Tag Archives: shrimp and grits

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.

Mr. Fish & Points North

We start our trek north today, intending to stop at Mr. Fish in Myrtle Beach for lunch. We had a wonderful meal there 4 years ago at the end of a road trip. We do know that the business has become very successful and has expanded considerably. I hope the food is still good.

After a pleasant mostly rural drive with plenty to look at, we pull into Myrtle Beach. The noon sun is blazing hot. The town is busy with last minute vacationers leaving or squeezing in the last bit of summer before returning to school and work.

Mr. Fish has become a veritable empire, with a fresh fish restaurant supply business and a new restaurant that has easily tripled in size and so has the parking lot, which is half full. We head in just having missed a rush. The new resto is nothing like before but the homey touches are still there with framed clippings about the place and children’s drawings on the wall. Ted Hammerman, Mr. Fish is there, seating people. He is always here, our waitress says.

We order something new, coconut mahi mahi bites and two favs from our last visit, shrimp and grits and a shrimp po’boy. Fresh, really well made hushpuppies and butter are plunked on the table. These are the most evil freebie and will spoil your meal. I had to force myself to stop eating them.

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The mahi mahi “bites” must be two whole fillets cut into halves, battered in an excellent coconut heavy batter and expertly fried. No scraps of fish or shredded fish formed into fingers here. Served with an orange marmalade horseradish sauce. Total yum.

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My shrimp and grits arrive, an overly generous potion (should have opted for the appy size). The grits are much as I remember them from 4 years ago, creamy with a rich low country sauce, but this time there is fresh diced tomato on top and large pieces of onion and well cooked sweet green bell pepper within that I do not recall but are an excellent addition.

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Rob’s sandwich had all the hallmarks of a great po’boy. Simple, with expertly fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato and a mayo-based tartar sauce on a soft, fresh bun. They were served with home-made, Old Bay spiced kettle chip and a great slaw which was a perfect foil to the rest.

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Mr. Fish’s was a great idea for lunch. While I’m happy for Ted’s obvious success, I do mourn a bit for the tiny place that was Mr. Fish’s four yeas ago when we sat and chatted with Ted and locals reading the paper. Four years ago we were the only tourists eating lunch that day. Today, the place has retained it’s quality food but the atmosphere is all tourist. I think it is probably the only way to survive in the food business in Myrtle Beach.

 

RT2014: Hilton Head Island, SC

Today is a lazy day. Sleep in, grab a leisurely hotel breakfast, gas up and hit the road for Hilton Head, a mere one hour drive away. We cross over the sky high Talmadge Memorial Bridge into South Carolina. Not much to see at first, scrub, strip clubs, swamps and a few ibis. Very rural. Soon pretty, small bungalows pop up beside run down trailers and farm equipment. We enter a scenic byway which becomes a dappled drive on a country two-laner. Tall pines, live oaks, banks of horsetail ferns, palmettos, mailboxes, rail fences and American flags line the road. This very pleasant drive turns to beautifully manicured medians and stores and services housed in tidy little one story homogenous buildings as we get closer to the resort areas of Hilton Head. When we arrive at our home for the next two nights, they are not quite ready so we grab a drink at the Tiki Hut. It’s close to 90 degrees. We spend the rest of the afternoon in leisure, swimming, reading and drinking coconut-pineapple mojitos.

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Dinner tonight is at the aptly named Low Country Backyard. We are seated outside at the bar in what looks like someone’s backyard. Very homey.

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Staff is pleasant and helpful. Kim, who is looking after us is knowledgeable about the local beers. I’m trying the Blonde Bottletree, a white that is less citrusy than Blue Moon and Rob is having the Palmetto, a full-on lager.

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We have a warm, gentle breeze at our backs and a live musician cranking out Neil Diamond, Buffalo Springfield, Lobo and the ubiquitous Margaritaville. All very pleasant. The menu is creative and everything is home made to order. We try two apps, Blue May Crab Dip and the Pimento cheese. Both come with crisp corn chips and soft pita wedges. The melty, cheesy crab dip is delicate and tasty, while the pimiento lacks much needed heat and is made with both cheddar and cream cheeses instead of just cheddar. It’s decent enough especially when spiced up with a little hot sauce.

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I’m having the Shrimp and Grits. I can’t wait until we get to Myrtle beach where I know I will have some fine shrimp and grits at Mr. Fish. Low Country Backyard’s grits are white grits, impossible to find in Ottawa. They are creamy and well seasoned. The shrimp are sautèed in an applewood bacon cream sauce which I find a tad salty and served up on top. This classic also has a few coins of a very good smoked sausage tossed in.

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Rob has ordered the Potato Chip Meatloaf. It is accompanied by his choice of sides, a delicious coleslaw with apples and raisins and a rather dry piece of corn bread. Unfortunately, corn bread is one of those things that stales fast and must be served hot out of the oven. If you don’t turn it over fast enough, don’t serve it. Portions are not huge but they are substantial. The meatloaf is made with beef, pork and potato chip crumbs instead of bread crumbs, and then glazed with a home-made BBQ sauce. The potato chips aren’t noticeable but we’re sure they amp up the calorie count. It was very good meatloaf, however.

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No room for that delicious looking home made banana pudding. We finish up our local beers and listen to the kids playing the home made games in the Backyard.

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