Seafood

5 Fun Things to Do in Homosassa

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Being located near small towns like Inverness and Crystal River while also being close to bigger cities like Orlando and Tampa is one of the best things about life here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. But our community is also located near some of the most amazing natural attractions in all of Florida.

When you are ready to get out and embrace Florida’s Nature Coast, one of the best places to do just that is Homosassa. Located just 10 miles south of Crystal River and about half an hour from the Villages of Citrus Hills, Homosassa offers up a world of possibilities for anyone looking to get outside.

Let’s take a quick look at five fun things to do in Homosassa.

Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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Known as the place in Florida for getting up close and personal with manatees, Ellie Shiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is an amazing experience with nature that never disappoints.

One of the main attractions here is the underwater observatory that lets you see the manatees from a different perspective without having to jump into the water. The park also offers plenty of education on manatees for anyone looking to learn more about our beloved sea cows.

And there is so much more for you than just manatees here. The park is also home to a stunning collection of wildlife, amazing birding opportunities, and excellent hiking trails.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

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If you like your outdoor adventures to come with a bit of history, then Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park should be the top Homosassa destination on your list.

This area was once the home of a 5,100-acre sugar plantation. Today, you can explore the ruins of that plantation, which includes a towering masonry chimney, iron gears, and a cane press.


The park also has a picnic site, which makes it a perfect destination for outdoor meals in Citrus County.

Alpaca Magic USA

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Just when you thought you had seen everything that Florida’s Nature Coast had to offer, a little place called Alpaca Magic USA showed up on your to-do list.

This working farm in Homosassa started out with two alpacas back in 1996, and they have slowly grown that number to 20 alpacas calling the farm home today.

Visiting Alpaca Magic USA is completely free, and all guests get to visit with the alpacas while learning a bit about them. Plus, there is a gift shop with all kinds of alpaca-related products.

Airboat Tours

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While visiting state parks and alpaca farms represent calm ways to spend an afternoon in Homosassa, you can also kick up the excitement level by heading out on one of the many local airboat tours.

Companies like Top Gun Airboat Tours and Native Sun Tours are always taking visitors out through the Gulf Coast marshes, and those amphibious airboats can make for quite the wild experience.

Festivals of Homosassa

One of the great festivals in Homosassa is Shrimpapalooza that normally happens in the month of March. The annual festival is hosted by the Rotary Club of Homosassa Charitable Foundations. Thousands of party goers from all over the state attend every year emphasizing the fun in fundraising. With an awesome Parade, Live Music, Tons of Great Food, there is guaranteed fun for all ages.

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The Homosassa Arts, Crafts and Seafood Festival is one of West Central Florida’s most beloved fall festivals.  The festival includes a juried art show, true crafts, live entertainment, and delicious seafood along with other tasty delicacies.

Homosassa is packed full of relaxing ways to enjoy nature without having to venture too far from home. So whether you are looking for fun with manatees, an exciting airboat tour, or a weekend on the water, you can have it all in Homosassa.

Exploring the Big Bend Shellfish Trail

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Seafood is extremely popular across the state of Florida, and shellfish is practically a way of life along the Gulf Coast. Here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we have the luxury of being located right next to the Big Bend Shellfish Trail, which is where you will find one of the best sources of fresh shellfish in the entire country.  

Whether your preference is for clams, oysters, blue crabs, shrimp, or stone crabs, you can find all of them as you make your way up and down the trail. But with so many options to choose from, figuring out how to best enjoy the trail can be a bit overwhelming.  

Let's take a closer look at what exactly the Big Bend Shellfish Trail has to offer! 

About the Trail 

The Big Bend Shellfish Trail is comprised of the working waterfront communities in Dixie, Levy, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties ranging from Steinhatchee to Yankeetown.  

At one time, this area was better known for its fishing boats, but a 1995 ban on gill net fishing forced the local workers to evolve into shellfish harvesters. Today, you will find large piles of crab traps sitting on docks the entire way up the coast, and it isn't too hard to find the shellfish that make their way into those traps either! 

