Taste of Pensacola Review – Tasty Tourism Teaser

Pensacola Celebrity Chefs in situ. (left to right) are Irv Miller (Jackson's Steakhouse), Frank Taylor (Global Grill), Dan Dunn (Hilton Pensacola Beach), Gus Silivos (Nancy's Haute Affairs, and soon to be Skopelos opening in January) and Jim Shirley (Fish House). Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

What timing! 

 

Table 52 Restaurant on Elm hosted the Taste of Pensacola Event. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

The Taste of Pensacola party spilled into the upstairs of the comfy Table 52 Restaurant on Elm Street. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

That first Chicago nippy autumn day when you had to remember what it is like to have to don a coat when you go outdoors was just when the Visit Pensacola organization hosted a Taste of Pensacola soiree. 

 

Sweet tea with fruit fixings were a reminder of summer. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

What forethought! 

 

Pensacola is one of several Southern destinations that has Chicagoans looking for winter getaways in its gun sights.  That’s presumably why these Celebrity Chefs of Pensacola were enlisted to help get Pensacola on our radar.  

 

Chef Dan Dunn. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Chef Jim Shirley. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Che Irv Miller teaching a cooking class. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Looking at the promotional materials from Pensacola on a crisp autumn day it reads like a checklist of all the things Chicagoans miss most about our city in winter.

 

Pensacola's beaches were recently voted Florida's best. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

The short list of Chicagoans’ summer faves might read:

 

Palafox Pier. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Going boating on Lake Michigan?—CHECK! Pensacola has it.

 

The Naval Aviation Museum. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Going to the Air Show?– CHECK!  The Blue Angels make their home in Pensacola and do free shows twice a week at the Naval Museum March through November.

 

Kayaking, snorkeling and other water sports are part of the Pensacola scene. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Kayaking on the Chicago River? – CHECK! and actually in water that looks like it would be a lot more fun to fall into.

 

Pensacola boasts many outdoor dining opportunities. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Dining Outdoors?—CHECK!

 

Palafox Market. Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

Going to Farmers Markets? – CHECK!

 

Hanging out at the Lake Michigan Beach? –CHECK, and then some—with fun waves too and snorkeling etc.

 

Chef Dunn presented two dishes: Bacon wrapped shrimp with jalapena and gouda cheese; and Blue Crab, half from Louisiana and half from Pensacola, with a salt and peppery preparation. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

It wasn't that long ago that Chicagoans were dining outside like this too. Or have you already forgotten? Photo courtesy of Visit Pensacola

 

 But the biggest CHECK! of all came across in chats with the Celebrity Chefs who explain how and why they came by the multicultural and cosmopolitan outlook that defines Pensacola cuisine and makes it an attractive match for the growing throngs of foodies in Chicago who especially enjoy the ethnic dining options in the city.

 

Chef Dunn is both a photographer and painter, as well as being the chef at the Pensacola Hilton. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

Chef Jim Shirley, has several restaurants in the area and like other gourmet chefs we've met worldwide also dabbles in fast food. His cheap eat love comes in the form of a Grilled Cheese Truck, which we've added to our list to find while in Pensacola. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

Chef Jim Shirley of The Fish House, among other restaurants he founded, is a Pensacola native who was born in the Naval Air Station and explains how the area’s rich history came to bear on the menus he develops.  “You see the many influences of our history on the menu—Southern, German, Italian and lots of Spanish.  The Germans and Italians came from Louisiana, from New Orleans, mostly at the turn of the last century. ..Because we are a Navy town most of us have lived outside the United States as well.  We always knew people and food from around the world. I grew up at a time when Pensacola had a massive infusion of Vietnamese.”

 

Chef Dunn says that the effects of Hurricane Katrina are long gone and that fresh farm to table food is what you find all over Pensacola. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

Carmelized clams! It's a wonder what a Celebrity Chef like Shirley can do if you give him a blow torch! Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

In fact, Shirley seemed to make a very strong mental note of our favorite cheap eats Vietnamese restaurant on Argyle. 

 

Chef Miller served smoked mullet on pancakes with a special sauce made from local ingredients-- all detailed in his cookbook. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

Shirley’s fellow Celebrity Chef Dan Dunn, also a Pensacola native and a serious photographer who sells many of his images of Pensacola’s award winning beaches, was keen to visit Chicago’s Art Institute.

 

Chef Miller showed the promotional materials for his latest book and also the local hot sauce he uses, made by an 80-year old Port Saint Joe native, explaining how he actively supports the work of local farmers and fishermen. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

It was the third Pensacola chef, Irv Miller, who probably brought the best credentials for understanding why Chicagoans would want to visit Pensacola, staycation there, and perhaps move there as he did in 1982.  A native of York, PA, Miller says the cuisine and place have a “joie de vivre” in common.  Miller was touting his most recent book in which he talks about what he calls the clean food of Pensacola farmers and fishermen, in addition to sharing recipes. 

 

Brooke Fleming, whom we later found out also sings with the Pensacola Opera!, was a most gracious hostess of the event. Among other highlights, Brooke reported that Pensacola was recently voted as having the best Florida beach. Photo: Peter Kachergis

 

Hmmm…

 

A tasty introduction to what Pensacola has to offer. Stay tuned to these pages for longer reports on hotels, adventures and cuisine we explore in Pensacola this coming winter.

 

Or begin planning your trip with a look-see at the Visit Pensacola website.

 

 

 

 

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