Palm Valley Fish Camp: An Afternoon Lunch (Ponte Vedra, Florida)

Originally published in 2013:

Recently I stopped by for lunch after being out shooting some photos, my other passion.  I was immediately greeted with a smile and an eager server.  I was asked if I’d prefer to sit at the bar or a table.  I don’t sit at the bar often these days after my liver transplant, as it brings back memories of a time in my life I have put into the past.  I chose a booth with the sun nicely warming my side of the booth.  I read down the daily specials board as my waitress went to get me my soda.  My plan had been to order an appetizer as I didn’t feel I was starving.  I was quickly drawn to the fried green tomatoes and maybe a side of their bacon butter beans which I love.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Bacon Butter Beans

Ready to order the waitress returned with my soda and offered to explain the specials.  I agreed even though I was certain I knew what I was going to have.  I smiled and said, “I’ll have the cod special.”  She had sold me on the roasted cod knowing I could have the fried green tomatoes and butter beans anytime.  I realized this would be my first time here not having the bacon butter beans in nearly a year.  I love them that much.  I waited and watched the interactions of the staff as they took orders, filled drink orders, interacted with the cooks and delivered each meticulously designed plate.

Specials Board

Soon my meal arrived, roasted cod with black-eyed pea succotash, and squash puree all resting on a fried green tomato.  I instantly knew I had ordered the right meal today.  There was a voice in the back of my mind screaming out for a side of butter beans, but I ignored it on this occasion.  It is rare when I am at Palm Valley Fish Camp that I will order anything that is not a local wild sustainable fish, but the cod was very fresh and flown in from the west coast.  The cod was lightly roasted with just a bit of color and flaked off easily so you could see how moist it was.  One of the things that keeps me returning over and over again is that they hardly ever overcook a piece of fish.  It sounds easy, but I’ve lost count at how many seafood restaurants server a dry tasteless and thoroughly unsatisfying fish fillet.

Roasted Cod

The cod had a nice salt balance which was perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the fresh corn and black-eyed pea succotash.  My first bite was of the fish alone.  It was very pleasant, but did not blow me away.  When eaten with the succotash the flavors melded into a delightful light tasting lunch.  The squash puree was richly sweet and left me perfectly wanting more.  Then there was the thick sliced fried green tomato upon which the cod rested.  It was nicely crisp and hot inside with just the right amount of breading.  The tang of the tomato was a nice counterbalance to the lightly roasted cod.  After all the fried green tomatoes was what I had planned to order the whole time anyway.  I was very pleased that my waitress had enticed me with her suggestion of the special today.  I would go away with only a slight yearning for their bacon butter beans, but I’ll be back and quite soon I am sure.  It was a great lunch for only $16.00 with the soda.  As I left I made reservations for the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I wonder if I’ll make it the two weeks between visits.  I know those bacon butter beans will be calling me to return sooner…

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