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New Flavors Infused Into The Ancient City

by Chris Pranis, Chief Epicurean Officer 'CEO,' Flavatown

St. Augustine, the ancient city, is the longest continually inhabited European founded city in the United States. And one of the most exciting food destinations in the south. Before we discuss the new, we must pay homage to the culinary history that has shaped this special and unique city. The cuisine in this part of Florida has been influenced by the Spanish, Minorcans, Greeks, Italians and Africans. Through the centuries, the shifts in cultural cuisine have impacted all that we see today on the menus of St. Augustine. One just needs to see the importance of the datil pepper and how it still influences the modern era of flavors.

Today, our once small and historic city is making a stance to be home of one of the most progressive culinary scenes in the south. As foodies gather around tables, laughing, celebrating life and the exploration for new flavors, we are witnessing classically trained chefs bringing these to our world. Chef Kevin Boose, of The Press and Simone’s Wood-Fired Kitchen, is making a name for himself as well as impacting the local food world. A classically trained chef and Culinary Institute of America grad, is using large wood fired ovens imported from Italy to infuse special nuances to his dishes at Simone’s. Besides making exceptional pizza, he puts his spin on classic dishes such as his Cast Iron Salmon Cassoulet or the tender meatballs touched with a wisp of smoke from the oven. All pizza dough, breads and pasta are made in house daily.

cast iron salmon cassoulet chef kevin boose loving our food dining guide saint augustine fl
Chef Kevin Boose's Cast Iron Salmon Cassoulet

New Flavors

A real interesting flavor that is now popping up on menus in St. Augustine is harissa. This Tunisian hot chili paste is deep with flavors and complexity from all the spices and herbs. To experience an exceptional use of this ingredient one has to visit the Sainte-George restaurant for their harrissa roasted vegetable platter. Add a protein to it and let the heat, dynamic contrast, subtle smoke and herbs take you on an imaginary trip to the Mediterranean.

We have also seen the introduction of cuisines from South America. Chefs with Venezuelan, Colombian, Argentinian and Peruvian training are introducing some serious flavors. We are seeing the bold flavors of the aji amarillo pepper, the creamy Huancaina sauce, picada Colombiana, chuleta valluna (pork Milanese) and an amazing variety of arepas and empanadas.

Closer to Home

Closer to home here in the south, who can resist a well-conceived version of Chicken & Waffles for brunch. Amici’s restaurant combines classic, European and an historical touch to their dish. The delivery vessel of choice is a well thought out pearl sugar waffle. Very true to the one you would find on a Belgian street corner. Crunchy warm exterior, soft and fluffy center. The southern style fried chicken is topped with datil candied pancetta and a smoked tomato aoli. Drizzle on the datil infused Whistle Pig maple syrup and you have something very special. To not mention the eggplant rollatini, with its creamy ricotta, perfectly cooked eggplant and rich sauce (or gravy depending on your birthplace) would be a sin. It’s a dish that would make nonna even cry.

Flavor Adventure

One of the most interesting flavor adventures in St. Augustine is the seacuterie platter. A seacuterie is an epicurean twist on a charcuterie. It’s comprised of a variety of cured and smoked seafood served with various accoutrements. It checks all the boxes. Smoke, savory, saltiness and sour.

Going forward in the culinary progression, the city has a super talented chef in Barry Honan. Chef Honan, formally of Le Bernadin, and has staged at Alinea and The French Laundry, is opening a Japanese noodle bar. Some of the ingre

dients and flavors that he will be bringing are Matsutake, Hokkaido Wagyu, Japanese abalone and uni. Chef Honan is a master of flavors, textures and balance. He will definitely be bringing the gastronomy scene to a higher level.

Cocktails and Dreams

Flavors don’t necessarily have to emanate from the city’s food scene. St. Augustine has a bustling cocktail scene with creative mixologists that are pushing the envelope of flavors and creativity. Cocktails are all about balance of sweet, sour and the spirit. Mix in unique herbs, bitterness and even saltiness and you have the ideal composition. Just imbibe with a First Kiss at Odd Birds or the classic Gimlet at the Ice Plant and you’ll see how your taste buds dance in ecstasy.

Next Level Destination

In addition to St. Augustine being named the South’s Best Food Town a few years ago by Southern Living Magazine, the area is also in the running to be considered a World Region of Gastronomy by IGCAT. It is a laborious initiative to accomplish. But with the talent, flavors and most of all, the loving of our food in the city, it is certainly attainable.

Chris Pranis


Chief Epicurean Officer


See this original article by Chris Pranis in the Inaugural Issue of Loving Our Food. Chris is brilliant and we Thank him for his creative energy and insight. He has a true passion for helping guide Saint Augustine to the next level of gastronomy and we're grateful for his collaboration and inspiration!

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