Tag Archives: snapper

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.

Miami Beach: Latin Heat

Sauntering through customs at Ottawa International on a February Sunday, we were excited to be heading south for some much needed vitamin D. And Cuban food. Rob and I know little or nothing of Cuban cuisine. The American official asked our business in Miami. We told him we were looking for some sun and some Cuban food. “I’m Cuban! “ he says. “Make sure you have a midnight sandwich! It’s the best. Addictive.”. His eyes got a far away look and you could tell Ottawa in February was a hardship post. Even if you are from here. Especially if you are Cuban.

Miami Beach at Dusk

South Beach is a cool enclave of Miami, right on the ocean. Unfortunately you can see little of the ocean from the dining areas and cafes. Even rooftop bars offer little view in the historic Art Deco area where we made our home for seven days. Ocean Boulevard is lined with quaint cafes but the view to the water is obscured by dunes. Other areas of the beach have their frontage taken up by resorts and the ocean is only available for viewing by their guests. You could walk to the water easily, but we found you were not able to sit and enjoy a beer and watch the waves unless you drove to the Keys or Fort Lauderdale. South Beach offers good shopping in the historic district and dozens of street side restaurants offering excellent fare from a variety of cuisines.

Puerto Sagua – Iconic Cuban Joint

Cuban food was our first priority. Just down the road a bit from where we were staying, was an iconic Cuban establishment, Puerto Sagua. We headed over for lunch. The buzz on this joint was that the food was authentic and the place was crusty and a bit rough around the edges and proud of it.

We were seated immediately and brought plastic tumblers of ice water. As we perused the menu, Rob noticed a dark object in his water: an expired cucaracha. What to do? We had not ordered yet. Decision time. We are here, and probably a cockroach never killed any one, probably. Blind-eye time. Let’s go for it. Rob asked the waitress for a fresh glass of water, pointing out the cockroach. She was horrified and a very good actress, because I would put money on this not being the first she had seen…that day even.

We had to order a few classics we were curious about including a midnight sandwich (medianoche) named for its role in many a late-night snack, ham croquettes, and tostones with garlic mojo, to round out our first Cuban experience.

The ham croquettes arrived first, hot, crisp and well made. Not greasy. The croquettes, made of minced smoked ham, onion, nutmeg, parsley and rolled in bread crumbs before deep frying, were excellent dipped in hot sauce.

Tostones are green plantains that are twice fried. After the first frying, they are squashed flat and refried. They are served with a thin, tasty, garlic mojo. The sauce has good flavour but the tostones themselves are extremely bland.

Tostones and Mojo
Croquettes and Hot Sauce

The star of this lunch arrived next. The famous Cuban sandwich. Basically a ham and cheese sandwich, the Cuban is served on a long, toasty egg bun. Spread with yellow mustard, layers of ham, roast pork and cheese, and finally pickles complete the ensemble. Don’t get me wrong. This is a good sandwich. The bun is warm, chewy and eggy, ham and cheese is a classic combo, and the mustard and pickle are a simple but excellent accompaniment. Would really hit the spot as a late night snack or light lunch. But I’m not sure it is anything that would make me desperately home sick or be the first thing I would want to tell a visitor to my culture “This is it. This defines us. If you have nothing else, have this.”

Medianoche

It seems we chose poorly. On a trek to the washrooms in the rear, I passed diners who were eating amazing looking food, mostly with large portions of shredded pork. Cuban food deserves more investigation.

If you have followed us on our journeys before, you know we are big fans of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, (Triple D) with Guy Fieri. On this trip we headed into Little Havana to a place recently featured on Triple D, La Camaronera. It is in a working class neighborhood and was packed with diners belly up to the counter where you ordered and ate standing up. Service is fast and friendly. Again we are headed in for lunch.

La Cameronera – Fried Seafood Goodness!

Both Rob and I were excited to try their feature fish sandwich, a lightly breaded, deep fried yellow tail snapper, dressed and served tail on in a soft bun. As well as being attractively presented, the lightness of the batter allows the freshness of the snapper to shine. The simple, soft white bun is a perfect choice to host the delectable piece of fish.

Fresh fish, chopped onion and ketchup.

To round out our all-fried meal, we had the fried lobster with with spicy remoulade sauce. They take fresh-caught spiny lobster (no claws, all tail meat), cut it in pieces, dip in ketchup (yes, really!) and then in a spiced flour mixture and deep fry. It is tangy and spicy but the sweet luscious lobster flavour shines through.

Lobster and remoulade.

Next: Miami, Part 2

All content and photography copyright (c) 2011 by Robert and Maureen Rose. All rights reserved.