Alex and I had already been planning a getaway to Charleston, SC for our friend Julie's wedding (more on that later). And when I found out that my parents and sisters would be spending their real spring break in St. Simon's Island, GA during the week leading up to the wedding I decided to head south early and make a week of it. Great decision!
You may remember that I joined my family in St. Simon's Island for a few days last year too. They've been vacationing here since I was in high school and they continue to go back for the warm temperatures, southern charm, and relaxed atmosphere there.
My youngest sister Libby was feeling under the weather for most of the trip, so we spent most of our time hanging out at our rental house and at the nearby beach and pool. Nobody really complained about that since a little relaxation was exactly what we were all looking for on this trip!
Did I mention that because I arrived last, my sisters saddled me with the children's bunkbed room? Two years in a row.
I got up and walked the beaches with my mom every morning. It was so nice to catch up with her and great to get a little exercise in on this trip too!
Staying in a house is fun for us because it gave us some time to catch up and hang out in the kitchen. We had breakfast together in the mornings and grilled on the deck one evening too. My mom also broke out the big guns for a homemade cheese plate at lunch one day. It was complete with olives, quince paste, fig jam, and she found this amazing caramelized onion cheddar too. So good!
We also ventured out for a couple of good restaurant dinners too! My parents introduced me to Tramici during our visit last year and it quickly became one of my favorite restaurants on the island. It's got a more upscale vibe than most restaurants down there do, but there's nothing pretentious or fancy about it. And they serve amazing Italian food and local seafood-- two of my favorite things!
Apparently it is softshell crab season in the southeast and since none of us had every tried one (Northerner problems), my dad decided we should give it a try. Tramici served their softshell crab breaded and flash fried with an aioli for dipping. I'm a huge fan of crab, but I hate the act of removing the meat from the shell. Well, seeing as you can eat this entire thing whole (because the shell is soft and edible) this crab was right up my alley. The breading was crisp and flaky and the aoili was a perfect tangy complement to it.
I decided to take full advantage of the fresh seafood and ordered their shrimp special for my entree. That night Tramici was offering what almost seemed like an Italian take on southern shrimp & grits: blackened shrimp in a creamy tomato broth served over risotto with sauteed broccolini. It was a really simple combination, but so delicious: the spiciness of the shrimp with the richness of the risotto.
To finish it all off, mom and I split their banana pudding for dessert. I love banana pudding, but am not sure that I have ever had a truly traditional southern version of it. I'm used to the Northern version with instant pudding and a little Cool Whip, but this was something else. The combination of fresh bananas, thick custard, and vanilla cookies was topped with a bruleed meringue layer and it was amazing!
On my last night in St. Simon's Island, we decided to pick up some takeout and dine out on the deck at our place. I requested that we get dinner from Southern Soul Barbecue, a tiny no frills barbecue joint that boasts constantly huge crowds and a feature on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive Ins & Dives. And somehow in all the years that we've been traveling here, it was my first visit!
My parents, on the other hand, have been several times and walked me through some of their favorite menu items. It didn't disappoint! The pulled pork here is delicious as were the brisket burnt ends. I'm not a big fan of ribs, so I didn't eat any of those but my mom and dad swear by them. Also of note: My mom tried to order the half smoked chicken, but they had run out. She says that this happens every time they go to Southern Soul, which says a lot for this mysterious chicken. So, if you find yourself at Southern Soul and they happen to have this chicken on hand I'd suggest you give it a try. And then let me know what you thought!
We also ordered some of their coleslaw (which was creamy, but not too much so... a good balance) and their delicious saucy BBQ beans on the side. And let's not forget the sauce! They have a few varieties of barbecue sauce that you can select to pair with your meat. We opted for two and I gave them both a try: the first is their Sweet Georgia Soul, a thick red tomato-based barbecue sauce that was sweet with a little hint of spice. They make a hot version too. The second was my choice: Low Country Soul. I am a HUGE fan of Carolina mustard-based barbecue sauces and this one was exactly what I wanted. The sauce was sweet from brown sugar, tangy from the mustard, and had a hint of peppery heat. I would eat it on just about anything.