When most people think of Florida, they think of the sunny beaches, tropical paradise and Disney World. But what is overlooked is Florida's unique cuisine and culture in each region of the state.
Food you must have before leaving Florida:
Florida is a state that specializes in offering a melting pot of diverse foods. To fulfill your Floridian experience, be sure to have these foods during your stay.
1.Key Lime Pie, The Florida KeysVisitors from all of the world travel to the Florida Keys as a tropical vacation spot, but the cuisine is also world-renowned. The Keys are known for self-named Key Lime Pie. The Key Lime is a smaller lime than the usual Persian lime and is more tart. Known as the "official dessert of Florida," the pie's combination of sweet and tangy is the perfect light and refreshing treat for the summer.
2. and 3. Conch Fritters, Spiny Lobster, The Florida KeysThe Keys are also the seafood mecca of Florida, serving fried conch fritters and spiny lobsters fresh off the dock. Conch is a edible mollusk with an elaborate shell. Conch is most commonly eaten with a fried batter, called conch fritters, or in a chowder. Spiny lobster isn't as rich or tender as the typical Maine lobster, but cooks well grilled or steamed and basted with butter. Florida's surrounding warm waters is the only place in the U.S. where you can find both conch and spiny lobster.
4. Scallops, Oysters, North FloridaOne of Floridians' favorite pasttimes is fishing, but in North Florida, scalloping and oystering is the main game. The Florida Bay Scallop is found in Homosassa Bay, while oysters can be found in Apalachicola. In season, scallop and oyster-lovers travel from all over Florida to stock up, shucking their own oysters and scallops. Oysters are most commonly eaten as fried strips or grilled in the shell, but adventurous eaters can have them raw with a little hot sauce.
5. Oranges, Florida Florida has been growing oranges for hundreds of years and is the no. 1 provider of oranges in the United States. With various citrus such as navel oranges to tangerines to grapefruits and everything in between, there is a sour and sweet combination for everyone! Try some of Florida's finest orange juice or buy a crate of the real thing to ship home. If you're looking for a dish to merge the citrus and seafood Florida is most known for, try ceviche--citrus marinated raw fish.
6. Cuban Sandwich, South FloridaFlorida culture has a huge Latin influence, especially South Florida in the Miami-area. Try an authentic Cuban sandwich on crisp Cuban bread with roast pork, ham, salami, cheese and a pickle. Another popular dish is arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) and fried plaintains, a banana-like vegetable. For dessert, try flan--a custard dish with caramel sauce on top--or tres leches, a sponge cake. Don't forget to have a glass of sangria--offered with red wine, white wine or both!
7. Alligator Tail, Central Florida. Although Lousiana is known for their large amount of alligators, Florida's swamplands bring gator tail to the table as well. Gator tail taste is commonly described as a chewier chicken and is a very healthy lean meat. Gator tail is usually deep fried or used in spicy stews and gumbo.
8. Stone Crab, Gulf and Atlantic coast.Stone Crabs are widely sought after in Florida, but not for their bodies--their claws is where all the meat is at. During stone crab season, fisherman dive for the crabs and take one claw off. Considered a delicacy in the U.S., Stone crab meat is tender and flavorful with a sweetness to it. Stone Crab claws are usually boiled and dipped in garlic butter or spicy remoulade.
9. Blue Crab, Coastal FloridaBlue crabs are found along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coast, specifically in northern Florida. Unlike stone crabs, the blue crab's body has lots of meat along with the claws. There also is a blue crab species with a soft shell. The blue crab has a delicate texture and sweet meat and is harvested year round. Blue crabs are usually steamed or grilled and served with butter.
10. Rock Shrimp, East Coast Rock shrimp is a east coast Florida classic dish. They are found off of the east coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. Although they are small, rock shrimp has big flavor and a hard shell that only a machine can crack. Rock shrimp, like spiny lobster, can be eaten broiled, fried or steamed.
Whether it be a high class food and wine tasting or a down-home, traditional Southern festival, Florida has tons of foodie events to satisfy any palate. We've compiled just a few from all over Florida, but for more fun festivals and events, visit our Travel Calendars.
Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival, Key West. This free family-oriented local seafood feast is hosted by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen and the UF/IFAS Extension Services Office of Monroe County. Held at Bayview Park in the month of January usually.
Annual Taste of Compassion, West Palm Beach. Quantum House joins forces with the American Culinary Federation Palm Beach County Chapter to present this "Dine Around the World" with 25 of the area's finest chefs who will prepare a complete selection of gourmet tastings from their fabulous menus. Southern Wine and Spirits will provide exquisite wines to compliment each dish. At Harriet Himmel Theater, CityPlace in January.
Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival, Fellsmere. This festival celebrates another year of serving up frog leg dinners to hungry festival goers. In addition to frog legs and gator tail, the festival features a lineup of activities including live entertainment, a midway, crafters, pony rides and helicopter rides. At Mesa Park in January.
