A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about duval street

Sunny With a Chance of Meatballs

A winter weekend in Key West

25750835757_30803f1462.jpg

Any trip that starts with a view of a colossal fuzzy flamingo riding shotgun in the plane has to be good.

39912361774_87c740f382.jpg

It was mid-January. The holidays were over. The fun was over. The eatfest and presents were over. It was just winter. Boring, cold, long soul sucking winter.

We have found that the best way to cure the winter blues is to simply fly away from them. A quick 4 hours from home, we were flying over turquoise water littered with emerald islands.

26751235538_bca249abbc.jpg

40580876912_8547bd256f.jpg

40580860162_4ca540746e.jpg

It was time for a Key West Quickie!

We only had 3 days, so we didn’t waste a minute dumping our stuff at the lovely Air BNB rental we’d found above the South Pointe Gallery and heading straight for sunshine and libations at the Rum Bar, practically next door.

26751200258_808db6b87c.jpg

39727374455_5d14d65c83.jpg

39912290974_4ba5416f75.jpg

40580800662_715ef4ecde.jpg

39912255334_ca3b10187a.jpg

We were sad to find that Bahama Bob had moved on to Papa’s Pilar Rum Factory on the other side of Old Town, but at least he was still there in spirit.

39727362425_24ba73e8dd.jpg

It was a beautiful day to sip rum on a wide shady porch. One quickly turned to …..more than one..... and before we knew it, it was oyster happy hour!

39912238614_4487726bf4.jpg

40622561331_7c28829b3a.jpg

38812941370_40bc40647e.jpg

We had sunset sail reservations so we ducked into the White Tarpon, the closest oyster destination which proudly serves $1.00 oysters all day. Sure, you can get them cheaper during happy hour at other places, but we didn’t have time to wait. And “other places” don’t have the always amazing Key Lime Pie Martini.

40580742192_287792860f.jpg

40580733462_26767bf73d.jpg

40580727522_fe90ce734d.jpg

25752095917_f2e7c0c23f.jpg

40580709672_e826174c19.jpg

40580696472_c5f80e5213.jpg

On our first trip to Key West many years ago, we booked a cheesy boozy cruise on the Fury Catamaran where we drank cheap champagne in plastic solo cups, danced to the live band, and watched a spectacular sunset.

5910355913_93516f7146.jpg

Despite the ultimate cheese factor, we loved it so much we repeated it on later trips and enjoyed it just as much.

16462802756_cffab1cec3.jpg

So, once again, we found ourselves getting in line for the sunset sail with the endless beverages and live band, Commotion on the Ocean.

39912174774_75493c0e7a.jpg

40622446651_cfba22f238.jpg

39727179615_efa66673ae.jpg

26751046378_bbcd47b9da.jpg

Unfortunately, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” We found that the Fury Catamaran on a night when the weather has turned on you is simply a big boat that smells like deep fried wontons. Despite the lack of charm or sunset, we made the best of it and drank enough bottom shelf booze to make it seem amazing.

25752010807_ebe2f58ec7.jpg

40622393821_2de21af179.jpg

38812793280_e1a5e0f15a.jpg

38812782620_92e5127311.jpg

Even if we were the only ones not huddled inside eating cheap egg rolls.

40622383271_22d137c7c7.jpg

Like the Fury Catamaran, Amigo’s following the sunset(less) sail is a tradition that has stuck.

What’s not to love about a place where you eat street corn, tater tots, and a giant bowl of nachos while staring out at the craziness of a Key West Saturday night?

26750959698_51b1d21ef4.jpg

38812748390_dcb4cf6b4c.jpg

38812740610_44e064e10f.jpg

26750935778_3c9b840fa7.jpg

39911961234_0f80d43d15.jpg

Saturday morning brought a sunrise that looked a lot like the sunset from the night before, but that didn’t stop me from taking a brisk early morning bike ride to the pier to watch the sun not come up.

38812698210_2abb3c3e84.jpg

40580466852_c262467fb2.jpg

38812636450_a5244093f0.jpg

When I got back, Matt was up and about, so we headed downstairs to La Grignote for breakfast. How could we not? We could smell the freshly baked croissants from our balcony.

Set in a cute little conch house on the corner of Louisa and the quite end of Duval, the entrance to the artisan French bakery was filled with potted flowers and plants spilling over the railings with the maddening smell of freshly baked bread filling the air. We walked in and a bounty of baked goods and pastries waited for us behind a perfectly polished glass display counter. Chalkboard menus overhead boasted breakfast entrees like bacon Belgian waffles topped with whipped cream and a French Petit Dejeuner that came with coffee, toasted artisan bread with homemade jam and butter, and fresh Greek yogurt with berries, orange blossom honey, pistachio and homemade granola.

26750730268_86deb4c004.jpg

25751872047_4ca7b23042.jpg

40580437932_e9a17bc59d.jpg

We were seated at a warmly polished wooden table where Matt had the breakfast special which came with scrambled eggs, their own ground sausage mix, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, and a slice of their freshly baked bread.

40580430082_c1324fa08e.jpg

Unable to resist the pastry counter, I went for a croissant and baked egg cup with bacon. What is an egg cup, you ask? Why, it’s a little basket of puff pastry with béchamel sauce, crème fraîche and a cracked egg on top.

40622221791_5a9ab62cdc.jpg

Or a little cup of happiness, whichever description you prefer.

26750744108_0dd96aab80.jpg

The croissant was flaky, pillowy perfection slathered with real butter and jam.

26750717578_54e42562dd.jpg

From there, we spent a leisurely morning enjoying the streets and shops of Key West.

26750637328_882dbdc49b.jpg

38812547810_001e9cb12f.jpg

38812530370_1b5d398082.jpg

26750684068_8e4648b9f9.jpg

40580369612_3a81c34b52.jpg

26750618008_266df741b0.jpg

25751662997_a573ba3b49.jpg

40622058701_4a3b7b6c6e.jpg

25751640927_e968f1d093.jpg

39911683224_30b71973d2.jpg

We spent the morning walking the still quiet streets of Key West, shopping, and enjoying all the things that make Key West unique.

Like this dog in goggles riding in a backpack that said “Spank Me.” .

40580353032_9725267c93.jpg

Or this house covered with teddy bears. Which was less charming than the dog in goggles riding in a backpack that said “Spank Me.”

40580339812_08e7773e28.jpg

40580333942_f70716dcab.jpg

When I was a kid, I watched too much Twilight Zone and was certain my stuffed animals were going to come alive during the night and kill me while I was asleep. This house was like a giant nightmare. That doll alone was enough to make me sleep with both eyes open.

doll.jpg

We had afternoon brunch reservations at Hot Tin Roof and I couldn’t have been happier when I walked in and saw a personalized menu, all you can drink mimosa and bloody Mary bar, AND a huge wooden boat filled with BACON.

ALL THE BACON.

25751608817_a7e3d6ff39.jpg

26750579518_22d6c623ca.jpg

25751595687_c099ea2691.jpg

40621977461_ce5940a5a4.jpg

The brunch at Hot Tin Roof is a thing of beauty. The menu is filled with delightful small plates and you can order as many as you like along with bottomless mimosas, until you explode, pass out, or simply give up in defeat.

While we perused the menu, they brought out chilled seafood and ceviche along with a bacon topped cinnamon roll as big as my head.

25751570867_4cd6b25d6e.jpg

25751560797_df22b69fd1.jpg

They thought they were being clever bringing out that cinnamon roll to fill me up. Obviously, they had never seen me eat.

Asian noodle salad with wasabi seared tuna and sesame ginger dressing:

39911621324_b9567c08bf.jpg

Crab Louie deviled eggs with pickled veges:

39911614954_cd8c64f3e7.jpg

Fried chicken with a little jalepeno cheddar cornbread waffle and maple syrup:

39911609244_727656972a.jpg

Coffee crusted beef medallion with angel’s potatoes and herbed butter:

26750505138_9c9f623c59.jpg

Oysters on the half shell:

38812264100_080c557d62.jpg

Corn flake crusted French toast with cinnamon syrup:

40580075582_d918606f35.jpg

A cute little sour cream pancake with banana rum sauce and praline pecans:

40621886831_e0764fc928.jpg

Rum and brown sugar roasted banana with sweet mascarpone and toasted pecans:

39911604574_ae1d080daa.jpg

Oh yes, and mimosas….so many mimosas!

26750494748_65ef14cfe0.jpg

40580084672_22a9432412.jpg

After brunch, we headed over to the Hemingway Rum Company to see if we could find Bahama Bob.

40621882601_7be70ab70e.jpg

39911554844_775c68c020.jpg

40580020482_ab76b339f5.jpg

40580005142_5ac76d8686.jpg

40579992452_629438e809.jpg

We did not find Bob, but we did find this oddly smiley dog.

25751416247_7cf4eb9184.jpg

En route to our end of Duval, Matt was distracted by a “2 for 1 Mojito” sign, so we popped into Willy T’s for a mojito and a little live music on the patio.

