In the heart of the bustling beach town of Rosemary Beach, Florida, stumbling onto The Pearl is like finding an oasis in the desert. This is a location of critical importance, as it is near the water’s edge, where one can replenish, refresh, and become renewed, at the full service luxury resort.
Whether arriving alone, as a couple, or with family, flip-flops are welcome at The Pearl’s casual coastal retreat, boasting 55-rooms, many with Gulf views, and balcony doors that swing open to invite in the cool, salty breeze, a view of the idyllic town, or destination pool with cabanas below. The Pearl’s guest rooms exude comfort, and are professionally decorated with elegant style, and art deco furniture. It is no wonder that The Pearl is ranked #1 among the Best Hotels in Florida: Readers’ Choice Awards 2014 by Conde Naste Traveler, and most recently received a 4-star rating from the 2015 Forbes Travel Guide.
When hunger strikes, head to Havana Beach Bar & Grill located within the hotel property on the first floor, south of the lobby. Step back in time to a restaurant inspired by Hemingway’s Club, heavily influenced with Cuban décor and vibrant artwork. Revel in the cuisine of Gulf Coast Americana, with old world Spanish, Portuguese, and French flavors, while enjoying a meal outdoors on the Veranda, or in the spacious dining room with magnificent bar, where a player piano belts out old favorite tunes. A sight to behold and modeled after El Floridita, the hangout of Ernest Hemingway, the bar at Havana Beach is a hot spot for locals, with over 300 bottles of wine to savor, and 40 served by the glass.
St. Joe Club & Resorts took over management of the property in 2014, and brought in talent from the national and local culinary scene. The chefs at Havana Beach Bar & Grill support regional growers, purveyors and fishermen, and source meat, fish, and produce from small production, family-owned businesses within 250 miles of the restaurant. You will find Covey Rise Farms, City Green Farms, Ocheesee Creamery, and Camp Flowers Honey in the presentations prepared, just to name a few. I opted to have the tasting menu in order to see what was new in the kitchen. They have taken culinary in a different direction, and are featuring modern dishes with international influences and coastal flare. What you will find on the plates is fresh, sustainable produce and organic proteins that create a flavorful and exciting experience. The restaurant cures its own pork belly, they make all stocks in house, and smoke their own meats.
The meal began with a trio of pastries prepared by the onsite pastry chefs. If looking for the best popover in the Panhandle, you will find it here. Next came a plating of savory and satisfying house made sausage with bacon jam and mustard sauce, where I honestly could have stopped, as it was enough to write home about. The U10 diver scallop arrived seared to perfection, and was served with seasonal multicolor baby carrots, turnips, red potatoes, and was presented on beet gel. I happen to adore beets, and thought the components of the dish were bright, fresh, and a favorite of the evening. That was until the braised short rib over parsnip purée arrived. A plating of desserts presented to end the meal were decadent, refined, and included a semi frozen coffee custard, tres leches cake, apple empanada’s, and house made ice cream with shortbread. Don’t plan to count calories here, and I can only give my highest praises to the team of chefs, bartenders and servers.
If finding any room in your belly for breakfast the next morning, take note of the make-your-own Bloody Mary bar that is stocked with 30 different vodka’s and almost a dozen mixes, one created locally by Whodini Sisters. There is no need to rush, as it is available from 8am to 3pm daily, allowing you to linger and savor each moment.
“The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography”, said Federico Fellini, an influential Italian filmmaker of the 20th century. After my stay, I found his quote to ring true about The Pearl at Rosemary Beach.
Havana Beach Bar & Grill is located at 63 Main Street, Rosemary Beach Florida 32461, inside The Pearl Hotel. Dinner is served 5-10 pm daily. To make a reservation, please call (850) 588-2882, and for more information please visit www.thepearlrb.com.