It’s smack-dab in the middle of summer. The skies are blue, the air’s hot and sticky, and the chance of rain is almost nonexistent (at least until 3 or 4 p.m. … every day). In
other words, perfect beach weather! We here on Amelia Island are so spoiled by 13 miles of beautiful beachfront, many of us fail to truly appreciate and embrace the magnificent panoramas surrounding us. Sometimes we forget the rest of the world is kinda dull and drab compared to our island.
Way back when I first moved to glorious Amelia Island, I made it a point to go to the beach as often as I could. First I went every day, but as time went by, those soul-satisfying visits were less frequent. All of life’s everyday tedious details seemed to become more important than the relaxing, pleasurable moments spent surrounded by nature’s bountiful treasures. My life is quite busy and free time is always at a premium. Many days, it’s even tough to find time for a truly exceptional meal, and you know how that makes me feel … I’ll just say unhappy so I don’t get censored. I solve these problems by merging them into one. The trick? Combine a spectacularly flavorful repast with the casual beach vibes of the coast.
My Amelia Island beach picnics are stress-free and simple—mostly because there are specific sections of the beaches that allow us to drive directly out onto the sand. Sadler Road, Peter’s Point, Burney Park and Amelia Island State Park all allow residents (and visitors with a permit) to run their four-wheel-drive rigs on the sand, pop open the trunk, and lay out an easy picnic. No dragging those ?!*%> coolers across a parking lot of melting asphalt, no multiple trips back and forth to get chairs, towels, umbrella, toys, etc. No need to seek a trashcan or to become a slob who pollutes (just toss everything back in the trunk and empty the trash back home).
When our children were small, with enough gear to fill a boxcar, those daily visits were a breeze. We could drive right out on the hard sand. After our trunky picnic, we’d herd the kids a few yards over to the no-driving section of the beach, so they could run around and we didn’t have to worry about vehicle traffic. At the end of the day, there was no whining about a long, hot walk back to the broiling parking lot (ouch—can’t you just feel your bare feet burning on the blistering black tar?), there was no dragging those unbelievably heavy, saltwater-soaked, sand-covered towels through the dunes, there was no fighting over who carried what. We just tossed everything back in the trunk space and drove home.
Beach parking is also well-suited to elderly folks. When my in-laws were frail and couldn’t walk the long boardwalks, we could still drive them out near where the waves would dribble in toward shore, to breathe in the sea breeze, enjoy the view, see seagulls and dolphins and watch the kids romp in the surf. There’s something about a day at the beach that soothes and heals the soul. Try it! Go on a beach picnic, feed your soul as you hear the sigh of the sea and feed your stomach with my old-fashioned potato salad. What a segue!
Chef Bill’s Red Potato Salad with Mustard & Dill
• 1 pound red potatoes
• 1 oz. mayonnaise
• 1 oz. sour cream
• 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
• 1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
• 1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
• 1 Tbsp. Creole mustard
• 1/2 small green bell pepper, julienned
• 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
• 1/4 red onion, julienned
• 2 celery stalks, julienned
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Simmer potatoes in salted water with 2 Tbsp. white vinegar until done but still firm. Chill well, cut into quarters.
2. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, salt, pepper, dill and mustard; mix well.
3. Combine all ingredients, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.