25751389847_2ac7088f3f.jpg

25751361627_e6ecaab4c1.jpg

40579945802_33d096cc3b.jpg

26750353018_a9ddae1f46.jpg

38812157740_aaedb71993.jpg

While our friends enjoyed some down time, I talked Matt into walking next door to the bar at La Te Da for their Sunday afternoon Tea Dance by assuring him that there would be a “mixed crowd.”

25752201347_8d8dff97cb.jpg

39726511745_f35f051827.jpg

39726506305_aac1b6eba2.jpg

I did not tell him he would be the heterosexual male providing the mix.

Men, women, old, young….it was a colorful crowd dancing to old favorites by the La Te Da pool. Lasting from 4:00 – 6:30, the Tea Dance was situated perfectly between boozy brunch and a proper Sunday night dinner.

40621754971_6d8b790e3e.jpg

40579849432_b719d1f3ff.jpg

After a day filled with mimosas, mojitos, and too much champagne by the La Te Da pool…it was time for some FOOD.

I have heard Key West maven TraceyG talk up Abbondanza’s spaghetti with meatballs to a degree that led me to believe she had to be grossly exaggerating or was getting a % paid for each meatball sold. No meatball could be THAT GOOD. So, I finally had to try them myself.

Dear sweet heavenly sphere of awesome. That little meatball packed more soul and goodness into a square inch than anything that tiny has a right to. It was supernaturally good.

That meatball changed my life.

39726475645_54bc1527f7.jpg

We all slept in the next morning and decided on a late breakfast at Blue Heaven. Touristy or not, Matt can’t get enough of their banana bread and BLT Bennies. I just like their weirdness and mismatched garage sale coffee cups.

40579789102_7f809ef6b0.jpg

40579772572_105f9ac5d5.jpg

40579759912_f71635dc7a.jpg

39911361074_9bfa451ebf.jpg

40621674421_a69669d250.jpg

40621669391_cab581c8e4.jpg

40579724752_c556b89208.jpg

40621606921_671772f135.jpg

I think my 3rd grade teacher had this cup.

Not a cup like it...THIS cup.

25751169207_87ef1ecf40.jpg

25751161937_9d2cf3e1b7.jpg

39726377825_876a85dbee.jpg

We worked off all the bread and potatoes with long bike ride through Key West’s quiet streets, one of my favorite things to do.

40621595751_f558953c46.jpg

25751028467_9a88866b89.jpg

38811947810_bf11410bec.jpg

39726324055_e03f8a6508.jpg

40621517861_49585a1768.jpg

40621487721_634ce7e8c5.jpg

39726224705_46eea77f48.jpg

39911050204_fa41ff39df.jpg

40621445381_fc1d870222.jpg

40579559032_33d62806bf.jpg

40579522062_b55bb81ec3.jpg

39726143235_8a1907c9d9.jpg

40621535521_85b7fc4796.jpg

25750965297_dd8c5a586c.jpg

40579508622_b3406d1766.jpg

40579495272_35da57ebf8.jpg

38811678600_be2a49d59c.jpg

39726107835_a71c4f3442.jpg

Matt was in need of another oyster fix, so we headed to Pepe’s for oyster happy hour. Pepe's happy hour is my favorite with the breezy patio, house squeezed margaritas, and their own homemade chunky cocktail sauce.

40579443262_9de04c9883.jpg

40579463632_530d7f6ecc.jpg

26749907238_135d8d35b9.jpg

40579420152_7e0392d450.jpg

39910876474_20456e7d61.jpg

26749874248_20482125d7.jpg

40621257881_1cae28b69f.jpg

Then it was on to Half Shell for some fish lips, beer steamed shrimp, and smoked fish dip.

40621242221_67892cca4a.jpg

39910841174_dfeba0a634.jpg

25750850537_655298d88b.jpg

It definitely hadn’t been a trip for sunsets, but it didn’t stop us from continuing to try. This was the best we were going to get.

39910793514_9644b94f08.jpg

26749781748_ca77e0a795.jpg

26749764288_0fd6f5297c.jpg

38811523800_9a691e7a06.jpg

38811514890_b3f9209669.jpg

26749741878_fff54b4b0e.jpg

We ended the night with key lime pie and giant glasses of milk.

When your night in Key West ends with a big glass of milk….it’s probably time to go home.

39910692994_3edb66c982.jpg

39910680974_3334e6bb94.jpg

39725869755_89392be7fe.jpg

We had planned to leave around noon, but a quick moving snow system thought otherwise. Matt roused us all up at 5:00 a.m. and gave us 30 minutes to get packed. All I could say was, “Thank goodness all we drank last night was milk.”

This is the face of someone roused out of bed at zero dark thirty to leave paradise:

39910634044_94b72f87f8.jpg

And this is the face of someone who just left paradise and found herself in the snow a few hours later:

38811403300_a791591e32.jpg

Until next time! And where is next time? Why, sunny Guana Cay, of course! Stay warm, friends!

40579227392_824ea86d77.jpg

Posted by vicki_h 11:48 Archived in USA Tagged key_west florida_keys duval_street conch_republic Comments (6)

Forty is the new F Word.

A friend's 40th in Key West

People can run around saying “40 is the new 20” and “I’m not 40, I’m 23 with 17 years of experience,” all they want. The truth is, turning 40 sucks giant donkey balls.

I know. It happened to me 5 years ago.

my_birthday_invite_.jpg

You have to check a new demographic box every time you fill anything out.

Young adults literally start calling you “ma’am” overnight like there’s a stamp on your forehead that says, “I AM YOUR MOM’S AGE.” The cute boy that was flirting with you at the coffee shop? Yeah, he wasn’t. He called you ma'am as he handed you your change. There was no way he was flirting with you. You remind him of his mom.

You have to start getting mammograms.

Even the DMV takes a crack at you by ensuring that your driver’s license expires on your 40th birthday, forcing you to go get a new one with a picture where you suddenly age 5 years.

It can be uber depressing.

Unless you plan something fun.

Something that makes you look forward to turning 40. Something that gives you an opportunity to look 40 right in the eye and say, “BRING IT.”

My 40th birthday in the Bahamas made turning 40 one of the most fun things I ever did.

4856220893_36bffe5012.jpg

When my friend Alison’s husband was trying to figure out what to do for her 40th birthday, I offered him 2 suggestions: 1) hire Stephen Tyler to serenade her with “Walk this Way” as Channing Tatum provides a personal lap dance or 2) do a destination birthday.

And that is how we ended up planning a surprise trip with her husband and 8 friends to Key West.

(Personally, I was hoping for Channing Tatum)

We spent 6 months planning and scheming….. quietly, carefully. Finally, the big day came. Alison was blindfolded and told she was being taken to see a car. Instead, all of us were waiting to surprise her.

18510247704_c000533bb5.jpg

You have to be careful surprising an almost 40 year old woman like that. At our age, we could lose bladder control. Or spontaneously break a hip.

We expected screams. We expected fainting. We expected tears of joy. Instead, we heard, “You mean I’m not getting a car?”

(I told him he should have gone with Channing Tatum)

It was time to load everyone up in the Chieftan and head south.

19106544946_bf764f9591.jpg

18946564689_8baf41ec64.jpg

It was Key West or BUST, baby.

19127040132_14fa4db689.jpg

Day One: Key West in June....Hotter Than Georgia Asphalt

My planning was impeccable. I had the perfect place to stay. Groceries and drinks were being delivered before we arrived. A beautiful cake and balloons had been ordered. An awesome itinerary had been planned. Every detail was accounted for.

Or so I thought.

I missed one tiny detail.

It’s really HOT in Key West in late June.

Like…really, REALLY hot.

I have had some hot vacation experiences. Like that time we thought it would be a good idea to go to Texas in the summer and eat tacos with hot sauce from a street vendor on the sidewalk. That was just before we caught on fire.

But Key West in late June? It was like walking through a furnace in a gasoline suit.

Even my fingernails were sweating.

There you are, innocently waiting in line to eat when it happens. One minute, you are smiling and enjoying a beautiful day. The next minute, you burst into flames.

It’s called Spontaneous Key West Line Combustion and it can really happen. It’s science, people.

And there is only one remedy: mimosas!

18944899710_a6f59a5616.jpg

19106402016_28b5975860.jpg

We found them at Blue Heaven. We also found lobster & grits with toasted banana bread, BLT benedicts, and PIE.

18511866283_97a5818168.jpg

19126913812_bf2c0cfd9c.jpg

18510150344_7c69e17e6f.jpg

19135998191_c557fd3362.jpg

18944957458_5414c173f6.jpg

18944928248_2a77f0923c.jpg

18509991804_4ba15d1689.jpg

18509974454_30520f2da2.jpg

It was early in the day, and some of our group had never been to Key West, so we thought we'd do some walking around, maybe some shopping, and let everyone get a feel for Key West.

18944755940_a4bc06b8eb.jpg

19106279766_bcc219e6a8.jpg

19106257356_26c82a2578.jpg

19135819001_1959aa1d7a.jpg

Within 5 minutes, we said "Screw it." It was too hot to do much walking, so we only made it as far as the Rum Bar. Bahama Bob was behind the bar doing his thing.

