looks pretty good. Tastes terrible. The mussel were broke, chipped and/or tightly closed. The sauce is a horrible gray color and the tastes like glue. Not impressed. We each take a bite, spit the broken shells out and call Kent over, check Please! Off we run to find Chet's. Now we knew that finding Chet's might be an adventure because on the TV show they claimed that the place was so well known they didn't replace the sign out front when it was destroyed by wind. EVERYONE knew where Chet's was located. We had an address, 3800 WEST Navy Blvd. Okay, we find North and South Navy but never locate West Navy. We drove and drove and drove. Not lost just out on an adventure. Finally we decide we are just going to stop at the next "interesting looking" place we pass. We did.
We enter the little restaurant and are seated by the only waitress in the place. Loretta was a nice lady and she knew the regulars. Ah ha! regulars, that's a good sign too. She gives us a couple of menus. A bit confusing. It says "Buffet" from 11 -8 $6.99. We look around, no buffet. Hmmm.....yo' Loretta, what's dealio with the buffet? She says just order anything on this menu and we fix it for you, you can have as much as you want. BUT, don't waste! See below warning. We had been warned, scared us a little.
"PLEASE DON'T WASTE!! ORDER WHAT YOU WANT BUT DON'T OVER ORDER. NO DOGGIE BAGS OR SHARING. $2.00 CHARGE IF YOU WASTE!"
The menu was typical Mexican, no seafood or southern cooking. We ordered nachos and a DELUX taco salad. When ordering the nachos Loretta asks " how many?". Uhhh.....blank looks on our faces....confusion....what kind of place have we wandered into? Loretta tries to prod us along...you want 4 or 8 orrrrr....???? Yeah, 8 that's it, that sounds fine. Loretta says "okay I'll bring you a medium." Fortunately the salad only came in one size. So we are sipping our cokes when out comes the food. The DELUX taco salad, lettuce, ground beef, shredded cheese, chili and corn chips on top. The nachos were 8 individual tortilla chips with a smear of refried beans, neon orange "cheese" and a round of pickled jalapeno on top. We ate a few bites, finished our cokes and called Loretta over for the check. Total check $12.86??? Don't know, don't care.
We get back into our car, chuckling, you just never know where an adventure might lead. As we are ambling along headed back to the house we pass a huge sign...."Chet's Seafood Restaurant". Place was packed, in the middle of the afternoon. We just laughed, after all tomorrow is another day another adventure.
We did go to Joe Patti's http://www.joepattis.com/ and bought fresh wild caught Carribean Grouper. It was fabulous! Tasted like lobsta' sweet and "meaty" but still flakey. I made fish tacos that evening for dinner. Best meal we had all day. If you have never been to or heard of Joe Patti's Seafood please click on the above link and check them out. They have the best seafood, gourmet items, ready made products and they ship! We never go to Pensacola without stopping at least once.
Here is my recipe for Fish Tacos.
Fish Tacos with Jalapeno Mayonnaise
1-1 ½ lbs. of Fresh Fish Fillets such as grouper, flounder, catfish or tilapia
1 Egg, beaten with 1 Tbl. Water
2 Cups Panko Breadcrumbs
¼ Cup of Vegetable Oil
2 Cups shredded cabbage or romaine lettuce
1 Cup diced cucumber
12 Flour or Corn Tortillas
1 Cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
2-3 Tbls of Diced Pickled Jalapenos
½ Diced Fresh Jalapeno
Salt, Black Pepper and Cayenne Pepper to taste
Mix mayo, jalapenos and juice from ½ the lime in a bowl. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Slice fish fillets into ½” pieces. Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Dip fish slices into egg wash and then into the breadcrumbs. Fry in oil until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels or butcher paper.
Wrap tortillas in water dampened paper towels, place on microwave safe dish and microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes, until they are heated thru.
Place 1 or 2 pieces of fish in a warm tortilla, top with greens and cucumber and the Jalapeno Mayonnaise. Serve immediately.