If you know me, you know that I’m a fairly live and let live guy. I approach life and people with, not an open mind – I feel like the entire idea of an open mind is to eventually close on some truth here and there – but with curiosity. I might find what you do and how you live your life to be absolutely stupid, but I recognize that you don’t feel that way. Epistemological humility makes we want to know why you think the way you do, and by extension, why I think the way I do. I love talking to people I consider odd or even downright deplorable.
Occasionally outside forces re-orient the way we think. This time, it was honey-bourbon and Scotch. Possibly some beer too.
It was three years ago and I was looking for the best lunch with a decent wine list in Destin. My family meets with an extended network of uncles and aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews at the shore every year and we set up a moveable feast – each family hosting the others one night and on to another the next. Lunch was always a catch as you can deal and a few of us were wondering what kind of offerings the local scene could put forth. I let Facebook be my guide and the overwhelming response from the 30A savvy social media was Vin’tij, a small bistro attached to a wine shop a few miles east of where we usually stay.
I rankled at the spelling changes re “vintage.” A bit too cutesy for my tastes, but the recommendations were beyond exemplary, almost into the range of emphatic. I championed the restaurant to my travelling companions. It was all based on strangers’ recommendations, but I was interested. Paul writing to the Euphesians was not as zealous as me. That’s not true, but I was pretty excited about trying this place.
There is a tradition on our beach trips where the fathers of a certain age do monsterable harm to the equality of the sexes and sequester themselves in a condo with large amounts of liquor, beer, cash, cards, and poker chips. The last two years have seen attempts at integration, but those are doomed to fail as the few women who dare participate keep fucking winning.
Back to the honey bourbon, Scotch, and possibly beer.
The game went long and I was doing well. I endured. The next morning, I was less than happy with the state of things and no amount of coffee, sausage, or fresh sea breeze was going to change things.
It was in this spirit of hating creation that I was corralled into a car to go to the lunch that I had conscribed myself to by conviction.
When we arrived at Vin’tij after a horrific bit of traffic caused by road construction I was less than charitable. I was surly.
The spelling liberties with “vintage” no longer rankled. They were stupid. When we walked in, a middle aged guy with a ponytail in a loose fitting, untucked Oxford shirt and faded jeans greeted us. Why this bothered me is tribute to the magnitude of my hangover as I am a middle aged guy with longish hair who can generally be found wearing a loose fitting, untucked Oxford shirt and faded jeans.
He looked at us and said, “Hello, friends.”
If I had had a gun…
We were seated right away. The place is eclectic; purple with folk art here there and everywhere. I liked the look, but there it was nowhere near enough to alleviate my misery. Pony Tail came by to tell us about the wine flights and the fish and soup of the day.
If you’ve read this site before, you know I spent a number of years in the wine world as both a seller and buyer. I was waiting for Pony Tail to slip up, but he wouldn’t give me the pleasure. He suggested a flight and I bit. It was as advertised.
He also suggested a soup: Watermelon Gazpacho.
I didn’t expect the cumin. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a more wonderful soup. I remember a buttermilk and cucumber with dill that had watermelon balls as garnish that blew my mind. I had a French onion soup in Georgetown once that I ordered a second bowl of. I had a potato leek soup at Highland’s Bar & Grill that stunned me. None were quite like this amazing cumin-laced watermelon soup with alfalfa sprouts and sprinkled herbs. Pony Tail came by with a taste of… I’ll be honest, I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was a Gruner Veltliner because he thought it would be a better match with the soup than anything in the flight I had before me. I thought, “Hello friend.” because we were kinda like buddies now.
I don’t know many restaurants that can take such an ill disposed customer as me and turn him into a fervent acolyte, but Vin’tij did so.
I just had my third meal there in as many years. I ate an amazing pizzette with collards, corn, and capicola followed by some damn good angus meatloaf. Two flights sussed out a brilliant rose and a rioja with a price to quality ratio that defies believing.
If I list my favorite Southern restaurants I have to start with Elizabeth on 37th, Bottega Cafe as a Frank Stitt entrant although any would do, Juban’s, and Satterfield’s. This place is up there with all of them. Go south (assuming you live north of Destin) and order flights, soup, and meatloaf. This place is awesome.
I’ll be there next July.