From avocado to zucchini, Florida is home to around 300 unique agricultural commodities. When the premier UF/IFAS tasting showcase, Flavors of Florida, returned May 5 to the Champions Club at UF’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, it put many of these local ingredients on display.
The more than 250 attendees were invited to vote for Taster’s Choice, and at the end of the night, the award went to Chef Dean Cacciatore of Cacciatore Catering, Inc. Cacciatore, who has offered samples in the Flavors of Florida event for over a decade, this year delivered Florida shrimp rolls with avocado oil and marinated cabbage; grass-fed lollipop lamb chops, with a sweet onion jam and roasted peanut datil pepper sauce; and a roasted peanut mousse with shaved chocolate for dessert.
The beneficiary of this year’s event was the Path to Pioneers program, which provides UF/IFAS research opportunities for undergraduate students. Through ticket sales and the sponsorship of Florida Foundation Seed Producers, two additional internships are fully funded for students this summer.
Guests also tried new varieties from the UF/IFAS Blueberry Breeding program, including a pink-hued berry in search of a name. The UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory served up a honey taste comparison, from infusions, like hot pepper or elderberry, to different sources, like wildflowers or citrus blossoms.
Other delectable food creations from the 2022 showcase included:
- A mixed green salad with preserved orange vinaigrette, pickled vegetables and Florida citrus; plus a zucchini, UF sausage, mustard greens, sweet corn and cheddar gratin from Blue Gill Quality Food.
- A Florida mushroom crostini with aioli and grilled local sweet onion; plus a green peanut butter and strawberry jelly cake from Mildred’s Big City Food.
- A chilled Florida watermelon and Gulf shrimp with smoky chimichurri sauce and queso fresco, created by Fresh From Florida’s certified executive chef.
- A barbacoa bowl with Sazon pulled pork, hydroponic romaine lettuce, smokehouse corn, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice from 4 Rivers Smokehouse.
- A wood-grilled strip with braised heirloom collards and black eye peas; plus a blueberry fool with shortbread crumbles and fresh UF blueberries from Underground Kitchen.
- An Italian venison sausage, stewed tomatoes, and greens salad with preserved lemon vinaigrette from Fehrenbacher’s Artisan Sausage, in Gainesville.
- Key West pink shrimp with Florida honeybell marmalade from Northwest Seafood.
- Chilled sweet corn velouté with a pickled blueberry sauce; Cedar Key clams escabeche; and Florida citrus pie from Covey Kitchen + Cocktails at Hotel ELEO.
- A vegan sour cream cake with grapefruit curd and local strawberries from Curia on the Drag.
- The Hullo Cake, a national competition-winning snack cake from UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department.
But food wasn’t the only thing on the menu. Beverage service included offerings from:
- Island Grove Wine Company, in Hawthorne, whose line of wines include several made from locally grown blueberries.
- Fish Hawk Spirits, an Ocala distillery that uses Florida-grown corn in its whiskeys. It also has vodkas and rums.
- Breweries like Gainesville’s local Cypress and Grove Brewing Co. and First Magnitude Brewing Co. had beers on tap, as did ALGA Beer Co., which came all the way from Pensacola to serve up its Wheatwave, an American wheat beer made with Florida-grown cascade hops from the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma.
- Yaupon Brothers American Tea Co., which served up samples of green, mint, lavender coconut and chai teas made from yaupon holly grown in the company’s Edgewater fields.
Flavors of Florida returns in spring 2023.