There’s a lot to love about Autumn in the kitchen, but memories of summer just won’t budge at our house. We’re having fun making things like blackberry jam, of course, but the BBQ keeps eyeing us from the garden from under its protective winter shroud. It’s a melancholy sight, reminding us of lovely hot days cooking and dining al fresco. It really was a bumper BBQ summer.
Just as the hot weather started, I went to the launch of Eat My World, a fantastic new website that connects supper club hosts and guests across the world. Co-founder Holly and her team from Dirty Apron cooked a delicious soul food meal of BBQ brisket, pulled pork and ribs as a celebration feast to show how fun and tasty supper clubs can be. The pulled pork was so spectacular I persuaded Holly to share the recipe. I made it several times over the summer because it’s a fantastic crowd pleaser and kids adore it. Don’t be alarmed by the long list of ingredients: the recipe is actually very easy and results in a smoky and meltingly tender meat feast. It is a long process but for most of the time it’s just the pork slowly cooking in the oven and/or BBQ, leaving you free to go about your business. And fear not that it requires BBQ weather: it doesn’t. Holly has also given instructions for cooking it in the oven, which still tastes amazing. Click here for the recipe.
Our BBQ meat fest continued in Florida when we pootled 2 hours south of Orlando to Anna Maria Island, a blissful barrier island on the Bay of Mexico. (I was never going to confine my US dining experience to Disney World, was I?) We had the full picture-postcard experience: powdery white sand, jaw-dropping sunsets and a very chilled pace.
When we weren’t hanging out in our pastel-coloured house, we kayaked with dolphins (setting off from a jetty at the end of the garden), tiptoed around turtle nests, watched some amazing bird life and searched for manatees, which are abundant in these waters.
And of course we ate lots. Our favourite spot was Skinny’s Place, a wood-and-screen shanty that’s been serving burgers and beers since 1952 on Gulf Drive near the main Manatee Beach at the south of the island. We couldn’t get enough of this no-frills cash-only joint with its juicy burgers and cold beer served from ice-frosted glasses. A sign on the wall advises the wait time for a Skinny burger is measured in beers – 1¾ to be precise.
There were plenty of grazing opportunities. Create-your-own donuts at Anna Maria Donuts made for tasty afternoon teas and we made more visits to Two Scoops ice cream parlour than was strictly sensible. Since the island is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the west, Tampa Bay on the north, Longboat Pass on the south and Sarasota Bay on the east, seafood (especially the very tasty and meaty grouper) is abundant. The bar and restaurant at the end of the Rod and Reel peer is absolutely brilliant for breakfast. If you’re lucky you can watch dolphins playing while you’re eating a ginormous stack of pancakes or fish tacos.
The sunsets on Anna Maria are famous and watching the 3-minute spectacular is something of a ritual among locals and tourists. On a couple of nights we nabbed a table at the Sandbar restaurant on the edge of the sand and watched it all happen, icy Margarita in hand and a plate of seafood on order. Bliss.