In Apalachicola, Florida (see my last post), there are three essential ingredients for a New Year’s Eve gathering:
1) Fireworks usually illegal in other states
2) Bonfires on the beach or elsewhere
3) Alcohol and plenty of ice in coolers
To procure our fireworks, we headed to a tent sale near the highway. There, we found an astounding variety of things that make noise and blow up. Our splurge was the $75 Black Mamba, which was supposed to be the biggest and baddest around. The family selling the fireworks – a mother, father and their pregnant 15-year-old daughter – proved exceedingly helpful in describing how loud each product was, from “pretty loud” to “real loud” to “deafening.”
Our next mission was alcohol, and this is where my mind was pretty much blown. To our great luck, an upscale liquor store had opened two weeks earlier. It’s called Honey Hole Liquors. Yes, you heard that right. (I have a t-shirt to prove it.) The phone number is 653-BUZZ. Best of all, this cheeky little store lives up to its name and then some. Let’s just say it’s a twinkling oasis of gourmet intoxicants, mixers and snacks. Price tags are placed on sea shells, and your purchases are wrapped in lime green tissue paper.
We were amazed to discover hard-to-find goodies like Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, which is all the rage in the South. If you haven’t had it, you MUST try it with a splash of water and a lemon. A family-owned distillery located on Wadmalaw Island outside Charleston, South Carolina, Firely is not yet available nationally, so when you see it, you have to grab it. We also found six types of Bloody Mary mix and just about everything else our hearts desired, thanks to the enthusiastic help of store worker Dmitrius. (He admitted he loved to drink and had thus found the perfect job.)
A final word about The Honey Hole. Beyond the naughty connotation, the name has a regional tie-in. You see, this area of the Panhandle – culturally more Southern than Floridian – is famous for honey. Tupelo Honey, that is. This mild honey gets its flavor from Tupelo trees that grow along the Apalachicola River in Georgia and Florida, and it’s known for its high quality and accompanying high price. The reason Tupelo Honey is so prized? It never crystallizes.
But I digress. Getting back to the eve, we started the festivities with a fantastic meal of bacon-wrapped venison (shot by our host Kathy’s boyfriend in a hunting camp in Georgia) and ahi tuna bought that day from Doug’s Seafood Truck on the island (pictured below). Local eating at its finest. Who doesn’t love walking up to a truck and saying, “So what’s fresh today Doug?” He can even tell you where it was caught (say Alligator Point, for example) that morning.
Afterwards, we gathered around a crackling bonfire in front of the houseboats. With a low of 35 degrees predicted, we decided it was too cold to set up on the beach. Plus, why drive? So we hunkered down with blankets to watch the fireworks show in Kathy’s parking lot, which eventually expanded to the street. As the decibel level grew, and the clock turned well past 2:00 a.m., I kept waiting for the police to show up. But no one seemed to mind. Not even the neighbors. (They were drunk.)
It’s at moments like this that I really miss the South.
4 years ago