19106165086_0f79e2e2c4.jpg

19132305805_c3f63b1f47.jpg

18946178909_4a6b8814c6.jpg

18511730373_49b790cecc.jpg

19106203756_9afd5ced84.jpg

18946255179_6da8681dc1.jpg

The group quickly became addicted to painkillers. We had to get them out of there after the 3rd round. We had been up since 4:00 a.m. and we didn’t want anyone passing out before we even got checked into the house.

Palm Gardens was PERFECT. Two, 2 story houses, each made up of 2 independent condominium units with a king bedroom, kitchen, den, bath, and porch. We had rented all 4 which gave us private access to the pool.

18915443100_33ab716030.jpg

18944643688_cbe54df062.jpg

19131459185_1850719f8c.jpg

19131437745_e14c45714b.jpg

Which was good, because no one else would have fit in that pool.

19106116286_2d433599fd.jpg

18511640083_110b5f8aff.jpg

We spent the afternoon cooling off before heading to Half Shell for happy hour. It was time for oysters!

18509704724_9578d86586.jpg

18944553018_8404bc148e.jpg

And shrimp.

18946003109_7aa011770d.jpg

And drinks.

18946071339_034a215f8a.jpg

18946056209_4a315fe33d.jpg

19126456622_9697b68ee8.jpg

And unfortunately shaped shadows.

18944411870_9d567da0b5.jpg

Having done the “booze cruise” with the Fury catamaran a couple of times, I had decided we needed something a little classier for the birthday girl. I didn’t want Alison’s pre-birthday filled with memories of overcooked chicken wings and cheap margaritas.

19135517331_5e17cac668.jpg

I had booked us on the sunset sail with Floridays. It was a smaller boat, a more intimate crowd, and a more relaxed atmosphere.

It was an AWESOME boat. Service was impeccable. The boat was classy and refined. The mood was relaxed.

19135501931_ac59b39207.jpg

19105906036_613ed8b05e.jpg

19135417071_e115e36f21.jpg

18944344990_da18bb2e68.jpg

18511396693_b80c1db8cc.jpg

18509513344_e2e810024f.jpg

19105780956_18b63238e3.jpg

18945854709_e17f024133.jpg

19105810826_d75f0344b4.jpg

18509408864_093746fd2a.jpg

19105699986_b23e44f7f2.jpg

18944107310_900e9fd430.jpg

18511255403_6d85d413c3.jpg

19135217521_354137db87.jpg

19126133002_549339ac41.jpg

But, as we sipped our champagne in the sunset, I couldn’t help but wish I had a couple of those greasy chicken wings.

You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can never take the trailer park out of the girl.

To prove that point, I forced tequila shots and tater tots on everyone after the sunset sail.

We had drinks at Agave 308. It’s dark. It’s classy. It’s filled with tequila. What’s not to like?

18509224674_f4aaeed97a.jpg

19126012452_71dbf24885.jpg

Afterward, we stumbled over to Amigo’s. You can’t beat Amigo’s for late night eats.

The pork carnitas nachos were simply a thing of beauty. Not to be outdone by the amazing tater tots and street corn.

18511072133_5eccd9c6b1.jpg

18944069488_033c6c624c.jpg

19131670225_0f0e193c04.jpg

18511018213_30534f9166.jpg

18944021088_e3b481e73d.jpg

And just to be certain that everyone barfed before they went to bed, we stopped at Better Than Sex for dessert.

19131619045_d639688829.jpg

19125880452_30b9550b54.jpg

Then we all ate a handful of Tums and called it a night!

Day Two: Happy Birthday!

We’d had enough drinks the day before to give an aspirin a headache.

There is only one remedy for that: mimosas!

18510939833_28548040bd.jpg

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. This especially applies to alcohol and fried foods, so we headed to Camille’s for a deliciously boozy breakfast.

Every time I walk into Camille’s, I feel like I am visiting 1984. From the orange sherbet walls and colorful vinyl tablecloths to the barbies and fornicating ceramic pigs to the Pet Shop Boys pumping out of the stereo, it screams "Hello, Vicki, this is your adolescence calling." However, despite how awesomely eclectic it is, one does not come to Camille’s for the décor, one comes for the breakfast.

18510859203_a289a6fa9e.jpg

18508972934_1b6b6dbdf5.jpg

Matt went snazzy with the chorizo benedict and I went old school with a fried egg, grits, and Cuban toast.

18945377219_aa3a7fee77.jpg

18509020694_f10cd1b7bd.jpg

18943817140_fc1f771a5e.jpg

We had rented a deck boat for the day. Destination: Boca Grande, a small uninhabited island about 14 miles from Key West with a pretty nice little beach. Renting a boat was significantly cheaper than taking a boat out for a day with a captain, and it eliminated the embarrassment of acting like total idiots in front of a stranger. When we act like idiots, we prefer to do it in privacy.

We were armed with sandwiches and adult beverages. It was time to get our boat day on.

18943064490_231e5442ac.jpg

19105242946_5f5265ed15.jpg

18943678910_8a6e3662a6.jpg

18945241919_2fb5f98ebc.jpg

18943744368_251f045959.jpg

It only took about 40 minutes to get to Boca Grande.

As we pulled up to the beach, I noticed a lot more seaweed than usual. It wasn’t quite a pretty as it usually was, but it still beat any beach on Key West.

18508810254_363ee899c0.jpg

19105152246_1947c32609.jpg

18945170139_7f52206f5f.jpg

19134700791_0d57ae3240.jpg

18510651123_8936430859.jpg

18943649178_ddae82266a.jpg

19105056446_f538ab7879.jpg

We poured up some beach drinks, found ourselves a shallow spot in the water, and made a day of it.

We proceeded to go through the 5 stages of beach drinking:

Stage 1: SUNSHINE AND HAPPINESS. This is the pre-drinking stage. Everyone is basking in the golden sunshine, cup in hand, marveling at how simply amazing it is to be right where they are.

19131160675_9ab8d4ff45.jpg

18508637774_8bb17bd5f2.jpg

19131147085_d525ff35f2.jpg

19131115215_9cd93bc255.jpg

18510419293_a544151271.jpg

18510406193_673f81826f.jpg

Stage 2: LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED. There is always that one person that gets a little louder sooner than everyone else. A little rowdier. A little OUT THERE. That person is usually me. This time, it was all 10 of us.

18510367023_64be2237fc.jpg

18510435353_479b9a3eb1.jpg

18508431504_0f3e3d32fb.jpg

18943514798_9c34794815.jpg

Stage 3: DUDE, THIS IS AWESOME. This is the full-buzz stage. Everyone is having a killer time. Everything is the most fun thing EVER. Especially more drinks.

19104922416_50111bf557.jpg

18943403208_e1a19f9303.jpg

18943212720_229a7a1226.jpg

18943369828_6e21109a0c.jpg

Stage 4: HEY, Y’ALL…WATCH THIS. You have arrived. You are fully intoxicated and it seems really cool to do really dorky things. Like try to put your glass in your swimsuit and try to drink out of it. Or do synchronized swimming. This is the stage where you are most likely to get a black eye or lose a tooth.

18508416614_5321f3c0b0.jpg

19130902235_3936fa8a9b.jpg

19134206111_7c78fc0914.jpg

Stage 5: I LOVE YOU, MAN. We’ve all been there. This is the stage where you love everyone. They love you. These people are your BEST FRIENDS EVER. At least one person usually cries. Personal space ceases to exist as everyone talks too close, hugs too much, and generally climbs on top of each other like a bunch of puppies in a too small box. At least this is what happens when women drink.

19104683346_d8e6535e4e.jpg

18508384664_6ef734f579.jpg

It is best to follow the “I love you, man” stage with food, lest you end up in the dreaded 6th stage of beach drinking: Puking like a kid who ate all of his Halloween candy in one sitting.

18943233128_7204b8cb59.jpg

19134232721_489d7ca566.jpg

18508283144_42a447b474.jpg

We had an amazing lunch spread. We had it all: Champagne, coconut rum, and beer. Sodas. Chicken salad, tuna salad, and turkey and Swiss sandwiches. Chips and dip. Fresh Fruit. Cheese. Crackers.

Know what we didn’t have?

A knife.

19125166462_2efe596702.jpg

18508339954_a7a4075476.jpg

(I realize there is a "cut the cheese" joke just dying to come in here, but it's just not going to happen, folks)

And then, somewhere in the alcohol fueled haze of the beautiful afternoon….we ran out of alcohol. Just. Like. That.

It was probably a good thing. Otherwise, we’d probably still be sitting on that beach.

Time to go!

Back at the house, we had an AMAZING pina colada birthday cake from Key West Cakes. The cake was delicious, beautiful, and they had even delivered it to our fridge before we even arrived.