Types of Shellfish 

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Scallops and Stone Crabs are probably the most sought-after shellfish you will find along the Big Bend Shellfish Trail. Both are limited in terms of fishing season and restricted to certain catch limits, which means that supplies are almost always limited, making them rather expensive.  

On the flip side, you will find all of the clams, shrimp, and blue crabs you could ever want throughout the salty marsh waters of the Big Bend Shellfish Trail.  

Big Bend Destinations 

Because the entire Big Bend Shellfish Trail is located within a short driving distance of the Villages of Citrus Hills, each of the popular stops along the trail would be an excellent day trip for our residents.  

Cedar Key is probably the most popular tourist destination along the trail, and it is also a favorite day trip spot for local residents. In addition to being a beautiful island, this is also a prime spot for oysters and clams, and there are also a number of farm-to-table shellfish restaurants on the island.  

If you are looking for a scalloping adventure, Steinhatchee is the place to find your charter service. And that won't be hard here considering the area is filled with working shellfish boats.  

Another excellent destination for a Big Bend Shellfish Trail day trip is Suwannee, where you will find some of the best stone crab fishing of the entire Gulf Coast. This is also a great place to track down clams, oysters, and blue crabs as well.  

Whether you are looking to get out on the water and catch your own shellfish or stay on dry land and enjoy a fantastic seafood experience at a locally owned restaurant, the Big Bend Shellfish Trail can help you out either way. So if you are passionate about your shellfish, it's time to get out and start exploring the trail!

Memorial Day Cookout: 6 Grill Ideas That Blow the Burger Out of the Water

Thanks to the great climate in Florida, we have the luxury of keeping our grills out all year round here at the Villages of Citrus Hills. But there is just something about Memorial Day Weekend that gives all of us the itch to break out the tongs and fire up the charcoal.

Most backyard cookouts feature some combination of hamburgers and hot dogs. If you are looking for a new idea to set your big holiday party apart from all of the others, we’ve got five grill ideas that will blow those burgers and hot dogs right out of the water. Let's fire up the grill!

Baby Back Ribs

Hamburgers and hot dogs are the most popular cookout foods because they are among the easiest things to throw together in a hurry. But when you really want to impress your guests, pork ribs are the way to do it.

The key to making the best ribs in town is to take your time and cook them low and slow. If you can get your grill down below 225 degrees, you can cook them right there for five or six hours.

Alternatively, you can cook them in the oven for the first five hours and then move them out to the grill for the finishing touches.  One of the most important things to remember when prepping your ribs is that you always want to make sure to remove the thin membrane on the bone side of the meat. This will allow all of the flavor from the rub, sauce, and smoke to work its way right into the meat.

Steaks

Throwing a nice Ribeye or T-bone steak on the grill is always going to be looked at as an upgrade from your basic hamburger, but many people are intimidated by the different levels of doneness that each of their guests might prefer.

Understanding the subtle differences between medium rare, medium, and medium well can be a challenge, but you can pick up the ultimate cheat sheet for that challenge in the form of a meat thermometer for just a few dollars.   Many newer thermometers have the regions for different levels of doneness marked right on them.

 

So, with your new thermometer in hand, you can feel confident that you are serving steaks to your guests exactly how they like them!

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapeños

You can also get creative on the grill with appetizers.  One popular idea is to take halved jalapeños that have been stemmed and seeded and stuff them with a mixture of cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese. Wrap the peppers with par-cooked bacon and throw them on the grill until that bacon gets nice and crispy. Your guests will beg you for this simple recipe.

 

Stuffed Turkey Burgers

If you are expecting your guests to be a little more health conscious, you might want to go with turkey burgers instead of hamburgers. You can instantly jazz up this healthy alternative by mixing in any combination of diced vegetables and garlic that you prefer.

