Key Lime Pie
A visit to Florida is not complete without a proper slice of the famous key lime pie for dessert. Made with fresh limes, egg yolks, condensed milk, and often topped with meringue, this tart-but-sweet treat originated in the Florida Keys and is where you will find local restaurants selling the most authentic version. Don’t be fooled, the true version of this creamy pie sitting in its famous buttery crust is yellow and not green!
Florida’s most famous export besides oranges may be Key Lime Pie. Named after the small, tart, aromatic limes commonly associated with the Florida Keys, the meringue-topped pie combines the tangy lime juice with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolk, all poured into a graham cracker crust. Variations appear on virtually every menu south of the Georgia border, but not all key lime pies are created equal. (Rule: Never trust a bright green filling!) The version found at Ma’s Fish Camp in Islamorada is prepared according to traditional Conch guidelines, well-balanced honeyed, citrusy base, piled high with sweet meringue.
Fried Gator Bites
One of the more exotic dishes on the list is the Florida alligator. While it might sound strange, the fresh alligator meat is mostly served from the meat of the tail, often soaked in cornmeal, fried, and served in small bites known as fritters. While frying is the most popular version, you can also find it stewed, blackened, in a chowder, and even in cheesecake. Popular throughout the state, this meat unsurprisingly tastes similar to chicken.
If you visit Walt Disney World when in Florida, a Dole Pineapple Whip should be a part of your itinerary. With a cult-like following, this beloved frozen pineapple treat has copycat recipes all over the internet. However, to taste the most authentic version of this delightful dessert you will have to visit a Disney park. Served in a cup or as a float, nothing will beat the heat like this creamy and refreshing pineapple flavored piece of heaven.
Straight from the Florida Keys, conch is a delicacy that is abundantly found in this area, so much so that the region is sometimes referred to as “Conch Republic”. Hiding delicious meat underneath their shells, conch is a large shellfish typically soaked in lemon juice in order to tenderize it and then used to create dishes like ceviche, chowder, and the most popular, chopped and fried into conch fritters.
The Cuban Sandwich
Originating in early Cuban immigrant communities in Florida, particularly in the cigar producing cities of Tampa and Key West, the Cuban Sandwich also known as a Cubano, is a fancy and delicious type of ham and cheese sandwich. Eventually Cuban expatriates introduced the sandwich to Miami.
The sandwich is layered, much the same as a sub or hoagie, with ham, Swiss cheese, roasted pork, pickles and mustard all on Cuban style bread. Sometimes for a little variation salami or lettuce and tomato will be added. That’s it!
The bread itself is unique. It’s a white bread shaped like a baguette with a soft crust. It’s similar to Italian or French bread, but what makes it different is the addition of lard to the dough. Sometimes if Cuban bread is not available, the sandwich will be served on ciabatta.
Stone crabs are a Florida delicacy. Due to this, there are strict harvesting regulations to preserve the population of these creatures and only the claws are allowed to be consumed. Wildlife advocates insist only one claw is removed per crab before they are set free again, allowing them to regenerate and be harvested for the future. This special dish of sweet delicious meat is served cold with tangy mustard sauce for dipping, perfect to indulge in on a hot summer day.
Maine has lobster. Florida has stone crabs, rock-solid rose-hued claws that nearly require an axe to break through their exoskeletal shell. The hearty lobster-like hunks are meat are worth the effort, but it feels more indulgent to let someone else do the hard work. For that, there’s no better place than Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach. The restaurant has sold its namesake dish since 1913, well before Miami Beach was incorporated as a city. After more than a century, the seasonal, no-reservations restaurant is busier than ever, and guests can expect a lengthy wait. However, for those looking to grab a claw and run, there’s a convenient take-away shop tucked on the side of the building.
Grouper and Snapper
Grouper and Snapper are two of the state’s favorite bottom fish and are served so fresh that you are sure to feel like you’ve stepped on a faraway tropical island. Snapper is a favorite with locals for it’s sweet and succulent characteristics and Grouper is often paired with citrus, blackened, or served in a sandwich. Both fishes are great choices if you’re looking for a light and healthy meal to satisfy your taste buds.
The Salty Donut
Perhaps the most well known of South Florida’s donut shops is The Salty, a family-owned artisan donut shop famous for its around-the-block lines when it first debuted. Now that there’s several locations, it’s much easier to score these scratch-made cake-sized sweets. Flavors rotate seasonally, but you can always count on the Maple + Bacon, Guava + Cheese, and Brown Butter + Salt.
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