One has to look no further than Vinny D’Agostino’s homemade limoncello served at the King and Prince Resort‘s tavern to get a sense of how deep the passion runs here for locally sourced ingredients being incorporated into craft-made cuisine and beverages. Vinny, the resort’s new Food and Beverage Director, is just getting started here having been on staff less than year. But his previous 23 years in the restaurant business reads like a top who’s who industry profile. Crisscrossing the country with stints at The Breakers in Palm Beach, the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, and opening the highly acclaimed Bradstreet Craftshouse in Minneapolis, Vinny is now at King & Prince Resort orchestrating a culinary renaissance at the King and Prince.
You simply can’t miss southeastern coastal Georgia’s most obvious example of natural bounty when driving onto St. Simons Island. Passing over the ultramodern silver ribbed F.J. Torras Causeway, you get a bird’s eye view of vast golden hued Spartina grass marshes. Here lies a tremendous spawning ground for Georgia White shrimp, a local delicacy that Vinny has been working hard to source for the King and Prince’s signature shrimp and grits covered in Tasso sauce. What makes these shrimp so flavorful is that the Spartina grass infuses the water giving them a distinct sweetness as they mature. Although a handful of shrimping boats such as the Lady Jane take tourists out for 2 hour trawling expeditions, the local commercial shrimping fleet has been reduced from 300 down to 100 over the last 20 years. It may seem like a no-brainer for establishments like the King and Prince to buy these local shrimp instead of frozen farm-raised imports, but it all comes down to cost. Countries like Thailand have glutted the market with inferior quality shrimp bringing the price way down making it nearly impossible for the local shrimpers to break even. The only way to reverse this trend is for more people to buy local. Vinny is the self appointed brand ambassador at the King and Prince informing guests on the taste and health differences while promoting the concept of paying a few extra dollars for local ingredients. Getting over this initial hurdle of cost ultimately yields authentic regional dishes and supports local business. Luckily for Vinny, once guests have a few bites, his case is made.
Shrimp is just the beginning here in Georgia! Here’s how other locally harvested and produced foods are being incorporated into the King & Prince’s menu:
What visit to Georgia would be complete without having some homemade peach cobbler? Here at the King and Prince, peaches from Lane Orchards located just outside of Fort Valley, in the heart of Middle Georgia are layered with a Melba crust and cream cheese. Lane has 100 years experience raising peaches but even after all this time, production is still very much hands-on. Peaches are culled, picked, and packed into crates by hand before being shipped to local stores. Georgia’s cool nights and warm days produce sweeter peaches than higher yielding competitors in South Carolina and California.
Artisanal Cheese Plates
Even at many top resorts, a cheese plate on the menu with some fruits and bread/crackers appear to be an afterthought…a mere distraction until the main course is served. But at the King and Prince, seasonally produced cheeses like Aztec Cheddar, a Canadian style cheddar layered with chili & chocolate or Paris Medley, Colby cheese laced with Vidalia onions, chives, and red pepper from Flat Creek Lodge, a Swainsboro Georgia creamery, are served on a platter with farm-raised oyster mushrooms and naturally ripened berries. 95% of Flat Creek’s cheeses are made from raw milk and aged at least 3-5 months. All cheese is handmade from on site Jersey cows.
Prohibition Cocktails and Local Brews
In addition to Vinny’s house made limoncello available sporadically in small batches at the on site King’s Tavern, you will find libations that go far beyond the staid martini or Bud and Heineken on tap. Simple yet flavorful cocktails made from Southern Corn Whiskey, Plantation Vodka, or Southern Gin by 13th Colony Distilleries in Americus Georgia may be mixed with artisan orange or rhubarb bitters and fresh squeezed fruit juices.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored trip.