A Sun Drenched Key West Amuse Bouche.
13.01.2012 - 16.01.2012
amuse-bouche(uh-MYUZ-boosh) noun. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting.
Winter had only recently arrived, but the joy of the holidays had come and gone, taking with it brightly wrapped packages and twinkling lights, the freshly baked cookies and endless cups of cocoa, and the mistletoe hanging from the chandelier.
Despite it having barely begun, I found myself waiting for winter to end.
I felt like a used up bit of forgotten tinsel that had lost its shine and is hanging limply from the edge of the sofa, waiting to be swept out with the dust bunnies.
I needed a pick-me-up.
A weekend in Key West sounded like a perfect tiny tidbit to keep me happy while I was waiting.
How can you only go to Key West for a weekend, you ask? I am still asking myself that very question.
Two days in Key West is like being given a glass of Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam and only being allowed a sip. It’s like holding an oversized triple chocolate cupcake with dark fudge frosting and being told you can only lick off the sprinkles. It’s like being given just the strap of a limited edition Louis Vuitton bag. It’s like a 20 second full body massage.
Fabulous, but not nearly enough.
However, much like Shelby Eatenton Latcherie in Steel Magnolias…… I’d rather have a weekend of wonderful than a winter full of nothing special.
We arrived in Key West on a Friday afternoon and hit the ground running pedaling. I had been deprived of the opportunity to rent a bike on my virgin trip to Key West, some 6 months earlier, and I more than made up for it this time. My bike and I were inseparable.
Remember when you were a kid and you could spend all day on your bike, cruising from sunup until sundown, until you finally heard your mom calling for you in the dim light of sunset? You had nowhere to go but just rode for the sheer joy of it? Having a bike in Key West was a lot like that.
We had no agenda, no plans, and our days were nothing more than a carefree ride from one eatery to another with a little shopping thrown in for good measure.
We arrived too late for lunch but too early for dinner – thanks to a freak storm that filled our morning departure from TN with ice and snow. We filled the gap with getting our bikes, getting our groceries, and settling into our digs for the weekend: Casa Loca.
Wow! What an awesome house this was. Not only was it simply gorgeous, it was spacious, enjoyed a super location on Petronia, and had the most amazing courtyard pool.
Matt lives for raw oysters, and he had barely been able to contain his excitement since our wheels had touched the runway, so the first order of business for the evening was to hit one of the many happy hours that include $6/dozen oysters.
Our choice for the night was Turtle Kraal because they were having turtle races! How fun is that?
Okay, really, it’s not so much fun. It sounded much better after a few “happy hour cocktails” at the house than it was in reality. Turtles don’t race well. I've seen my grandmother run faster trying to get to the early bird at O'Charley's. For several minutes, they simply refused to move. Then, mine started going backwards as another turtle crawled over his back.
Regardless, it was an excuse to have another drink and to toast my backwards turtle!
Our friend’s turtle won so he was allowed to choose a key from the super fabulous and shiny key box. This key might or might not fit the equally fabulous treasure chest which contained $200. You can probably tell by his face which way it turned out.
All was not lost, however, because Matt had his 3 dozen oysters and the rest of us ate so many happy hour munchies, that dinner was out of the question. We had a bucket of bones (great BBQ ribs), smoked fish dip, conch fritters, peel n’ eat shrimp, and wings.
That was all fine and good, though. Travel day had taken its toll and we were all ready for nothing more exciting than a good nights sleep.
There are few things I enjoy more than a good sunrise, so when I found myself awake at 5:30 a.m. I decided to jump on my bike and ride down to White St. Pier and watch the sun come up over the ocean. Matt heard me stirring around and decided to join me.
Riding down the streets of Key West in the dim half-light of the early morning is a WONDERFUL experience. The city was still asleep with the exception of a few chickens, a handful of dogs stretching lazily on the front porches of colorful conch shacks, and a couple of regulars getting their morning caffeine fix at Sandy’s. The streets were quiet and the air was cool.
Once we made it to the pier, we found ourselves in the company of a few dogs, their owners, and the bird man.
He said he tries to come feed the birds every morning. I wonder how many times he’s been pooped on?
