Happy New Year and welcome to the first blog of 2015! I hope everyone had a restful holiday season. To kick off the new year, my husband Chris and I decided to go on (CVB member) Yummy Florida’s food tour!
We met at 11:30AM at the Port’s Exploration Tower. We were immediately greeted warmly by Yummy Florida Founder and President Erika Van Buren, who also served as our tour guide. We also introduced ourselves to the 10 other guests who would be on the tour with us. It was a great group mixed between locals, new transplants and out-of-towners from Pennsylvania, Ohio and other parts of Florida!
We began with an in depth tour of the Exploration Tower. As the Director of the CVB, and now manager of the CVB’s kiosk location in the Tower, I have been to this landmark several times. However, I have never seen it quite like this before! Erika took us floor by floor, pointing out facts that I had never heard of. For instance, I had never noticed that the wildlife artwork (by Sayaka Ganz) hanging from the ceiling was composed entirely of recycled beach litter. What a great way to bring awareness to the issue of trash on and in our beaches while also providing a remarkable centerpiece in this seven story museum!
After we learned our Port Canaveral and Space Coast history, we culminated in the Tower’s café to sample some astronaut ice cream which was generously donated by another CVB member, Space Shirts.
Chris and I actually LOVED it! It had great taste and seems to be convenient for our typical warm and sunny Florida weather because you don’t have to worry about this freezer dried version melting.
After we indulged like astronauts, we walked over to our first stop; Wild Ocean Seafood Market. If you haven’t been by this gem yet, it’s a MUST! Wild Ocean Seafood has two locations, one in the Port and one in Titusville. We were greeted by a friendly employee named Brian, who started us outside by the dock and gave us a little history on the commercial fishing market and showed us the boat that was icing down and getting ready to go out to sea for fresh seafood. Once inside the vast market, we were shown all different kinds of fresh fish, crab and shrimp and were even educated on how to spot a fresh fish versus one that has been sitting for a while - you smell under it’s gills and check the color (see pic)! The group enjoyed samples of the market’s famous Rock Shrimp and more.
Next stop? Milliken’s Reef! A beautiful upscale seafood restaurant with panoramic floor to ceiling views of the Port, its water and wildlife, Milliken’s Reef delivered with a its signature drink “the Sunset Grabber” and samples of its smoked fish dip, jumbo fried shrimp in “wang bang” sauce and a Grilled Mahi Bahamian. As a gluten free vegetarian, I was taken aback at the fact that Yummy Florida had set it up so that my needs were taken into account. I enjoyed my own meat-free and allergy-free samples the entire tour, which was wonderful!
After our delights at Milliken’s we went over to last year’s CVB Chowder Cook-Off winner Baja Tavern & Eats. There, once again enjoying the view and a football game on at their bar, guests sampled the winning chowder from last year's Chowder Cook-Off with a Twist and sipped on ice cold tea. Our service was prompt and friendly and we got to enjoy all of the sights, sounds and atmosphere that Baja has to offer.
Next stop, Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill. This two story waterfront staple is co-owned and operated by the CVB’s Board Chairman, Rich Hensel. We sat at the bar where we were timely greeted by our awesome bartender James. Tour patrons enjoyed Fishlips’ signature lobster roll, homemade chips and a pilsner beer brewed specifically for their restaurant by local Florida Beer Company. I on the other hand enjoyed a full steamer basket full of fresh balsamic glazed veggies and rice (see pic). It was delicious!
To finish out our tour, we ended at Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar. Rusty and his family are long-time residents of the county and started this restaurant in its current form back in 1988. Their son Rhett now handles the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, which has a fabulous indoor and outdoor view of departing cruise ships and you can often find a crowd gathered on their back deck waving goodbye to the happy travelers on the ships! Here we enjoyed Colee’s signature key lime pie and an ice cold margarita. It was all delicious!
At the end of the tour, one out-of-town guest turned to Erika and explained that she had been on several food tours across the country, and that Yummy Florida was by far the best. What a compliment! This was my first food tour, but I imagine it is hard to beat! Chris and I had the best time, and he even mentioned that the whole tour was a great experience and overall made him feel really proud to call the Space Coast home.
It is important to note that all the restaurants listed are valued CVB members, and I was so impressed by the entire experience! Also important to note, menu and sample items can change from time to time, but this gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Erika was a great tour guide, professional, upbeat, factual and friendly. I would recommend this tour to anyone and everyone. Way to go Yummy Florida!