18510098343_1ac001d0bb.jpg

19130757375_fc41b17444.jpg

18510113223_e38c8477ab.jpg

18942987920_c48a1ae142.jpg

18944547939_ec2306f33c.jpg

Then it was time to head to Alison’s birthday dinner.

I was not about to let my girl spend her 40th birthday somewhere mundane like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville eating a “cheeseburger in paradise” while sipping a watery cocktail and listening to “Fins.”

I wanted her big day to be exceptional and memorial. What better way to do that than with a dinner on the beach at a private island resort?

Ask anyone “Where is the best place to have a special occasion dinner in Key West?” and you will almost always get the same answer: Latitudes. Jet Set dining at its best, Latitudes is located on the private island resort of Sunset Cay, just a five minute ride on their private ferry from Key West.

As we pulled up to the dock, we knew we were in for a very special evening.

19134080141_b8d6f13377.jpg

18944517889_985e7696bf.jpg

18508111434_47d45bea85.jpg

18509994573_bc40c9fac4.jpg

18509974543_972a9413ce.jpg

19124868122_d8505e037f.jpg

18942959798_bff7ec9862.jpg

And we were. It was called “Heat Stroke.” And it was very special.

I had made reservations in February so that I could secure a table in the sand about an hour before sunset, knowing that the restaurant was known for its unobstructed sunset view.

“It’s going to be really hot,” the girl on the phone warned me when I made the reservation. “It’s late June and you’ll have literally NO PROTECTION from the sun. It’s brutal.”

I looked outside my office window. It was snowing. I pictured a beautifully set table in the sand.

19104321756_7f21c24e92.jpg

“We’ll take the 7:00 reservation,” I said. What did she know? WE LOVE SUN. Sun is awesome. Sun is our friend. Too hot? Pfffffft. There’s no such thing as too hot.

I remembered that conversation as I sat sweating through my tank dress, gulping down a coconut martini as fast as my throat could swallow while silently apologizing to Mother Nature for making all those snide comments about global warming. Then I started sucking down Matt’s frozen bushwacker, promising God that I would purchase some solar panels and trade in my Land Rover for a hybrid as soon as I got home if he would just cool it down a few degrees.

19130466705_2ed0bf96cf.jpg

18942734180_e7fde7d0ea.jpg

Heat be damned, we had an excellent dinner. Even though our faces were sliding off into our laps, the food and setting were hard to beat.

18509852803_0714a25feb.jpg

18942723390_84769680aa.jpg

19130432635_d90ffa737b.jpg

19133824131_a04f853196.jpg

18507871634_906b2bfd37.jpg

18507854344_2fe4db45ec.jpg

18915970068_c7ca3c0077.jpg

18507837684_095cec8133.jpg

The cool wedge salad was a perfect first course, with fresh Florida oranges and chilled melon topped with gorgonzola cheese and a papaya dressing.

18917498889_0c4bec99ba.jpg

Matt had the seafood pasta: fresh tagliatelle pasta with Key West pink shrimp, lobster, and scallops tossed in a parmesan pesto cream sauce with heirloom tomatoes and roasted mushrooms.

18481093134_53ac0c9318.jpg

I couldn’t resist the honey and ancho chile crusted waygu beef skirt steak, primarily because it was topped with two big, fat onion rings (remember what I said about the trailer park?).

18915873930_f3951f53dc.jpg

Finished up with a mango martini, the dinner couldn’t have been better.

18482904203_624dec3532.jpg

Cooler, yes. Better, no.

We enjoyed the amazing sunset before catching the ferry back to Key West.

18482892583_0cea874a13.jpg

19077348116_3ca2cca9c4.jpg

18915619208_2b0b2ce20a.jpg

19106828471_022bbbae52.jpg

19106730111_f0dcf41c9a.jpg

19077113246_f4ce8c3de3.jpg

18917212329_fb435a7744.jpg

19106558061_f2f1c0a34a.jpg

18917075599_e21631d864.jpg

Now that the sophisticated part of the evening was over, it was time to get the party started. In order to protect the guilty, I shall not divulge the intimate details, but there may have been lots of shots, dancing on tables, a couple of male dancers and a significant loss of one dollar bills, and we might have gotten thrown out of a bar by a guy that looked just like Vanilla Ice (but not before I told him how much I loved Ice, Ice, Baby….which he did not seem to think was as funny as I did)…..but I’m not confirming nor denying anything.

18915463270_ffc1055327.jpg

Day 3: Wakey, Wakey, Eggs & Bakey

18916993869_71238fde30.jpg

18482368103_59f6bc611e.jpg

18915370998_0bed2d199a.jpg

18916574459_f3980829bf.jpg

19097018712_3d274044cd.jpg

18914944130_ca94ff332f.jpg

We woke up s-l-o-w. I don't mean slowly. I mean slow. We were slow. We had no aggressive plans for the day so everyone slept in and got up at their own pace. It was a perfect morning to do nothing more than lay around in the air conditioning eating aspirin for breakfast.

Everyone finally roused around noon, so we thought we’d take everyone to the Southernmost Point for the “photo op” since some of our group had never been to Key West.

18916554679_5dc0288577.jpg

We severely underestimated how heat can affect a hangover.

There are many who say that heat is a good remedy for a hangover. These people say you should “sweat it out” and get rid of the toxins in your body.

These people are stupid.

And are masochists.

We should not have tried to beat the heat. We needed to sit in the shade and drink a lot of Gatorade. And think about our life choices.

Instead, we were on bicycles, sweating it out on top of pavement that had to be at least 147 degrees. As we pedaled from our place on White Street toward Duval Street, there was absolutely no shade to be found. At the 4th traffic light we were forced to stop at, we started to die slowly.

It was so hot, my biggest bicycle wreck fear was, "What if I fall off my bike and cook to death on the pavement?"

18510844483_86a56e49e7.jpg

By the time we reached the Southernmost Point, we sent the strongest of our bunch in search of water while the rest of us lay limply on the sidewalk, begging for a quick and painless death. When Matt returned (did you really think it was anyone else?), we didn’t even bother to drink the water, but simply poured it over our heads. I think I saw steam.

And yes, we got the photo op. Unfortunately, Matt was buying water and I was taking the picture so I had to Photoshop us in. I don’t think you can tell.

southernmost_point.jpg

When we realized we were not, in fact, going to die, we made a mad dash to Deuce’s Off the Hook Grill for some lunch in the blessed air conditioning.

18915307408_b93c077a3f.jpg

18482258233_d6bb5896ae.jpg

19102922565_bfd46fafce.jpg

This was a first time at Deuce’s and it was a WINNER. It instantly became everyone’s favorite, and not just because of the air conditioning.

Because of the amazing fish tacos and sweet potato tater tots.

SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS, y’all!

18916690329_a0f5515248.jpg

The food at this small restaurant was outstanding.

Go here. Now.

18482219493_5127851141.jpg

18482197993_348c8157fe.jpg

19076626176_bef5ee6ac8.jpg

18915140360_3a4aed5ce8.jpg

We were loath to leave the air conditioning, and the tater tots, but I don’t think Deuce’s was willing to let us stay for the next 7 hours, so we had to pedal on out of there.

It was just too hot for shopping, and no one had seen the beach at Key West, so we took them to Fort Zachary, thinking we might be able to dip in the refreshing water.

Unfortunately, the refreshing water was filled with seaweed and smelled like farts.

So we sat in the shade and ate giant pickles and popsicles instead. Have you ever noticed how many penis shaped foods there are in Key West? I’m just making a point, here, people. Just making a point.

19106087591_69c4749256.jpg

18915157898_949cfc38d9.jpg

19076591626_dc4ce28ec7.jpg

19097093172_a52fdd6ac7.jpg

19106060341_4a2d127d36.jpg

There was nothing left to do but spend the afternoon in our pool. Even though the pool was heated, it was the coolest we’d been all day.

18915389980_ffcf0d3887.jpg

19097398622_03b07ba717.jpg

Seriously….who heats a pool in Key West in the summer??????!!!!!

It was our last day, so heat or no, we were going to make the most of it. We decided to do a Happy Hour crawl for dinner, starting with oysters and margaritas at Pepe’s.

19076442226_628e9f4915.jpg

19076428956_3086618c31.jpg

19096941112_d3b8f549a8.jpg

19105905381_93e0c50353.jpg

19096880142_fe4da40f4e.jpg

18916429339_7f059c9aea.jpg

18914844120_d893a37088.jpg

18914879528_a61b57584e.jpg

19102519455_2694b6e59e.jpg

Then, it was on to Kelly’s for wings, nachos, and more margaritas (and maybe some nachos and fish dip).

I have a tidbit of advice for Kelly's: Maybe if you let people sit OUTSIDE in your pretty courtyard during happy hour instead of making them sit INSIDE....your pretty courtyard wouldn't be TOTALLY EMPTY.

Just a thought.

Especially considering the courtyard was the only really good thing at Kellys.

18479969244_aec57f99c8.jpg

18914725420_3851e6a8a9.jpg

18914777858_2c179bb099.jpg

19132797295_3405c67b88.jpg

Then we did a little Duval Street Strolling. It was finally cool enough to shop!

