After 33 days traveling, we have yet to eat in a restaurant. Restaurants are at full capacity in Florida. Some places require employees to wear masks and others don’t. It appears that no one cares about “social distancing”. As the weather has been improving and outdoor patios are often available, we still haven’t dined out. This is partly out of habit, but also we are worried that we would be disappointed, as our own cooking has been improving.
Our first night on the road, we ate carry-out El Charo, our favorite quick meal, which we usually take to our Northern outpost in Frankfort. It travels well in a cooler and is easy to microwave. We have also had pizza twice and another Mexican carry-out dinner once.
We found excellent seafood markets near each park, which carry fresh, locally-caught fish, shrimp, crab, and crawfish. One place even sold crab cakes. We have been doing most of our grocery shopping at Publix. They have a good selection of produce, fresh baked goods and other things we normally buy.
Oysters are very popular here, but we learned that The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a measure that suspended all harvesting of wild oysters from Appalachiacola Bay through December 2025, or “until 300 bags per acre of adult oysters can be found on a significant number of reefs.” 90% of Florida oysters come from that bay. Apparently they are getting oysters shipped from Texas. At some point, I may try some, but we have no plans to prepare them ourselves.
We met some friendly retirees from Owosso, MI who buy their shrimp at the bait stores, since it is cheaper. We will not likely do that because we are assuming they have different freshness standards and probably do not devein the shrimp. I know how to do it, but prefer not to.
We have cooked yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, grouper and Gulf royal red shrimp. Combining our own experience with seasonings and some instruction from Bon Appetite and Epicurious, we have cooked some really delicious meals. I’m pretty sure that the very fresh seafood would be delicious without any cooking skills. Typically, I do the seasoning and chop veggies for sides and/or salads. Dave cooks the fish and any rice or pasta. We are a pretty good team in the kitchen.
A standard RV favorite meal is veggie burgers on a brioche bun, with seasoned tater tots. Dave is currently hooked on Beyond Meat burgers (I love them, too), which are available at a decent price at Publix. This is a great option when we don’t want to clean a lot of dishes and if I am lacking motivation. Dave handles all of the preparation for this meal, including seasoning the tots and cooking them in the toaster oven. Another typical meal is linguine with pesto and mushrooms. We usually get two meals out of it. It requires a lot of dish clean-up and is not a great option when when it’s really cold and the windows can steam up.
So far, our favorite meal was sushi grade yellowfin tuna, with sesame oil, soy sauce, coarse-ground pepper, hot paprika and sesame seeds, pan seared rare and served on tacos. Sushi grade can be eaten raw, so rare is safe. Yellowfin is similar to Ahi or Bigeye tuna, which we eat in Hawaii. Yellowfin is a lot less expensive and just as tasty. The Gulf mahi mahi has been just as good as Hawaiian and the shrimp has been the best we’ve ever had.
I have finally come up with a spicy chipotle ranch recipe that we like as much as the fish taco sauce at Leilani’s or Cool Cat Cafe, in Maui. It’s not exactly the same, but really good. I also found some pico de gayo and cilantro, which further improves the tacos. This will also be good on our veggie tacos in Michigan. You should know that when we are in Hawaii, Dave eats fish tacos almost every day. We haven’t had any great fish tacos in Michigan, except at El Berto’s in Elberta, which is no longer in business. We learned from the tacos there, that cooking and seasoning the tortillas improves the texture and adds another layer of flavor.
We have mostly been cooking indoors because it is dark outside. As the weather is warming up and days are getting longer, we are looking forward to using the outdoor kitchen and grill more.
(Please excuse the paper plates in some of the photos. We are minimizing dish washing at some campsites without a sewer hook-up, to avoid filling our tanks over the course of 2 weeks.)