Tony’s in Cedar Key, Florida

If you travel west on Florida State Road 24 from Gainesville to where the road literally ends, you find yourself in a bit of old Florida. Out in the middle of nowhere on Florida’s northwest coast is the little village of Cedar Key with its’ population of around 700. At the corner of D and 2nd is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant  which is home to what many claim is the world’s best clam chowder.

The Great Chowder Cook-Off is an annual event that has been held at the Newport Yachting Center in Newport, Rhode Island, for thirty-three years. It ranks right up there with the Terlingua International Championship Chili Cookoff or the Texas Championship BBQ Cookoff. All these American classic foods have passionate followers by the millions, hero’s by the score with reputations to protect and profit from.

On Saturday June 6, 2009 Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder won the 28th Annual Great Chowder Cook-off and claimed the title, Clam Chowder World Champion.

Back for another title hunt in New England, Tony’s took to the field again on June 5, 2010 and for the second consecutive year won the 29th Annual Great Chowder Cook-off claiming another Clam Chowder World Championship.

At stake on June 4, 2011 was a third title and a chance for the recipe to be retired into the Cook-Off Hall of Fame. Not even a Grand Champion Chowder from New Jersey could deny Tony’s a third world championship. For the third year in a row Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder captured the title and did so with impressive style in another landslide victory.

With Tony’s third title in three years and the recipe retired into the Great Chowder Cook-off Hall of Fame, the future is still bright for what many fans call the “King of Chowder”.

On our visit to Cedar Key that was where we went for our first meal and we were not disappointed. Some people come to this tiny town for the fishing and some come for the art galleries and crafts shops but we came for the chowder and all I can offer is it was worth the drive. If you are looking for white tablecloths and atmosphere you’re probably going to be disappointed but you won’t be in the food and specifically their world champion chowder.

If out of the way Cedar Key is too far to go for a bowl of chowder you can mail order some, as they have a very successful canning and shipping operation as well.

Advertisements

One Hot Mama’s, Hilton Head

Orchid of One Hot Mammas

On our first night on Hilton Head Island we were looking for a lighter meal and decided on barbecue. Truth be told, we will almost always pick barbecue given a chance.  Our resort recommended One Hot Mama’s and gave us a coupon worth a 10% discount. The restaurant is located on the southern end of the island in a cluster of other eateries. It is set-up with a large outdoor area, a bar and dining room. (Happy hour prices require that you sit at the bar.). It is also part of the “Official South Carolina BBQ Trail.”

The menu was extensive but we finally decided on pulled-pork and a “little” rack of ribs which was supposed to be smaller than a half rack but to us seemed about the same size as a traditional half-rack. The ribs were basted with their “perfect 10” sauce that flavored the pulled pork and, in both cases, it complimented the meat perfectly. The atmosphere at One Hot Mama’s was inviting and the wait staff was friendly and efficient. All in all a great meal at a great price. We highly recommend…

Trattoria Mario, Florence

Most people think pasta when it comes to Italian cooking but actually Italy has a number of regional cuisines. Tuscan and Florentine diets trend heavily toward cold sliced meats, grilled meats, lots of beans, soups and stews. With the exception of lasagna, pasta is usually done as a side dish or a casserole in Florence. Because Florence has become such an international city and a huge tourist destination many of the restaurants have put together menus that fit the visitors expectations. One small restaurant in the central city that doesn’t fit that description is Trattoria Mario.

If you are looking for a great value in good authentic food in Florence, Italy check out this gem. A local trattoria with an international clientele, owing its popularity somewhat to a bit of encouragement from Trip Advisor reviewers. It is located at Via Rosina, 2r, 50123 just a short walk from the Basilica di San Lorenzo.

The restaurant is cozy and if crowded you will probably be sharing a table if you are a small party, but that is part of the experience. While there we overheard several tables talking in several languages. The restaurant has the feel of a neighborhood place with a staff that is friendly and efficient. The dishes are prepared with skill and are mostly priced between €5 and €8. The menu is hand written and taped on the kitchen window and as the chef runs out of an item he comes out and strikes thru it. Inexpensive splits of local wines are also available.