Posts Tagged ‘Key West’

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Cuban sandwiches are pretty much an exotic treat for a man from Australia- Cuban cuisine (even the Americanised version) is not something readily available in the suburbs of Melbourne. So every time I have an opportunity to sample some I get pretty excited.

Down here in Key West you’d be forgiven for thinking that you had wondered into a tourist trap – if you stick to the resorts, landmarks and Duval street then you would be right.

Ana’s Cuban café is located in walking distance from the southernmost point Buoy. The café is actually located inside the southernmost deli and groceries – there’s a place to order out the front or you can order inside the deli. Either way you order and eat out on the veranda surrounding the shop. It doesn’t look particularly appealing, particularly considering that it’s surrounded by resorts and hotels and not far from the start of Duval street – you would be forgiven for assuming that this is just another overpriced café catering to the tourist crowds. However, in this case you would be wrong. Ana’s actually does a really good, reasonably priced Cuban mix sandwich. What’s that you say – especially if like me you are from the land down under you probably have no idea what a Cuban mix sandwich is. It starts with Cuban bread – or Pan Cubano – which is a long baguette style loaf with a crunchy curst and a really light dough. The next layer is mayonnaise on one side and mustard on the other, you have ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and roast pork (often slow roasted in a mojo sauce). Sounds very simple – but like a lot of simple dishes, if executed well, it can be really good. In this case they do it well. Every time I go there I get a Cuban mix. $7.50 is not a lot considering the amount of meat you get. It’s one of my favourite sandwiches.

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Blue Heaven was recommended to us by a friend who had spent a lot of time in Key West, so we figured we’d better give it shot when we came down this time around. Jessica and Chris had gone off with their girls to visit the beach, but Katie was feeling the effects of a night out on Duval street and all she wanted was brunch so we decided it was a good time to give it a go.

When we arrived the place was very busy, there was a fairly decent line and the wait was at least 30mins inside and an hour to sit outside. We figured we’d wait and so we pulled up to the bar and had a refreshing beverage. There was a pretty decent live band playing and plenty of seating in and around the bar so it really wasn’t too bad waiting. Katie had a Bloody Mary that she said was quite refreshing considering (or perhaps because of) her condition. After about half an hour of waiting we got called and were seated outside just next to the stage where the bad was playing – this actually worked out well as it distracted Lucy who was bopping away in her highchair and clapping her chubby little baby hands after each song.

The food here is quite upmarket – although not cheap. I ordered the Eggs Benedict with ham and a side of bacon and Katie went for the Shrimp and Grits New Orleans style. The Eggs came with a Key lime hollandaise which was one of the most delicious hollandaise I’ve tasted. The eggs were perfectly poached, runny and delicious – I felt like the dish wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a trendy Melbourne café back home. Everything on my plate was executed perfectly. Katie loved her shrimp and grits – it’s not something that I would ever order so I can’t really comment, but Katie is a bit of an expert and she was impressed. We ordered a slice of key lime pie to finish with because we had heard they were good here.

The downside to such a lovely meal was the price – the check came in at a smidge under $60 and with tip it cost $70 – not including the $10 already spent at the bar. If I was back home in Melbourne it would be par for the course. Here in the USA, it felt a little bit expensive and when you take into account the exchange rate – very expensive. I’d probably come back because the food was excellent – but I think I’d skip the $9.50 slice of pie at the end (but then I’m not a sweet tooth so I’m sure Katie would disagree…)

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God, it was a hot and steamy day on the 4th of July that lead us to walk through the doors of McConnell’s Irish Pub on Duval street. By hot and steamy, I mean, I was literally dripping sweat, every pore in my body appeared to be doing it’s best to cover me in salty water – because obviously that would make me feel more comfortable right? Stupid body…. Anyway, Katie and I had been adventuring around Key West for the better part of the day – I say adventuring because we had just been though the awesome Mel Fisher museum – what a great story! If you ever get the chance to go to Key West, give Mel Fishers a visit, well worth the time and effort to learn about their quest for Spanish treasures that were taken from the new world and ship wrecked on the journey back to Spain in the early 17th century.

Anyway, as a result of our cultural adventuring, we had built up a bit of an appetite and I had told Kate about another restaurant on Duval street that did what looked like a pretty interesting Burger. Unfortunately after carrying our sweaty, tired selves to the destination in mind we were greeted with the lovely sight of a closed restaurant (Closed for 4th of July). Katie was not pleased with my planning and so a decision was made to walk back to the nearest place that sold cold beverages and food. McConnell’s was our lucky destination. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the Brasil vs. Columbia world cup clash was about to start. We got there about 40mins before kick off and just before a rush of people poured into the pub, thus we got our orders in, some cool beverages and a great spot to watch the match. On the match – seriously, did the ref loose his yellow/red cards, or swallow his whistle – Neymar gets a a knee in the back and a broken vertebrae – but that’s an ok challenge?? I felt the better side won – But anyway, I’ll end my rant there, we are here to talk food.

