"And Now for Something Completely Different" as in the 1971 Monty Python movie of the same name. But that wouldn’t be entirely accurate and "And Now for Something Kinda-Sorta Different" doesn’t have the same ring. So maybe I’ll just let the blog stand without a title.
It was time for a lunch break during our walking tour of Historic Downtown Biloxi. and I knew just the place—the Half Shell Oyster House. “(The) second Half Shell Oyster House location opened in downtown Biloxi, Mississippi in May 2011. Situated a block from city hall and across from the old library, this restaurant was retrofitted from an historic two-story bank building….
The first Half Shell was opened in Gulfport, MS, and, in addition to Biloxi, there are also restaurants in Hattiesburg, MS and Sarasota, FL. The brain behind these restaurants, along with others in the Gulfport area, is Bob Taylor, President of the Gulf Coast Restaurant Group. He “…began working in the food service industry at the age of 16. During college at the University of Tennessee, he worked at Ruby Tuesday. After graduating with a degree in Business Administration, he entered management. As Bob steadily climbed the corporate ladder, he moved to different locations throughout the South to open new restaurants. He became a General Manager in 1984 and remained with Ruby Tuesday until 1990. In 1994, Bob went to work for Outback Steakhouse and transferred to the Coast, where he opened the beach location. It quickly became one of the most popular dining establishments in the area. Bob remained with Outback until hurricane Katrina entered the picture, when the restaurant was decimated by the storm surge” (Nancy Marchbanks at gotoplaces.wordpress.com).
The downstairs dining room was packed at lunch, and at one table sat a group of eleven or twelve local politicos. How do I know? Because I recognized one of them whose name I won’t reveal and will accord him/her the anonymity he/she deserves. And what does it say that at least five at that table ordered the steamed broccoli as their side? Inquiring minds want to know.
Chuck ordered the Seafood Pot Pie.
I ordered the Royal Reds—a deep water shrimp that are popular along the Gulf Coast, but with which I was totally unfamiliar.
“They were discovered, by all things, by the federal government about 30 years ago during some sort of scientific exploration or other. They were dragging nets in deep water looking for goodness knows what when they hauled up a load of these red shrimp. Soon after a band of hearty shrimpers started harvesting them and a hungry public quickly discovered a new and very tasty member of the shrimp family. Still, the cost of getting to them and bringing them to the boat limits the number of shrimpers who will make the trek to get them.
“They look like shrimp, but with a slightly different shape. The heads are noticeably larger and that means you get less meat; but not much less. And folks in the shrimp business tell me that they don’t travel well, which means if you don’t live near the coast you may not have ever heard of them. What, you ask, do they taste like? Easy answer is shrimp, but that would be selling them short. They are, to me, silky and rich with a consistency not unlike lobster” (David Holloway at al.com).
The shrimp in my order were large, easy to peel, had been cooked with a light amount of seasonings and came with a cup of clarified butter for dipping. Yes, they did taste a bit like lobster, but I missed the salty and briny flavor that you can find in a good Gulf shrimp. I did find that dredging them through the seasoned butter at the bottom of Chuck’s potato dish did perk them up a bit. And I found the texture a bit off-putting. I like the “snap” of biting into a good fresh shrimp. I am not sure that I would order them again. But then, I wouldn’t turn down a plate of them either.
Had I been ordering something else—a chicken dish for example—I would have chosen the grilled asparagus with gorgonzola cheese. But I wasn’t sure how the strong cheese would match the mild shrimp. So, instead I ordered the sweet potato brûlée—a dish of sweet potatoes mashed with brown sugar and cinnamon and then topped with more brown sugar and a large dollop of butter.
So sweet that I scrapped the idea of the cinnamon roll bread pudding for dessert and suggested that we instead share a slice of key lime pie.
Again, I am torn about my rating. The Royal Reds may not have been my thing, but I have to admit that they were impeccably prepared and other diners may love them. So I guess I’ll award 4.5 Addies since the rest of the meal was outstanding.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.