By Rachelle Lucas
One of the questions I get asked often is what kind of Florida food gifts I recommend as take-home souvenirs.
Here's a list of my favorites that I pick up pretty regularly for out-of-town friends or just to treat myself at home.
1. Florida Sunshine Spice Mix
You can't go wrong bringing home a bottle of "Florida Sunshine." It's a citrus flavored salt blend with lemon, lime, and orange zest mixed with ginger, green peppercorns, and rosebud petals. Whenever I travel out of state, I always bring this as a hostess gift since it's not a liquid, won't melt, and can easily pack in a suitcase. You can find it at the Spice & Tea Exchange which has 8 locations throughout Florida or order it online at their website: SpiceAndTea.com.
2. Salted Caramels
The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island makes the BEST salted caramels in the world. Believe me, I've tasted them all over the world. They hand-make them on site and I challenge you to try and eat just one. It doesn't look like you can order them online, but I'm sure you could call and order them on the phone. Or, you can use this as an excuse to drive out to the beach for the weekend. Call 904-277-1100 or visit their website at Ritzcarlton.com/AmeliaIsland.
3. Astronaut Ice Cream
If you visit the Kennedy Space Center, you must try the "Astronaut Ice Cream." It's a freeze-dried Neopolitan mix of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry that feels weightless and dry, but then melts in your mouth and tastes pretty creamy. Look for it in their giftshop or order it online at TheSpaceShop.com/neopicecream. It's one of the most classic Florida food gifts you can buy and is a top choice for kids.
4. Key Lime Citrus Salsa
Yes, another taste of Key Lime. At Kermit's you can pretty much buy anything Key Lime flavored or scented from soap to cookies. His chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick is my favorite dessert. But this salsa mixed with an 8 oz. tub of cream cheese makes an excellent dip for summertime. Plus, it's easier to pack this Florida citrus gift a suitcase and take home. You can find Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe in Deland as well as Key West. KeylimeShop.com.
5. Ginger's Jams
This is one food artisan whose wares you can find throughout the state. Her delicious jams can be found at several festivals and farmers markets in Florida. I'm lucky enough to find this jam at a local grocer, but you can also order it online. My favorite is the F.R.O.G. Jam, a mix of figs, raspberries, oranges, and ginger. Check out her website and festival schedule here: GingersJams.com.
6. Norman Love Chocolates
Norman Love is one of the most celebrated chocolatiers in the world, and his home base is in Fort Myers. There, he and his team hand-craft delcious artisan chocolates and truffles that are almost too pretty to eat. If you want to take home a taste of Florida, I recommend his Florida Orange, Tropical Cream, Key Lime, Strawberry, or Passion Panna Cotta chocolates. For more information about Norman Love and his shop, visit Normanloveconfections.com.
7. St. Augustine Distillery New World Gin
Craft cocktails are all the rage right now, and this unique bottle of flavorful gin is definitely a conversation piece to take home. The vintage bottle design looks like something you'd find in a treasure chest or on the beach with a note tucked inside. The distillery has recently won multiple awards and I think once you taste this gin with its hints of citrus and spice, you'll understand why. For more information, take a look at their website at Staugustinedistillery.com.
Insider tip: If you purchase the salsa or jam as a Florida food gift and you're flying home, make sure pack it in your checked bag and not your carryon because TSA considers these products "gels," which are banned.