19105731711_2711d04652.jpg

19076202486_c9933f775f.jpg

19105701651_8aa5d916f3.jpg

The final stop was at the Little Room Jazz Bar for what was supposed to be one drink. You know, since we were flying out in the morning.

One drink did not happen.

19105645171_2b810c6c1f.jpg

19102355185_4d5d018f61.jpg

18479854684_4e2a43113e.jpg

18916168389_f7eda39511.jpg

18481576033_c82b479e14.jpg

As a dog returns to its vomit…….

Some of us never learn.

Home again, Home again!

We filled ourselves with doughnuts and bacon before heading home.

I learned that a “side of bacon” at Sandy’s means “a pound of bacon.” It was a thing of beauty.

18481542613_04c567cc68.jpg

18914590008_b9ff9a6633.jpg

It had been a whirlwind, but it had been fabulous. It had been hot, but it had been fun. It had been exhausting, but it had been worth every second.

There was nothing left to do but put the inflatable margarita in the trash and fly home.

18914552078_a29264e6e1.jpg

19102192165_f48354f46c.jpg

What's next? Why, getting stranded naked in Abaco, that's what!

Posted by vicki_h 12:39 Archived in USA Tagged key_west florida_keys duval_street conch_republic Comments (4)

Key West.... One Bite at a Time

16461699746_3a5f4f1437.jpg

To everything there is a season.

A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

There is also a time to eat.

Let's face it, I love to eat. Especially on vacation. When I am on vacation, I eat like a bear that has just come out of hibernation. A bear with a sweet tooth. And who may be a wino.

When we found ourselves in Key West for a long weekend in January, it seemed like the perfect time to do just that. Temps were balmy, in the mid 70s. Warm enough for shorts, but not warm enough for the beach. So, unless we wanted to spend 3 days looking at Hemingway's 6 toed cats, we had a lot of time to fill.

I had planned the trip to coincide with the annual Key West Food and Wine Festival, but after realizing our travel companions don't really like wine, I decided to forgo most of the Festival events and create my OWN Food and Wine Festival.

It was to be 3 days of strategic eating. I had an EATING ITINERARY, people. The food fest was about to be ON.

There is nothing better than an eating vacation.

Let the eating begin!

16488939652_faf7982aa3.jpg

"Pace yourselves, " I cautioned. "You don't want to eat too much at any one place."

We were behind schedule.

We had arrived in Key West on time....landing just before noon on a clear, breezy Wednesday.

16488192091_9ae8e24ee4.jpg

The trouble came in when Key West Hideaways couldn't seem to send the shuttle picking us up to the right place. Key West Hideaways had convinced us to let them arrange for our bicycle rentals, telling us they would send a free shuttle from the bike place to pick us up from the airport. As soon as I heard the words "free shuttle," I was convinced.

They sent the shuttle to the commercial airport, although we had told them we would be at the general aviation FBO. After several confused phone calls between me and the shuttle driver, he finally found us.

However, the real confusion came in when he turned out to be from the wrong bicycle company. He dropped us off at the bike office and left. Unfortunately, no one at the bike company had any idea who we were. There was no record of our reservation. I had paid a deposit, so simply changing rental companies wasn't an option. Six very unproductive phone calls back and forth with an extremely rude and unhelpful young lady at Key West Hideaways who kept insisting "that is the only bicycle company we do business with so you must be mistaken about your deposit," and we were unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk with our luggage like hobos.

With no ride.

As luck would have it, I got a call from the ACTUAL bike company that Key West Hideaways had booked us with asking what time we wanted the bikes delivered. And it WAS NOT the one the young lady kept insisting "is the only bicycle company we do business with." I asked him if he could pick us up. He said he would be there in 5 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, we were still on the sidewalk with our luggage like hobos.

I called him back.

He said Key West Hideaways had called him and told him not to come pick us up. They were sending someone.

Son of a B*%$#.

Two more phone calls to Key West Hideaways, and a rangy late model mercedes with a "For Sale" sign tacked in each window pulled up.

Thankfully, it was not the young woman I had spoken to, because there would have likely been bloodshed, right there on South Street in front of all the nice people who were sipping their Cuban coffees at the cafe next door.

He was polite and apologetic and made several lame excuses about the confusion. And about the fact that we had to cram our bodies in on top of our luggage in the tiny back seat. Steve's leg was at an unnatural angle that I was pretty sure was going to cut off the circulation to his foot. I hoped the ride was short so that amputation of a limb wouldn't be necessary.

16301411809_cbd8465d2b.jpg

As we rode through the streets of Key West, someone from the bicycle company called me again.

"I'm over here at 828 Olivia to deliver the bikes, but no one is here," he said.

"That's because Key West Hideaways gave you the wrong address. We are at 1019 Varela," I sighed.

We were finally dropped off at the correct house and got our bikes at the correct address, no thanks to Key West Hideaways. But we had lost an hour.

Our eating schedule was now behind.

Oh, the horror.

"Where are we going?" Matt said as we walked down White Street, "I'm seriously hungry." In anticipation of the impending calorie-fest none of us had eaten breakfast and it was going on 2:00.

"Not far," I responded. "See? Right there." I pointed to the Chevron Station.

"What? Where? I only see a gas station," Matt said. He was getting grouchy, like a hungry toddler that missed out on the graham crackers during story hour.

"Yeah. The Chevron Station," I said.

"We're not eating at the gas station," Matt replied.

"Oh yes we are."

16488149571_11a0146e23.jpg

At the corner of White and Truman, right next to the bathrooms in the Chevron parking lot, we found White Street Station, a colorful food truck surrounded by tropical plants and brightly colored drums in the parking lot of the Chevron Station. We put our things on a yellow wooden bench next to a red ironing board that served as a table and walked up to the window to order.

"All of our fish is fresh, just caught," he said, "The fish tacos are excellent. I also recommend the Orzo as a side today. It's really good."

15867371654_cc98018bcd.jpg

15869759473_b0142f6012.jpg

15867362694_19cbf05bdb.jpg

15867351094_93fb7b11b5.jpg

Matt couldn't resist the fish tacos. The fish was insanely fresh and was prepared Caribbean style, topped with mango and black beans.

Fish Tacos almost sounded healthy to me, so I opted for the daily special: the Grilled Mac.......two giant crusty slices of Texas toast layered with American cheese and wrapped around a creamy slab of macaroni and cheese atop a pile of tender, braised short rib.

Oh my yumminess.

16303607369_9489acf068.jpg

16463880346_e791d91d1a.jpg

Matt stopped complaining about the Chevron Station when he realized he could run inside for a beer.

With the hunger monster quieted for a few hours, we took the time to head back to Mango Cottage and settle in. Despite being less than pleased with the rental company so far, we did love the cottage. It was squeaky clean, newly renovated, and cute, cute, cute.

16488172641_03b7865ea8.jpg

16489909715_013bf8e1f3.jpg

16302478780_cf9df14f0c.jpg

16489920735_3ac829e0ea.jpg

16304004267_b56f893b62.jpg

Until we lifted the cover on the hot tub. It was filled with funky green water.

Have you ever heard the story about the farmer and the mule?

A farmer had a really stubborn mule. He was out trying to plow the fields one day and the mule wouldn't budge. He looked at the mule and said, "That's one." After the plowing for a while, the mule stubbed up again, refusing to move. "That's two," the farmer said. As the day grew long and the mule grew tired, he bucked up on the farmer again. This time the farmer didn't say anything, but pulled out his shotgun and shot the mule dead. As the farmer came into the farmhouse that night, tired and dirty, he looked at his wife and asked for dinner. "It's not ready," she said flippantly. The farmer looked at his wife. "That's one," he said.

Key West Hideaways? That's two.

The one absolute when we are on Key West is Matt's daily visit to some place for oyster happy hour. It's as certain as death and taxes.

So we found ourselves at the White Tarpon late in the afternoon. The oysters are no longer 50 cents all day, but $1 an oyster still wasn't too bad, especially considering how large and fresh the oysters were. Matt was definitely in his happy place.

A key lime martini quickly put me in my happy place as well. Although, my happy place is pretty easy. It pretty much includes any place with cupcakes, cocktails, pork rinds, or half price shoes.

15869726683_6db1d99e71.jpg

16303952577_a4ef6dcb9f.jpg

We had early dinner reservations at Hot Tin Roof, hoping to eat dinner to a beautiful sunset.

16303593279_126b4fe0ce.jpg

16302421740_0a775a62f3.jpg

The meal started off with delightful cocktails: a Hemingway daiquiri and the best caipirinha I have had outside of Brazil.

16488868312_8c3335207e.jpg

16303933017_3248cd02b6.jpg

16303930277_17cce30c9c.jpg

As we perused the menu, the sun began to sink its way toward the sea. Seated on the outdoor porch, we watched it go down in a blazing ball of orange.

16488858432_dd4ede520c.jpg

Then the food orgy began:

We started with creamy melted manchego cheese topped with spicy chorizo and pico de gallo served with warm tortillas and a steamy bowl of mussels.

