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Was America’s First Thanksgiving In Florida?

In 1565, settlers of the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Fla. shared a meal with the Timucuan Indians. In the eyes of many, Thanksgiving was born.

Kissimmee, FL – While New Englanders boast about their ancestor’s role in the America’s first Thanksgiving, visitors to Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Florida are tossing out this traditional story in favor of a new version of history…. was America’s first Thanksgiving celebrated in Florida?

“The history books don’t agree on the location or date of America’s first Thanksgiving,” said Keith Salwoski, public relations manager. “In 1565, settlers of the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Fla. shared a meal with the Timucuan Indians. In the eyes of many, Thanksgiving was born.”

This revised version of history is shared by some historians who point out that St. Augustine had a thriving city for three generations before the Pilgrims ever arrived in The New World. One such historian is Dr. Michael Gannon, a history professor at the University of Florida, who detailed the first Thanksgiving in his book “The Cross in the Sand.” Other historians contend that another “Thanksgiving” was held one year earlier in 1564, when French Huguenot colonists celebrated in a settlement near Jacksonville, Florida.

Regardless of the historic location, visitors who choose to make a “pilgrimage” to the state of the first Thanksgiving feast will find a place to celebrate in Orlando. As part of the Gaylord Palms Resort “Best of Florida LIVE!” program, visitors at the resort will be able to commemorate the Floridian Thanksgiving celebration.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Old Hickory Steakhouse

Set among a dramatic indoor Everglades landscape, Old Hickory Steakhouse presents an upscale menu of Thanksgiving favorites. The holiday experience includes menu items served from stations, as well as made-to-order selections from Chef Paul Player and his staff.

The highlight of the meal will be a traditional roasted turkey breast with dressing and holiday side dishes. Other specialties will include alligator jambalaya, and Maryland blue point oysters served on the half shell.

For the breakfast minded, diners can choose from a selection of gourmet omelets, Applewood smoked bacon, handcrafted herb pork and chicken sausages, assorted canapés, fresh seasonal fruit, and French breakfast pastry.

A selection of 5 soups and salads will be served, including an organic salad of field greens with chef-created balsamic vinaigrette, a locally grown heirloom tomato and Vidalia onion salad, and creamy lobster bisque with sherry and fire-roasted shrimp.

Diners are invited to step into the Old Hickory kitchen, where the chefs will personally prepare sautéed wild mushroom crusted ostrich medallion with coconut milk polenta; pan-seared beef medallion and foie gras with a parmentier potato and Swiss chard; stuffed jumbo shrimp with crabmeat, tomato confit and basil beurre blanc; oven-baked Florida red snapper with a corn sabayon and fried leeks; and traditional Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce and potato gratin.

In addition, meal choices include a variety of smoked fish, artisanal cheeses, and caviar with its traditional accoutrements.

For those with a sweet tooth, the restaurant will feature a soufflé made with chocolate and Grand Mariner, a secret recipe from Alsace, France. In addition, a selection of fresh holiday pies, truffles and cakes will be served.

Holiday diners can begin their meal with premium Bloody Mary and Mimosa drinks, fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice and French-press dark roast coffee.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Old Hickory Steakhouse will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Prices are $65 per person (plus tax and gratuity). For reservation, call 407-586-1600. To see the entire menu, visit the Gaylord Palms Thanksgiving dining page.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Villa de Flora

Just like a meal at grandma’s house, Chef Rose Hall and her staff at Villa de Flora make Thanksgiving Brunch a day-long feast.

This “European market” will feature chefs stationed at six kitchens, featuring a seasonal market-inspired menu of more than 100 items. No matter what you would like, you’ll find a kitchen ready to meet your need: Antipastos, Mediterranean salads, Brunch entrees, carved meats, “kiddie korner,” and even the dolceria, featuring hand-made holiday desserts.

Morning highlights include traditional Eggs Benedict; fresh Belgian waffles and omelets made to order; and apple crepes with “drunken” dark cherries & roasted pecans.

Afternoon menu additions include grilled salmon with fresh herbs, feta cheese and saffron fish veloute; veal and vegetable ragout with fresh green beans; and a holiday risotto bar.

Traditional Thanksgiving favorites include a sage-rubbed roasted turkey breast, traditional sage-rubbed stuffing, oyster stuffing with pancetta bacon, buttermilk mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and oven-hot cornbread.

The dolceria will include a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit, traditional pumpkin pie, pecan tartlets, house-made Tiramisu, baklava, caramel flan, tres leches, warm rice pudding, and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Villa de Flora requires advance reservations (and is currently sold out). It will be served from noon until 10 p.m.

Villa de Flora also features a new “Thanksgiving Dinner to Go” package, that includes “curbside pickup.”

Brunch at Villa de Flora, named top in the state by readers of Florida Monthly, is also available Thanksgiving weekend (and every weekend in December), with visits by Mrs. Claus. For reservation, call 407-586-1114. To see the entire menus, visit the Villa de Flora holiday dining page.

Thanksgiving at Sunset Sam’s Fish Camp
For a Florida-style feast, Chef Rob Gioia serves up an amazing meal with a Key West twist at Sunset Sam’s. The holiday menu includes items such as autumn frisee salad and oven-roasted turkey with oyster and cornbread stuffing.

For reservation, call 407-586-1101. To see the entire menu, visit the Gaylord Palms holiday menu page.

Originally Published on November 16th, 2007

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