By Samantha
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There’s a right of passage if you live in the Northern half of the country… and it’s called “snow-birding.” When it gets too unbearably cold for you to function, you fly down and spend several weeks (or several months) in Florida.

As you could probably tell from my recent posts, the winter is not really my thing. So I’ve enjoyed a few long weekend trips down to Naples, Florida to visit my family. And what do you know… there are several restaurants in the city that are serving up some delicious seasonal cuisine!

Since Florida is the Sunshine State, their growing season is a lot longer than ours here in the Garden State. But it’s also reversed: the time when they harvest the most crops is now! August (arguably their hottest month) of course offers less variety. But no matter what time of year you visit, you can expect to find more than oranges.

During my most recent visit, I visited one of my favorite restaurants, Osteria Tulia, but also tried a new spot: 1500 South Restaurant, by celebrity chef Art Smith.

Osteria Tulia is a cute little spot on the ever-bustling 5th Avenue street, with outdoor seating and a cocktail menu that will delight even the most advanced palates. I started with a refreshing Mean Joe Green cocktail of martin miller gin, matcha green tea powder, lemon honey syrup & mint. And we always (always) get char-grilled octopus, this time it was done with pickled cabbage, pine nuts, sultanas and a cipollini crema. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try the Crisp Fried Pig Ears with fennel-chili salt & lime. Even my mom enjoyed them (so you will, too).

Their pastas are always on point, but I really hope they have their Rabbit & Taleggio Quadretti next time I visit. With butternut squash, Brussels sprout leaves, black truffle jus & parmigiano, it’s some of the best pasta I’ve ever had.

But what I enjoyed most was actually the simplest of dishes: Wood Roasted Faroe Island Salmon with root vegetables, parsnip “crema-bana caoda” and hazelnuts. They do a great job with their vegetables.

And since trying new places is fun, we scored the best seat in the house at the new Italian-Southern culinary fusion restaurant, 1500 South. Our huge booth overlooked the colorful homes on Naples Bay. Since tomatoes are in season in Florida, we had to take advantage of it and try their Heirloom Tomato “Tonnato Salad” with Oil-Cured Tuna Belly, Watercress, Shaved Sourdough, Baby Zucchini and Soft-Boiled Farm Egg. Honestly, that’s a salad I could eat every day (and I am not a salad person). But then we were surprised again by ANOTHER salad that was just as fresh and delicious: Pickled & Roasted Beets with Whipped Buratta, Pistachio and Arugula Pesto.

And even though these salads were perfect, nothing could prepare us for the Whole Salt Roasted Local Snapper coming next. This thing was huge, and beautiful, and everything you’d expect from a whole fish experience. It was served with seasonal Vegetables and Carolina Gold Rice. The perfect way to end our visit in Florida.

With “Spring Break” coming up, those headed to the Gulf Coast should make their way to Naples to try these really incredible restaurants. Maybe I’ll see you there!

About the Author

Grazin' in New Jersey since 1988

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