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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Healthy Vacation Food Finds in Florida

This is the time of year when South Florida starts filling up with visitors from colder climates in search of the sun’s warmth and ways to play outside. A getaway to golf, go boating, swimming and fishing or simply walk on the beach lures folks to the “Sunshine State” each winter season.

My colorful fishing buddies on the Naples Pier
Staying active is an important part of a healthy break, but so is finding fresh, nutritious foods to eat. Florida’s long been known for seafood places and citrus stands but there’s a lot more to discover to please ‘foodies’ on vacation today.   
Chilled Crab Gazpacho at Swan River Seafood in Naples

Organic Options
Frank Oakes and Carolyn O'Neil at his organic farm east of Naples. 
During a recent trip to Naples in south west Florida I made it my quest to avoid the well represented chain restaurants and food stores to learn what enlightened locals were serving. Right down the road from Whole Foods Market I found the bustling independently owned Food & Thought Organic Farm Market & Café.

Owner Frank Oakes, who looks a lot like actor Paul Newman in his later years, told me that everything his market sells - from soups and sandwiches in the café to shampoos on the shelf- is 100% organic 100% of the time, “We don’t fill in with stuff that’s called natural. That doesn’t mean anything. Right now I’d like to stock lemons but the only organic ones I can find are from California at ninety dollars a bushel. Can you believe in this citrus state no one is growing organic lemons?”  Oakes runs a small farm east of town to supply his market with organic produce including strawberries, tomatoes and sprouts; but the aisles are filled with foods from other organic producers, too. Cases of organic green beans from Homestead caught my eye, a major center for Florida agriculture. “People come to the organic table for the absence of toxins,” says Oakes of his customers, “But the real reason is to buy for the taste and nutrition that’s in organic foods.” 
Adorable healthy looking young gal making my smoothie at Food & Thought  
I chose a mid-morning fresh juice smoothie made with beets, apples, carrots, ginger and parsley. How did it taste? Uh, healthy.
Feel like a stroll after dinner and a scoop of ice cream? You can still go organic. Over on Naples’s fashionable
Fifth Avenue South, Marion
and Jen Schupperhauer (originally from Heidelberg, Germany) have recently opened Adelheidi’s Organic Sweets.
The bright little shop features freshly made sweet and savory crepes and baked goods made with organic ingredients as well as house made gelatos with fabulous flavors including strawberry basil, avocado honey and lime black pepper. How did they taste? Really good!

Can't write a post on Florida foods without a basket of oranges!
Organically grown ingredients are even showing up at area attractions. The café at the Naples Botanical Garden features farm-to- table lunch and snack creations prepared by chef Greg Shapiro’s Taste Buds catering team. He says, “It’s a beautiful place and now visitors can relax and enjoy a wrap sandwich or salad just as fresh as the flowers.”

Florida Fresh

It's ocean to table at Sea Salt Restaurant in Naples.
Seafood is still center stage in south west Florida. I was fishing for healthy seafood preparations and found two favorites. At Sea Salt Restaurant on swanky
Third Street South
chef Fabrizio Aielli uses just the right touch of salt from his unique collection of over 100 sea salts from around the world. The grouper cooked with tomatoes and capers was delicious and a much lighter choice than the usual fried seafood platters served elsewhere. But you don’t have to eat upscale to find healthier fish dishes.

Chef Matt and pretty server at Swan River Seafood & Market
On busy Tamiami Trail in a strip of stores, I found chef Matt Ferreira’s chilled crab gazpacho and grilled grouper sandwich with a non-mayo cabbage slaw at Swan River Seafood and Fish Market. He says “I cook with the fish and shellfish sold in our market. I know it’s fresh.”   This is my kind of Florida sight seeing.  

Sign on Naples Pier- are they serving Bait Smoothies?

Oh, and I literally ran into the Governor of Florida while jogging through park in Naples on Veteran's Day.

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