Arkansas Razorback fans, Italian ice, Jekyll Island, and the unmistakable longing for my favorite insect

Wait, there’s a festival that highlights shrimp and grits?  And it takes place half an hour from where I live?  Seriously?  How could I not attend the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival?  It was a moral imperative.  First a little business.  Kaia couldn’t make it to the festival due to a prior engagement.  Leading up to it, she tried to make me feel guilty about going without her.  See how wives are?  And she’s the one that made me aware of it in the first place!  S.M.H.  At any rate, on to the recap.

Initially my plan was to hit up Cupcake Emporium, the bakery that made our wedding cupcakes, after leaving the festival.  During the week I got a wild hair to eat scrumptious cupcakes.  But I changed my mind after looking up a
few bakeries in Brunswick.  I settled on Achin 4 Bakin because they had some interesting “cocktail” cupcakes on their website.  But since they close at 2:00 on Saturdays, I stopped by before the festival.  Being the genius I am, I brought an insulated bag with an ice pack to store the cupcakes.  #Brilliant  I stop in and it’s a quaint small town bakery.  I ultimately decide on: Red velvet, Root beer, Chocolate Merlot, German chocolate, Peanut butter cup, and Double dark chocolate.  The best part about it?  I got a half dozen cupcakes for only $12.08…with tax!  In Connecticut, we were paying like $3.50 per.  Thank you God of Small Town Georgia Bakeries.  I threw the cupcakes in my bag and made tracks to Jekyll Island.

When  i was a kid we used to go to Jekyll Island all the time, so it was cool driving onto the island again.  Not a whole lot had change, except for the modernization of a couple of buildings.  Pretty cool to reminisce.  Anyway, I finally get to the airport where a shuttle was to take us to the festival.  As I’m driving to find a parking space, I notice that…we’re on the damn runway!  Hold up, you got us parking on the runway.  Do planes know that this runway is currently out of order?  Emergency landings be damned, you better bust a fat right and land at St. Simon’s Island Airport.  Nevertheless, I got over my initial consternation and made my way to the shuttle.  On the way I bumped into a cool couple that just moved to the area.  The wife asked me if I play football.  When I was 70 pounds lighter, people asked me if I played basketball.  The lesson here is that I’m fat and I need to lose weight….but first let’s eat a mess ‘o scrimps and grits!

So the shuttle arrives and I finally get to the festival.  It’s a pretty nice set up.  As you walk through they have all the arts and crafts vendors and what not, and most of them are in the shade.  It wasn’t oppressively hot, but any type of shade in September Georgia is much obliged.  My plan was to make a walk through and scope everything out so I can make a plan of action.  The food vendors were at the end of the festival grounds, but on my way there The Commissary caught my attention.  They promoted free samples of Vidalia onion peach salsa.  You know I had to stop in.  The peach salsa was a problem, and was only $5.  Did I buy a jar? No.  Why not?  I’m an idiot?  I actually meant to stop by on the way out, but forgot.  No matter, Kaia will be making a return trip and loading up some point in the future.

I get to the food area and it’s a wondrous melange of sights and smells.  After a quick perusal of all the vendors, I make Halyard’s my first stop.  Why?  Because shrimp and blue crab gumbo over grits is too good to pass up.

Shrimp, blue crab, and tasso ham.  Uh huh.  The flavor was very bold and rich.  A hint of spice was rather pleasing to the palate.  The shrimp, as you can see, were very plump and cooked perfectly.  My only concern was that the grits could have been a little creamier.  But they were still darn good.  For some reason, Halyard’s wasn’t as busy as some of the other vendors.  I don’t know why.  In terms of flavor, this was some of the best shrimp and grits I’d ever had.  At any rate, as I was eating I was joined by a dude from Arkansas.  We got to talking back and forth about various what not, and he mentioned he was a Razorback fan.  We both agreed that the game between Arkansas and Alabama would be ugly, but we didn’t think it would be this ugly.  Daniel, if you’re out there, I hope you’re still hungover so you don’t have to come to grips with the reality of the current state of your football team.

Trying to pace myself, I chill a little bit and listen to some live music.  I didn’t want to stuff myself before trying everything I wanted to try. #Foreshadowing  After a reasonable enough time of chilling, I made my way back to the vendors.  What to try next?  What to try?  This description from Tasteful Temptations caught my eye: “Sauteed GA shrimp with Old Bay and lemon and cream Logan grits, topped with tomato jam and corn sauce topped with crispy bacon and shredded cheddar cheese.”  Dude. Seriously.

This vendor gave you much more grits, but less shrimp that happened to be smaller.  But, the flavors were on point if not very subtle.  The corn sauce gave it an unexpected sweetness.  The bacon provided crunch and a little smokiness.  But what brought it all together was the tomato jam.  It was phenomenal.  I actually would have liked for them to make a sauce using the tomato jam, instead of adding it as a garnish. #WannabeChoppedJudge  Once again, the grits could’ve been a little creamier.  This dish was very good but not quite as good as the previous one.

At this point, the belt was tightening up a bit so I decided to take a walk.  I pass by Vincenzo’s Italian Ice stand.  I’d never had Italian ice before and it was hot. Why did no one tell me how good Italian ice was?!?  You are all to blame! I got strawberry-banana, peach, and mango.  It was soooooooo good.  It was like sherbert but better.  Much much better.  I immediately became a fiend.  I wanted to go back up there and get another one, but I calmed myself.  I mean, I didn’t come to a shrimp and grits festival to ill out on Italian ice, did I?

After a little more walking around, I decided to hit the food area again.  This time, in search of fried shrimp.  I settled on Zachary’s Seafood.

They looked stupidly, ridiculously good.  For the most part they were.  A couple of the pieces had a little too much breading, but the shrimp were fresh and the seasoning appropriately delicate.  To be honest, I was distracted while eating these bad boys.

Yes, I went back to Vincenzo’s.  Yes I got another large ice.  Yes, it was stupid good again.  This time I got mango, blue raspberry, and strawberry lemonade.  It was glorious.  Probably a little too glorious, because my stomach was starting to expand like Violet Beauregard.  There were a couple more places I wanted to try, but my stomach wasn’t having it.  So I waddled out of the festival, feeling like I weighed 500 pounds.  It was a good day, but wasn’t a great day because I was by myself.  That was a day perfectly made for Team Tyson.  Sun, music, water, great food, arts and crafts, etc.  Having my Ladybug with me would have made it a truly special day.  I didn’t feel guilty, so much as lonely cause my partner in crime wasn’t there.  Alas, next year we will do it up big.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll even enter the amateur cooking competition…