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Gulfport – FL’s Best Kept Secret, Part 1

Jim and Alex, Our Hosts - Peninsula Inn and Spa

Pulling into Gulfport we were met by Lori, owner of Sea Breeze Manor,  with open arms standing in the middle of the street in front of home of the next 2 days, thePeninsula Inn and Spa.

What a great location right in the middle of this “best kept secret on the west coast of Florida”. The town has a very eclectic feel to it. Covering only a bit over 2 square miles, it has a Key West atmosphere with a small scale intimacy. Two claims to fame is that there are no parking meters and everybody is in Island Time mode.

It could be described in many ways as the “Sampler City”. It has a sampling of people with families, retirees, a gender friendly presence and diversity of ethnic culture. It has a sampling of stores that range from craftsman to artsie-fartsy boutiques to food and many more. A total of 15 restaurants participated this past month with “Sampler Platters” added to their menu from June 23 to July 23 in honor of the Rand McNally USA Today Road Rally. They highlight their specialties in small portions. This has been such a hit that many of the restaurants will continue this feature.

Lunch our first day was at Peg’s Cantina. Her sampler plate consisted of a Mini Shrimp Burrito, Mahi Fish Taco and an Aztec Salad. All the senses were touched. Sounds great, looks great, smells great and tastes great. All and all a great combination. They have won severalmedals for their home brewed beer. To support the local farmers they have a farm to table menu of entrees for their clients. Their chef sautés, poaches and bakes but no frying. Peg’s Cantina is a healthy and fun eating place with a quaint pub atmosphere.

We spent the afternoon enjoying a walk around the down.  T and Me welcomed us in for a cup of tea and a healthy snack. What a wonderful place. They offer a fresh brewed tea (either hot or over ice), and a unique twist on ice tea called “FROST TEA” a fresh brewed tea slushy for the inner child in all of us. What a great way to take a break.

Gulfport has wonderful Art Village shared by many varied artists.

The Industrial Arts Center, a local non-profit 3-D arts education center, co-founded by Jackie Ballard, was ready for us. This was a Fun Finder delight. The art of glass blowing was in full swing and Jim noticed that I would really enjoy trying this out. Oh, yeah. What a team.

I got to make my own ornament from start to finish from spinning the glass on the rod in the oven, adding color(red, white and blue for the holiday), back to oven a couple of times and finally the blowing. It is a lot harder than it looks. I gave it all I had and finally have my piece to take home.

A wonderfully hospitable group again. They had made us a hand blown glass clown (we are the Parr Clowns) to take as a souvenir. Thank you, Jackie.

A brief stop at Owens forge to see his metal art and on to more food.

A cool down time was in order so we enjoyed some Ice Cream at Yummy’s. It is  more than an ice cream shop. Their Sampler plate was a ½ Italian beef sandwich with a side of natural gravy, perfectly prepared Chicago dog and Yummy veggie wrap.

Lori took us  for a private shopping tour of the local shops including Can San, Antiques, Outpost, Bo Tiki, and Renee’s Domain.

Our Friend Jac'line

More FOOD and Fun at the “meet and greet” time at the Peninsula Inn.

Elvis Even Showed Up! and wearing a map hat!

What a theme. Everyone was wearing hats individually designed and all constructed from Rand McNally map pages. Way cute.

The buffet of Sample Plates was sponsored by four local restaurants.

Island Flavors and Tings

Crab Cakes,Fritters, Fried Green Tomatoes and Cheddar Cornbread

La Cote

Jamaican Beef Patty, Jerk shrimp cocktail skewer w/Hawaiian tostones, Red Stripe-marinated jerk chicken with peas and rice, macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi with fruit salsa, and Helena’s mango bread

Smokin’ J’s BBQ

Sliced Beef Brisket pulled pork and Baby Back ribs

Tangelos Grille

Conch fritters, pumpkin coconut fritters and veggie fritters

Roast Pork, chicken mojo sandwiches, sweet potato fries and more.

A local band performed for the with various singer including Jim.

Amazing Story:

One local man we met was Sterling Magee. What a life story to tell. He is 72 years old and a guitar player of old. Raised a preacher’s kid in Mississippi and went off to be a musician. He played with Bo Diddley, Etta James, James Brown and toured with George Benson in the 80’s. At that time he nick named “Five Finger Magee”. But them he had a stroke while working as a “has been” in Harlem as a street musician. He was recognized in a Gulfport nursing home very withdrawn and tapping his foot to some music. The rest is history for Gulfport residents brought him to Peninsula Inn to relax and join in the music. Through time and the compassion of the community he regain his music memory and skills and now participates with the bands. A miracle from a miraculous community!

Seems like everyone knows everybody and that they take care of their own.

Can you believe more food coming with Dinner at Backfin BlueWhat can be said but crab, crab and more crab. Their Sampler Plate included Crab cake, Crab Imperial on portabella mushroom with fire raosted red pepper cream sauce and corn crab chowder.

Hope your mouth is watering for all this food. Next Jim and I loaded up for
Pinellas Hope, Tent City. See our “Home for the Fourth” post. (click here)

Wow! That was the first day! More on the 4th of July. It’ll be in our next post.

Keep On Laughing

Jim and Bonnie, The Fun Finders