Tracy Caruso Eats Florida Gator
I’m a native New Yorker. I don’t miss the crap political climate and the traffic, but I sure miss the food. Every New Yorker will tell you that they miss New York Chinese food. I used to love to get alligator and broccoli from Shun Lee, a Chinese restaurant, but New York did away with the “exotic” meats and made them illegal. The good news is that I can eat all the gator I want in Florida. It’s one of several types of food strongly associated with the state, and it’s why I’ve embraced gators and this state as my home. If you’re a Floridian or thinking about moving to the sunshine state, here are Florida’s signature, mouth-watering foods you’ll want to try.
Key Lime Pie is a dessert made with a graham cracker crust, a creamy filling made with key lime juice, and whipped cream on top. It is said to have originated in the Florida Keys in the late 1800s or early 1900s and has become a popular dessert throughout the state.
Conch fritters are famous in Florida, especially in the Florida Keys. They are made by mixing chopped conch meat with batter and deep-frying the mixture. Conch fritters are often served with a dipping sauce, such as key lime aioli.
The Cuban sandwich is a popular lunch item in Florida, especially in Miami. It is made with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, all pressed together on Cuban bread. The sandwich is typically served hot.
Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, making it an excellent place for seafood. Shrimp, oysters, scallops, and other types of seafood are commonly found on menus in Florida restaurants. Fried shrimp with French fries is a particular favorite. I’m not an oyster fan, but many people love Apalachicola oysters, served raw on the half shell.
Stone crabs are harvested along the coast of Florida from October to May. The claws are considered a delicacy and are often served with a mustard-based sauce. It can be eaten both cold or hot. It’s a personal favorite of mine. I think it’s better than lobster.
Grouper is a type of fish common in the waters around Florida. It is often served grilled, blackened, or fried and is popular in many Florida restaurants.
Datil peppers are a type of pepper grown in St. Augustine, Florida. They are hot, sweet, and often used to make sauces and marinades. Minorcan clam chowder is a type of chowder unique to the St. Augustine area of Florida. It is made with tomatoes, datil peppers, and potatoes and is often served with crusty bread.
Florida is known as the “Orange State” and is one of the top citrus-producing states in the US. Oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits are grown in abundance and are a significant part of the state’s economy.
Swamp cabbage, also known as hearts of palm, is a vegetable harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees. It is a popular ingredient in southern cooking and can be found in many Florida dishes. Swamp cabbage is so popular that there’s even an annual swamp cabbage festival each year in LaBelle, Florida.
Fried green tomatoes are a southern specialty that is commonly found in Florida. They are made by slicing unripe tomatoes, coating them in cornmeal, and then frying them until crispy. I highly recommend this dish while watching the movie Fried Green Tomatoes or reading the book by Fannie Flagg that the film is based on.
Last but not least is the food that makes me proud to be a Floridian, alligator meat. Alligator is a unique protein type often found on menus in Florida. It has a mild flavor and is often compared to chicken or fish. Alligator is typically served grilled or fried.
Florida is the South, and some of these dishes sound unusual, but if you try them, you’ll become a true Floridian before you know it.
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