South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Miami. Join the 20,000 visitors to the famous Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival for wine tasting, great music, seminars, culinary demonstrations, kids kitchen, and dinners with Emeril and Giada De Laurentiis.
International Chocolate Festival, Coral Gables. Join us for the celebration of that divine tropical plant, the obroma cacao, the source of chocolate. For two days guests are immersed in the wonderful and diverse world of chocolate. From chocolate treats to tree sales, cooking demonstrations to chocolate sculpture competitions, chocolate will reign supreme.
Greek Fest, Fort Myers. Souvlaki, gyros, dolmathes, pastichio, moussaka, baklava, and other Greek delicacies, plus live music, folk dancing, imported gifts, and carnival rides take place at this annual event held in February.
Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City. Strawberry celebration dating back to 1930. Features daily entertainment by some of music's biggest stars, and competition ranging from cook offs and strawberry shortcake eating to clogging contests. Also includes agriculture shows, livestock, a baby contest, and the Midway with more than 60 rides. At Plant City Festival Grounds in March.
Annual Jazz, Wine & Seafood Festival, Lakeridge Winery Clermont.This signature event held in March marks the beginning of springtime and the warmer weather brings people out to enjoy fabulous live outside music and entertainment throughout the entire weekend. Local Artists and Crafters are invited to display their work. Lakeridge wine, beer, soft drinks and a variety of tasty seafood specialties will be available for purchase, along with complimentary Winery tours and tasting.
Equine and Wine, Weirsdale. Premiere food and wine event located just 3 miles from The Villages. Event to feature cusines from Central Florida restaurants. Guests will receive a souvenir wine glass to sample Florida, Domestic and Import wines. Activites also include silent auction, prize raffle, musical performances, horse demonstrations and more. Benefits the Equine Heritage Institute and the Veteran's assisted equine therapy program. At Florida Carriage Museum and Resort, the world's largest private collection of carriages open to the public.
Newberry Watermelon Festival, Newberry. Some of the favorite festival activities started many years ago and still continue today, including contests for watermelon eating, seed spitting, hog calling, pie/cake baking, and of course the "Big Melon." Melons are from local growers and are provided free to festival goers. At Canterbury Equestrian Showplace in May.
Forks and Corks Food and Wine Festival, Sarasota. World-class weekend of food and wine including extravagant dinners, a late-night kick-off soiree, and The Grand Tasting with visiting wineries, food demonstrations, delicious samples, live entertainment and a charity auction.
Taste of the Gables, Coral Gables. Kick-off event to the annual high class Coral Gables Restaurant Week. Taste of the Gables spotlights some of the participating restaurants and allows the public to vote on their favorite dish. It features live music and tasty samplings.
Key Largo Wine and Food Festival, Key Largo. Set on an island known for its bountiful tropical fruit, fresh snapper, tuna, mahi-mahi, shrimp and lobster, this ten-day festival incorporates gourmet wine dinners with cultural specialties, feasts and fiestas, palate-pleasing adventures and wines from around the world.
Orlando Magical Dining Month, Orlando. Thrill-seeking travelers from around the globe know Orlando for its world-class attractions and sunny resorts, but local foodies experience a different kind of thrill when they indulge their senses at Orlando's extensive dining facilities. This September, visitors can have a rare opportunity to indulge in some of the area's fine dining restaurants. Participating restaurants will offer three-course prix fixe dinner menus for $20 or $30, with $1 from each meal donated to a local charity.
Annual Hot Pepper Festival, St. Petersburg. Have a sizzling experience in Sunken Gardens. Festival includes a variety of pepper plants, from sweet to hot, plus pepper-themed clothing, jewelry, artwork and more. In addition there are pepper jellies, food, hot sauces, hot Latin music and frosty beverages to wash it all down. Not to be missed is the Tijuana Flats' Hot Pepper Eating Contest when those who dare will eat a mound of peppers.
Conchtober Fest, Florida Keys. Celebrate the Florida Keys life style with live music, DJs, jugglers, and the conch blowing contest at the Conchtoberfest. Local businesses in Marathon start the festivity the week before by hosting themed-party nights leading into the grand finale weekend.
Frenchy's Stone Crab Claw Festival, Clearwater Beach. Join in the fun on the restaurant's famous stone crab weekend. Feast on some of Florida's finest stone crabs with fun enterntainment and events.
Great American Cooter Festival, Inverness. Barbecue cook-off, bike rides, live entertainment, food and craft vendors, carnival rides, family entertainment, games, cooter races and more. Sunny Cooter and his friends visit local restaurants for Miss Cooter and Cooter Idol competitions. Winners are picked Friday and Saturday, during the Cooter Blast and Cooter Festival. And Cooterween, a Halloween spook-tacular, is one of the biggest outdoor costume parties in this neck of the woods.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun