September/October 2000 Issue

A steaming bowl of chowder, a balmy ocean breeze, and if you wait until dusk, nature’s absolute glory becomes a picture-perfect sunset. Ahhh…true perfection.
    Everything that shouts island ambiance can easily be found in three local restaurants that celebrate the region’s bounty with seafood chowder. Our culinary journey to satisfy cravings for hearty chowder culminates in Bokeelia, Useppa Island, and Sanibel, where chowder excellence prevails in small island hideaways.
    Incredible views and Old World nautical decor define The Lazy Flamingo in Bokeelia (Four Winds Marina, Bokeelia, 941/283-5959), a quaint waterfront eatery. Well worth the trip by boat or land, the Spicy Conch Chowder is not the only fresh seafood fare. Owners Larry C. Thompson and Dick Muench, along with capable and friendly general manager John R. Feagans, welcome the challenge of making consistently good food everyday.
    A gathering place for locals and tourists alike, The Sanibel Island Chowder Company (2075 Periwinkle Way, in the Periwinkle Place Shopping Center, 941/472-2525) is a comfortable, neighborhood restaurant that dishes up homemade entrées, daily specials, and desserts. Long-time friends Trevor Nette, Dave Owens, Tom Albert, and Craig Albert, paired with innovative chef Jorge Garcia and their hands-on experience, transform good ingredients into great food. Filled with the flavors of the sea, the restaurant’s specialty, Sanibel Chowder, is a rich indulgence. The chowder recipe has been served for many years and beckons repeat customers.
    The historic Collier Inn on Useppa Island (941/283-1061) has graced our area for more than a century. Combining the old South with tropical elegance, the Collier Inn is distinctive for its exclusivity and tastefulness. Executive chef Gerald L. Beaudry develops the menu with his guests in mind. Acute culinary skills combined with our area’s abundance of fresh ingredients marry to create Useppa Conch Chowder.
    Visit these hideaways or prepare these great recipes yourself and prepare to enjoy some of our region’s treasures.

Jan Campbell, a lifelong resident of Southwest Florida, is a cookbook author and catering consultant.

Lazy Flamingo Conch Chowder
1 pound of conch meat, chopped
4 strips of bacon, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can whole tomatoes
(lightly crush by hand)
1 ounce of hot sauce
16 ounces of clam juice
1/4 pound of butter
1/2 cup of sherry
1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
2 ounces of thyme
4 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
Place chopped conch, onions, carrots, peppers, and celery into a food processor and chop more until desired consistency is achieved. Most people prefer these vegetables finely diced. In a medium-sized stockpot, place butter and chopped bacon and heat until bacon is cooked but not crisp, add vegetable and conch mixture and sauté till al dente. Add the rest of ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a crusty French bread. (Can substitute 1 pound of chopped shrimp for conch.)

Useppa Island Conch Chowder
10-ounce can of diced tomatoes
32-ounce can of tomato juice
1 large Spanish onion, diced small
1 head of celery, diced small
4 pounds of ground conch
32 ounces of clam juice
6 diced white potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
1 tablespoon of tarragon
1/4 cup of Caribbean jerk spice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of cream sherry
Sauté onion, celery, and garlic until tender. Add jerk spice and tarragon and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato juice, and clam juice, and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and conch, lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Finish with cream sherry and serve.

Sanibel Chowder
1 cup of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of garlic, diced
4 quarts of yellow onion, diced
4 quarts of fennel bulb, diced
4 quarts of green pepper, diced
10 pounds of red bliss potatoes, diced
1/8 cup of dried basil
3 tablespoons of parsley
1/8 cup thyme
1/4 cup rosemary
3 ounces of ground anise
1/4 cup of granulated garlic
1/4 cup of granulated onion
1/2 ounce Tabasco sauce
7 ounces Worcestershire sauce
2 cans Tomato Magic with clam juice
2 pounds of shrimp pieces
(16 to 20 whole shrimp, diced)
10 pounds of cod and/or
grouper, diced
750-milliliter bottle of Sambuca
(about 3 cups)
750-milliliter bottle of
Vermouth (about 3 cups)
1/2 ounce of Old Bay Seasoning
Use an extremely large pot and invite the neighborhood for a taste! Sauté garlic, onion, fennel, peppers, potatoes, spices, Tabasco, and Worcestershire in olive oil. Simmer until vegetables start to soften. Add Sambuca and Vermouth, and bring back to simmer. Add tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes. Add clam juice and cook until potatoes start to soften. Add shrimp, cod, and grouper. Remove from heat.