St. Augustine, Florida is one of my favorite cities. I find it beautiful, peaceful, and appealing. I try to get there as often as I can and it’s usually is a stop either to Orlando or from Orlando. St. Augustine has beautiful weather year round, historic sites, excellent food, and is vibrant. Recently, I indulged in another trip to St. Augustine with Bob and his brother-in-law, Steve. It was as delightful as ever.
Bob, Steve, and I stopped there on our way to Universal and Disney World. We arrived there on Saturday late afternoon and then spent the day there on Sunday. One of our first stops on Sunday were El Castillo de San Marco , The Fountain of Youth, and the beach. We needed to stretch our legs and we took a wonderful walk around the area. I reacquainted myself with the Castillo and found it as engaging and fascinating as ever. El Castillo looks very short from the distance but when you are close it is tall and imposing.
Spanish admiral and conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the city St. Augustine in 1567 and Spanish architect Ignacio Daza began construction on the Castillo in 1672. This edifice is the oldest surviving masonry structure in United States and the only fort to never have been captured. It was built to protect St. Augustine from pirates and British invasions. The fort transferred rule amongst 4 different governments, peacefully, six times: Spain, 1695–1763 and 1783–1821, Kingdom of Great Britain, 1763–1783, and the United States of America, 1821–date (during 1861–1865, under control of the Confederate States of America) (wiki).
That’s the brief wiki version. To experience the history go and visit. There is a rich indigenous history and almost 500 years of colonial history. Everything is marked and there are maps and websites that will walk you through the area and most of it is either walkable or you can climb on to one of the local trams. There are markers all through the site that explains different features.
We then cruised over to the Fountain of Youth and met up with Ponce de Leon. I am not a huge fan of the fountain of youth because I find it very much a let down. The first time that I saw it was years ago and I was shocked to see that was a small spring. The Spring has made a mineral water and there’s a spicket outside or you can drink some. The water is free but there is a ticket charge to access the archaeological site to access the water.
Next, we hit the beach for a bit of walk since poor Oreo was feeling like stretching her legs. She did hate the water and had a problem with go near it. Before hitting the the hotel, we geared up for some Cuban cafe to ensure that we had energy for the rest of the day which was the rest of the trip to Disney World.
St. Augustine is a melting pot of Caribbean, Southern, and European foods. It’s influenced by the fresh ingredients and the flavors of its ancestors. The fresh flavors of peppers, limes, seafood, and tomatoes make up the part of the culinary profile of St. Augustine. Some of the most popular foods are conch, shrimp and grits, gator tail, and Minorcan clam chowder. This last one intrigued me because I had never heard of it before. The Menorocons were indentured servants from Menorca and other Mediterranean islands who were brought to Smyrna, Florida by Scottish spectator Dr. Andrew Turnbull to work on his indigo plantation.
One of the interesting areas that I stumbled across is how many different types of clam chowders there are. Until recently, I only thought that there was a New England and Manhattan clam chowder. There’s New England, Manhattan, New Jersey, Hatteras Island, Minorcan, Rhode Island, and Cabo Clam. I am a fan of tomato based chowders since I have been shying from cream based soups for severals years. The Minorcan clam chowder is a close relative to Manhattan clam chowder. The difference is that Minorcan clam chowder doesn’t use potatoes and adds the sweet, tart, and spicy datil pepper. The datil pepper is indigenous to Cuba and has been erroneously credited to the Minorcans, but is the key ingredient to this wonderful dish. We’re bringing home some of St. Augustine with this recipe. Enjoy!
MINORCAN CLAM CHOWDER
1 quart of fresh clams
2 pounds of onions, minced
2 large cans of tomatoes
1 datil pepper, minced fine
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon each of thyme, salt, and pepper
2 lbs. raw potatoes, finely diced
Brown the minced onions in oil. Add the tomatoes, datil pepper, and garlic. Cook on slow until it is a paste. Meanwhile, boil the finely-diced potatoes until tender, and then add the potatoes with their water to the tomato paste. Add the thyme, salt, pepper. Mince or grind the clams, cover them with water, and cook for 20-minutes. Add the clams and their liquid to the mixture. This will make 3 quarts and can be frozen. — Recipe from “St. Augustine Cookery,” published in 1965 by the Flagler Hospital Auxiliary.