Atmosphere and Food in Key West

For our last night in Key West we decided to focus a little more of atmosphere than food. We wanted good food, but really, we wanted the atmosphere so we headed to The Southernmost Beach Cafe. The reviews for this restaurant were great so we decided to give it a try. The atmosphere was amazing.

I can’t say the food lived up to the reviews, but it was good. Very good. Just not great. The salad had a nice mango vinaigrette and was very fresh. Bob had a snapper that he thought was “outstanding” and I had the chicken marsala. It was good, but not the best I’ve ever had. I would assume the seafood is much better here than the non-seafood offerings, but I wasn’t willing to risk fish after the salmon incident a few months ago. So we had a good dinner with a great atmosphere (and excellent service). We decided to find dessert as we wandered along Duval, but never ended up stopping for dessert.

We did hit Krawl off Duval, a little bar that was so much quieter than the usual downtown Key West. It had an incredible beer selection – on tap and in bottles, so Bob was thrilled. (His beer at dinner was “ok”) He had a pint of something that I cannot remember and I had a nice glass of a red wine.

Since I did not get dessert either Friday or Saturday night, we skipped the breakfast at the B&B and headed to a place where I could have dessert for breakfast. It was the last day of vacation, I almost HAD to do it! Croissants de France looks like a little place on Duval, but is much bigger than the outside appears. I have to say, I had the best crepe – sweet crepe with pineapple, banana, coconut and mango. Sweet and tangy and perfect for breakfast. Bob had a banana crepe with (I think) a rum sauce.

So Key West was a great little break. We were able to relax and just enjoy the weather, the sights, the food and each other. Just what we needed.

If you want to see more pictures, take the page link on the side to Key West. I should have pictures with some descriptions up tonight.

Geeking Out on Cats and History

Key West is probably best known for Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville and Earnest Hemingway’s home. While we walked past the first, we did the tour of the Hemmingway home first thing this morning. It has cats … how can I not go there first?

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Hemmingway apparently lived here with his second wife and all the cats are descended from his original polydactyl cat, Snowball. There are cats everywhere.

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On window ledges, in the bushes …

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Just hanging out on the sofa or bed …

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There were more along the paths, in the gift shop, out by the pool, in the writers cottage etc but I will refrain from posting all the cat pictures.

And no, I did not take one home … Bob wouldn’t let me. He thought the three at home and Jessie would not be happy with a new sibling.

On the way to our next stop Bob found a cute little coffee shop.

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I think it was just called The Coffee and Tea Shop but I’m honestly not sure. (I only had one cup of coffee that Bob called “not bad” – enough said.) So I was so happy to get a real mocha that tasted wonderful. The lady who was there was great too. Definitely a place to go back to in the morning.

We then headed to The Little White House. Harry Truman made the old commandants quarters at the navel base here his vacation spot. Apparently several other presidents and high ranking officials have used it in the last 50 years, so much so that it is still considered a secure facility and you can’t have cell phones or cameras inside. But outside I did get a picture or two.

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The house is on a gated street that has lots of private homes. It was really, really pretty. If you have the money this would be the neighborhood to live in on Key West. We don’t have the money.

One odd feature of Key West, which I had never heard if before, is the chickens. There are chickens, dozens of them, roaming all over Key West.

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They are left over from the old days when there were cock fights. Now that Key West is a bird sanctuary you can’t kill them so they just roam everywhere. It’s a little odd.

We had a great find for lunch today. We just walked by Martin’s and decided it looked good for a light lunch. We were very pleasantly surprised

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Bob and I each had the Caprese Wrap and I have to say – wow! Tons of flavor in here with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and a dressing that was perfect.

We are heading for a view with tonight’s dinner. Hopefully the food is as good as the atmosphere but we figured we can’t do Key West without at least one beach front meal.

Key West

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As the last few weeks were a little rough, Bob and I decided to take a three day weekend and head to Key West. I’ve never been here mostly because getting here is a little tricky for me. Flights don’t go direct from Sarasota – you have to fly north and then south. Too much hassle. There is the ferry, but I still haven’t recovered from the one to the Isle of Wight ( and that was absolutely worth it) and a few hours is a little much. Then there is the driving option; given my reaction to bridges it’s not a great option but we went with it. All in all there was more island than bridge so I did ok.

