I’m not sure you can live as close as I do to the winter strawberry capital of the world and not love strawberries. Right now, until April, it is Florida strawberry season and I am using them in all kinds of recipes. This strawberry chocolate French toast is a recipe from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association cookbook, Florida Strawberries – A Taste of Summer All Winter Long.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to participate in a media tour with the Florida Strawberry Growers Association and Sunday Supper Movement. We were invited to the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach, FL where, after checking in, we boarded a bus and headed to the strawberry fields of Plant City. After a stop at the Florida Strawberry Growers Association’s office, a warm welcome from Strawberry Sue and her colleagues, a bite to eat and a toast, we pressed on with the day touring strawberry fields, learning from growers and a visit to a cooling facility. Then on to lunch at Old Towne Pizza.
The afternoon activity was a visit to the University of Florida Research and Education Center and an introduction to the science behind growing and breeding strawberries from Dr. Vance Whitaker. I learned that growing strawberries is so much more than just planting them. There is a real science behind hybrids and trying to get the best tasting berry. After the berries we got to sample today, I’d say they are in good shape.
As we were heading back to Tampa for dinner, we passed Goodson Farms Market. It’s a market that sits adjacent to strawberry fields. Strawberry Sue said they had the best strawberry shortcake. Saying something like that to a group of food bloggers is such a tease. We all oohed and aahhed. She asked the bus driver to turn around and she treated us to what I would agree, was the best strawberry shortcake! A moist poundcake piled high with fresh Florida strawberries, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Just thinking about it makes me smile.
A perfect end to the day was dinner at Oggi in Tampa. We were served family style because our group was so large. The meal started off with a strawberry caprese salad made with homemade mozzarella and strawberries followed by a homemade mozzarella wheel with arugula and strawberries. Our entree choices included chicken with blood oranges, chicken parmesan with spaghetti, pistachio chicken cutlet, chicken with strawberry balsamic reduction, pasta with homemade meatballs and rigatoni with a mushroom cream sauce. For dessert we were presented a choice of two, grilled pineapple and cannoli. Absolutely everything was delicious. The bus ride back to the hotel was quiet. We were all content!
Day two was just as jam packed with learning sessions in a conference room at the Tradewinds Island Resorts. Chef Aaron from RumFish Grill prepared a delicious Key West shrimp and strawberry ceviche. RumFish Grill mixologist, Anthony, prepared for us a strawberry mojito martini. My personal favorite part of the afternoon was Strawberry Sue showing us how to make strawberry footballs for parties. Aren’t they awesome and don’t you love how they are displayed?
The food was no less spectacular on day 2. Bermuda’s at the Tradewinds Island Resorts treated to a delicious lunch with so many choices, I had to ask my foodie son what I should pick. I choose the ravioli with brown butter sage. Mmmm…. Dinner, once again came with a few choices. I choose the chicken breast over creamed corn. An unusual side dish, I thought, but it was delicious.
I hope you enjoy the recipe I chose to make from the Florida Strawberries cookbook. Perfect for a Sunday breakfast.
The weekend was one I will never forget. In addition to seeing old friends and meeting new ones, I got to learn so much about my favorite fruit, the strawberry. All the better they are from Florida!