Siesta Key’s only beachfront campground
WORDS BY COOPER LEVEYBAKER
PHOTOS BY KATHRYN BRASSPIPER
Waking up outdoors feels like magic. It’s even more sublime if you’re doing it on Siesta Key and Evan Gastman is making breakfast. Gastman—the chef at The Cottage and The Hub, both on Siesta— slides a rectangle of foil with crimped-up sides onto the blistering grate of a propane grill set up at campsite number 20 of Siesta’s county-owned Turtle Beach Campground. Inside the package: lets of sea trout, bathed in lemon juice and a touch of Liquid Smoke and decorated with kosher salt and long strands of dill. Over top goes an upside-down, crazy-hot cast iron skillet, creating a small pocket of extreme heat. Little clouds of hot air waft here and there away from the grill. The foil sizzles. Stomachs rumble.
The goal today is simple. A group of guys has gathered to hang out, catch some fish and eat them. Gastman is doing the heavy lifting on the cooking end. Scott Dolan of Big Water Fish Market is on hand, too, delivering lets from his collection of exceptional Gulf species when the sh aren’t biting. And Todd Piper, the manager of Siesta Sports Rentals, has brought kayaks and other gear to keep everyone afloat.
But before they can go fishing, they need to wake up. Coffee helps, as does a jug of Bloody Marys. As the sh on the grill smokes away, Gastman cracks eggs into a small Tupperware box then shakes the plastic to break up the yolks. He pops the lid o a jar of sriracha and dumps a dose over a mix of mascarpone and more lemon juice. Once the sh has cooked through, Gastman flips the cast iron right side up and tosses in a thick brick of butter. The eggs go in next.
“It’s a twist on the same dish with smoked salmon,” New York native Gastman says about this morning’s recipe. “It’s an homage to my childhood.” The result blends the subtle smoke from the grill, the soft richness of the slowly scrambled eggs and the smooth lactose of the cheese.
And that’s just breakfast. While everyone is chowing down, Gastman’s already working on lunch, mixing a whole box of Morton salt with egg whites and chopped dill and chives into a thick slurry. He spreads a quarter of that paste onto the bottom of another foil pouch then places a whole bar jack on top of the mixture. He covers the glistening fish with the rest of the salt. After just a few minutes on the grill, the salt blend has already begun forming the brown crust that will encase the fish’s flesh and keep it moist as it bakes.
Breakfast has disappeared. Lunch will be here soon. For now, there’s nothing to do but hit the water. Grab your reel.
Big Water Fish Market
6641 Midnight Pass Rd, Sarasota
Siesta Sports Rentals
6551 Midnight Pass Rd, Sarasota
153 Avenida Messina, Sarasota
The Hub Baja-Grill
5148 Ocean Blvd, Sarasota