One of our main thoughts upon choosing Miami as a winter get away this year, was having a feed of stone crab. Joe’s Stone Crab, with its tuxedoed waiters, fine white linens, silver tableware, and valet parking, is another iconic South Beach establishment located near the end of Ocean Blvd. The cavernous dining room has several outdoor seating areas as well. Bobby Flay chose the stone crab at Joe’s as “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, on the show entitled “Obsessions”.
Rob and I tried one evening to dine here but found a two hour wait for a table. Unbeknownst to us it was a holiday in the US and everyone was out on the town. Despite having paid for valet already, we opted out this particular evening and spent the next two hours trying to find a place that was serving stone crab. No luck. They had either closed their doors or were too far away. Sigh. “Another day.”, we hoped.
As I said earlier, it is difficult to relax ocean-side in South Beach. We decided to spend a day driving down the Keys as far as Marathon and then returning. On a previous “boys” trip, Rob had gone deep sea fishing and wanted to share with me a place he had visited where they cooked your catch for you. I was looking forward to getting some stone crab.
So on yet another beautiful, warm February day in Miami, we set out down the Florida Keys, buoyed by the sight of turquoise ocean on either side of the highway. This is a really pleasant drive. Each Key is cluttered with casual places to eat fresh food, marinas, and quaint mom and pop resorts. The Key’s own radio station plays easy-going rock classics and reports on daily events. With tunes cranked and windows down, we set out to enjoy the salt air, sun, and blue, blue waters. The island lifestyle is very seductive here.
About lunchtime we came upon the Fish House and Seafood Market in Key Largo. It is a typical seafood place with a ramshackle, weathered appearance strung with netting and starfish. You enter into a large, fresh seafood sale area and are led back to the dark eating area, again cluttered with classic seaside debris and heavy wood furniture. Classic and immediately comfortable. No pretension here.
We order conch fritters to start and discuss the stone crab situation with our server: the boats are not in yet and she has only jumbo claws served hot or cold. We decide to start with a pound of hot with drawn butter. At $40 per pound (three to four claws) we figure we will order a second if we are still hungry. Gone are the days of all-you-can-eat stone crab. We ended up ordering a second pound, cold, served with an excellent mustard remoulade. Stone crabs for those of you who have not experienced them, are meaty, sweet and succulent. Only the claws are served. Stone crabs regenerate lost limbs, so they are caught, harvested of one claw and returned to the ocean. I’ve yet to ever see them in Ottawa.
After a fabulous albeit pricey feed of stone crab, we headed further down the keys to Marathon where we stopped to enjoy a Landshark and enjoy the Marina view at Porky’s BBQ before making the return trip to South Beach.
Espanola Way is an historical district that comprises three blocks in South Beach. It was a two block walk from our hotel and we thought it would be a lovely way to spend an evening and have dinner. The Way turns into a pedestrian only walking mall at night. It is lit with old fashion lamps and the trees around some establishments have strung festive lighting giving the area a happy glow. The street is lined with Spanish style buildings housing small restaurants, patios and one-of-a-kind shops.
After walking the length of the Way, we decided on Tapas y Tintos for dinner. Their inviting patio, dark-haired waitresses complete with flowers in their hair and excellent tapas menu sealed the deal on a warm Miami evening.
Sangria was ordered and it arrived in a cold, crockery jug with inviting condensation dripping little puddles. Red wine, fruit juices and fruit. Excellent and refreshing. We put in our order for five dishes and sat back and enjoyed the gentle breeze on a warm night. The evening was approaching, the palms were silhouetted in the sky, and the festive strings of lights began to twinkle.
The first dish, Sepia a la Plancha, calamari grilled with garlic and paprika, arrived first, followed quickly by Asparagus dish, Patas Bravas, bravely done potatoes in spicy tomato sauce, Garbanzos con Chorizos, and Pimientos, green and red bell peppers roasted and marinated in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Plain, home grown cooking done well. The calamari was expertly grilled. The potatoes were perfectly tender and soaking up the spicy fresh tomato sauce. The garbanzo beans were garlicky and a nice starchy accompaniment to the spicy chorizo sausage, and the grilled peppers subtly marinated, added to the sweetness of the red and the sharpness of the green which played nicely on the tongue.
Dessert was a shared plate of Queso de Tetilla con Membrillo, slightly salty, medium soft cheese, mild in flavour, and sandwiching a slice of firm guava paste. The perfect end to a wonderful meal.
Still determined to have a last feed of stone crab at Joe’s before heading back to Ottawa, we figured lunch time would be a less busy option. We guessed right and were seated immediately. The elegant dining room at Joe’s was quite the contrast to the dark, sea-salt atmosphere of the Fish House in Key Largo.
Our chatty waiter brought a basket of excellent breads and took our orders. Stone crab, cold, the only way it is served at Joe’s. We order their signature string sweet potato fries on the side. They come sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Tasty, but the extra sugar is really not needed. Sweet potato fries, lightly tossed in cornstarch and expertly fried are perfection in themselves. Best sweet potato fries ever? Fathers Office. We finish our meal with good coffee and a decadent, not too sweet slice of key lime pie to share, which I think is the first time I have ever had this classic where it was invented.
We’d love to show you pictures of this meal, however for some reason they are missing. We don’t know why. We’ve checked cameras, computers, flash drives, archives, backups and we’re stumped. So as a diversionary tactic, here are some pretty pictures from Miami and environs.
That concludes our whirlwind visit to Miami. Lots of sun, fun and good eats were had. Ottawa and two kitties awaited our return. It is amazing what a little sun in February can do for the spirit. Stone crab too.
All content and photography copyright (c) 2010 by Robert and Maureen Rose. All rights reserved.