We just got back from a fabulous fall break in Orange Beach, Alabama. I hate to admit it but I had never heard of Orange Beach until my cousin talked to me about renting a condo with them. For those inquiring minds like me, I immediately googled favorite stops and things to do in and around this emerging beach town. I was excited for our family to have a bit of a getaway after an intense few weeks at home with work, soccer, track, and school.
Being so close to the Florida state line, it was easy for us to take a drive along Gulf Beach Highway. The FloraBama line is hopping with new condos, restaurants, and plenty of things to do for all. We took a day to visit the first Naval Air Station in the country down in Pensacola, Florida. For visitors to come on base, I assumed there would be an application to fill out ahead of time just to see the Pensacola Lighthouse and Maritime museum, the Naval Aviation Museum and Fort Barrancas. However, we were able to drive up to the gate, show proper ID, roll down the windows for the guard to view our car, and that was it. We were only allowed to travel on the Blue Angel Parkway and Taylor Road to see the visitor sites. The lighthouse is an amazing site to see however you must be 40″ tall in order to climb inside of the lighthouse. A small entrance fee into the museum and lighthouse but totally worth it except for your calves – they will strongly disagree. We even got to talk a walk out to the beach and see the lighthouse from the beach area. We then headed over to the Naval Aviation museum, the admission is free so another win for us Dave Ramsey folks. Jack our guide and former pilot was an amazing tour guide. He walked us through from start to finish sharing with us his personal stories of the Korean and Vietnam War. The sheer progress we have made in aviation over the last 100 years is phenomenal. The kids loved climbing in and out of the planes. We had fun shooting down the enemy and dodging them left and right to avoid their deadly missiles. We finished up the last portion of the morning walking through Fort Barrancas. The old Spanish fort was deactivated after World War II due to advancements in technology. The sheer infrastructure and design blows your mind away at this 1800’s old fort. Used during the civil war by the Confederacy and later surrendered to the Union, the brick and stone walls still stand and serve as a reminder of our need to secure our borders. The National Park Service now runs the fort and you can tour it for free.
We finally got to spend a very windy day at the beach but enjoyed putting our toes in the sand, building castles and finding lots of seashells for our classmates back home.
Sometimes you just need a little salt in the air to relax the mind. Our trip would not be a trip without focusing on the food. From the popular fast food restaurant of the Shrimp Basket to the Original Oyster House and finally to The Gulf, food was superb and hit the spot. The Original Oyster House was actually in Gulf Shores just a few miles down the road from us. The friendly service and upbeat decor made for a lively evening. I highly recommend the mouthwatering, with just the right amount of salt and breading, gator bites. My grilled flounder was great with a bit of cajun seasoning and the baked, stuffed crab was my husband’s highlight – though he did not order it and ate half of mine. You feel my struggle. It had diced green and red peppers in it that truly topped it off.
We tried Shrimp, tomatoes, mushroom, and pesto pizza at Lillians. If you love pesto like my cousin Erin – you must try this. It was delicious but oh so different. We wrapped up our short five day trip with a stop at The Gulf. So here is the low down, it is a bit pricey for the amount of food and the fact that you go to the counter and order your food, sit down and wait outside. However, I will tell you it was the best meal we had while we were there. I could have ordered more but you know I am frugal and my husband is even more so than me. I ordered grilled sea scallops, pureed cauliflower with pomegranates, and crispy brussel sprouts. My husband ordered the shrimp taco and we got an appetizer of crispy (which means slightly fried but not really) cauliflower. I wanted to immediately buy cauliflower and make this over and over again.
When you are on vacation, you typically do not want to cook but I am probably one of the exceptions to the rule. I love to try the grocery stores and local shops. I decided since it was the National Shrimp Festival, we would have a shrimp boil back at the condo. Blalock Seafood and Specialty market was high on my priority list to visit. Now, I have been to grocery stores that sell seafood and fish and Pike’s market in Seattle, but I have actually never bought seafood from the market. In good ole Kentucky, it is frozen or if you are lucky Kroger will have a sale on some fresh salmon or tilapia but never seafood. Blalock’s is a family owned and operated market place which I loved supporting. They had ahi tuna, mahi mahi, a white fish that I have no clue what the name was, shrimp – lots of shrimp, and lots of seafood dips to accompany your meal. I was floored when I walked in to find a selection of wine – bonus points. I walked away with four pounds of shrimp for 8 hungry souls and my go to Zatarrain’s shrimp boil in a bag. This by far is a one pot meal and so, so easy – just takes a bit of time and timing.
4 lbs of Shrimp, shell on
2 large onions (I like red but my cousin likes yellow – so I went with yellow)
6 medium sized, diced potatoes (I had Yukon Gold so that is what we used but a red would be great as well)
12 Niblet (aka mini) ears of corn
2 14 oz packages of your favorite sausage (I like polish sausage but any will do)
1 tablespoon of butter
1 Lemon sliced in half
Salt and pepper
In a large stock pot, add 5 quarts of water. Drop the Zatarrain’s bag in the water with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of butter. Dice your potatoes. While you are waiting for the water to boil, slice your onion into strips and dice your sausage into 1 -2″ pieces. Rinse the shrimp with cold tap water and set aside. Once your water has come to a boil, add your potatoes, boil for 15 minutes.
Next add your corn, onion and sausage. Continue to cook for five minutes, Squeeze both halves of your lemon in the water, add a touch more salt and pepper, drop lemon halves in the water. Add shrimp and boil for 1 minute. Turn off heat and set aside. Drain water and serve.
This was so awesome and a nice meal to have in the condo. I hope you enjoy our travels and foods. Till next time Orange Beach….