16303923927_ee17b44d44.jpg

16303920097_6c874fe76e.jpg

16303915837_e5b6c49eb3.jpg

As the sky turned from fiery orange to cool shades of blue, we discovered that our menus were illuminated. After a couple of cocktails, a lighted menu is fabulous entertainment.

16303912217_640b965361.jpg

Next up was the lobster cocktail with roasted corn guacamole, cumin crema, and yukon chips; caramelized grouper with chorizo, corn, carrots, red pepper, poblano, and coconut; and a pan of lobster mac and cheese with creamy manchego cheese.

16302094908_7688f7c483.jpg

16489817635_0736ed388b.jpg

16488073121_bc3d2cb53f.jpg

16489821235_6d84c17b22.jpg

After dinner, we headed to The Porch for cocktails. Even though it was located right off crazy Duval Street, it seemed a quiet oasis far from the throngs of people with their big gulp frozen daiquiris and Sloppy Joes t-shirts. As we entered the front door of the old house, a bar to the left was serving up craft beer and a bar to the right was dreaming up creative craft cocktails. This made everyone happy.

This bar was different from the "Duval Crawl" bars of Key West. It was cozy and cool, quiet, and the cocktails were a knockout. My banana bread bourbon old fashioned was crafted slowly, with care, and was absolutely fantastic.

16463814576_42424e31f8.jpg

16303533459_7ac3c6f178.jpg

16463801406_f2d6d4701b.jpg

Did a man in a sparkly tutu walk into The Porch while we were enjoying our cocktails? Maybe he did, but we were still in Key West, after all.

We decided to make one final stop before heading home, and the Green Parrot it was. I needed popcorn, bad lighting, a hint of danger, and an atmosphere that promised at least the chance of a bar fight to make my evening complete. The Green Parrot is the perfect dive bar. It's a dive, without being too, well, divey. It's just gritty enough to be interesting, but still more charming than squalid.

16302348610_5fe0106617.jpg

16489783125_198060af7e.jpg

In hindsight, we probably should have skipped that final stop. I think that "one last drink" was how I ended up with a gorgeous headache the next morning and a tote bag filled with popcorn.

16488033921_7a851e9188.jpg

I woke up early the next morning. It was before sunrise so I decided to grab some Cuban toast and cafe con leche at Sandy's on the corner and pedal my way down to White Pier, just a few blocks from the house.

5910596295_66b16fecf5.jpg

16489770995_b33886b14b.jpg

16303493949_12bf9f30b4.jpg

I would love to show you some glorious photos of that sunrise, but, while I managed to lug my 7 lb. camera all the way down there, I forgot the battery.

I blame it on the Green Parrot.

All I have is this crappy iPhone photo:

16301420699_b91503d250.jpg

Before long it was time for second breakfast, or was it pre-lunch? Whatever it was, we were going to do it up proper at Blue Heaven. I never tire of the colorful courtyard atmosphere and lively bar. On this particular morning, they had live Reggae and for a moment, I felt like I was in the breezy Caribbean.

15869608853_105f049c9b.jpg

16463749016_1a14b6ca95.jpg

16301986388_9f9c5e128f.jpg

16302299490_cbbb870109.jpg

16463736836_2fd4732f84.jpg

While we waited for our table, I wandered upstairs, simply curious what was up there. It turned out to be the overflow seating area. Colorful tables, eclectic decor, and this super cute little private room:

16302288750_9ba0339ab2.jpg

15869577583_eb75ef0c8f.jpg

16463719646_0c7724a6a8.jpg

We were seated in the courtyard with chickens running nervously around our feet, cats lazily sunning themselves on the metal roofs, and the sounds of the Reggae band drifting over on air that smelled like pancakes and home fries.

16302272560_b7cfa85f7c.jpg

16301988938_efbeba4a61.jpg

16303770227_90939f9340.jpg

16301967058_a4a6923fed.jpg

Matt had the BLT Benedict. Not to be confused with the traditional meaning of BLT, at Blue Heaven, BLT means "Bacon, Lobster, and Tomato."

16488708212_b37323157e.jpg

Because I felt like I had already eaten breakfast, with the thick slices of buttery Cuban toast I scarfed down on the pier, I opted for lunch. The Caribbean plate came with tender lobster cooked in wine, butter, and spices and served with Blue Heaven's key lime hollandaise sauce; savory black beans; rice; asparagus; tangy cole slaw; and a slab of moist cornbread.

15869551493_b9d2ce38f6.jpg

Of course we couldn't leave without a couple of slices of their mile high key lime pie.

16303419179_156c095c17.jpg

We then took Steve and Alison on a bicycle tour of Key West.

16302097787_62b48af697.jpg

15867142114_9e407bd84c.jpg

16301954188_314f582e1e.jpg

16487924181_c12f1bc469.jpg

15867105674_a2d0a47202.jpg

15869618653_b7b38af83a.jpg

15867116014_096ed40ca9.jpg

16303727757_69fe37dab3.jpg

16301943258_7052092dce.jpg

16489654885_e534940583.jpg

15867049474_37e2907f41.jpg

We ended up at the Martello Tower where we took a quick tour of the Key West Garden Club's beautiful oceanfront garden.

16463637756_0831298ae1.jpg

16302151900_d75f214780.jpg

16303703187_8399107c40.jpg

16463622716_568144e45f.jpg

16302189370_f5427a2779.jpg

15869458853_6aa063244c.jpg

16488605662_5845bd158d.jpg

15869446403_cd3ef4595d.jpg

All that pedaling made us hungry. It was oyster o'clock, so we headed back to the White Tarpon. This time, I got my own platter of ice cold oysters and washed them down with a hard cider.

16302142000_90d21ffdf7.jpg

Matt is going to be sorry he encouraged me to eat oysters. If I really get hooked on them, he's either going to get to eat 1/2 as many or pay twice as much.

Truth is, I didn't really even WANT the oysters. I don't LIKE oysters. I was just eating at this point to be eating. A vicious cycle was starting to take hold: get up, eat, ride bikes, eat, walk around and shop, eat, drink cocktails, eat, watch the sunset, eat. Before it was over, I would be eating in my sleep.

16303656327_556f97478e.jpg

That evening, we had tickets to one of the two Food and Wine Festival events I had decided our friends would probably like: Henry Flagler's Welcome Party at Casa Marina.

Okay, who am I kidding? I didn't care if they liked it or not, I just wanted to see the beach at this gorgeous resort. It was not disappointing.

16489477425_bb14138807.jpg

16303299979_918448808f.jpg

16303295099_e21acf2b7a.jpg

16303202949_ca7e3fac02.jpg

The KWFWF had set up a nice soiree right on the beach at sunset, complete with live band, wine flowing like water, and twinkling lights hanging from the palm trees.

16301843428_bd2f8e7a4e.jpg

16301820928_962debd951.jpg

16489510795_87c7dd53e7.jpg

16303613337_ebf53bd03f.jpg

15866985584_7c5b60b162.jpg

16487771451_c069cf578d.jpg

16489502285_171f6a7441.jpg

The snacks were pretty good too: a pastry of baked brie with figs, specialty pizzas, cheeses, and a carving station with mountains of fried onions. Yes, there was some meat too, but did you see all those fried onions????? Who can concentrate on meat when there are UNLIMITED FRIED ONIONS?

16489552445_3c300d4223.jpg

16488504912_4ff31976db.jpg

16487804791_1883dcd209.jpg

15869406273_dee7708e0d.jpg

15869387833_b09ef51a70.jpg

16301804868_eb4bf63f8c.jpg

16303568167_57d159fa34.jpg

After a dozen oysters, two slices of pizza, countless glasses of wine, tender beef with a crusty roll, a mountain of fried onions, and enough cheese to constipate a horse, most people would have called that dinner.

But we were on a mission.

So we waddled our gluttonous selves away from Casa Marina with no shame and headed to the Rum Bar to sip their delicious painkillers until we thought we could handle more food.

16489468005_e939f1b657.jpg

16303541397_9e655c788b.jpg

16463460106_7194437e02.jpg

16463455606_fcb00fdcae.jpg

It wasn't long before we were ready for dinner at Square One, a short walk from the Rum Bar.

16303177519_d4ebdca249.jpg

15866909224_063635ee3c.jpg

Their creative cocktails were a hit. Mine was a Bufala Negra: fresh basil, balsamic vinegar (yes...vinegar!), agave nectar, ginger beer, and bourbon. It was quirky, but delightful.

15866904844_64cfb55d71.jpg

16301684428_3565d6b83e.jpg

16489396805_d219434f03.jpg

We then severely overordered. And overate.

There were soft little pretzel bites with savory herb butter.

15866900204_b78d70c3d6.jpg

There were pork potstickers with pineapple hoisin sauce and a massive platter of lobster cobb salad with arugula, fresh tender lobster, crispy pancetta, egg, avocado, roasted corn, manchego cheese, and a togarashi ranch.

