A Food-Filled Trip to Florida
For the last two weeks in November, I was able to enjoy the most amazing working vacation ever – all thanks to one of my besties, Bekki. While staying with Beks and her hubby at their house in Florida, I was able to relax, get away from my noisy NYC apartment, catch up on work, and do a million other things that I’ll blog about later. And, of course, there was the food. SO. MUCH. FOOD. Because when a current New Yorker and a former New Yorker go anywhere in the world, you better believe a series of impromptu foodie moments are gonna happen. Thank gawd I was able to carve out some time for hardcore HIIT workouts.
Here’s some of the best food-filled highlights from my trip to Florida:
My first Friday night in Florida, Beks and I met up with my friends Nick and Jessie (also former New Yorkers) in St. Pete’s for some cheap @$$ drinks at an awesome dive bar called Mastry’s. Afterwards, the boys took us to Hawkers – a lively, roomy restaurant specializing in Asian street food. I ordered a sparkling sake and let the other three do the rest. As an endless stream of small plates filled our table, everyone went silent. That’s how yummy it was. I couldn’t even take any decent photos of the food, because each dish was half gone within seconds.
I loved the atmosphere at Hawkers, especially since I’ve become so accustomed to New York City’s cramped dining spaces. And if you’re an NYC transplant living in Florida, Hawkers’ pork belly baos are a nice substitute for Eddie Huang’s Baohaus on East 14th.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best key lime pie I’ve ever eaten. Freshly made from a hole-in-the-wall bakery, I loved how the graham cracker crust was extra thin, leaving extra room for the silky, custard-y, key lime-y filling. You’ll have to try it yourself to understand the perfection that is J.J. Gandy’s.
Another fabulous night with Nick and Jessie! The boys invited us over to check out their new apartment, and ordered in a crap load of sushi – a very NYC-style night in. Naturally, lots of booze was involved as well.
Charlie’s Fish House
After taking Beks for a morning swim with manatees in Crystal River for her birthday (MUCH more on that to come later), we had lunch at Charlie’s Fish House nearby. It was a no-frills joint that totally satisfied my monstrous craving for fried seafood. We started off with the calamari, which was perfectly tender and not too greasy, and followed it up with more fried bombness. Fried okra, oysters, flounder, clam strips, scallops, etc. I never get to eat this stuff in NYC, so I figured… “when in Florida…”
After a 4-hour road trip out to Palm Beach Gardens to see my big brother and his family, my sister-in-law treated us to lunch at D’Angelo’s. Leave it to a former New Yorker (are you starting to see a trend here?) to know exactly where to find the best pizza in Florida. Seriously, it was just as mind-blowing as any slice you’ll find in NYC – which isn’t surprising, since the owner is originally from Staten Island. If we didn’t have to pick up my nephew from school, I probably would’ve stayed to eat an entire pizza myself.
I know we all eat the same stuff on Thanksgiving, but for real – Beks and I haven’t lost our Turkey Day magic. This was the first Thanksgiving we’ve spent together since she moved to Florida, and we whipped up our tried-and-true specialties from scratch, just like we did back in the day. After 6+ hours in the kitchen, it was totally worth it.
After stopping by Clearwater Beach and driving through town, Beks treated me to Rita’s Italian Ice. I grew up with more of a “Kailua Beach/Hawaiian shave ice” combination, but this cherry Italian ice from Rita’s is a definite rival.
On my last day in Florida, Beks took me out for a yummy brunch at Lenny’s diner. To put it bluntly, Lenny’s is the sh*t. Filled with quirky decor, funny signs to read on the ceilings, and some dude who goes around making balloon hats for people, the menu is as lengthy as an NYC diner – but at a fraction of the price. I ordered a mimosa (naturally) and the lobster Benedict, which was satisfying and perfectly poached. And the best part? FREE BASKET OF DANISHES FOR EACH PERSON.