The sunrise was a moment of awesome beauty.
As we pedaled back to Petronia, we had to stop at Croissants de France, enticed by the smell of freshly baking pastries. The pastries were still warm as we bit into the delicate, flaky crust.
The guys wanted to do some “guy stuff” so the girls spent the morning riding our bikes with no real destination in mind. We ended up near Mallory Square where we had a little too much fun with the statues, saw a very stylish pelican, and bought some great handmade sandals for $12.
Shortly after noon, we got a text from the guys to meet them at Bayview Park. It was time for the Key West Seafood Festival. Put on by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, it was an explosion of seafood goodness. It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon and the park was lined with tents serving up steaming crab claws, iced shrimp, spicy chowder, and lobster dripping with melted butter.
It was hard to know where to start. I settled on a lobster platter and a heaping of Key West Pinks.
All that was left was the carnage.
We spent the afternoon doing a whole lot of nothing and it was simply fantastic.
5:00 p.m. in Key West means only one thing to my husband: raw oysters for $6, so we headed out to Half Shell so that he could do his damage.
Three dozen raw oysters later ….we met up with the rest of the group just in time for a Mallory Square sunset.
This trip was all about casual and easy, so we grabbed dinner at Amigo’s. Nothing beats tater tots and tacos.
After leaving Amigo’s, we wandered into the Smallest Bar because I had heard that you could get a drink in a pineapple and everyone knows that drinks taste better when served in a pineapple. However, instead of a pineapple drink with a colorful umbrella, someone instead handed me a shot of tequila.
My memory is sketchy on the rest of the night, but I do recall a drag queen named Porsche serenading my husband and a guy wearing nothing but a strategically placed bandana.
The morning brought another great sunrise from White Street Pier enjoyed with a hot cup of Cuban coffee from Sandy’s.
After breakfast, we rode our bikes over to Ft. Zachary. The beach here was just beautiful and we simply wandered in the sunshine and enjoyed the simple pleasure of the sand beneath our feet and the sun on our faces.
Sometime around noon, we pedaled our way over to the Southernmost Café and enjoyed the bloody mary bar.
Our friends wanted to take their dogs to Dog Beach, so we pedaled that way. When they arrived at the beach, there were several large dogs in various stages of canine ecstasy, swimming in the ocean after tennis balls, catching Frisbees, or simply rolling on their huge, wet backs in the cool sand.
Our friends looked down at Pisa and Punkin’, their dainty little Italian Greyhounds, and then looked back at the massive, wet, writhing giants on the beach and decided maybe today wasn’t their day at the beach.
For heaven's sake, those other dogs would have thought they were chew toys.
Instead we headed up the stairs to Louie’s. They told us that dogs could eat at the bar, so to the bar we went!
The view was fantastic and the hangover burger was even better.
The afternoon was spent riding the streets of Key West.
I thought about calling about this cottage, but when they said "sell or trade," I was pretty sure they wouldn't take a slightly used husband and a bottle of hot sauce for it.
We kept it tame that evening and had a simple dinner at La Trattoria.
It was our last day, so I couldn’t miss the sunrise.
I did myself proud by opting to have a giant slice of key lime pie from Blue Heaven for breakfast. Oh yes, and a beignet from Croissants de France.
It was our last morning of bike riding bliss, so we made the most of it, pedaling the streets until at last, it was time to go.
Before heading to the airport, we stopped at Peanut Butter N’ What? for a quick bite. I love sandwiches. I love peanut butter. This place had my name written all over it.
I finally settled on a Fat Elvis: peanut butter, honey, bacon, banana, shredded coconut, and cream cheese grilled until it was a mass of ooey gooey perfection.
With a bottle of milk and a game of Connect Four, my bicycle sitting outside, I felt like I was nine all over again.
As I licked the dripping, warm peanut butter from my hands, Matt reminded me that it was time to go.
It hadn’t been an exciting trip. It hadn’t been a long trip. It hadn’t been an exotic trip.
It had been a wonderful 3 days with good friends, good food, and lots of rest.
And a bike.
Really......does it get any better than that?