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So obviously, with low expectations, but not really caring at this stage, I ordered the burger, and Katie ordered the fish taco’s… The burger was actually really quite good. I ordered mine with Bacon and a fried egg, and I ordered the patty medium. On this occasion they actually cooked the patty medium which was a nice surprise! The burger bun was a nice soft Kaiser bun, it did it’s best to contain the huge burger, but fell apart a bit simply because I could not get this behemoth in my mouth in one bite – I had to go around the edges and cut angles to make an impression on the burger. Soft buns work best on these types of burgers, but it’s always a challenge when the burger gets to high to fit in your mouth. This was also what I cal a two hander, so it was a pretty generous meal.  Once again I had to sauce the burger myself, I cut up the pickle spear and added the ketchup and mustard that was provided on the table, the runny egg yolk combined with the sauces and melted cheese to create a lovely saucy feel – a little bit messy to eat, but as you know, I reckon a good burger should leave you with sauce all over you fingers – paper towel was provided! The burger came with your choice of cheese – I chose cheddar, then you get, tomato, lettuce and red onion and I added Bacon as well. The only let down was the meat – it wasn’t seasoned well enough and so it lacked any real beefy punch, it was a bit soft and tasted a little washed out, overpowered by everything else instead of being the star of the show. Look, at the end of the meal I was left feeling pretty satisfied – This was a solid Pub burger, all the elements seemed to be well done and fresh. You really can’t complain if you are just walking in to watch a football match and take some shelter from the heat with a nice cleansing libation. I’d give it a 7.

McConnell's Irish PUB on Urbanspoon

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This place is ridiculous – in a really amazing, awesome, slightly dirty way. If you go to Key West you really need to give this place a go. Well, let me clarify, if you are easily offended by sexual innuendo, slightly naughty descriptions of food and beverages, or are one of those weird people that HATE sugar, well, you probably shouldn’t go. Go and do what ever it is that makes you happy. I’m sure you have an exciting life. If you are like me, and you love your food in all shapes and sizes, then make sure you put this place on your to-do list. Katie and I had booked in to visit for dessert after our lovely meal at the Flaming Buoy filet co., we figured 10:30pm would be a good time, apparently they are open to 12am so that gave us plenty of time.

Anyway I guess I should get on with describing the experience. It’s going to be difficult to review this place and keep it PG, but I’ll give it my best shot. I guess dessert is always just a little bit naughty, I mean, you know you really shouldn’t, but damn it’s so good, how can you say no, just one little bite, one little scoop, it can’t hurt can it?? Better than Sex takes the idea that dessert is always just a little naughty, and runs with it. The place is so dark with the mood lighting, that they used to give you a  flash light just so you could see your menus – now, they give you iPads.

Inside is all red mood lighting and seductive music, nothing overtly rude, but a lot of “suggestive” art work adorns the walls. The overall feel is one of sensuality and seduction. Well, that’s pretty much what dessert is all about anyway right? The offerings are only desserts and drinks, and everything is sexed up. Looking at the menu you get things like… um, just trying find something not totally R-rated to mention… OK, well it’s actually rather hard to talk about the food and beverage without being a little bit inappropriate… Um, basically they offer a bunch of over-the-top, amazing dessert options along with some really creative drinks, all described in an hilarious and totally inappropriate manner, the names of the drinks and desserts are even more inappropriate (And I mean that in a good humored, funny kind of way). Oh, I should mention the drinks – What they do is the coat the rims of the glasses with say dark chocolate or caramel and then you lick that as you drink your wine. The pairings work amazingly well. I ordered a Paringa sparkling Shiraz – how very Australian of me I know right. But the rim of the glass was dipped in dark chocolate, wow did this just pair amazingly well with the wine. The dessert I got was called… OK, I won’t go there on that one, but it was basically a red velvet cheesecake. OMG was it delicious. Katie got the twist and stout – which was a chocolate cake, with chocolaty frosting and all this other amazing stuff…
Look, if you really want to look at the menu you should go to their website (warning though – it is fairly rude 😉 ) Anyway, what a food adventure this one was – to be honest, this idea could really have fallen flat, and crossed the line and just been a bit too dirty and just bad taste. Initially I was a little put off, I can be a bit of a prude, but I’m glade I went. Look,  I’m sure a lot of people will find the restaurant in bad taste. Just don’t go if you are easily offended. Also, don’t try to take your kids there – I don’t think they allow under 13’s anyway. At the end of the day this place just really works – and the reason – the wait staff are obvious foodies, and they clearly know their stuff. But not just that, their warmth and humour allow they whole experience to be fun and not awkward. I highly recommend this place – if you love your dessert (and have a sense of humour) you’ll love this place.

