Joyce LaFray, The Florida Gourmet Rotating Header Image


Welcome to Tropic Cooking™

Feel free to e-mail me with your food questions, especially those about Florida Cuisine and Tropic Cooking.™ I’d love to hear from you. Honest!

Whether it’s about the most delectable Key lime pie, savory sour-orange marinated roast pork, Spicy Jerk Chicken, or the best plantain recipes on the planet, I’m pleased to share my recipes as well as my culinary can-do!!

Tropically Yours,
Joyce LaFray


Snail mail
Joyce LaFray
P.O. Box 14441
Saint Petersburg, FL 33733



Order Joyce’s Key Lime products and get more free recipes at





Plantation on Crystal River Review

Millions of sun seekers visit Florida every year and for a variety of reasons. Some folks want to let loose and enjoy the wild and crazy revelry of Miami’s South Beach,  others yearn to see every theme park they can squeeze in, while Floridians, like myself, prefer to savor lazy days in the sun,  playing golf, tennis, or swimming , fishing and especially scalloping.  Not to mention the joy of indulging in some fabulous food.

For certain, the best location in Crystal River to relax is the picturesque Plantation situated just off U.S. 19 on Florida’s Nature Coast. The newly renovated resort is about 75 miles from my home in downtown St. Petersburg and a quick trip at non-commuting hours.  The enormous eco-friendly resort is surrounded by the natural springs of Kings Bay and more than 25,000 acres of pristine lakes and rivers, as well as wildlife refuges and state parks.

I’d been to The Plantation years ago, but not since the latest renovations, so I decided to take a few days to get away from the hustle-bustle of daily life.

There’s nothing fancy about this sports-lovers paradise; it’s pure casual, yet includes all the amenities of a top drawer resort. Surrounded by 232 acres of foliage including live majestic oaks, palms, pines and other fabulous foliage, you’ll find time to engage in one of your favorite sports, or just simply chill out and savor the scenery including the warm waters of natural springs at King’s Bay, home to the West Indian Manatee.

There are 200 well-appointed guest rooms and suites decorated in lovely blue-green shades, a full service on-site spa, and marina and dive shop, even an on-site scuba diving certification program. Outdoor enthusiasts have boat rentals at their beck and call, even guided kayak and daily river tours. There’s a fitness facility and West 82°Bar & Grill, a casual restaurant overlooking a lagoon-style heated pool. Too lazy to walk to the restaurant?  Order room service. Afterwards, you might garner the energy to enjoy volleyball, tennis and or even the oft forgotten sport of shuffleboard. No doubt, Plantation is the perfect place to escape the everyday madness of the world.

The golf course offers 18 holes of golf for the traditional player. A new conversion of nine hole Lagoon course into a“Hack Golf” is being developed, a course built for juniors, newbies, not-so-great golfers like myself, and would-be golfers wishing to play an easier course.  The regular course features an assortment of challenging fairways with pines and oak trees lining the par-72, which was originally designed by Mark MaHannah, a highly regarded course architect.

There’s also a fresh new look in the Grill which is always open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Contemporary Florida-style meals run the gamut, from a fresh-from-the-farm salad to New York Strip or fresh local fish.  It’s fine dining with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere so no need to dress up. Life at Plantation is laid-back and casual. Thursday nights it’s Martini night where the selection is good as it gets.

Adventurous? Take a few quick road trips to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, Fort Cooper State Park or Crystal River Archaeological State Park.  Scenic fishing charters offer the best fishing in Crystal River, even include the vessel, bait and tackle and fishing license.

One of the most fun things you might enjoy during your visit is a special two-night scalloping package which includes a deluxe room, guided scalloping tour, your catch lovingly cooked by the Chef.

Plantation on Crystal River, a fun place off the beaten path and a treasure well worth experiencing.

Plantation is located at 9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River 34420.For information call 352-795-4211. For reservations call 800-632-6262


ST PETE BEACH  – (11/05/2014)  Maritana Grille, a staple in Tampa Bay’s culinary scene, has teamed up with Savory Spice Shop St. Pete to create a new tasting menu showcasing the best in seafood and specialty meats paired with exotic and organic spices.

“We’re always exploring new ways to improve and enhance our menu. Maritana Grille is about locally sourced cuisine and our new relationship with Savory Spice Shop St. Pete is a natural fit to reinforce our commitment to keep things local” stated Stephen Cummings, General Manager of Loews Don CeSar and a former chef himself.

“Maritana Grille’s Chef de Cuisine Gavin Pera has taken the restaurant to new heights since joining the Loews family over a year ago. His passion for quality, locally-grown produce, fresh seafood and all natural meats, combined with Maritana Grille’s exceptional service, have made the restaurant one of the most popular in Tampa Bay” stated Kenny Hunsberger, Executive Chef, Loews Don CeSar Hotel. “Our partnership with Savory Spice Shop St. Pete will allow Chef Pera to showcase his culinary creativity in ways guests have not yet experienced” he continued.

The new four-course Savory Spice inspired tasting menu offers diners a diverse selection of both seafood and beef options including diver scallops with ox tail “ravioli” seasoned with Italian Black truffle Sea Salt and Porcini Mushroom and locally raised Palmetto Creek Pork with Pumpkin Gnocchi, Quince, Pumpkin Spice and Star Anise.
– more –

A highlight of the new tasting menu is undoubtedly the Ibérico Jamón from Spain, considered by many to be the finest cured ham in the world, accented with Melina international Organic Olive Oil and Lemon Grass.

