Surrounded by water and boasting a warm climate year-round, Florida is ideal for citrus and other tropical fruits to thrive in, making the state the nation’s top producer of not only oranges, lemons and grapefruit, but coconuts, mangoes and papaya as well. These delicious fruits appear in salads, desserts and everything in between. Citrus is paired up with a wide variety of seafood, another bountiful food source in the state; ceviche is a popular dish in which seafood is prepared using only the acid of a citrus juice. Citrus and fruit marinades and salsas are also frequently seen in Florida cuisine, a reflection of the Caribbean and Latin influences throughout the state’s history.
Cuisine in the Florida Keys
If you order ceviche in the Florida Keys, it will most likely be prepared with conch. The conch is a large sea snail that lives in a giant spiral shell, and so many of these creatures live in the Keys that it is referred to as the “Conch Republic.” A ceviche of conch meat soaked in lemon juice cannot be missed, or perhaps another Florida favorite, conch fritters, may be more to your taste. Floridians enjoy lightly battered and fried foods, from seafood to vegetables and beyond, and conch meat gets the treatment as well. The chopped conch meat is blended with celery, onions and peppers, formed into small balls and deep fried. Delicious!
The southern coasts of Florida are home to a cuisine that features flavors from many Latin cultures. Cuba, in particular, has greatly influenced the food of this part of Florida; dishes with a Cuban accent include arroz con pollo; black beans with white rice; fried plantains; and the mojito, a cocktail made from crushed mint, lime juice and rum, which has surged in popularity recently. Other kinds of dishes with a distinctly Latin or Caribbean influence include empanadas, jerk chicken and arepas.
The Cuban sandwich, or Cubano, is sold at stands all over South Florida. The sandwich is thick, filled with ham, roast pork and salami, as well as cheese and a pickle. The sandwich is pressed, the bread toasted, and the result is chewy and delicious.
The Emerald Coast
One of the most visited areas in the entire state lies along the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle. Located just north of Panama City, the 26-mile stretch of beaches and communities known as South Walton is noted for its diverse culinary scene, one that features fresh seafood and locally-sourced ingredients. A natural aquifer in the area is home to a hydroponic farm that provides freshly grown greens to restaurants in the area, and many restaurants, such as Roux30a in Grayton Beach, offer you the opportunity to literally catch your own dinner and participate in its preparation.
Whatever part of the Florida coast you choose to visit, whether you stop for a few nights or plan a lengthier stay in one of the deluxe Blue Green Resorts rentals, you can be certain that you will find a rich variety of traditions and tastes just outside your door. From Southern favorites to seafood specialties, fresh ingredients and unique preparation make Florida cuisine an attraction itself.