Punta Gorda, on a Plate

My journey around Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf lslands turned out to be a gorge-a-thon -- which is a lovely way to see Punta Gorda and its environs.

Our troupe of food writers and bloggers began Day 2 at The Egg & I Restaurant in Englewood.







For the most part The Egg and I is your typical diner, but it has this one amazing breakfast dish. It's called abelskiver, and it's a soft, slightly sweet "Danish pancake dumpling" that's flavored with cardamom, of all things. Gentle yet striking. Smear on a bit of strawberry jam ... and smile.




We next ventured to Cole's Clam Nursery, where we learned how clams are harvested in the Gulf of Mexico. I won't go on with the details, which happen to be fascinating, but take a look at two things.

These are baby clams.



This is a Sunray Venus clam. Sunray Venus is native to the area but only now being harvested so we'll have enough to eat regularly. Clue: They're what Howard Johnson generally used in those renowned fried clam strips. Expect more news in about a year and a half.



These are the Sunray Venus clams steamed and served with olive oil, wine and parsley at The Fishery Restaurant, a colorful, down-to-earth spot that also has an amazing grouper sandwich.



It worth a stop at Fishermen's Village to get a shopping fix. The complex is a one-stopper with nearly 40 stores -- every one an independent, a marina, and 47 villa-style rental accommodations.



A store called Sweet Treasures sells fruit wines. For a classic seafood meal, try Village Fish Market. These photos will give you an idea.




Enough food for one day, right? Nuh-uh. We ended on a blissfully sweet note at the brand new candy shop Simply Sweet, a Confectionary Cafe. This photo is, ahem, the reason my magazine editors follow up my restaurant visits with photographers. But you'll see some of the store's vast inventory, which includes the best fudge I've ever had (Heath Bar), Norman Love chocolates, gelato and classic candies. On a nice day, the outdoor seats overlooking the marina area a relaxing place to take on a calorie-worthy sugar rush.



Oh, and the employees wear these sassy hats. They set a tone that no small detail is overlooked.



Somewhere along that same day, we took our first of several drives through downtown Punta Gorda, which has been beautifully rebuilt following a wicked hurricane several years ago. One highlight is murals painted on building walls around town. Here's one.



Truly interesting art galleries, many own and run by artists, are scattered about town. For a refresher, stop in for wine, coffee and cupcakes -- I chose strawberry -- at In Your Face Cupcakes.





So that's it for Day 2 in Charlotte County, although somehow I forgot to tell you about Palm Island and Gasparilla Island, known for its one and only town, big with second-home owners, Boca Grande. Enough from me. Take a tour.