Whiffs of fruit and oak season the air in the Village of Baytowne Wharf during the annual Sandestin Wine Festival, a three-day event now in its 26th year. Vintners uncork more than 700 wines aged in America and abroad, including rare and specialty varietals parceled out during charity wine auctions. Novice tipplers learn basic wine styles and pairings as they explore the Grand Tasting and special events such as “Winemakers and Shakers,” which matches wines with gourmet meats and cheeses. As live music floats across the grounds, special lectures enlighten curious festivalgoers on topics such as biodynamic wines. New cooking demonstrations in the culinary tent include a Sunday session led by Stinky’s Fish Camp’s executive chef, Jim Richard, who will divulge the secrets of Spanish paella—a dish renowned for its compatibility with red wine, white wine, and grape-flavored Juicy Juice ($20 per demonstration). When guests empty their stemware, they can track down their favorite wines of the day in the onsite retail tent and take bottles home to savor and share.
The instructors at Destin Pilates Center incorporate both Pilates and yoga principles into their workouts. In addition to offering reformer classes, the instructors also lead aerial silks classes where students learn how to climb and pose with two pieces of fabric hanging from the ceiling. Destin Pilates Center is a Pilates Method Alliance certification studio in the area for Balanced Body University, which is one of the largest manufacturers of Pilates equipment.
The Boathouse Oyster Bar has shucked local Apalachicola oysters and ladled specialty gumbo at their harbor-side restaurant for a quarter-century. With gulf winds gently blowing through the open-air dining area carrying breezy live tunes, customers can slurp raw oysters ($5.95 half-dozen, $7.95 dozen) or polish off prepared pearl-maker varieties including the Baked Action oysters, doused in butter and flavored with onions, bacon bits, and melted mozzarella ($13.95 dozen). In addition to rib-sticking bowls of gumbo ($7.95), The Boathouse Oyster Bar's chefs prepare savory fruits of the sea such as grilled or fried mahi-mahi ($15.95) and a one-pound-plus stack of Alaskan snow-crab legs, which can be placed on fingers to span large intervals on the piano ($18.95). Landlubbing appetites can be sated with juicy burgers ($8.95+) and sandwiches such as grilled chicken ($8.95) or Black Angus prime rib ($12.95).
Kilwin's crafts 32 flavors of its own ice cream, 13 varieties of fudge, and a cornucopia of other sweet treats made from scratch and in store when possible. Crowns of New Orleans praline pecan and fudgie brownie ice cream regally adorn cake or sugar cones ($3.75 for single) as well as store-made waffle cones ($4.25 for single). Sixteen-pound batches of 200-degree fudge spill onto a marble table where chocolate tamers paddle the molten beasts to a creamy consistency ready for sampling or purchasing ($14.95 for 1 lb.). Decadent caramel apples employ a caramel made from scratch to glaze crisp apples made from apple seeds ($4.50 each) as popcorn overflows Kilwin's copper pots and dons a coat of cinnamon ($6.50 for 1 lb.) or peanuts and caramel ($8.50 for 1.25 lbs.).
Scenically perched over the Gulf of Mexico's inviting waters, the seafaring chefs at Harbor Docks whip together tasty treasures crafted from the sea's naturally briny bounty. A parade of ceremonious appetizers opens oceanic feasts with fried crab claws ($10.99+) and fried grouper cheeks ($10.99); stuffed mushrooms are filled with less expressive, but equally delicious lump crab and monterey jack ($11.99). Famished fishermen can sink teeth and hooks into the market-priced catch of the day, culled from Harbor Docks's wholesale market and prepared to your taste, whether you prefer your fish blackened, broiled, sautéed, fried, chargrilled, or converted into a fetching hat. Sushi seekers can take a delectable detour through Harbor Docks's extensive menu of rolls and nigiri, nibbling traditionally prepared bites such as the eel- and avocado-laced Banzai Roll ($8.99). Or rub rice-y elbows with remixed creations such as the Cowboy Roll ($8.99), which corrals hunger using a combination of steak, green onion, and tiny seaweed lassos.
Only a short walk from Miramar Beach, Fajitas Grill whips up authentic Mexican family recipes with a menu of sizzling fajitas, seafood, and specialty dishes. Heaping foothills of beef or chicken nachos ($6.99 for half order; $8.99 for full order) solicit tortilla excavations beneath a steaming layer of melted cheese. Waiters sidle up to tables, arms meticulously stacked with tacos, enchiladas, or sirloin-steak fajitas ($15.99 each), still sizzling beside sautéed gardens of grilled bell peppers and tomatoes. As diners head-bob to the sweet notes of mole poblano ($13.99), a Seven Seas soup ($18.99) offers a peek into a dolphin’s sombrero with a steaming crock of shrimp, clams, and seasonal fish. Modern hanging lights and a rolling yellow ceiling canopy encircle the eatery’s fully stocked bar, where patrons can sip house-made sangria or bob for limes in a 60-ounce margarita pitcher.