Better Than Sex - A Dessert Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ok, so first let me declare that I am no “Parrothead” – for those of you who don’t know, that is someone who is a fan of Jimmy Buffett’s music. Like my father-in-law. Who is a massive fan and has been trying to convert me. If I hear, “why don’t we get drunk (and screw)” or “cheese burger in paradise” one more time… Suffice it to say I will never be a parrothead – but good on you if you are, just don’t play that music near me! Anyway, regardless of my thoughts on his island/country style music, if you have gone to the effort of writing a song about a cheeseburger and then offer said cheeseburger in your restaurants, well, that’s a cheeseburger I’d like to try. So, after exploring hot and humid Key West, walking around Duval street, Katie and I decided it was high time for a cool refreshing beverage and a bite to eat. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe is actually a chain – a fact that I was unaware of before I stepped though the doors, but one that is blindingly obvious as soon as you do. The place screams tourist trap and felt soulless as all good chain restaurants do. The servers look disinterested and like they would rather be anywhere else than serving you. Actually I’m probably being a bit harsh, but this was certainly not the best service we’ve had. But lets put that to one side, we are here to talk about the food right? Otherwise I would have called my blog “Andrewsrestaurantadventures”. Ok, so what was I talking about – oh yeah, chain restaurant and cheeseburgers in paradise. Right, this version of the restaurant I think is the original location – which I guess makes it better than just another franchise location. The place was packed so that’s a good sign and the meals coming out looked huge. One dish that blew my mind was the nachos – I think that’s what they were, some mountain of corn chips and toppings that must have been a meter high and 5kgs in weight – Crazy. wpid-20140703_034314.jpgObviously I didn’t really need to look at the menu, I knew what I was getting ahead of time. Katie wanted to get some conch fritters (Which seemed to very light on the conch) to start and she ordered that coconut shrimp – I got the cheeseburger (in paradise). On the menu the cheeseburger is described as “one of the best cheeseburgers in Key West, topped with American cheese, lettuce, and tomato”. The waitress asked if I wanted any mustard, mayonnaise or sauce – to which I said yes to all three. I really hate the fact that you have to sauce the burger yourself – I mean, yes I can make a damn good burger sauce, but I’m PAYING someone else to make my meal, I don’t want to do it myself… Anyway, I’ll get off my high horse on this one, lots of places in the USA do this – something about choice being a good thing, blah blah. I also cut up the pickle wedge that served on the side and added the into my burger… The patty was 100% chuck which I ordered medium – they cooked it medium well if I’m being generous, although I pretty sure there was not a hint of pink in the patty if I’m being honest. Still, it was pretty juicy, although I do find that 100% chuck beef gives a standard kind of fast food type flavour, it’s fine, but at a restaurant and when I’m paying a fairly high price I probably want at least a mixture that gives a less fatty feeling and a stronger beef flavour. wpid-img_20140703_070954.jpg I also felt that the patty might have been pre-formed and possibly frozen. The lettuce was cut weirdly, in this square wedge that you can sort of make out in that terrible photo I took (Sorry, I was tired and hot – it’s like 100 here everyday). That meant that some bites I got a lot of lettuce and others, no lettuce. The tomato was very fresh and slightly mushy, and with only one small slice, most of the time I wasn’t getting any tomato anyway. The bun was quite good, a generic hamburger bun, soft white bread with sesame seeds. Overall, I’d have to say that I like the burger better than the song, but not by a lot. I’d give it a 6.5.

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe on Urbanspoon

wpid-20140702_000952.jpgWondering around Key West on our way to Duval street last night, Katie and I walked passed this little French cafe. The Menu looked promising for breakfast so we promised ourselves that we would come back the next day for breakfast. After a late night both of us were looking forward to a nice breakfast, and so off we went on the short stroll around the corner to Frenchie’s Cafe. The place was pretty busy so we sat out the back in the little courtyard, although it was pretty hot, the place was well shaded, had a fan directed on us and was surrounded by potted palms so it felt very comfortable. We ordered our breakfasts and sat sipping our tea and coffee while we waited. I ordered a Croque Madame and Katie ordered a baguette and a croissant. The sound of french accents from inside the kitchen was encouraging and lent an authentic air to the experience. The Croque Madam was impressive when it came out, all gratinated cheesey goodness and a lovely sunny-side up egg perfectly cooked, perched on top. The béchamel sauce was creamy and delicious, the ham was good, lightly smoked, the Swiss cheese (I assume Gruyère but it they didn’t specify) lent a lovely nutty cheesiness, and the homebaked bread was terrific. This was just what I needed – I could tell Katie had major plate envy. We’ll probably go back tomorrow for breakfast it was so good!

Frenchie's Cafe on Urbanspoon