Today was an interesting day that turned out fantastic.
The First Coast Miata Club in Jacksonville was having their monthly meeting which I wanted to attend. I also wanted to use the opportunity to visit Tom at The Parts Group which is on the way driving North from Daytona Beach… but that did not materialize. So instead I decided to take a really enjoyable ride up the A1A, Florida’s scenic route along the Atlantic Coast towards St. Augustine to sample some of their delicious Minorca Clam Chowder.
What is Minorca Clam Chowder?
It’s a red soup similar to Manhattan Clam Chowder but with added taste of Datil Pepper. According to legend the datil pepper only grows in St. Augustine, Florida and on the island of Minorca off the coast of Spain where the initial settlers to the area came from. (btw. Minorca’s neighbors are Majorca and Ibiza if you were wondering). St. Augustine was on my to-do list after the first time I visited it last December. I drove the VW Bettle rental in the opposite direction, from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach and really enjoyed that experience although it was a bit sight to see with all the damage to the buildings from hurricane Matthew.
Some readers may also remember my Connecticut lobster roll foodie tour where I complained that this was an expensive endeavor and that I should do a clam chowder foodie tour… Voila!
So multiple birds, single stone. Ticked all the boxes on this trip!
The drive along A1A was really beautiful. It’s amazing how quickly the area rebounded post the hurricane and in today’s sunshine everything looked absolutely beautiful. There are still some damaged beach access steps in Flagler Beach, but overall everything looked in tip top shape. Really makes me want to move to Florida!
I loved the “Welcome to…” signs so I stopped a few times to take a shot with each of the scenic A1A signs.
Lots of beautiful palm trees, and tons of bikes since it is Bike Week in Daytona Beach currently.
Besides the ocean the views of the Matanzas River were stunning.
First Stop: O’Steen’s in St. Augustine
Got there at about 2pm and the place was packed. I overheard there was a 30 minute wait for tables, but I was able to place an order for a bowl of Minorcan Clam Chowder at the window. It was ready quickly. I went for a short drive towards the river and ate it in the car
The soup was obviously tomato based, but unlike Manhattan clam chowder that taste wasn’t overwhelming… at least at this place. The chunks of clam were quite large, and the potato was very tasty. The pepper spice wasn’t too strong and on a cool day like today was quite refreshing actually.
I cruised around St. Augustine taking in the sights, enjoying the view like the countless tourists walking around. Much like St. Pete the old city had cobble stone streets, tight… very similar to those in Spain.
The tide on the river reminded me a little bit of Cairns in Australia.
St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, established in 1585.
Lots of Ponce de Leon references. Famous Fountain of Youth, etc.
The castle looked a lot like the one in Puerto Rico…
Lots of Spanish flags around the city.
Next Stop: Schooner’s Seafood House
The Schooner’s version was a bit more watery. The chunks of clam were much smaller, but chunks of potato and tomato were much bigger.
Oooo… what’s that? Martini Racing…
Final Stop: Singleton’s Seafood Shack
Unlike the first two places in St. Augustine this one was some 30 miles north, past Jacksonville Beach in a town of Atlantic Beach where to cross the St. John river to continue onwards on A1A you must take a ferry. (Oh how I wanted to take that $6 ferry ride with my car… but unfortunately my next destination was in South Jax not in the Northern part).
I was basically running late for my next appointment, so I didn’t immediately dive into this Minorcan Clam Chowder… but interesting observation… it cost a few bux more than the others and was about half the size. I had a bite when I got back to the house in Daytona Beach and the texture was good. I still prefer O’Steen’s out of all the three I sampled.
Driving back I noticed the Martini Racing trucks actually offloaded some interesting machinery on the shores of St. John river.
I pulled over. Asked one of the people standing around there if it was OK to take some pix… the person said “Sure!” and so I did… and them some bloody British wanker voiced his objections… so I said Alright… and walked away. Some dude followed me explaining that they paid a lot of money for those cars to be in a photoshoot for some magazine… go figure! So here’s a low budget, iPhone shot of these cars long before you’re meant to see them in some publication:
Voila… next stop the JAX Miata Club meet at yet another seafood place… stay tuned!