Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Real Reason "Snowbirds" Come To Florida

First of all, based on my personal experience, I’ve always believed that the best smoked fish around comes from the small towns, villages, and hamlets which surround Lake Superior. I’m talking about the out of the way places in the Canadian province of Ontario, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and along the Lake Superior shoreline of Minnesota and Wisconsin. I’m referring to locations like Paradise, Ashland, Nipigon, Munising, Brevort, Knife River, and Two Harbors.

Oh, I’m well aware that the Pacific Northwest has smoked fish too. We all see it hermetically sealed and sitting in the refrigerated sections of our local grocery stores from coast to coast. Enough said.

Well over 50 years ago, a man by the name of Ted Peters opened up a restaurant in South Pasadena, Florida. The world has turned over many times since, but, thankfully, the eatery he opened is still at the very same spot. More importantly, the delicious taste of the favorite menu item he served back then, namely, smoked mullet, has not changed one bit.

Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish has been located, since its beginning, at 1350 Pasadena Avenue. And while Ted, who has since passed away, added a few additional items over the years to his menu, smoked mullet is still the main reason most people continue to visit the place. Likewise, unlike most businesses which have been around for this long, the business Ted started is pretty much the same as it’s always been. Unfortunately, it’s common for a lot of businesses to change as success comes, and not always in the best of ways. Businesses change locations, grow, and ultimately lose the identity which made them a success in the first place. Thankfully, that did not happen here. These days, as it was many years ago, patrons still sit in a small “dining room,” and I use that term loosely, or, outside on picnic tables under a covered patio.

The fresh mullet are actually smoked in a separate building, a few feet away from where they are eaten. Wood from a tree native to Florida, the Red Oak, is used to smoke the fish. The raw fish are smoked for up to 6 hours, and go through a brief preparation process before being served. I’m certainly not going to waste my time or insult you by describing in any great detail what smoked mullet tastes like. It tastes very good, and it tastes like smoked fish. I will say, however, that the fish come out on big green plates, with the fillets hot and steaming. They are moist and tender, and there is another big green plate provided for the bones. Along with the fish comes German potato salad, cole slaw, a lemon wedge, a pickle spear, and a slice of both onion and tomato. Should you wish, you can also order the fish spread, which is another favorite selection available on the menu. Simply stated, if you like smoked fish, you’ll enjoy Ted’s smoked fish.

The Gulf of Mexico’s Boca Ciega Bay, which forms the shoreline of South Pasadena, Florida, could not be more different from Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay, but both locations do have at least one thing in common. They both have people who sell and eat smoked fish. Perhaps, the real reason the “snowbirds” come down to Florida every winter from the states bordering Lake Superior has nothing at all to do with the cold up there and the warmth and sunshine down here. The real reason might just be that visitors from the Great Lakes states visit Florida's warm Gulf Coast because they know that smoked mullet at Ted Peters is always plentiful, even in the depths of a very cold winter up north.

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