Tag Archives: breakfast

Firefly and the Conch Republic Train

Firefly, a small cafe open to the air in the front, immediately comfy in what I will call rooster industrial chic, looks like a perfect spot for breakfast. We find seating with the fresh air to our backs facing the corrugated metal bar, warm and inviting with a wood board backsplash in the colours of the island rooster plumage. Very well done.

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Firefly prides itself on its scratch made menu. I am very tempted by the chicken fried steak. Very hard to come by fresh made not frozen.

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In the end we both opted for the chicken and waffles and asked if we could get a side of sawmill gravy and they were very accommodating. In fact it had never occurred to them and they thought it was a great idea. It was.

Decent coffee and excellent fresh squeezed Florida OJ on ice arrives.  The morning, already becoming hot and humid, requires drinks on ice. I am not complaining just reporting.

The chicken breast, expertly fried and boneless with a perfect crisp, chewy crust, nestled on top of four Belgian style waffle quarters,  drenched in buttery maple syrup, sprinkled with pecans, evokes some very excellent chicken and waffles we have enjoyed in previous southern USA trips.

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The side of homemade pepper gravy is THE BEST EVER. Beats out our gold standard for chicken and waffles that is Roscoe’s in LA. This gravy could be eaten with a spoon like soup …chunky with sausage, creamy with a little pepper heat. Now dip a piece of crunchy, moist, tender, maple syrup drenched fried chicken in it and go “ahhhhhh”. Life is good.

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This being our third time in Key West we decided it was time to get acquainted with the island’s history, so we booked a tour on the Conch Train. The tour lasted a little over an hour and was interesting but hot. Time for a cold beverage and a swim.

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Day 3 in Key West

Another day in Paradise. Up at leisure and off to breakfast. Rob has chosen Blue Heaven from a number of top recommendations. Breakfast joints in the Key seem to serve up the classics with each place adding its own quirky touch.

IMG_3413 (3 of 4)Blue Heaven combines funk and kitsch to the max. Almost to the point of a red flag.  Rooster, cat and every piece of crap in between graces the property. Our wait is to be 30 minutes at 10 am. I walk around the large outdoor patio area and grow alarmed by the fountains, and cutesy signage and rusted out antiques. And then the second red flag: gift shop. Does not bode well for the food.

I return to a group of mismatched veranda chairs where Rob waits and a kitty snoozes on a pile of newspapers. We are called shortly (total wait 15 minutes) to an indoor table. The restaurant proper is less adorned than the patio and features barn wood walls, cement floors and painted post and beam construction. Cheery with friendly staff.

I order shrimp and grits… ’cause we in the South and ’cause they are tasty gulf shrimp. The dish comes with several plump shrimp in a white wine sauce over nicely seasoned, buttery grits and some fresh green onion for a little bite.  My plate was accented with fruit which I normally despise for it’s unripeness but at Blue Heaven it was nicely ripe and appreciated. Breakfast with the roosters at Blue Heaven comes with a choice of excellent warm, homemade banana bread or toast. What kind of choice is that? Who chooses toast? I wanna know!

IMG_3412 (2 of 4)Rob’s Rooster Special  featured excellent potatoes, a homemade sausage patty that had a surprising zing to it and egg scramble.

IMG_3411 (1 of 4)Back out into the tropical sunshine for a stroll and then back to the pool to chill with a cocktail. Life is good.

Hot and humid weather sees us sitting around the pool with Shocktops and cocktails. Another day chilling in paradise. I feel like a steak and seafood place for dinner and a little research brings us to a place around the corner from our inn, on Duval, The Blackfin. Reviews and the menu look promising.

We walk over for an early res. The Blackfin is small and neat and has a patio courtyard where we elect to be seated. Our waiter, originally from the Champagne region in France is charming. Decent baguette and butter arrives as our bottle of delicious, crisp Tavel rose is poured. Apps are ordered.

IMG_3046 (1 of 7)My app of sautéed calamari, was chosen for its garlic, parsley sauce and walnuts. My curiosity was piqued by the nuts. Unusual. Rob chose the conch cakes.

The calamari was …well boring. The walnuts which are an unusual twist added nothing to the mix. This dish would be better served if the calamari was grilled. A little char would have made the difference.

IMG_3257 (3 of 7)Rob’s conch cakes with remouladè  were well fried, not greasy and full of conch. Excellent. Both apps were too large however and would have been best shared.

