Rachel's Table

Culinary Adventures in Key West

It’s cold. Not only is it cold outside, but it’s also extra chilly in my house. The furnace is on the fritz, but a new part is on its way and we should be up and running in a day or two. In the meantime, I’m hunkering down with a warm laptop and a few blankets to reminisce about warmer days.

Two weeks ago, I was enjoying the 75 degree weather of Key West, FL. Since this was my first time to visit Key West I didn’t know what to expect besides sunshine and ocean breezes. I’m so glad that Key West is full of surprises! Not only did I enjoy the aforementioned sunshine and ocean breezes, but I also reveled in some of the BEST food I’ve eaten in a long time. My reveling was so epic that I came home with enough photos to fill 18 Facebook albums.

You can see where this is going…it’s vacation photo time.

So please humor me come on a culinary adventure with me. I promise the Mojitos will be plentiful and the sun will warm your bones.

Key West Culinary Adventures – BREAKFAST

Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven

Breakfasting at Blue Heaven is like sitting down in your crazy-cool, hippie friend’s back yard to enjoy a cold one and reminisce about the good old days. The vibe is chilled out and the food is simple and authentic.

Can you feel the crazy-cool, hippie vibe, man?

Eccentric in the best kind of way

Our waiter was proud of the fact that Blue Heaven uses local island ingredients. He assured me the avocados in my Avocado Omelette with Black Bean Sauce were Florida avocados.

My dream: avocado AND local

My dream: LOCAL avocados

Most mornings I prefer a small breakfast – coffee and something sweet. Cafe Moka hit the spot; their Americanos and chocolate croissants are enlightening.

Coffee is always better when enjoyed liesurely on the front porch

Coffee is always better when enjoyed leisurely on the front porch

Cafe Moka - a cute spot

Cafe Moka – a cute spot

Key West Culinary Adventures: LUNCH

If you have a few hours to kill while on Key West (and why wouldn’t you) please visit Latitudes, the restaurant at the Westin Sunset Key Resort. We made our reservations for lunch and were given a boat launch time. A ferry took us over to Sunset Key for a relaxing and picturesque meal.

The picture perfect resort

The picture perfect resort

On a boat with Nicole

On a boat with Nicole

We were seated outside, almost on the beach. The view was breathtaking, while the food was silence inducing.

Oh my Burrata! This was GOOD. Cheese filled with cheese? Plus fried green tomatoes? YES, please!

Oh my Burrata! This was GOOD. Cheese filled with cheese? Plus fried green tomatoes? YES, please!

Sunset Key Shrimp with Apricot BBQ sauce and watermelon chutney. Oh my.

Sunset Key Shrimp with apricot BBQ sauce and watermelon chutney. Oh my.

Grilled grouper with saffron rice, black beans, and plantains. Simply delicious.

Grilled grouper with saffron rice, black beans, and plantains. Simply delicious.

In a shocking twist, the hubs ordered the Harvest Salad with grilled chicken. It arrived all bundled up and delicious.

In a shocking twist, the hubs ordered the Harvest Salad with grilled chicken. It arrived all bundled up.

The view from our table. Paradise

Paradise

Latitudes is more than just a place to eat, it’s an experience. Next time I hope to arrive just in time to watch the sun set over the beach with a drink in my hand.

Key West Culinary Adventures – AFTERNOON SNACK

The Southernmost Cafe was a short walk from our Key West digs. This cafe is right on the beach with a walk-up bar and spectacular view. We spent two afternoons here, drinking Mojitos and eating snacks on the beach.

The view from Southernmost Cafe

The view from inside the Southernmost Cafe

Coconut Shrimp. Local shrimp fried to perfection.

 Coconut Key West Shrimp. Fried to perfection. (Please don’t be distracted by my chewed up thumb nail–bad habits never die.)

This is the Southernmost House, right across the street from the Southernmost Cafe

This is the Southernmost House, right across the street from the Southernmost Cafe

The gates to the Southernmost House

The gates to the Southernmost House

If you get bored with sitting on the beach or prefer pork to shrimp, walk all the way down Duval Street to Hog’s Breath Saloon. It was at this establishment that I ate the best thing on the island: Hog’s Legs, mini pork shanks with spicy plum sauce. I inhaled two orders.

Yes. These. Eat them.

Yes. These. Eat them.

Nothing left on the bone

Nothing left on the bone. Well done.

Photo op!

Photo op!

Key West Culinary Adventures – BEFORE DINNER DRINKS

The sunsets on Key West are awe inspiring, especially when viewed at the Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotel. This hotel takes the prize as the tallest building in Key West–a whopping seven stories! Those seven stories are all you need to see EVERYTHING–the entire town with a stunning ocean vista in the background. Grab a drink at the bar and watch the sun turn from yellow to orange to pink as it sets.

