It was time to head to Florida and visit my good friend who had recently moved there. She is a fan of the blog and wanted us to do some cooking together during our visit. We’ll call her E, since she is sort of like M from James Bond – badass, totally in charge, and likes her privacy 🙂
First of all, the last time I had been to Florida was in early 1990’s, and I have never been there on vacation or a leisurely visit. So this was something new to me. My vision of Southwest Florida was completely different than what I experienced. I expected loads of traffic and lots of “old people” (like me I guess LOL). Instead I found a really vibrant community with lots of amenities, great Happy Hour specials, excellent places to purchase wine, and lots of shopping and dining options. What’s not to love??
After a day of traveling we just wanted to relax, and E made a delicious taco casserole that night. Actually, she was the sous chef and I put it together – so nice to cook with somebody! This recipe is really good and forgiving – for example, we didn’t have enough red salsa for the casserole, so we used what we had and added some salsa verde. Same with the corn – just add another vegetable if you have it for some bulk. It was really easy and delicious, and just what we needed. Lots of leftovers!
We have a tradition when we are staying with E of having a little drink of bourbon before calling it a day. The first night we had Dave Phinney’s (of Orin Swift fame) bourbon called The Burning Chair. It is a delicious bourbon, easy going, and I would say it would appeal to those who are either new to bourbon or don’t like the burn you can sometimes get when you drink it.
The next day we drove over to Sanibel Island and had lunch at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille – super casual and yummy food! On the way home we stopped at ABC Fine Wines and Tommy Bahama’s in Coconut Point for a little retail and wine therapy 🙂 Did you know you could get a drink at Tommy Bahama’s? Who knew??
The next night we prepared the meal I want to highlight in this post. We started the day by going to DeRomo’s Gourmet Market & Restaurant in Bonita Springs to pick up some shrimp. I think if I lived in the area I would go to this market every day! The biscotti is the best I have ever have, and the store itself is just so interesting and inviting. Obviously we don’t have anything like this in Central Illinois!
When we got back to E’s house we started preparing the Key Lime Pie. Confession – we almost forgot about it! But I’m really glad we didn’t – the pie needs about three hours in the refrigerator to set up.
For our side we had the Bang Bang Cauliflower – again, so good and easy! Very flavorful too, so if you like spicy but not too hot this is for you!
On to the main dish – Spicy Shrimp with Charred Poblano Romesco. Another very simple recipe that comes together quickly. Quick note- do not turn your back while you are toasting the almonds – it does not take too long to toast them, and you do not want them burnt. We may or may not have had to do this a couple of times 😀 Good thing we had bought more than we needed! E does not have a grill yet so we cooked the shrimp under the broiler, and they turned out perfectly!
E is big on presentation as you can see – which made the meal even better!
The next day we wanted to go to brunch at Three60 Market & Wine in Naples before heading to Marco Island. This is a pretty small location, but we found out that they are expanding to a much bigger space across the street. The brunch was good – I ordered an omelet, but I had food envy for the tomato pie that E ordered. It was so delicious, and what they are known for.
When we returned to E’s house that night, we just wanted to stay in, and luckily we had the leftover taco casserole. I was able to use crescent rolls and make a “taco stuffed wreath” for dinner. I’m sure you all have done that before, and it is a good way to change things up a little bit with leftovers.
Last day in Florida! We drove to Naples and did a little window shopping in their downtown area, and stopped in at The French for a cocktail. Florida knows how to do Happy Hours the right way! Delicious cocktails and small bites held us over until we went to dinner later that night.
Dinner was at Yabba Island Grill. It was great to eat outside in December – something we can’t do in the Midwest. We started with The Original Swimps, and I had the Crispy Crab Stuffed Grouper for main dish. The Christmas decorations were beautiful, and it was a great way to end our trip.
Even though we were only there for a short time, I can see the appeal of either moving there permanently or being a “snow bird”. And I’m definitely not going to wait another 30 years to visit Florida 🙂