We found a cute little B&B to stay in:

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Duval Gardens. Rooms are comfy, clean and walking distance to everything without the noise. Very quiet at night. And the staff is super nice and helpful. We lucked out with this one.

Last night we did our one planned dinner. The Internet is an amazing thing – I looked up restaurants, checked out locations, menus and reviews then made a reservation on-line. And what a find!

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Santiago’s Bodgea. A tapas restaurant that had a great looking menu, walkable from the B&B and had great reviews. And they did not over promise. We had excellent food including

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Cheese board. A Manchego, a double cream goat cheese and a blue. The goat cheese stole the show on this one.

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Shrimp and chorizo in a garlic sauce. Yes, I ate shrimp and it was so good. I stuck with one shrimp just in case I had any reaction like I did with the salmon but nothing. Just really great flavor.

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Pork with chutney. The chutney made this dish. The pork was good, but the chutney was pure heaven.

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And the star of the evening / dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. Holy cow this was amazing. The date was sweet, the goat cheese had a tangy bite to it and the prosciutto was salty making it the perfect morsel. The date also didn’t have the weird texture it can have so this may move into the top five bites of food ever. Certainly top ten, but maybe top five.

Today’s adventures include cats and history with maybe a little beach thrown in. And food. Cant wait for more food.

Getting back to normal

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What a week. Both Bob and I had a rough week and we are very glad it is over. My week was so long I actually did not cook a single meal last week. Not one. Three back to school nights equal three twelve hour days and the two days where I did make it home “on time” just did not have me in the mood to cook.

And when things get yucky and you just aren’t feeling it, cats are wonderful. (I realized that, despite the name of this blog, I did not have a pets category. That has now been rectified.) I sat down the other evening, totally and completely drained and Tigger came to keep me company.

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Another night where I just felt out of it, Gracie came for lap time.

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They really do seem to know when you just need … something. Even when you aren’t sure what that is, they do.

But today I returned to cooking. My veggie basket had some interesting stuff in it this week

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Collard greens, apples, lemons, ginger root ( it is huge!), acorn squash and rutabaga. I have no idea what to do with half of it, but I am sure I will figure something out. For today, I made pork tacos with a homemade salsa verde sauce. I had never worked with tomatillos before, so this was an experiment. It came out really well – Bob liked the brightness of the sauce and I liked the flavor it added to the dish. I also made a Greek chicken salad – so I can actually eat lunch for a change- and prepped the acorn squash and peppers (made the filling and stuffed them some just have to pop them in the oven one night). I may not have cooked last week, but I made up for it today.

But the best thing I made was the mango mousse. We had this at the Epcot Food and Wine festival a few years ago and it was by far the most memorable dish there. I always have such high hopes from that, but my expectations are rarely met. This one, however …. I still have dreams about it. So I tried a recipe I found and made my own.

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It was close – very close – to what we had at Epcot, but not the same. It came out a little sweeter, and not as mangoy (yes, I just made up the word, don’t care it was that kind of week). Good. But I have a plan for the next time Val has access to loads of mango.

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Technically

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Technically corn is a grain. It is a grain in the same way rice and barley are grains, so I’ve avoided using it when cooking since Bob started the no grain eating thing. But my veggie basket this week contained some beautiful bi-colored corn and I just had to use it.

So a corn salsa, corn salad, corn relish … whatever you want to call it. I got the kernels off the cob ( a first for me), cooked them and added them to the red onion from this week’s basket, the last of the cucumber from last week’s basket and the tomato I picked up last week. I mixed everything with some rice vinegar, peanut oil, soy sauce, garlic and chili peppers and let it sit for about a half hour before serving. It got paired with a pork loin I had marinating and I have to say, it was a lovely little meal. Not as good as dinner at Indigenous the night before, but very little would compare to that.