IMG_3047 (2 of 7)We both ordered fish for mains. Rob had sautèed grouper with lime avocado tartar sauce accompanied by  island couscous. The couscous was a revelation. Bright and lightly sweet. His fish was expertly fried.

IMG_3049 (6 of 7)My snapper was perfectly pan fried and luscious with a coconut rum sauce accompanied by light, fluffy rice.

IMG_3258 (5 of 7)We shared a delicious piece of carrot cake drizzled with caramel with well made cappuccinos. A pretty spectacular meal all in all.

IMG_3262 (7 of 7)The night is young and we decide to head across the street to Martin’s to see if we can get a real daiquiri. You would think in the land of Hemingway this would not be hard, but we are on Duval street where cocktail culture has not yet arrived and getting as drunk as you can for as cheap as you can is the mission of the masses. We sit at the bar and Rob schools the bartender on a real daiquiri. He makes us a pretty decent one. We settle in for the evening here and meet some fun Americans…two republican ladies with whom we have some interesting political conversation and a guy from Chicago who wants to talk hockey and I eagerly oblige. A great Hawks fan who convinces me to cheer for the Cubs if I’m looking for a baseball team to cheer for.

Back to the inn after a great night of seafood and interesting conversion. And a newly minted Cubs fan is born.

Red Wagon Cafe

Today, our last day in Vancouver, also happens to be our 29th wedding anniversary. The sun is glorious and we plan on spending the day sightseeing and checking out a few more neighborhoods, notably Davie Village.

Gotta fuel up first. Rob decided on another Triple D joint…on East Hastings! We visited this “quaint” neighborhood last night because we had tickets to see a comedian at the Rickshaw Theatre. Yikes! We made a hasty exit after the show, hoped to find a cab and swore never to return. But alas that all went out the window as we decided to check out Red Wagon Cafe in the light of day. A Streetview Google confirmed it was many blocks from the war zone we walked into last night.

We have been really lucky with parking in the city and scored a spot right in front of the restaurant where we could see the car. I do think our hubcaps were safe here but one never knows. A small crowd was gathered around outside waiting for tables. A young staffer came out and offered around fresh, warm, sugared doughnut holes. This may have kept the crowd from defecting to the absolutely empty Asian restaurant next door (also could have been the no public restrooms, no phones, cash only welcoming sign in the window) but I expect it was more likely the expectation of great food that lay within.

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Red Wagon Cafe is one of only 6 Triple D joints in the entire city. We have been fortunate to get to two on this whirlwind tour. After a ten minute wait we are seated. It appears that Red Wagon does not seat two at a four top so a wait can be unpredictable. When we left there were people who had arrived before us still waiting.

Decorated mostly in vintage coca cola chic, the ambiance is punctuated by a few quirky objects d’art such as an industrial sized whisk with a plastic shark caught up in it for added interest. A tiny red Radio Flyer wagon has a home in a corner near the kitchen. Overall the cafe feels homey, well worn and welcoming.

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Coffee and water arrive quickly with menus. There are four things at least that attract me immediately, but I settle for the Super Trucker with pulled pork pancakes, pork belly, sourdough toast (rye toast for Rob), home fries and 2 eggs. For an additional charge you can have your maple syrup spiked with JD. Well worth it. Two notes here: I am not a huge fan of pulled pork. Quite often I find it bland, pasty in texture and over sauced. Secondly I rarely order sweet stuff such as pancakes for breakfast. It was more the eggs and pork belly I was after here. Yes I could have had them separately. Not sure what I was thinking. I was, perhaps, blindsided by the prospect of spiked maple syrup.

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Food arrives in about ten to twelve minutes. Wow! Looks amazing. The pork belly, thick, not all fat, is crisped up perfectly. My eggs are a perfect over medium as requested.

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The home fries are excellent, perfectly tender new potatoes dressed with a little bacon and green onion. A hallmark for a breakfast place for Rob and I are the potatoes. Deep frying cubes of potatoes casts suspicion on everything else the kitchen does — an unacceptable shortcut. Red Wagon’s potatoes are among the best we have had. It’s the little things that show a kitchen’s passion for what they serve.