Just chop up some peppers, onions, and garlic and mix them in with the ground turkey before you make your patties. If you really want to wow the crowd, add a little BBQ sauce into that mixture too!

BBQ Chicken Thighs

Another food that would be a lot more popular at cookouts if people weren't so intimidated by it is chicken thighs. Where chicken breasts tend to dry out on the grill, the dark meat that you get with a thigh will stay moist for much longer.

Once again, the thermometer is your best friend here. Make sure that you are getting your chicken up to 165 degrees before serving it, but don't go too much further than that!

Chicken thighs are extremely versatile. You can combine all kinds of flavors through different rubs and sauces. So, put out a few different options to give your guests some variety, and they'll still be talking about your chicken at the Fourth of July party.

Shrimp Skewers

And last but not least, seafood.  A very easy addition to the menu and always a crowd pleaser.  Put a few shrimp on a skewer, add a few vegetables if you like, and in a few minutes, they’re ready to eat.  Brush on a little marinade or have dipping sauces out on the table and you’re all set.

 

No matter what you are making, a Memorial Day Barbeque is always a good time with family and friends.  But it’s always fun to try something a little different and to go the extra mile. 

These 6 suggestions just might do the trick!

Fish Fridays: 5 Local Seafood Restaurants to Visit During Lent

No matter what your religious affiliation, almost everyone can appreciate a good fish fry. And while many religions require a meatless diet on Fridays during forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, just as many non-religious people participate in the tradition simply because seafood is delicious.

The restaurants within the Villages of Citrus Hills have great seafood entrees available every Friday. There are also many great restaurants in Citrus County serving a great fish Friday, so we’ve pulled together a list of five seafood restaurants for you to try.  

There are so many in our area we’ll probably have to do a listing every month.

Seafood Seller & Cafe

The Seafood Seller & Cafe has a casual atmosphere and is located inside the Crystal River Mall, where they anchor the food court. They stay one of the most popular seafood restaurants in all of Citrus County.

If you’ve never visited before, you will not believe the quality of the food that can be found at the mall! One of the signature items to try is the Blue Crab Balls, but everything on the menu is fantastic. Other popular selections include the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos, Blackened Grouper Dinner, Oyster Po Boy Sandwiches, and Crawfish!

Peck’s Old Port Cove

If you like your seafood to come with a view, Peck’s Old Port Cove at the end of the scenic Ozello Trail is the perfect destination. Here you can pull up a chair overlooking the water of Crystal Bay right in the heart of Crystal River Preserve State Park.

Soft Shell Blue crabs are one of the specialties here, and Peck’s does an appreciable job of sautéing them in plenty of butter. They also serve a delicious fried seafood platter.

Stumpknockers on the River

Another renowned fish spot in Citrus County is Stumpknockers on the River. This locally owned restaurant sits right on the Withlacoochee River, and their most popular specialty is the Fried Catfish Dinner. There are many Lent-friendly entrees on their menu, like the Peel & Eat Shrimp, Stuffed Flounder, and the Fab 4, which features shrimp, scallops, mussels, and crab legs.

Dan’s Clam Stand

Many people make the mistake of assuming that fried fish is all that there is to eat on Fridays during Lent, but that definitely isn’t the case. At Dan’s Clam Stand, shellfish is their passion. Here you will find amazing deep fried shrimp and clams and wonderful conch fritters.

Katch Twenty-Two

Another common misconception about the Lent season is that the seafood has to be fried and served in an ultra-casual environment. If you are looking to buck that trend and go for something a bit elegant, Katch Twenty-Two is one of Citrus County’s premier seafood restaurants. There is a wide range of options on Chef Richard’s constantly evolving menu, but amazing seafood dishes are always a feature that takes advantage of our location along the Gulf Coast.

The Lenten season stretches out for a total of seven Fridays during the months of March and April this year, but it doesn’t even have to be a Friday during Lent for you to enjoy one of these excellent local seafood restaurants. No matter when you plan to visit, make sure you are hungry when you do