When people like of Florida, they probably think of oranges and seafood. Our OJ is mainly produced for juice as opposed to California’s whole oranges, but our 1,350 miles of coastline means the Sunshine State is “swimming” in saltwater gourmet. Florida, after-all, is also the only state located on two oceans.
Here is some of the things you should eat if you spend any time in Florida:
Fried Grouper Sandwich
It seems almost a requirement that if you spend anytime in Florida near a dock or marina, you better order a huge fried grouper sandwich, complete with fries and coleslaw, and a cold one. Floridians have fried grouper sandwiches as often as the English eat fish and chips.
If you don’t like your fish breaded and fried, most restaurants offer grouper in several preparations. Most cities have contests to select the best grouper sandwich, but few places dare to serve one that isn’t large and tasty. Look for me at Frenchy’s on Clearwater Beach North with a grouper sandwich.
As a native New England I can state that stone crabs are to Florida what lobster is to Maine. Joe’s Stone Crab (1913) in South Miami Beach has been the most profitable proprietary restaurant in the nation for years despite the fact it closes down without stone crab.
This is actually a Hollywood Florida restaurant
Not every seafood restaurant in Florida wants to tackle the expense and cultivation of a stone crab populace. But if you don’t serve it right – you don’t put it on the menu.
I wanted to say mullet, but few places serve it up and it is a peculiar dish. There are lots of people in Florida who dive for eight months (August 6 to March 31) to capture their share of Florida spiny lobsters.
“Hey, this lobster can’t pinch me.”
People in New England might laugh at the size of Florida’s little red beast, but consider the fact that people don’t need a much of lobster traps and a fishing boat to catch this seafood dinner.
Like a lot of Florida dishes, this large tropical marine mollusk was diced with celery, carrots, and lime juice and deep-fried by Bahamian sailors when the first Americans arrived. Now the fanciest seafood spots in South Florida serve conch fritters or dishes, but I still prefer eating conch in a dumpy sea shack in the Keys.
They may look like Hushpuppies but they are not!
Assuming they survive another hurricane and pollution from Georgia, the Apalachicola oyster will remain a popular Florida seafood treat. Large, plump and slightly salty with a sweet finish, the Florida oyster is best when iot is served just hours from the Gulf of Mexico.
Good Ol’ Gator
Yes, it tastes like gator and I like it somewhat plain even if people want to chop a giant gator into tiny bites and marinated it and serve it with ciantro cream and chipote sauces. I say “Serve it up larger.” – we got 1.5 million of those reptiles and if saltwater intrusion hits the Everglades, we’ll have dozens of them in our swimming pools.
While they serve ceviche across the nation, seafood-crazy urban Floridians serve up ceviche like they serve up tapas in Spain. Lots of reasons for the chilled cocktail queen to be big around Miami: it came from Peru; it is served cold with a citrus sauce; and it can be fish, clams, mussels, and shrimp. Ceviche even sounds like something you want at a big outdoor party by the pool.
This is fish and shrimp ceviche Miami style
Coming from Tampa, I know the history and tradition of the cigar worker’s favorite noontime meal is an important part of Florida’s Latin heritage. I don’t know if it started in 1915 at the Columbia restaurant, but I know that it is almost sinful that some places are using mayo instead of mustard. NO MAYO!
Real Cubans are best presed like road kill.
Look at how the sandwich blended the people who came to make cigars and cigar boxes in Florida: Cuban bread with Spanish ham, Italian salami, German pickles, mojo-marinated pork, and Swiss cheese. It is a United Nations of food.
Key Lime Pie
Don’t tell people that most of Florida’s key limes were killed in a plague and Persian limes were brought in. The remaining original limes are mainly hiding in the Keys and every restaurant on US1 claims they have a tree,
I confess: this is a Fort Myers restaurant
Be sure the meringue-topped pie with the graham cracker crust is not green – a sure sign that this is a loser. Look for a thick pie.
For years Miami has consumed Latin food, Latin music, and Latin drinks. The drinks are not just found in Art Deco bars and Little Havana, but across Florida’s diverse restaurants. King of the drinks is the Mojito, that smooth mix of fresh lime, white rum, mint and simple syrup swimming with club soda.
And the next day, part of the wakeup menu at the local café will possibly be a guava-filled pastry and a cafecito, an expresso type coffee super-charged with sugar. More sugar, I believe, makes it a cotadito, Cuba’s answer to the macchiato. I am not a fan of sugar drinks so I’ll stick with my café con leche.