Boat Appétit: Life in a seafood lover’s paradise.
As boaters in Southwest Florida, one of the great activities the lifestyle affords us is enjoying a day on the water followed by a waterfront meal. And when it comes to the menu of options available in this part of the world, it is as appetizing as you’ll find—especially when you consider the opportunities to enjoy locally-caught seafood. This is something visitors from around the country come here craving, which should enhance your appreciation for your own backyard…along with your appetite. Popular and unique seafood choices are everywhere along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Here are some of our favorites:
The domestic species caught off the coast of Florida is white and lean with a mild sweet flavor. Red Grouper meat is firm with a heavy flake and remains moist after cooking. It is one of the most popular choices in this region.
Raw, cooked or smoked, oysters are another local favorite. Texture is a big part of their appeal. They are firm and slippery at the same time—or should be. The farther south you go and the warmer the water gets, the softer the oyster becomes. In contrast, an oyster from very cold water can be described as crisp or even crunchy. We enjoy and prefer the former here in Florida.
Discovered in SW Florida just before 1950, this sweet, tasty variety indigenous to the Gulf of Mexico are considered by shrimp connoisseurs to be some of the sweetest in the United States. In fact, shrimp fishermen have considered it “pink gold” since the early 1950s. And, as anyone who has heard Bubba’s lengthy monologue—in the motion picture Forrest Gump—there is no limit to the ways you can enjoy what he calls the “fruit of the sea.”
Red snapper is a firm-textured fish with moist, white flesh that is delicate and mild. It can be served broiled, baked, steamed, poached, fried or grilled. Red snapper responds well to most cooking methods. Baked whole red snapper stuffed with fresh herbs and seasoning is just one excellent recipe. Red snapper is excellent for grilling, and spring is the perfect time to fire up the barbecue. Lemon, butter and fresh chili peppers are great ways to season red snapper.
This seasonal favorite is available fresh October 15 through May 15 in Florida. A sustainable and renewable food source, the claws are harvested from the crabs one at a time—leaving the crab with one intact upon releasing them. The claws then grow back within a year in adult crabs. They can be served hot with drawn butter or chilled—usually with a cold mustard sauce.
One of the most underrated fish in the state, mullet have been a well-kept secret for as long as anyone can remember. This versatile, tasty fish can be prepared a multitude of ways and is, generally, a pleasant surprise to first-time tasters with its pleasant flavor and texture.
Your own catch
Many waterfront restaurants will cook your fresh caught fish for you. Local anglers know this well, as it is not uncommon for boats to tie up to a local seafood eatery, hand over their catch which is then cleaned and cooked to order—for a fee, of course. But we defy you to find a way to have seafood any fresher. So there you have it…a quick guide to enjoying life in a seafood lover’s paradise. This site has a map of many of the most popular waterfront dining spots for you to reference. Explore and enjoy!