Disclosure: I was provided with a media trip from #FLStrawberry and #SundaySupper. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Please see my disclosure policy)
I recently had the amazing opportunity along with other Sunday Supper tastemakers and social media influencers to attend a Berry-licious weekend at the Guy Harvey Outpost, A Tradewind Islands Resort on beautiful St. Pete Beach, FL. The weekend was packed full of learning about the gorgeous and tasty Florida Strawberry!
I was super excited on our drive over to Plant City, Florida to the Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association as I knew that we were going to be learning about all things Florida Strawberry! Our drive over was so much fun too, and it was a great time to chat and meet the other bloggers and influencers.
When we arrived at the Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association, we were greeted by Strawberry Sue and her amazing staff. They had the most adorable spread of drinks and refreshments for us! It was nice to relax for awhile and to meet everyone and learn about what responsibilities they have at the Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association.
After our time of refreshments it was back to the bus and on the to the Strawberry Fields (Strawberry Station) in Plant City! I must say that I felt like a giddy high school girl out in the glorious Strawberry fields! Let me just tell you, Florida Strawberries are unlike anything that you have ever seen or eaten before. To eat a big plump juicy Florida Strawberry right from the plant is unbelievable! These gorgeous red gems are so sweet and juicy! Look at the size of the strawberry that I found! I was so excited to have found it and I gobbled down every bite!
While at the Florida Strawberry Fields, Mark Harrell, Strawberry Sue’s husband, shared with us about his Strawberry fields and how the process of growing Florida Strawberries works. It is an amazing process! The weather is a huge factor in how the strawberries grow and the crop that is produced. And, a little trivia for you. Did you know that the average strawberry has around 200 seeds? Amazing!
After our time at Strawberry Station it was on to Grimes Produce Company. It is here where we learned about how the gorgeous Florida Strawberry is packaged and refrigerated before it is sent to your local grocery store. The Florida Strawberry is actually picked right on the fields and placed into special clamshell packaging. I find this fascinating! They are then rushed to Grimes Produce Company where they are cooled and sent to the grocey store. The strawberries are usually sent from the cooling company directly to the store on the same day.
After a delicious lunch at Old Towne Pizzeria in Plant City, it was on to my favorite part of the day! We headed to the University of Florida Research and Education Center where Dr. Vance Whitaker explained in great detail to us about the science and research that goes behind the Florida Strawberry. There is so much more to the Florida Strawberry than just what you see on the strawberry fields. Since 2009, Dr. Whitaker has lead the strawberry breeding program at the University of Florida. He explained to us about strawberry breeding and how selection is enhanced by the genetic characterization of traits. I will never look at a Florida Strawberry the same way again. It was all so intriguing and very eye-opening to say the least.
After our visit to the University of Florida Research and Education Center, we headed back to the bus and it was time to head on to Tampa for our berry-licious dinner at Oggi Restaurant. Along the way, we had to make a stop at Goodson Farms. This is a locally renowned produce market that offers fresh produce, desserts and sandwiches. I picked up a jar of fresh strawberry salsa and jam as well as a bottle of strawberry syrup. We were told that that have the best Strawberry Shortcake in the area so Strawberry Sue ordered one for everyone! They were huge! The base was a moist shortcake that was piled high with Florida Strawberries, Whipped Cream and delicious vanilla ice cream. Yum!
Our day ended with a delicious dinner at Oggi in Tampa. If you are local to the Tampa Bay area, I highly recommend it! The food was absolutely amazing and the staff was so courteous and caring. Becuase of our large group, we were served family style with a menu that was prepared just for us! Our meal started off with the most delicious appetizers that include Strawberry Caprese Salad, a Mozzarella Wheel with Arugala and of courses, delicious Florida strawberries! For the entrees, we had Pistachio Crusted Chicken cutlets, Chicken Parmesan with spaghetti, a yummy chicken dish with blood oranges and potatoes, Chicken with Balsamic Berry reduction, delicious homemade meatballs with pasta and Rigatoni with mushroom cream sauce. There was also dessert! Yummy grilled pineapple with a special cream and Cannolis. The entire meal at Oggi’s was superb and I can’t wait to take my hubby back for a date night! It has the cutest atmosphere that reminds me of being in the heart of Italy!
After the delicious meal, we headed back to the Guy Harvey Outpost and called it a day. When I arrived back to my room, I found the most decadent Chocolate and Candy covered strawberries waiting for me in the refrigerator. Oh yes, I had one and it was amazing! It was then time to get some beauty rest for our next day which was sure to be filled with more food, fun and learning about the Florida Strawberry.
Sunday morning we headed over to the conference room at Tradewinds Resort for a day of learning sessions. Chef Aaron from RumFish Grill showed us how to make a Key West Shrimp and Strawberry Ceviche. Oh. my. word. This bite of food was the most delicious thing that I put in my mouth all weekend! In fact, I have not stopped thinking about this delectable dish and can’t wait to try and make it at home!
After our cooking session with Chef Aaron it was on to a berry-filled lunch at Bermuda’s. There were so many delicious choices! We started the meal with a fresh watermelon, strawberry and feta salad that was to die for! I could eat it over and over again. So fresh and light yet so fulfilling to the palate. I then had a yummy Grilled Chicken sandwich on gluten free bread. There was a side of strawberry basil compote and sweet potato fries! Delicious! Dessert was Strawberry Zabaglione, but I was too full to eat it!
The afternoon was filled with RumFish Grill mixologist, Anthony teaching us a few tips and tricks and a Photograph and Instagram session with Jeremiah Khokar. It was then time for a fun Facebook LIVE with Strawberry Sue. I thoroughly enjoyed this time with her as she showed us how make the cutest Football Strawberries for game day! I am definitely making them with my boys for the Super Bowl this weekend!
We ended our fun day with a gorgeous sunset and Strawberry S’mores at the beach. It was then time to head over to RumFish Grill for our LIVE #SundaySupper Twitter party. I had such a great time with the fellow Sunday Supper Tastemakers and it was a blast tweeting live!
After our Twitter party, it was time for dinner at RumFish Grill. This restaurant is gorgeous! It features a huge fish aquarium that takes up the entire back wall! It makes for a fun atmosphere while dining! My dinner was the most amazing shrimp and grits I have ever eaten. So creamy and delicious. It was seriously to die for and I ate every bite! I was way too full for the dessert which was of course, HUGE Strawberry Cobblers made with fresh Florida Strawberries.
I am so thankful for the amazing opportunity that I had to be with my fellow Sunday Supper Tastemakers and to learn about the amazing and oh-so delicious Florida Strawberry. I will never forget this special weekend and the wonderful friendships that were made. I also gained so much knowledge from each of the special people that I met and I will treasure that forever!
Would you like to visit the Florida Strawberry fields? See how you can win a trip for you and your family HERE.