16488424952_a8ef97cf92.jpg

16301697898_ed5dd151e5.jpg

There were pulled cuban pork sliders with sweet plantains and red onion marmalade on pretzel buns with crispy fries and a lobster roll with shredded lettuce on a pretzel hogie.

16463429986_2130452583.jpg

16301688288_afbb998c64.jpg

There were shrimp and grits with spicy poblano peppers, manchego cheese, and caramelized corn butter and a pound of drunken mussels cooked in vermouth, fresh herbs, and shallots.

16489429815_2057118fb0.jpg

16489420405_428e082296.jpg

Too full to go to bed, we ended the evening with cocktails at Point5, the upstairs bar at Nine One Five on Duval Street. The breezy front balcony was a perfect place to watch all that was coming and going along Duval.

16463396286_b4e517b675.jpg

15869247783_f47e2231f0.jpg

15869243483_f243061fee.jpg

Eventually our choices narrowed to 1) stomach pump or 2) go to bed, so we called it a night.

15868001473_3bdfb00fec.jpg

We woke up the morning and did a group cheer to get us psyched up for the day's eat fest.

It started at Firefly on Petronia. Their menu promised all manner of fried goodness, and they delivered. We started off with mango mimosas, to wash it all down and then ordered all the fried things we could find on the menu.

16488010141_9ed9336e64.jpg

16489379345_614951ae80.jpg

15866842594_58893e2d16.jpg

Fried okra, deep fried mini corndogs, and deliciously cheesy stuffed peppers.

Then fried chicken and waffles, fried chicken and biscuits, and fried crab beignets on a bun with crazy good garlic fries.

16463037986_b950996110.jpg

15866497294_37af9772fa.jpg

16487283701_cd76e839c9.jpg

16488035682_e61d989967.jpg

16487627941_ac56ce8f53.jpg

15868877393_c1e1d9dc30.jpg

15866484174_1c5ece387b.jpg

16487267421_141d91e6d9.jpg

Oh....and then there was that one person who ordered a salad. I think she was starting to feel guilty about what she was doing to her internal organs, but never mind her. We would get her back on the food train before the day was over.

15866481254_b888a9d89c.jpg

The will is weak.

Especially when tater tots are on the menu.

The guys had decided their new favorite place was the Rum Bar so we headed that way. If I learned one thing on the island of Jost Van Dyke, home of the Soggy Dollar Bar and home of the painkiller, it is that it is never too early for a painkiller.

16488383242_9eccbedc30.jpg

15868852053_3b16a2265d.jpg

16487254801_e815820501.jpg

We spent the day shopping up and down Key West's quaint streets in between snacks. We had decided that the best way to see the sights was on the way to and from our eating opportunities. If we followed the food, we'd naturally see the sights along the way. We wanted to see Hemingway's House. Did we pay admission and take a tour? Of course not. We snapped a selfie by the gate on the way to Firefly for a mango mimosa and a plate of fried okra. Just like we grabbed a walking photo of the harbor and the boats as we made our way to Half Shell for a pound of beer steamed shrimp and grabbed a glimpse of the Southernmost Point as we made a quick detour on our way to the Rum Bar for painkillers.

15866475634_748689e19f.jpg

16301265498_c5b7d74bbb.jpg

16487992732_4b76fd887c.jpg

16301255338_2542af0cc4.jpg

15868826803_fcff8b9f78.jpg

15866428794_93400d739d.jpg

15866423064_0d363524ea.jpg

16487961642_e7b412d082.jpg

It had been almost 3 hours since we'd had anything to eat and it was making me nervous. Certain that my stomach would shrink, we needed food and we needed it fast. As luck would have it, it was oyster happy hour.

We decided to try Pepe's for oysters just for a change of scenery, if nothing else.

15866411034_dc9ea3311a.jpg

16302662609_2519070fd8.jpg

I liked Pepe's oysters best. They were served with lime instead of lemon and their house made cocktail sauce was so thick and chunky it was more like salsa. Paired with one of Pepe's hand squeezed margaritas, it was afternoon perfection.

16487944042_7c0e809965.jpg

16302653989_7ab220cc8a.jpg

15866390574_b6723cf91d.jpg

Since it was their first visit to Key West, we wanted Steve and Alison to enjoy a proper Key West sunset. That meant NOT at the sunset celebration where they could only catch a brief glimpse of it obstructed by 27 boats as they peered around the back of a guy with a combover and a Patriots jersey who was busy watching a guy juggle fire. Don't get me wrong, I love the festiveness of the sunset celebration, but it's not ideal if you actually want to SEE THE SUNSET.

We had done the Commotion on the Ocean sunset cruise on our first trip to Key West and, despite the total cheese factor of it, I loved it. It was not a classy affair, but I knew that. Bad wine and cheap beer were served in plastic glasses, cheap deli trays from the local supermarket lined the counter promising "free eats" as the smell of old grease filled the air. I was pretty sure I could smell cheap meatballs and frozen chicken wings cooking somewhere. The boat was also crammed with bodies. Bodies everywhere and all of them clutching a plastic solo cup of boxed wine.

I still loved it.

16301196958_6d472990e8.jpg

16488910015_72840310fd.jpg

16462904896_edeb65170d.jpg

The band was good, the sunset was amazing, and the atmosphere was the kind of cheap fun you can only have at a frat party or, if you are over 22, on a cheesy party boat. I can't explain it. I loved it the same way I love the $1.09 bean burrito at Taco Bell or the way I love watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians when no one is looking.

As we boarded the boat, I promised myself I would enjoy the band and the sunset but I would not drink the bad drinks on the boat.

Three glasses of boxed wine in a solo cup later I found myself enthusiastically accepting a crappy margarita like it was heaven's nectar handed to me from an angel. It was even worse than the boxed wine. I drank it anyway.

We watched the sun as it made its way toward the horizon.

16302992997_b1452191a1.jpg

16488901635_e91121ed59.jpg

15868741803_3a46d0085f.jpg

15868720613_3b3ec97d2a.jpg

Before I knew it, I was drinking cheap champagne out of a plastic cup.

What is it they say? Wine before liquor? Never been sicker? Or is that beer? Did it matter? I was pretty sure I was going to be sorry I drank from the "Cup of Gallo" no matter what order I did it in.

16487870422_23541d3283.jpg

16462857646_7d100435a8.jpg

16302932867_9fa6fa1aea.jpg

16487855942_6a62719e5a.jpg

16487084491_514cb1fcdc.jpg

15868704923_7be3d3c940.jpg

16487080661_39cfe0b92a.jpg

16301099028_93910fc3e7.jpg

15868665543_a4511cf8dd.jpg

As the boat made its way back toward the harbor, the band cranked out oldies. Everyone was smiling and drinking champagne, snapping selfies in front of the fiery sky, laughing, having a good time. It was lovely.

15866265814_040093b213.jpg

16462802756_cffab1cec3.jpg

15868652223_6693c90803.jpg

16462787596_7ee19253ec.jpg

16302848837_89d34e93b8.jpg

15868613433_23f97d8696.jpg

15868603173_613028aa3a.jpg

And then they played Rocky Top.

My friends, you always know who the hillbillies in the group are when the band starts to play Rocky Top.

If you are from East Tennessee, and you hear Rocky Top, it doesn't matter where you are or what you are doing. You can be in church, at a funeral, or walking through the mall and you are instantly and inexplicably compelled to start singing at the top of your lungs and throwing in a lot of "Yee Haws" for good measure.

Or maybe it was just the boxed wine singing.

16488786525_d8b4706d2e.jpg

There was only one thing that could follow Rocky Top: tequila shots.

I mean, what better to do after drinking cheap wine, cheaper champagne and a margarita made with bottom shelf liquor?

We got off the boat and found Agave 308. The decor was creepy and dark, but in a fun way. I liked it.

16462744626_9b171a31b0.jpg

16302454709_baf9e3a793.jpg

15868595783_40d382e008.jpg

15868585973_d93351082f.jpg

16301281270_c8a056417f.jpg

16302439519_4951d6754d.jpg

With absolutely no plans for dinner, we wandered in search of Garbo's. Or was it Grunt's? Garbo's at Grunt's? We weren't sure. I just knew they were supposed to have great tacos. We found what we thought was Grunt's and wandered around looking for something that appeared to be serving tacos. I did see what appeared to be a stand of some sort in the back, but there was nothing making it obvious that you could get food there. I also saw a sign shouting "Tennessee Steve's BBQ" with an arrow that confusingly terminated in a chain link fence.

15868571513_da85c2a1b3.jpg

Unfortunately, the Grunt's / Garbo's set up seemed designed for those in the know and was simply confusing as hell for a group of people who had consumed entirely too much boxed wine and cheap tequila, so we made our exit, and headed straight for the predictable safety of Amigo's.

15868529933_5fc26a24e1.jpg

Not only did they have tacos, they had tater tots.

And fire roasted corn.

And GOOD margaritas.

16300962038_948c5360c3.jpg

15868539953_05f64cd2b1.jpg

16302759617_55009c5512.jpg

Because we NEEDED another drink.

