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Florida Keys Cuisine Inspires Delicious Experiences

Many Florida Keys visitors make it a point to sample locally caught fish, embracing the Keys' brand of farm-to-table cuisine that some call "fisherman-to-fork."
FLORIDA KEYS - Many Florida Keys visitors make it a point to sample locally caught fish, embracing the Keys' brand of farm-to-table cuisine that some call "fisherman-to-fork."

But there's a Keys experience that's even more satisfying than dining on yellowtail snapper or mahi-mahi caught by a fisherman just hours earlier - actually BEING the fisherman.

Throughout the island chain, visitors can enjoy "hook-and-cook" experiences by booking a skilled charter captain for exhilarating angling in area waters. After catching food fish like yellowtail, mahi-mahi or tuna, anglers can take it to one of the Keys' many restaurants that "cook the catch," where it will be prepared and served with tasty side dishes.

Whether it's chargrilled, pan-fried, broiled or blackened, there's nothing like savoring a perfectly prepared fish after personally reeling it in.

While Keys restaurants range from gourmet emporiums to dockside seafood "shacks" and intriguing food trucks, it's also possible to blend sampling local specialties with a full-fledged festival experience.

Each winter cuisine fans flock to the island chain to enjoy the Florida Keys Seafood Festival showcasing the ocean's harvest and the commercial fishermen who bring it home, the acclaimed Key West Food & Wine Festival and the culinarily competitive Master Chefs Classic.

And every March, the Middle Keys are the site of an eagerly anticipated feast called the Original Marathon Seafood Festival.

Other appetizing offerings throughout the year include Key West's Lobsterfest, saluting the opening of the annual Florida lobster season, a wacky stone crab–eating contest in Marathon and the Key Lime Festival inspired by Key lime pie, the island chain's signature dessert.

There's also Mango Fest Key West, a summer celebration of the sweet, juicy fruit that's been a staple of Keys recipes for generations. And for those seeking a "meaty" experience, Marathon's Florida Keys BrewBQ is a world-class experience.

Dedicated foodies won't want to miss a once-in-a-lifetime cuisine extravaganza being organized for June 2023 in Islamorada: a lavish sea-to-table dinner that commemorates the Florida Keys' 200th "birthday." While details aren't yet finalized, it will celebrate 200 years of bounty from the sea and the island chain's fishing heritage.

As well as festivals and events, visitors can savor culinary walking tours. Chief among them is Key West Food Tours, offering guided small-group experiences that introduce participants to authentic local flavors.

Foodies also can concoct their own "moveable feast" by mapping out a group of appealing restaurants and sampling tapas, appetizers and small plates at each one in a personalized "progressive dining" sequence.

For a calendar of food fests and other events in the Keys, visit fla-keys.com/calendar/. To preview a "taste" of the region, visit fla-keys.com/food-drink/.