Lake Wind Advisory issued November 26 at 4:11AM EST expiring November 26 at 7:00PM EST in effect for: DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Pinellas, Polk, Sumter
After a dozen or so intense adventures, we figured it was time to take a break... and just explore Gulfport at a leisurely pace with Deborah Molise of Eat, Sip and Indulge Food Tours.
"It's an artist's community." she said.
"It's a hidden gem. It's a little piece of Florida that's old-school... that people don't quite get to and its a shame 'cuz it has so much to offer."
And we got a big taste... starting with a little hot spot where glass, fire and metal were on the menu.
"At the Industrial Arts Center of Gulfport, we teach people to blow glass primarily," said Owen Pach -- who's been working with glass for some three decades. "But we also teach people to forge steel, to cast glass, to fuse glass. We're a small learning center that is specifically dedicated to children."
Which was just about perfect for us... as John and Ashley made a bead!
Good and fired-up, we found another HOT spot -- The Red Hot Tiki Spicy Gourmet Market -- where a mind-numbing variety of sizzling sauces seduce the pallet.
John and I sampled, moving from smoky to sweet, to... spiritual, with a sauce made of what they call "ghost peppers."
"A 'ghost pepper' is about ten times hotter than a habenero," explained pepper aficionado Rhonda Riccio.
And just about hot enough for us... so we sought some sweets.
"This is kinda like fresh and healthy and local," said Maria Johnson, of Mangia Gourmet. "We try to do as much with the local people here."
At this nearly year-old eatery, terms like vegan, gluten-free and organic were as plentiful as the ooohs and ahs from our band of galloping gourmands.
"Bring us more food!" implored a fork-at-the-ready John.
"Now this is a mini version of our vegan plate," explained Maria, offering us each a colorful clean-eating plate. "This is a white bean burger, white bean and zuccini. It has lentil salad, cool-slaw, and then we have also some cucumber with a blood orange and roasted beet hummus."
Almost sated, we trudged further, discovering this historic city... almost frozen in time as a quaint throwback to a Florida before beach condo high rises and themed-hotels... our last stop was at what's beleived to be the oldest hotel on Florida's west coast.
"The Peninsua Inn is always our finale becasue we have amazing Key Lime pie here," entyhused our tour guide, Ms. Molise.
Pie -- and plenty more -- with beautifully restored accommodations and a gallavanting ghost named Isabelle, who is immortalized in one of the Inn's restaurants.
"As we like to say, we have great wine and friendly spirits," said co-owner Alexandra Kingzett. "Isabelle's Friendly 'cuz you give her this key lime pie," interjected Ashley.
Alexandra actually makes the pies herself, and was pleased to see its effects on our palletes.
"It's a secret family recipe of course," she explained. "We actually use ginger snaps as the base, so I buy ginger snap cookies and I crush them and that's what's the bottom."
And from the bottom of our stomachs, we thank you... and all of Gulfport for a "full day!