Eating local in the sunshine state – Part I

Noshette and I packed up the sled dogs and shed our parkas to spend some time in warm, sunny Florida. We were there to visit with my mom and to relax a bit before I had rotator-cuff surgery, but also to eat some good food.

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(Here is a shot of Noshette and a friend sitting by the beach after lunch. This scene may not seem like a luxury to many west-coasters, but it meant a lot to us)

Our first order of business was a Leon Redbone concert on Sanibel Island, which was tons of fun. While there, we toured the island on (rented) bicycles, which seems to be the way most locals and tourists get around, judging by the well-developed bike path network and several bike rental outlets on the island. We noticed some looming rainclouds moving towards us and then we heard thunder, but luckily we weren't too far from the marina, where we'd heard that there was a nice place to get lunch by the water.

We arrived at "Gramma Dot's" just before the rain came pouring down in buckets and ordered fish'n'chips and a half pound of Gulf shrimp - both local. The grouper was caught nearby and the shrimp were from the gulf, which I guess would be more 'regional' than 'local', but much better than if they were from Vietnam.

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I did worry a little about where exactly the shrimp came from, since I had lately been reading up on the shrimp industry and shrimp farming techniques, which you can get a glimpse of over at Sam Fromartz's blog, Chews Wise. In the end, we ate them (c'mon, it was pouring outside and we were starving) and they tasted great.

We really enjoyed getting around using our own energy, especially since we could see that the 4 or 5 roads on the island are pretty clogged up most of the time, and we could easily navigate the island on our bikes. We also really enjoyed eating food that came straight out of the water that we were sitting beside. It felt much better than eating frozen fish from Chile in our frigid Montreal kitchen while a blizzard raged on outside, which is exactly the type of weather that Montreal was experiencing while we were on our trip.

On our way out of Fort Meyers and back to Hallandale Beach, where my parents are located, we stopped at a small fruit stand in a gas station parking lot that had tomatoes, avocados, strawberries, mangoes, and some other produce. I was pretty excited to find some Florida fruit to eat on our drive back east, so Noshette went to ask about the origins of the food. The vendor told her that it was "all from here." She picked up a mango and noticed that it had a sticker that plainly stated that this mango was not from Florida, or even the United States of America, but from Costa Rica.

After pointing this out to the vendor, he explained that "some of them are from here". I guess he was hoping that we'd believe that the mangoes without stickers were Florida mangoes while those bearing stickers were Costa Rican fugitives. I hate when people lie, and it has unfortunately led me to distrust most people - and with good reason.

A couple of days later, back in Hallandale beach, we went looking for a small farmers market that set up in a Ramada Inn parking lot every Sunday. We found it pretty easily, and it was fantastic, but I'll have to wait until next Wednesday to write about it because the dilaudid that I was prescribed for my post-surgery pain is keeping me pretty horizontal. I will aso be talking about a new Miami restaurant called Michael's Genuine Food that serves as much local food as it can.

Until then, here's a litltle teaser of what we saw and ate at Josh's Organic Garden last Sunday in Hollywood, Florida.

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