I recently returned from a week of heavenly bliss in warm, subtropical Marco Island, located on Florida’s southwest coast. Over more than twenty years, I’ve made many winter escapes to this lovely island and have been fortunate to stay in a condo directly on the beach while there. The condo unit has a fully equipped kitchen, a dining room with a spectacular view of the Gulf of Mexico and an outdoor grill for vacationers’ use. This, of course, gives the option of eating in if desired. Over the years I’ve been to many restaurants on Marco and surrounding area, including The Blue Heron and Marco Polo Restaurant, which were both excellent in service and food. In more recent years, however, I’ve been eating out much less often and have been taking advantage of the great local fresh food options.
Oh, I know, probably many of you are thinking that a vacation should be an escape from the kitchen as well as the cold, but a relaxing beachside vacation lends itself to eating at least some meals “in”. Eating in has it’s advantages; we can dine as we are in bare feet, shorts and a tee and not worry about getting caught in a long wait line for a table in a restaurant. The economical advantages are obvious and rewarding. I can buy something that would be a higher end entrée item in a restaurant, such as a fabulous steak and accompany the meal with a great wine that I might not choose at a restaurant because of the high mark up. While on Marco Island, dinner preparation is always kept down to basics, with store bought hummus and crackers for appetizers, pre-washed salad greens, bottled champagne vinaigrette, prepared tartar and cocktail sauces and a variety of sorbets to finish.
On Marco Island, my favourite place to buy fresh seafood and other culinary delights is Paradise Seafood and Gourmet Market. They have an extensive fresh fish and seafood menu that changes daily and can include yellow fin tuna, grouper, snapper, crab, oysters, flounder, shrimp and many other selections. Chef Scott and his team prepare a number of irresistible items. I absolutely love their crab cakes, which take only minutes to cook and their beautifully spiced, peel and eat shrimp. These two items are must haves for me when I am on Marco Island! Their Key Lime Tarts are a lovely ending to any meal. For more information check out their website at www.paradiseseafoodmarco.com
You know you are in nearby Naples when you see Jaguars and vintage T-Birds in the parking lot at The Fresh Market. Don’t be concerned though, the luxury vehicles and their well dressed owners are not necessary a reflection of the prices inside. Stepping into The Fresh Market, customers are welcomed by a huge display of fresh cut flowers. There are so many delightful things in this warm and inviting market. I was impressed by the quality and variety of the cuts of meat, selection of coffees and wines and the lovely bakery items. I couldn’t resist the Angus New York strip loins on special while I was there and picked up a few for the B.B.Q. For locations and information, their website is www.thefreshmarket.com
Next time you are planning a beachside vacation, consider accommodations that include partial or full kitchen facilities, such as a condo, apartment or even a house rental if you are traveling with a larger party. Just being able to prepare breakfast and some lunches can save you money and valuable time that can be spent enjoying the sun and the beach rather than looking for restaurants for every meal. When you arrive at your destination, kick off your shoes, raise a glass and toast the incredible sunset. Cheers!