Taste of Travel: Flavors of Fort Lauderdale

Charlene Peters

Dine-around vacations are fast becoming a trend for travelers, especially in destinations that offer a long stretch of beach and a warm respite from winter’s coldest climates.

Yes, culinary travel is as hot as jalapeno poppers, and with this in mind, the idea for Flavors of Fort Lauderdale was born. In October 2012, the "Ambassador of Flavor," celebrity chef Allen Susser, recruited some of Florida’s culinary crusaders to participate in a four-day celebration of the culinary lifestyle and casual elegance of South Florida.

The inaugural event began with dinner at Shula’s on the Beach, one of 30-plus restaurant participants. Known for its surf and turf, appetizers of Shula’s BBQ shrimp proved to be unique in its succulent seafood flavor wrapped in bacon with BBQ sauce. The calamari was a great choice as well, as it was baked, not fried, and you could really taste the squid’s firmness and mild taste that complements its breading. You can’t go wrong with an order of stone crabs either.

Shula’s on the Beach is located inside the Flavors host hotel, The Westin Beach Resort & Spa, where an evening poolside, rooftop launch party was held, showcasing sustainable food and specialty cocktails.

The culinary journey continued with events such as “Off the Hookah,” where I may or may not have had my first hookah experience from an ornate oversized teapot, and next day, a cooking technique presentation titled “Five Fabulous Female Chefs,” beginning with Elizabeth Barlow of Dos Caminos restaurant. Barlow demonstrated a preparation of jumbo sea scallops with passion fruit cascabel mojo before exiting the stage to welcome Lauren De Shields of Market 17. De Shields prepared Florida sunray Venus clams to highlight the farm-to-table concept in utilizing organic, sustainable fish. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy ruined the local clams, so New England stepped in as an East Coast substitution. At Market 17, De Shields cures her own prosciutto, has developed her own flavors in making porcetta and announces she’s on a smoked butter kick.

Next up, Robyn Almodovar of Palate Party prepares her striped bass, which was also her signature dish on Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, season 10. She toots Whole Foods’ horn for using sustainable seafood, and is grateful she didn’t win the reality show competition so that she can continue to drive her food truck throughout South Florida.

Jennifer Erickson of Rocco’s Tacos takes the stage next, offering up a demo and tasting of her roasted smoky corn yellowtail ceviche. As she cooks, she shares some tips, such as using sunflower oil to rub on corn-on-the-cob before placing the cob directly on the stove until its browned/blackened — which equals caramelized — before cutting the kernels off with a knife. She also recommends removing the seeds inside a jalapeno so you can taste the pepper’s flavor without so much spice, and when cutting the skin off fish, move the skin, not the knife underneath. Erickson is a firm believer in apple pie with cheese.

“Apple pie without the cheese is like a hug without a squeeze,” she says.

In between chef demonstrations and cocktails, notable stops for lunch include Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill, which serves up a superb local blackened grouper plate and award-winning key lime pie, and Dos Caminos, a modern Mexican hot spot worthy of a return visit.

The final day offered Flavors Grand Tasting at the Las Olas Marina. This event highlighted world-class wines and spirits, as well as gourmet cuisine in the area and yet more demonstrations by top area chefs such as Tony Sindaco of Sea, and Oliver Saucy of Café Maxx.

Below are two recipes you can make at home to create your own flavors of Fort Lauderdale.


Mango Tart Tatin

Serves 6

“As a chef, I have many passions; one of those being mangos. This exotic fruit is beautiful and tasty – almost exploding with flavor. Pick the perfect mango by touch, not smell or sight. A ripe mango will give slightly when squeezed gently.”

- Celebrity chef Allen Susser

3 large ripe mangos

1/2 cup light brown sugar

3 T sweet butter

2 t minced fresh ginger

2 T limejuice

1 sheet puff pastry dough

To prepare the mango:

Cut the mango off the pit and peel the skin off each half with a pairing knife. Slice the fruit into quarter-inch slices and set aside. In a 10-inch cake pan, combine the brown sugar, butter, ginger and limejuice; warm together on the stove over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat and line with sliced mango, laying each of the slices next to one another.

To prepare the dough:

Cut a circle out of the pastry dough slightly larger than the cake pan. Using the prongs of a fork, poke the pastry completely around the dough’s edge. Place it on top of the mango that is cooked and arranged in the pan, and tuck in the sides.

To bake and finish:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake the tart for 10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and juices are bubbling. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Invert tart onto a large plate.


Shrimp Cakes

- Courtesy New River Pizza and Grill

2 pounds shrimp, chopped

2 small leeks, diced

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

3 organic large eggs

6 oz. panko

3 t basil, minced

Salt and pepper

Combine shrimp, leeks, tomatoes, onions, basil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups panko and let rest to absorb moisture. Check consistency and add more if needed. Portion mix into 2 oz. cakes. Coat the cakes in panko and sauté in olive oil. Serve with sautéed mushrooms, basil aioli and tomato coulis.

Charlene Peters is editor of special features at GateHouse Media New England. She can be reached at