Additional menu items include Anderson Ranch Lamb Rack, with Fennel Pollen and Maldon Sea Salt and fresh sea bass served with anson mills “rice grits” seasoned with fresh Saffron and Lemon Verbena.

“Spices are our livelihood. We’re honored to be partnering with Loews Don CeSar to share our knowledge of herbs, spices, salts and sauces with their culinary team so visitors and locals can experience what we already know – Tampa Bay is one of the top culinary destinations in America!” stated Paul Bailey, owner of Savory Spice Shop St. Pete. “We applaud Loews for their efforts to showcase and support local businesses like ours, as well as local growers and farmers” he continued.

Bailey, a long-time resident of St. Petersburg, opened Savory Spice Shop St. Pete after visiting a similar shop in Denver, CO. “My wife and I love to cook and would bring suitcases of spices back to St. Pete. Then, a few years later, we opened Savory Spice Shop St. Pete in downtown and have never looked back,” said Bailey

The new tasting menu is just the start of a long-term partnership between Loews Don CeSar and Savory Spice Shop St. Pete. The two are planning to host a series of specialty dinners in Maritana Grille in 2015, as well as cooking demonstrations, culinary tours and more.

The Savory Spice | Maritana Grille Tasting menu is $85 per person, plus tax and gratuity. A specialty wine paring menu is also available. For reservations call 727-363-5077 or visit

Loews Don CeSar Hotel is located at 3400 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706. Savory Spice Shop is in downtown St. Pete at 400 Beach Dr. NE, # 173, St. Pete, FL 33701. Savory Spice Shop can be reached at 727-290-9893 or visit




See You at New Smyrna Beach this Weekend

The New Smyrna Beach Cook and the Book Festival will take place May 17th and 18th beachside at the Coronado Civic Center on Flagler Avenue. The festival features cookbook author cooking demonstrations of a recipe from their books, meet and greets, cookbook sales and signings, door prizes, and the chance for audience members to eat the demo meals. Demonstrations begin at 11:30am on Saturday and 1:30pm on Sunday.

On Saturday evening, local restaurants will host each one of the cookbook authors and feature additional items from their cookbook for diners to enjoy. This evening portion of the Cook and the Book festival begins at 7pm and the authors will be on hand at their host restaurant to chat with diners, with their books available for purchase and signing at each location as well.

The New Smyrna Beach Cook and the Book Festival is part of Spring Beach Weeks in New Smyrna Beach – 40 days of festivals in eight weeks from May 5th through July 5th. For a cooking demonstration schedule to a smart phone device, text “COOK” to 71441 and for special Beach Weeks/Cook and the Book festival accommodations call the New Smyrna Beach Visitors Center at 1-800-541-9621.

New Smyrna Beach Cook and the Book Schedule:



11:30am – Jeffrey Spear

The First Coast Heritage Cookbook

Zesty Crab Cups and La Florida Stew

Paired with: Johnny’s Restaurant

414 Flagler Ave, NSB

(386) 402-8861


1:00pm – Joyce LaFray

Cuba Cocina!

Ropa Vieja

Paired with: Café Verde

301 Flagler Ave, NSB

(386) 957-3958


2:30pm – Barbara Scott-Goodman

The Beach House Cookbook

Smoked Salmon Tartare with Dill Sauce and

Shrimp Salad with Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette

Paired with: Barracuda’s Bar & Grille

203 S. Atlantic Ave, NSB

(386) 957-3931


4:00pm – Pam Brandon 

Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida’s Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans

Salad with Lime Vinaigrette, Zucchini Pappadelle,

and Watermelon-Rose Ice Pops

Paired with: Spanish River Grill

414 Flagler Ave, NSB

(386) 424-6991


SUNDAY MAY 18, 2014


1:30pm – Joyce LaFray

Key Lime Cookin’ 

Key Lime Baked Snapper


3:00pm – Chad Thilborger 

A Whole Heap of Goodness

A Whole Heap of Jack Bread Pudding

Paired with: PJ’s Sea Shack

491 E Third Ave, NSB

(386) 428-8850


Unique “Flavors of Ybor”” Celebration in Tampa, Florida


Known as Tampa’s Latin Quarter for more than a century, Ybor City is alive with an exotic blend of aromas, flavors, sights and sounds, but never more so than during the February celebration known as “Flavors of Ybor.””  Here, visitors and residents alike can explore historic Ybor City in an exciting line-up of major events and activities.

On February 8, enjoy the 7th Avenue for the Krew of Knights of Sant’Yago Knight Parade.  The huge two-hour parade includes illuminated floats, costumed participants, marching bands and a potpourri of dancers and entertainers.

Originally begun as a day of rest for immigrant cigar workers, Fiesta Day on 7th Avenue is celebratedFebruary 22 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with ethnic food, exhibits, entertainment and traditional arts and crafts.  Also on the same date Flan Fest features (11a.m to 4p.m.) more than 40 contestants competing for the title of Top Flan in Tampa Bay.The event takes place in the historic Centennial Park in the outdoor Ybor City Saturday Market where theirs a bevy of interesting booths.

At Gaspar’s Grotto, the annual Fat Tuesday Crawfish Boil begins at 4 p.m.  Spicy crawfish, potatoes, fresh corn and more culinary delights. This annual tradition marks the last night to eat richer before the Christian ritual of fasting for the start of the Lenten season.

For more information and events calendar, check out, or follow them on Facebook (Visit Tampa Bay) or Twitter.

Leave a Reply