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.
For more than two decades, Bud & Alley’s, winner of Florida Trend magazine's 2010 Golden Spoon Award, has sated appetites with steak and seafood fare and filled eyes with panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico. After taking a seat in the relaxed yet elegant dining room, guests peruse the dinner menu's tempting entrees, such as steamed Prince Edward Island mussels flavored with thyme, feta, and a kick of chili flakes on grilled tuscan bread ($24). Southern-inspired sides enhance seafood plates, from a seared red snapper teamed up with sweet dill succotash and okra ($31) to seared diver scallops paired with creamy grits, fried capers, and an edible bust of William Faulkner ($32). A fillet steak served with portobello mushrooms and asparagus ($33) sets the stage for a classic romantic meal as couples clink and enemies hurl martinis or glasses of wine across the table ($8+). A visit to the rooftop bar infuses meals with a festive mood as revelers enjoy spectacular ocean views and sample a selection of top-shelf tequilas from Jose Cuervo, Patrón, and Sauza ($9).
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.).
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.