Sunset view

Sunset view

I fell in love with this church and was so delighted to see it in all its glory while at the top of the hotel

I fell in love with this church and was so delighted to see it in all its glory while at the top of the hotel

Key West Culinary Adventures – DINNER

The restaurants in Key West are all outstanding. We didn’t have a bad meal once. Our last night on the island, we went to Hot Tin Roof.  They have a great bar with unique cocktails and a beautiful outdoor dining spot.

Mahi Mahi Ceviche - refreshing with just the right amount of spice

Mahi Mahi Ceviche – refreshing with just the right amount of spice

Flatbread with goat cheese, roasted red peppers and some kind of ham--another delicious starter

Flatbread with goat cheese, roasted red peppers and some kind of ham–another delicious starter

This wasn't the BEST paella I've ever had, but the seafood was wonderful, and the flavors were bright and spicy

This wasn’t the best paella I’ve ever had, but the seafood was wonderful, and the flavors were bright and spicy

Our Hot Tin Roof dining companions

Our Hot Tin Roof dining companions

I think this was some sort of coconut flan. YUM!

Light and sweet Coconut Flan

Key West Culinary Adventures – AFTER DINNER DRINKS

You can’t go to Key West without going into a bar. They are everywhere, up and down Duval Street. Fortunately, the bars are as diverse as the locals. You have your choice of rowdy or refined. For a true Key West experience, visit the famous Sloppy Joe’s, a favorite place of Ernest Hemingway. I prefer a place with less noise, so we headed over to the Speak Easy Rum Bar after dinner where our friends introduced us to the Speak Easy Painkiller. It’s made the traditional way but with more coconut and lots of nutmeg.

Dessert in a glass

Dessert in a glass

Key West Culinary Adventures – LATE NIGHT SNACK

I was on the hunt for some conch fritters the entire time we were in Key West, so the hubs and I ventured out to find some. We happened upon the aptly named Conch Shack. The fritters were steaming hot, crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside–perfect for a late night bite.

Conch fritters and lime

Conch fritters and lime

The owner of the Conch Shack humoring me by posing for a photo, conch shell and all

The owner of the Conch Shack humoring me by posing for a photo, conch shell and all

Since avocados, key limes, tropical fruits, citrus and the freshest seafood are what’s local in Key West, it’s the perfect vacation spot for a sun-starved locavore looking for light, bright flavors to get her through the winter.

So even though my nose is cold and the wind is biting, my Key West memories (and some good rum) will warm me up until the sun starts shining in my neck of the woods.

I miss you, Key West

I miss you, Key West

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13 comments

  1. How did you EVER leave?! Wow. GORGEOUS photos. And I love that black and white dress!!!

    Speak Easy Painkiller? Yes. Local avocados. Double yes.

    Surprising that that paella wasn’t that great – it looks so good!

    • Thanks, Jules! I purchased that dress in a Key West boutique. 🙂

      It was SO HARD to leave. I was tempted to quit my job as soon as I saw that blue-green water.

      The paella was good, just not the best. The shrimp were off the chain though.

      I can’t wait to go back. Now I know where all the good bars are and I plan to smuggle avocados back in my suit case.

  2. You went to Key West and DIDN’T talk about Key Lime Pie?? Oh, Rache. For shame!! The first time I went, I probably tried the key lime pie at no less than 6 different restaurants. I mean, how else would I compare and contrast and judge the BEST key lime pie in Key West? It was purely for research purposes! By the way, the answer is The Blonde Giraffe, which I understand actually doesn’t exist any more. Sadness.

    It has been many years since I’ve been there, but I have gotten the chance to visit 3 or 4 times before. The food is indeed glorious. And Blue Heaven?? LOVE LOVE LOVE!! They have the BEST mojitos. And the great thing about Key West, is that there are so many amazing places, that you can never experience them all. Hot Tin Roof, huh? Definitely going on the list next time we go down.

    Not even joking . . . the hubs and I want to retire there. He will work on a fishing boat, taking tourists out on tours, and I will . . . do something. Write? Bartend? Lounge around like a lazy bum? Who knows. But it will definitely happen there. Heaven.

    • I did eat Key Lime pie, but only once! And I didn’t take a photo.

      Key West is like a wonderland. The sun, the breeze, the restaurants, the people, the vibe. I loved it so, so much, and can’t wait to go back.

      We also ate at a tapas place that was really good. And I had lots of mojitos, but not at Blue Heaven–I’ll put it on the list of next time. 🙂

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