I taste the pulled pork which is piled on top of the buttermilk inch-thick pancakes before dousing them in spiked syrup. This is the best pulled pork I have ever had, knocking Rob’s into second place. The texture is perfect. Not pasty. A little crisped up on the flat top maybe. Tender, sweet, salty and garlicky with some definite chili heat. This pulled pork needs no sauce. It stands alone. The pancakes are a perfect bed for the pork. Light and fluffy, quite amazing on their own, but raised to another dimension when soaked with JD spiked maple syrup.

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This was one of the best breakfast/brunch experiences we have had on the road since Jam in Portland, Oregon.

Off we go into the famous Vancouver sunshine for our final day of exploring. Next up: The Rocky Mountaineer through the Rockies to Calgary!

 

 

 

Breakfast: The Old Coffee Pot

For breakfast today we sought out a well-recommended location in the French Quarter called The Old Coffee Pot – an original restaurant of old New Orleans established in 1696. The establishment’s history was evident in the historical paintings and objects located throughout the restaurant.

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Maureen and I ordered “the Plantation Breakfast” — two eggs any style, ham steak, grits, biscuit and something called “Calla Cakes” — deep-fried sweet rice balls seasoned with vanilla and almond flavourings and dusted with powdered sugar.

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On the plus side, the eggs were cooked a perfect over medium and the grits were buttery and well seasoned. The “ham steak” was tasty but was clearly a slice of processed, pressed ham which is kind of a sacrilege in the South. We were expecting a slice of off-the-bone ham. The biscuit was warm, light, fluffy and delicious – among the best we’ve had.

The calla cakes were, like the beignets of Cafe Du Monde, submerged under a tiny mountain of icing sugar. Once the cake was shaken off enough to get a bite without wearing some, the crispy treat was a warm, homey delicacy with dominant almond flavouring. Our server made it seem like it was a “secret ingredient” and looked crestfallen when we identified it immediately. They were good to try, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to order them.

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The ham was wonderfully rescued by placing it between two halves of this amazing biscuit. All is forgiven.

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Diner: Louis’ Restaurant

Louis’: home of my favorite Canadian-style pie. You know, the kind with the thick bready crust, good tomato sauce, a classic combo with green peppers, mushrooms and peperoni – chewy with cheese. A great Saturday use to include bowling at MacArthur lanes and pizza at Louis’. Late nights after Rob’s band played often included a stop at Louis’ which was hopping like it was noon even in the wee hours despite not having a liquor license. Family owned Louis’ has been a Vanier institution for 52 years. Our waitress, gravelly-voiced and sweetie-calling, has been there 34 years.

Louis’ serves breakfast, so we head over to check it out this fine, scorching Saturday. The place is full with regulars being questioned by another gravelly-voiced sister, “Where have you been?”, “Where is your husband this morning?”, “Have a great birthday!” We grab a table in the window,  one of very few available at 10:30. Our server asks us if we need menus. We do as this is our first time for breakfast. Coffee – decent – and bottled minute maid OJ arrive, I order the breakfast special, $5.10, and Rob orders a western omelette and we wait.

Decorated in classic-diner, orange vinyl booths and formica, Louis’ walls are charmingly plastered with unframed photos of family and I presume regulars, kid’s artwork and local hockey club paraphernalia, cementing its neighbourhood-fixture status. A small confectionery is attached to the restaurant. Lottery tickets and Advil are sold at the cash. Dessert cases are filled with mile-high cream pies. On the way in and out you can waste a quarter on the love meter. If you score “kinky” you get a free pack of gum.

Breakfast arrives. Two eggs cooked perfectly. bacon – for me – very crisp (Rob notes that no one ever asks you how you want your bacon. I like mine a little less crispy but not limp), home-fried potatoes cooked on the flat top with fried onions, very good, white toast (brown available and rye as well – no extra charge). No jam is offered or on the table. Minor peeve. The plate is adorned with a nice sweet orange wedge and a lame slice of tomato. I would take issue with this except that breakfast at Louis’ is very cheap and I don’t appear to be charged much for this.

Rob’s western omelet, cooked on the flat top is well made, but seemingly lacking green pepper. They’re famously a pizza place, so clearly they have green peppers on hand.

Breakfast at Louis’ overall is quite good. The price is right and the service is exactly what you want in a diner – efficient and friendly. Like family is serving you. Being there was a nice reminder that we have to go back from some of that late-night pie.


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