A fun filled retreat in gorgeous Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. A weekend of fabulous dining, fun activities, friends, and of course the beach!
A couple weeks ago I made my first trip out to Florida. As many of you know, once I month I do a guest post on my friend Ashley’s blog, Spoonful of Flavor. Ashley put together an amazing retreat, Blogging Beach Retreat (#BlognBeachRetreat), that was held at the Watercolor Inn and Resort in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Myself and 9 other amazing food blogging women got together for a relaxing and fun weekend of food, friends, and lots of learning. My visit to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida and spending time with these intelligent and kind women is one I will never forget!
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida…where is it? Yeah I didn’t know either. It’s located in Northwest Florida along the Gulf waters. The beaches in this area are beautiful! The sand is as white and sugar and the water is a vibrant blue-green color. It’s unlike any other beach I’ve seen. While I was expecting the beach, I was not expecting the area to be as forested as it was, and I was pleasantly surprised. The neighborhood we were in at the Watercolor Inn and Resort was surrounded by giant pine trees, shrubs, and beautiful flowers. I wish I was a botanist and could tell you what they all were. While we’re on the subject of the resort and where we were staying, it’s a good time to tell you about the two houses our group was staying in. You guys…these houses, no wait, these mansions, were ones I dream about staying in, but never imagined I’d have the chance to.
The house I spent my weekend in was an elegant home furnished in a costal cottage vibe. I was actually staying in the carriage house which was separate from the main house and almost like an apartment. I’ve basically decided that if I ever own a beach house that is how I’ll be furnishing it! A girl can dream right?
The first night of the Blogging Beach Retreat was spent getting to know the girls while snacking on delicious appetizers (think short rib egg rolls and baked oysters) made by one of the talented chefs at Signature Catering of 30A. After appetizers and wine, it was on to dinner which consisted of duck breast with roasted vegetables, a seared scallop on top of risotto, seared Ahi Tuna topped with slaw and a fried plantain, and an incredible hybrid strawberry cheesecake/creme brulee. I went to bed that night full of good food and looking forward to a full day of fun and learning.
The next morning we started the day off by making berry smoothies. Naturipe Farms generously donated tons of juicy strawberries and KitchenAid provided each of us with our own blender! While we enjoyed our berry-licious smoothies we started our first workshop session.
After our workshop it was time to head to lunch which was hosted by Visit South Walton at the Sunset Bay Cafe. I enjoyed an omelet and mango mimosa as some pre-workout fuel before our next stop which was paddleboarding, a.k.a. SUP. I’ve been dying to learn how to do stand-up paddleboarding and was thrilled to learn how to thanks to the instructors at the Boat House Paddle Club. If you make a trip here, be sure to try it out! Not only is it a nice workout, but it’s so relaxing and beautiful to be doing it out on the water. After our paddleboarding adventures we wandered around South Walton and did some window shopping in all of the great boutique shops around town.
Dinner that night took place in Seaside, another small beach town right next to where we were staying. Ashley took us on a foodie tour of some of the best places to eat. We enjoyed huge fresh local gulf shrimp and baked oysters at The Shrimp Shack, a glass of wine along with a meat and cheese board at Forty Five Central, and then some amazing barbecue from Barefoot BBQ. I highly recommend their pulled pork! Our final stop was dessert at Heavenly Shortcakes and Ice Cream and of course it was probably my favorite stop. I helped myself to the most delicious scoop of biscotti gelato. It was well worth over-stuffing myself for a scoop of that creamy gelato!
The next day I needed to work off some of those delicious calories, so I went for a run on the 30A bike trail. It was located near our house and easily accessible which was ideal for me since I was unfamiliar with the area. The path runs for miles along the beach and through the small coastal towns. It was a beautiful area and a nice change of pace from all the hills where I live. After my run we headed to what may have been one of the most delicious breakfast joints I’ve been to, The Perfect Pig. The restaurant is small and the decor reminds me of a cute country farm store. If you go you must get their bacon, a biscuit, and the grits. Hands down the best bacon I’ve ever eaten! After breakfast we roamed around the local farmers market then headed back to the house for another learning session.
Following our workshop we made a delicious salad bar lunch. The greens were all provided for us by organicgirl and we topped them with local roasted vegetables and shrimp. Somehow even after the huge breakfast I managed to make myself a giant salad for lunch too. It’s all about balance, right?
We had one last workshop, then it was time for our final dinner. This dinner couldn’t have been a more perfect end to my stay at the Watercolor! The dinner was held at Fish Out of Water in their wine room with Executive Chef Todd Rogers. The restaurant uses many local and organic ingredients as well as taking great pride in their gluten-free plates. We ate small tastings of numerous dishes prepared by the talented chef. I love eating this way so that I can sample everything instead of having to try and decide what to order. It’s a great way to try out new things, for example the octopus. I can honestly say I never would have ordered octopus on my own, but found myself pleasantly surprised by how delicious it tasted! The menu we were given was extensive and while everything was beyond delicious, some of my favorites were, the Lobster and Gulf Crab Cake with Saffron Aioli, the Sake Braised Pork Belly with Asian Slaw, the Pan Seared Gulf Black Grouper with Curried Cauliflower Puree, and Mint Chutney, and for dessert the Florida Citrus Souffle with Organic Basil Anglaise. The presentation of each course was beautiful, the explanation of the food we were served was complete, and everything tasted better than I could have ever imagined.
Everything about my visit to the Watercolor Inn and Resort and Santa Rosa Beach was even more perfect than I could have ever dreamed it would be. It’s not only an ideal location for families, but couples or even individuals who are in need of a little rest and relaxation. I can’t thank Ashley and all of our sponsors enough for this experience and I hope to return and share this secret paradise with my husband one day!