Dining opportunities, like the range of accommodations available in Florida, cover the compass. Regional specialties, of course, include plenty of fresh seafood and a dynamic infusion of Caribbean and Latin American presentations.
In the major cities like Miami, Orlando or Tampa, Palm Beach or St. Petersburg, the list of cuisine choices seems endless - classic American, Cuban, French, Haitian, Bahamian, Colombian and Venezuelan. Northwest Florida, with its history and traditions from the Old South, reflects this cultural characteristic in its cuisine. Typical southern dishes are found here as they are in the neighboring Deep South states like Georgia and Alabama. Northeast Florida restaurants, on the other hand, reflect the Spanish influence of this oldest settled region of the state.
Floridians enjoy serving up the harvest from the seas in a variety of local dishes. Stone crab claws are served from mid-October through mid-May, when fisherman, primarily off the West Coast of Florida, break off one crab claw and throw the creature back into the water. The crab then grows another claw to replace the missing one. Stone crabs are served hot or cold, traditionally with a tangy mustard sauce.
A lacy pink shell surrounds the Florida Conch, pronounced konk, whose chewy meat is used in a variety of local dishes: spicy conch chowder, conch fritters and lime-doused raw conch salad. Conch specialties are served with a squeeze of Key lime and hot pepper sauce on the side.
The spiny lobster, also called the Florida crawfish, lacks the claws of the Maine lobster. Each June 20 and 21, two days prior to the opening of the commercial lobster season, recreation divers can try to coax up to six Florida lobsters from their rocky underwater hiding places. Some five million pounds of Florida lobsters are harvested annually. It is traditionally served boiled with drawn butter, stuffed, or in a variety of local dishes.
There are more than 10,000 acres of meticulously tended oyster beds in Florida, most of them in the Apalachicola Bay area of Northwest Florida. They are harvested by hand, shucked and eaten on the half shell with a squeeze of lime or tangy cocktail sauce. Other delicacies served at Florida's famous raw bars are clams, boiled shrimp and steamed crabs.
Florida's bay scallops, harvested most plentifully on Florida's West Coast from Pensacola to St. Petersburg, are smaller and sweeter than deep-sea scallops. The tasty scamp-fish is indigenous to the Northwest region and can be caught in abundance there.
These are but a few examples of the succulent bounty from Florida's seas, presented to spark your imagination. Florida is a fisherman's paradise from coast to coast to coast.