Despite our reputation to the contrary, we Floridians know our state to be a fine-dining destination with a thriving farm-to-table movement. Our proximity to the freshest seafood coupled with an enormous variety of locally grown produce makes the state home to a vibrant dining culture that features organic meals, creative and eclectic flavor combinations, and an impressive number of craft wineries and breweries.
In Sarasota, spurred by the head chef at Indigenous restaurant, restaurateurs affiliated with the Chefs’ Collaborative, a national food sustainability organization, have hosted a series of Trash Fish Dinners to showcase underused, sustainable species. These feature creative preparations of plentiful fish that have not caught on as eating fish. The event is now a sold-out affair that has run for its third straight year.
Many restaurants in our larger cities are also trendsetters in artisanal food preparation. At Cask & Larder in Orlando, beer is brewed on site and all pickles, jams, preserved fruits, and cured meats are house-made. The city’s East End Market is a local market and culinary hub inspired by the region’s farmers and food artisans. And Sarasota hosts an annual Florida Winefest that features vintners from around the state as well as from New York, California, Washington and farther afield, from Italy and France. Perhaps that’s because Florida is among the top ten winemaking states in the nation! Surprise, right?
Our cities offer traditional fine dining, as well. Restaurants featuring some of the country’s finest cuisine and service are easy to find in larger cities like Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg. Smaller cities like Sarasota, Winter Haven, DeLand and Bradenton also offer upscale dining. And don’t forget the celebrity-chef-driven options that continually sprout up, as well. Orlando alone is home to eateries by Emeril Lagasse, Rick Bayless and Todd English as well as James Beard Award luminaries Norman Van Aken and Melissa Kelly.
And for those of us who want to get out and see where our food is grown and our spirits distilled, there are plenty of local farms and farm stands, wineries, breweries and distilleries that offer tours and tastings. It’s a perfect outing just for you or for you and 50 of your closest friends.