Erika Van Buren wants to be your guide to the culinary delights of Port Canaveral.
Brevard bred and born, Van Buren spent her 20s enjoying cuisine around the country, but moved back in 2012.
“I really missed my family, my community and the beach,” she said.
Last year, she launched Yummy Florida as an opportunity for local foodies to get together with similar-minded individuals in pursuit of the perfect meal.
Question: What is your background in the food industry?
Van Buren: I have been a foodie my entire life. I have been a server at numerous restaurants, including Marlin’s Good Times Bar & Grill on the Cocoa Beach Pier, but mostly out-of-area places during my travels. I’ve also been a barista, a banquet server, a cocktail server, a bartender and part of the kitchen staff, so I understand very well what it takes to provide an excellent dining experience.
Q: Please explain the Yummy Florida concept.
Van Buren: Yummy Florida’s strolling food tour is called “Explore Port Canaveral,” and I offer it Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As the only guided tour at the new Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, I begin by leading my guests through seven themed levels of local history, recreation, community and on up to the open-air observation deck for the best view around. Even as a local, I learned so much about the Space Coast that I had no idea about before.
We sample some astronaut ice cream donated by Space Shirts and head over to the waterfront. We go behind the scenes to learn about the fishing and shrimping industry from Wild Ocean Seafood, and try three to four species of shrimp, depending on the season.
Next, we stroll over to Milliken’s Reef, Baja Tavern, Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill, and Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, sampling award-winning chowder, delectable seafood, tasty appetizers, home-made Key lime pie, and even some tropical cocktails and craft beer for those 21 and older.
Yummy Florida’s new VIP Dining events are at a different location each time and vary in price. Instead of touring from venue to venue, you stay at one restaurant and “tour the menu” by sampling several appetizers, several entrees and dessert, available exclusively for Yummy Florida guests.
What’s extra exciting is you get to eat with the owner of the restaurant in a private dining area decorated by Beach House Designs.
Q: Most memorable tour to date?
Van Buren: My first sold-out tour was on May 10, and on that tour, I had two guests who met for the first time, fell in love, and have been together ever since.
Van Buren: I am a proud mother to two handsome boys, ages 9 and 8.
I, myself, am number three out of six kids, so if you went to school in Merritt Island during a certain time period, chances are you knew a Van Buren, or two. My parents are still living on the island. I also am fortunate to have the love of a wonderful man in my life.
Q: Three words that describe you?
Van Buren: Unique, passionate, foodie
Q: What would be your ultimate food tour?
Van Buren: I would love to have an intimate, fine-dining tasting tour featuring Gordon Ramsey, among other celebrity chefs, enjoyed by myself and my friends and family.
Q: Famous person you’d love to see in one of the Yummy Florida events?
Van Buren: I’ve always been a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, but I suppose I would settle for Ryan Gosling.
Cost: $49 for 18 and older; $39 for children 3 to 17. Children 2 and younger admitted free. Price includes all food, drink, admission to the Exploration Tower and tour.
• Every Saturday: “Explore Port Canaveral” Strolling Food Tour
• Nov. 15: Special Singles Mixer
Private chauffeured tours are available.
During November, 10 percent of proceeds from tours and gift certificates will be donated to Volunteers of America of Florida, which operates transitional housing for homeless veterans.