Do you consider yourself an explorer of unique flavors or a daring epicurean? Do you make it a point to experience local cuisine during your travels? Then you'll be excited to learn Florida has an abundance of one-of-a-kind dining experiences. So while I'm sure you've sipped a refreshing glass of Florida orange juice, you won't want to miss these tasty delicacies and bizarre foods that are sure to give you bragging rights back home.
Alligator meat isn't exactly something you can easily pick up at your local grocer. But here in Florida, you can find it fried, grilled or smoked across the state. As seen on Travel Channel's Man v. Food Nation, Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa serves smoked gator ribs. But if you want a true "dining in the swamp" experience, check out the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp near Cocoa, where fried gator tail is listed on the menu right next to frog legs. That same "Florida Cracker" combo is also on the menu at Saltwater Cowboys in St. Augustine.
Rock Shrimp wasn't always recognized as the sweet lobster-like seafood delicacy it's known as today. It used to be, well, hard as a "rock." That was until Titusville boat-builder Rodney Thompson invented a machine that could split their hard outer shell. While Rodney developed a way to prepare rock shrimp, his daughter Laurilee created a way to serve them.
"What would happen if we cooked them like a lobster?" asked Laurilee. "Part of the fun is having them cracked and broiled with the shell on just like a lobster, then peeling and dipping them in melted butter."
And that's exactly how you'll find them on the menu at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville.
Growing up in Florida, I remember biting into one of these tiny citrus fruits as a kid and wrinkling my nose at the bitterness. "It tastes like kitchen cleaner," I told my mom. Yet I couldn't eat just one. As an adult, I've learned to appreciate kumquats as a healthy and convenient snack. They're about the only citrus fruit you can eat whole, skin and all.
You can taste them at the annual Kumquat Festival in Dade City. Looking to try this intriguing flavor in your own kitchen? click here for a kumquat dressing recipe from Chef Lawrence Klang of Fish Out of Water at the WaterColor Inn & Resort in northwest Florida.
Key Lime Pie
You may find key lime juice, marmalade and cocktails all over the place, but the most well-known Florida dessert, key lime pie, is best enjoyed right here in Florida.
Key limes are yellow in color and have a tart flavor that packs quite a pucker. The pie was invented in the late 1800s by Fern Butters and is traditionally served with meringue topping. However, Kermit's Key West Lime Shoppe in Key West makes a frozen, chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick that earned a spot on National Geographic's Food Journeys of a Lifetime.
Stone Crab Claws
These sweet, black-tipped pinchers are a seasonal delicacy. Stone crab claws are typically chilled for easy shell removal and served with a side of mustard sauce, of which each restaurant has their own secret recipe. Most coastal seafood restaurants will have them available from fall to spring.
Try them fresh off the boat at Truluck's in Naples or order a plate of claws at Miami Beach's legendary Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant.