Recently, I visited the island of Cedar Key, specifically to experience its dining scene (even more specifically, its well-known clams).
(If you’re interested, you can read the first blog I posted about this trip – where I write about some award-winning clam chowder – here).
Anyway, one of the finer restaurants I visited was The Island Room Restaurant at Cedar Cove, which has been around for 20 years and was recently awarded Florida Trend Magazine’s “Top 250 Award” for the seventh year in a row.
The first time I dined at this elegant restaurant overlooking a small beach was with my husband a few years ago. That day, the weather was cool and overcast. The Island Room proved to be the perfect, romantic place to warm up with cups of its house specialty crab bisque, as well as baked clams casino and a crab special in a buttery garlic sauce – all delicious. Needless to say, I was eager for the chance to go back.
This time, the day was bright and sunny and the water views from our table were stunning. I sampled Chef/Owner Peter Stefani’s mouth-watering dish called Florida Clams with Andouille Sausage and Plum Tomatoes. It featured Cedar Key clams from Stefani’s own farm, and it was served over spaghetti, with a huge chunk of crusty, homemade bread to soak up the delectable juices. Everything was so fresh – from the clams to the pasta to the tomatoes.
Here’s the recipe, which features ingredients from Florida (although I’m sure it’s OK to substitute with those from other states!), in case you’re interested:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp Florida garlic, chopped
- 48 Florida farm-raised hard clams, rinsed well
- 1 lb Andouille smoked sausage, sliced
- 3 cups Florida plum tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cups stock or Florida dry white wine
- 3 tbsp fresh Florida herbs (basil, oregano and marjoram), chopped
- 2 tbsp Florida scallions or chives, sliced
Heat a pan large enough to hold the clams without crowding over medium high heat. Add oil and garlic and cook the garlic until soft (do not burn). Add the clams, sausage, tomatoes, stock or wine, and herbs. Cover and cook until the clams open. Divide between four bowls and top with the scallions or chives.
Remember to serve over pasta or rice and with crusty bread for the juices!
And please stay tuned in the coming weeks as I’ll mention more of my culinary adventures in Cedar Key.