16302383289_b276fd638e.jpg

The following morning, we all made it a point to get up in time for the sunrise. This is not hard to do when you fall asleep at 10:30 pm. It is hard to do if that early sleep was induced by a tater tot and tequila coma.

We grabbed hot coffee at Sandy's and rode our bikes to the pier to watch the sunrise.

It was spectacular.

15866117334_f4d9c51d0f.jpg

15866112484_221b79f2ba.jpg

16302362179_2cfd404d6b.jpg

16300811460_37a1c891dd.jpg

16302321047_f5c4854a9d.jpg

16302312977_fef1e4439e.jpg

16486445181_5a6f6e75c8.jpg

16302262057_ecbaa07f47.jpg

16301880379_3ae0a78346.jpg

15868010053_1d652ef660.jpg

A sunrise that spectacular called for a hearty breakfast, so we headed to Camille's at the recommendation of our surly waiter at Pepe's the night before.

We hopped on the bikes and headed that way.

15865483074_01bd976334.jpg

15867994893_fa80dab1f4.jpg

15867986473_3c1b36a07c.jpg

16487127022_8df2d4fa27.jpg

Camille's was kitschy cool. With orange sherbet walls, vintage movie posters, and a smattering of quirky nicknacks, Camille's was one part crazy old Aunt Hilda's house, one part 1950's Hollywood diner, and one part Old Florida Retirement Community Party Room. Camille's had also stolen my 1984 high school mix tape collection.

16462103976_a409c64136.jpg

15867950283_144cb94a48.jpg

16488073125_443354abc0.jpg

15865531834_4f7d3df619.jpg

We ordered mimosas and bacon bloody marys, diving into the menu with gusto.

16301781599_10c5d76168.jpg

16302138947_f87337ca74.jpg

16302129507_e264635b44.jpg

Matt had the carb cake benedict. No, that's not a typo. Sure, there were some crab cakes in there somewhere, but it was really a carb cake. Especially with that pile of cheesy delicious grits.

16487049692_c50944cde7.jpg

I went for the omelet special which was loaded with sun dried tomatoes, bacon, asparagus, and lobster. It came with a side of perfectly toasted, buttered Cuban bread and crispy home fries.

16300302298_8411d09e0e.jpg

Then we all went home and took a nap.

I wish I was joking, but I'm not. It was only 10:00 a.m. and we needed a nap. This eating quest was wearing us out.

It was when I woke up from my late morning nap at Mango Cottage that Key West Hideaways got their final strike. We ran out of toilet paper.

Now....I am not one of these "high maintenance" rental people that has unrealistic expectations of a vacation rental. But when I pay $2471 to spend 3 days in a 765 square foot house.....I should not have to go buy my own toilet paper.

We were up and at 'em in time to ride our bikes to catch the 11:45 a.m. shuttle to the second KWFWF event I had purchased tickets to: The Hogfish Grill Shrimp Boil on Stock Island.

16301725239_3e10e6b8da.jpg

16486243501_0e99cceaf5.jpg

I loved almost everything about the Shrimp Boil.

I loved the table of endless wine.

16487000742_3ea83410cb.jpg

I loved the appetizers of ceviche and coconut shrimp.

16461980926_396505b83c.jpg

16486986232_f2f536c655.jpg

I loved the giant bowl filled with amazing shrimp, lobster, sausage, corn, and potatoes topped with the most delightful cornbread square I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The food was FANTASTIC.

16300239358_99fcdd9264.jpg

15865421234_a3aa5f31c1.jpg

16300224758_c6d12e9139.jpg

I didn't like being seated at cheap, crappy tables with no shade in the broiling sun in the freaking parking lot. It was almost as "unclassy" as the Commotion on the Ocean. At least the boat had a band.

It had all the atmosphere of a potluck in the church fellowship hall or dinner at a table set up outside of Lowe's selling girl scout cookies.

We left on the first trolley.

16486192481_39538e7bd7.jpg

We wasted the afternoon sipping painkillers at the Rum Bar and eating shrimp and oysters at Half Shell.

16486950812_e6fd5126c3.jpg

16302016387_99554effd2.jpg

16300193728_726317febd.jpg

16301635489_01df4e58ac.jpg

16301621659_f9a550912f.jpg

16300451880_80240b90aa.jpg

15867743403_18acd0e0bb.jpg

Now that they had seen a proper sunset, we wanted Steve and Alison to experience the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration. We headed that way just as the sun was making its way toward the horizon. It was the usual assortment of fortune tellers, fire eaters, magicians, and pigs in top hats. There were popcorn carts, mojito carts, and guys whacking into green coconuts so passers by could grab a straw and sip them as they watched a guy on a unicycle juggle swords.

15867737113_4f48fb5d2a.jpg

16486123251_8ba7f9a6fd.jpg

15865333094_abdf0bfc3c.jpg

16300129658_841441f516.jpg

16301936637_82eeef924c.jpg

We hadn't made any plans for our final dinner. I like to leave the last night open so that we can see what catches our eye during the trip. What caught our eye was the promise of "all you can eat crab legs" at Camille's that morning.

15867701363_dc696865fc.jpg

We should have felt ashamed. We had been eating about 8,000 calories a day. The last thing we needed was "all you can eat" anything unless it was Lipitor or a colonic.

That didn't stop us. We dove in with enthusiasm, like we had not already eaten 3 times that day. The crab legs were large, perfectly prepared, and Camille's was generous. Of course we all had to get at least two orders lest we violate the secret code of "all you can eatness" which says you must get at least 2 plates of whatever it is or be forced to spend the rest of your existence as a chump who didn't get her money's worth.

15865297844_c3233319a2.jpg

16487818655_46ce439afa.jpg

We decided to go out in a blaze of glory. It was time for dessert.

We stopped at Better Than Sex Desserts on our way home.

Walking inside was like entering a whore house, but one that traded chocolate instead of sex. It was dark and sexy. You could catch glimpses of the red walls from the dim lighting cast by the ornate chandeliers.

16300059328_a506f1a8f2.jpg

15865284954_1ff80228de.jpg

16487807885_182626f0e3.jpg

16486055961_15ac9b0c4b.jpg

From our illuminated iPad menu, we chose our desserts. For Matt, that was their signature dessert, the "Better Than Sex," which looked like a deep, dark chocolate bread pudding. I ordered the "Jungle Fever." It was described as, "Smooth. Soft. Supple. A warm airy chocolate cake full of body that’s oozing a subtle chocolate pudding underneath. Rubbing up against cool white vanilla bean balls." And vanilla bean balls they were.....

16300066488_826e41f837.jpg

16461801386_3e3e3efc08.jpg

They also served wine in glasses rimmed with dark chocolate. The chocolate was soft and melty, but didn't slide down the glass. As Matt sipped, I figured out why it was so dark in here. When he looked up, he had a line of melted chocolate across his forehead from the glass. If they didn't dim the lights, no one would leave this place feeling sexy. Instead, they would look like a 4 year old that got into the Halloween candy without permission.

It was uniquely indulgent and delicious. I was a fan.

Who am I kidding? I am a fan of sugar. Period. It could be a cheap, stale donut on a paper plate in the Kroger parking lot and I'm going to like it.

But throw in some red walls and velvet curtains and you make my day.

Or night.

16302730287_6334a6e7de.jpg

I woke up the next morning knowing it was time to pack up and head home. It had been a ridiculously indulgent few days.

I decided to take a total body inventory to assess the damage.

My mouth felt dry, like I had spent the past 10 hours snacking on cotton balls. Woman can not live on wine alone, I supposed.

The back of my throat was a little sore. I attributed that to belting out Rocky Top loud enough for folks in Michigan to hear.

My chest felt normal, but that was only because the fat had not yet had a chance to harden and make it's way into the lining of my arteries. It just needed a little more time.

My stomach was physically protruding over the elastic band of my PJs. I could poke it. It felt soft. Much like I imagine the Pillsbury doughboy would feel if you could poke him for real.

My butt cheeks were sore. No doubt because my butt was at least two sizes bigger than it was when we arrived, which made my bicycle seat increasingly uncomfortable as the trip wore on.

I was very sleepy from going to bed at midnight and getting up at 6:00 a.m. every day to see the sunrise.

And, inexplicably, I was hungry.

4108181510_1361a9c2a9_b.jpg

I'm back home now and I am paying the price of gluttony.

I'm not as young as I used to be. My 44 year old metabolism can't quite keep up with a 9,000 calorie a day diet. The only cure for the food vacation hangover is, of course, lots of deprivation and raw vegetables.

I’ll keep telling myself that the miles and miles we walked and biked more than made up for our obscene caloric intake, but really, deep inside, past the thick layers of adipose tissue, I know better.

Was it worth it? Was 3 days of gluttony worth this horrible kale and spinach juice that is serving as my lunch today?

Yeah. It was.

Bottoms up!

Photo_on_2..at_12_50__3.jpg

Posted by vicki_h 07:29 Archived in USA Tagged food island tropical wine key_west kwfwf duval_street Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]