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Chef Paul presents one of his dishes

Flitter Over to Firefly

By Kathleen Walls


When you think of Panama City Beach, you usually think of the type of food enjoyed by spring breakers; burgers, fries and the like. Being known as the "Redneck Riviera" doesn't help envision a  gourmet restaurant either. Yet right in the heart of the beach city, there is Firefly proving all the stereotypes wrong by serving award winning food  fit for a king, or perhaps a president.

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle pose with Firefly staff
Photo Credit
Chef Pau; and Rick Shockley


In August when the Obama family made a short visit to show the world that the Gulf beaches are safe and fun, they choose Firefly for a Saturday night dining experience. Chef Paul Stellato served a tuna appetizer and a course of fried oysters to the First Family. For dinner, Michelle Obama had lobster, Sasha had pasta alfredo and the President had a New York Strip and shrimp. For dessert, the First Family enjoyed cr�me br�l�e. This is a restaurant that would be perfectly at home in any cosmopolitan city in the world.

In any restaurant, the chef is the mainstay and Firefly is no exception. "President Obama wasn't the first president I've cooked for," said Chef Paul Stellato. "I've  also  cooked for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. "

The fact that Chef Paul can hold his own with any chef is reinforced by BP's choice of him for the 'Spirit of the Gulf' to Team USA they sent to London for the Olympics in an effort to try and promote the Gulf coast.  Executive Manager, Rick Shockley said, "They were very excited about this honor."

Stellato is one of only eight chefs from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida that will prepare their own dishes in London.  "They're took my seafood packing it here and then shipping it over to London and I preparing it there and served it to the guests."  Stellato said, "I served it to about 800 people."

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Appetizer Seared Duck White Chocolate Cr�me Br�l�e

He confined that his secret was using fresh local food whenever possible. Our server was Landon Cole. He was meticulous in his presentation of the exquisite dishes. We started with a special appetizer as tasty as it was pretty followed with some savory she crab soup. For our entree, I enjoyed the Pan Seared Duck served with potatoes, green beans with a crawfish tomato onion broth over it. My assistant had the Filet Mignon glazed with a red wine deme and served with potatoes and asparagus. Our butters were   tomato puree, cherry and roasted garlic and really complemented the meal. We both managed to save room for dessert, I sampled the White Chocolate Cr�me Br�l�e and was delighted. Veronica had the fruit cheesecake and was equally happy.

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Firefly's atmosphere is a perfect match for its food. There is a definite Mediterranean   courtyard look. The centerpiece of the dining area is a huge tree filled with white lights. Deep within the branches you see a tiny flicker remarkably like a real firefly. It blinks on for a moment than your eye is drawn to another flicker at a different point.  Our waiter told us "it came all the way from Disney World and was shipped in four different sections and then assembled here."

Another feature is a fantastic mural of their former restaurant, Canopies.  It is so realistic, you want to go over and smooth the drapery hanging around it. If you give in to the temptation, you will be surprised to fine it is actually a part of the mural and not the soft cloth it looks like.

So next time you visit Panama City Beach, forger the burgers and fries and fliter over to Firefly. You will not be disappointed.


Chef Paul's Grouper w/ Onion Corn Relish & Creamy Crab Sauce

This is the dish he served in London.

6-8 oz Grouper
� cup Cream Sherry
1 & � lb Shallots
1 tsp Greek Seasoning
1 & � cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 oz Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Meat
4 Cherry Tomatoes (Sliced In Half)
1 Lb Fresh Corn
1 Tbls Scallions
1 oz Olive Oil
� oz Butter

Preheat olive oil in medium saut� pan over medium-high heat. Season fish and lightly flour. Place into pan & cook until golden brown. Turn & finish cooking fish, remove & set aside.

Relish: After removing fish, reheat pan on low heat. Add shallots & cook until translucent. Add fresh corn, scallions, & cherry tomatoes. Finish by folding � oz of soft unsalted butter.

Sauce: In a separate sauce pot, add � cup of cream sherry & � lb of shallots & reduce by half until translucent. Add 1 tsp of greek seasoning and 1 & �  cup of heavy whipping cream. Reduce until it thickens (blonde roux may be used). Add jumbo lump blue crab meat when finished to prevent the lumps from breaking.

Assembly: Place crab sauce on the bottom of the plate. Add onion, corn, & relish to the center of the sauce. Top with grouper.


 For more info:



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