I wish my phone was working Friday night because the food at Indigenous is not only incredibly good, it is very photo worthy. This has become one of our favorite places in Sarasota because the food is excellent (far better than I can make at home and I’m not a bad cook), the service is wonderful and the wine selection is delightful. We didn’t make a reservation, but they found us a nice table and didn’t act as though not having a reservation was a big deal. Some places will find you a table, but act like it is a huge inconvenience for them. Not at Indigenous. One of the reasons I don’t mind paying for the meal is at the service and atmosphere are as good as the food. When that happens, it is a place I will go back to again and again and tell others about.

Since I didn’t have my camera to take pictures, here is the restaurant website gallery page … http://www.indigenoussarasota.com/gallery
Hopefully you can see some of the very pretty, very tasty dishes that I would gush over again and again if I had the pictures to accompany said gushing commentary.

On the up side, my phone appears to have dried out and is once again working. I won’t have to figure out how long I can go without it now, which is good, I suppose. I’ll have to come up with a great meal to test the camera on it again.

Have a great week!

How Long Can I Last?

I dropped my phone today (in a puddle, no less) and it totally died. My boss laughed when I told him he would have to talk to me or email me since he could not text me. I kept checking it to see if it would miraculously start to work again, but so far, no luck. Part of me wants to rush out and buy a new one as we do not have a land line in the house; the other part of me wants to see how long I can go without a phone. I know I have gone a full week (I don’t bring it when we travel outside the states) but that was on vacation. At home it might be. Little more difficult. I do have email and a phone in my office, so I might be able to make this work.

We almost booked the Brussels trip last night. I found a great deal for the airfare and five nights at a great hotel in the city center. (We looked up just the airfare separately and the price was almost identical.). Thankfully Bob checked on the average high temperature in Brussels in the beginning of March to find it is about 45 degrees. It is above freezing, but I think we will hold out for the summer when I won’t have to bring my heaviest clothes and Bob won’t have to buy a new wardrobe. (He still does not own “winter” clothes … silly man.). I think we could do it, it I would rather see the city with Brad and Emmie and have a chance at being warm.

Have. Great weekend!

Cheating?

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I work in a school and when the question of academic honesty – aka cheating – comes up I almost always say something to the effect of, “if you have to ask if it is cheating, it probably is.”. So when I was grocery shopping this week, and found myself asking if the puree of herbs is cheating (as I picked up the parsley since the last three plants I picked up have died on me) I have to conclude that it most likely is indeed cheating.

But in this one case, let me make the argument for cheating. I use very little ginger and almost always find it, when looking for it whole, in a large root. I almost never find it in smaller sizes just due to the nature of the item. Cilantro may last for a week, but I never use the entire bunch, and the parsley, well, it seems to be my doomed herb. Val can’t grow mint, I can’t grow parsley. The last time it didn’t die of natural causes, Leia ate the entire plant. The chili pepper is really more of a convenience than anything else; I can control the spice amount much better than I can with fresh and when cooking for a range of spice tolerances, that is important. I can store the purée for about six months and in that time, I almost always use the entire bottle. When I buy truly fresh parsley, ginger and cilantro, I almost always throw half of it away. Cilantro and parsley I will still buy in the raw form when I make something that requires a lot of it (the disaster of the falafel comes to mind) but otherwise, I cheat, and use the purée – especially if I am going to blend it into something like a dressing or marinade anyway. So while, yes, it is cheating, I am going the way of the has grill on this one. The original is definitely better (charcoal grill kicks gas grill butt for flavor) but the convenience and lack of waste (both time, item and money) makes the short cut (gas grill and the puréed herb) the better bet for everyday use.

Feel free to disagree with me, but here are a few things I made this week using said cheating herbs.

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My version of Italian Wedding Soup. Purée of chili went into this one to give it a little kick without overwhelming the dish. Bob liked it so much he texted me at lunch Tuesday to tell me how much he liked it. Made my day too.

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Carrot salad; purée of ginger went into the seasoning for this. Gave it a very nice crisp taste that I could not get without a little ginger. But I didn’t need enough to but a whole root.

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Grilled summer vegetables. A little of each went into the marinade for the veggies, and for the pork that accompanied the dish.

Besides, when I use the already cut up and puréed version, I have more time to herd cats and rescue lizards.

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