Monday, 15 April 2019

Taste of Key West

Late in the day I heard about Taste of Key West and I decided to go.  Well to say I am happy about that decision is an understatement!

It was a wonderful event - well ran (thank you and well done to all the bright yellow t-shirted volunteers) with a fabulous selection of quality food vendors and an impressive beer and wine selection.

We arrived and were able to skip the long line to buy tickets because our tickets were already booked and purchased online.  I chose a wine glass and my date went for beer. The wine tents were right beside us at that point (handy, lol, wink) so I sought out and FOUND a nice well rounded Argentinian Malbec (yay!).  We then moved to the beer tent where a Canadian beer caught attention - Unibroue.  And with that we were off to the food!

 I shall do my best to remember all the food - I think I remember what each thing was but alas my memory may be lacking when it comes to what restaurant it was from.  That would be the Malbec's fault oops.

Although we had planned on sharing plates/each taste, that went out the window when we saw the shrimp and lobster roll slider.  We got one each and sat down right beside the ocean to enjoy it.  It was actually a really good call (a) it was very very good and (b) we were both starving so it was good to eat a good base to take the edge off.
Next up was Paella from Santiago's Bodega and it was everything we could have hoped for from the best Spanish restaurant in town - and this from two people who have ate Paella actually in Spain many times.

Our third sampling was my favourite! Tuna ahi from Matt's Kitchen on Stock Island.  Big chunky cubes of thickly marinated tuna. topped with pistachio, peanut and coconut it was both sweet and savoury.  I also thought it was one of the best portion sizes for just 3 tickets.
Shrimp and rice from Hogfish on Stock Island - the shrimp was excellent, the rice just "fine" and in fact "just ok" compared to the earlier Paella.

Things went a little downhill with our next choice.  Lamb meatballs from NineOneFive were bland and boring. Very disappointing. Redemption came in the form of the following dish; pulled beef taco with honey and siracha aioli. Nice job  by the Casa Marina (Waldorf Astoria).

Next up was my choice.  Don't judge but I went for something from a chain, but a quirky chain! Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar was serving Shrimp and Grits and it was good.  It was good! Honestly!

Last up was an amazing gumbo.  I really wish I could remember where this was from, for the life of me I can't. At 6 tickets it was the most expensive thing that we tried, or even saw, most of the food was 3 or 4 tickets per serving.  The wine and beer were 3 tickets.  It was however, worth it in both quantity and quality.  Hearty and delicious, a mix of meat (sausage, chicken), seafood (white fish, mussels, shrimp and crab) with clumped white rice in a perfectly balanced soup.  It was a good end to the savouries!

A finish of key lime pie mousses - one from Lucy's (1 ticket) and one from the Kennedy CafĂ© (2 tickets) brought the night to a perfect end.  I preferred the Lucy's one btw!

Well done again to all involved in this wonderful event and I hope it raised lots of funds for a great cause A.H.Health and Housing, Munroe County.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

A weekend of weekends!

Where to start?

First up, an amazing dinner cooked at home on Saturday.  Lobster! Read all about it here.

That fab dinner was followed by a quick spin on the bike to the new amphitheatre in Key West.  It's a wonderfully cute venue surrounded by palm trees, planned and built perfectly for great atmosphere and sound.  We found a good raised spot and settled in for a good evening.  By settled in, I mean went and got some food (pretzel bites and chipotle sauce - pretty good, and good value too) and drinks (pretty poor selection and seriously expensive in my opinion).
...Ah well, at the end of the day I guess we were there for the music and there is Very Good News to report there.

The Revivalists were just terrific! Kicking off with the ebullient "Celebrate" the scene was set, and they ran with it - raising the roof with a 2 hour set of fantastic musicianship  (their sax player is AWESOME, their lead singer throwing himself around with the energy of a man who knows how to enjoy living in the moment had the crowd in his hand from the second he bounced on stage). Culminating with a 3 song encore; a wonderful cover of the Travelling Wilbury's, "Handle with Care" (which happens to be only one of my favourite tunes ever), and their superb "Wish I knew You".  And their third and final song; the melancholic and melodic "Soulfight"...what a song...what a message...what a band.

It's just easy listening music at the end of the day.  But it's good easy listening. It's got edge, it's got soul, and it's quality. Really, really enjoyable night.

And then Sunday! Ah Sunday.  A surprise invite brought me to IHOP.  Woohoo! That was super!  It was also fun driving in a jeep with the roof off. What a novelty after 3/4 months of only being on my bike. I do like car rides.

After a quick pitstop at the bike shop to get a tyre repaired and buying a drinks container for the bike I decided I needed some beach time.  I had a lovely couple of hours to myself on the Southernmost beach getting some Vitamin D and contemplating life.  'Twas good.

Sunday finished up with another good home barbecued dinner, of pork tacos, washed down with Cuba Libre's. Afterwards a little cycle to White Street pier to watch the famous Key West sunset and set intentions for the week ahead.  Ahahahahahhahahhaa! Ok Amy, too hippy, too hippy!
Seriously though, there are awesome sunsets here, no two ways about it.  And check out the photo of me below.  There were some amazing para sail boarders out doing their thing right beside White St pier.

Yeah it was a good weekend! And I didn't even mention Friday night - a lovely night out meeting gal pals, and chats over cocktails.  I do like after-work Friday night drinks.

I do like weekends like this!

Barbecue Tales Part 11 - Lobster

Take one lobster.  Slather it with good Irish butter and garlic. Grill. Eat.

I recommend an accompaniment of chilled, ice cold veuve cliquot.  Failing that, vodka and wine work too ;) 

Thursday, 4 April 2019


A while back my cousin Kasey (waves to Cousin Kasey!) asked for a blog post on American kitchen utilities versus Irish utilities.  So here it is Kasey!

American utilities tend to be bigger (and better!) than ours back home. That is, except for my gocky cooker!!  Or "stove" as they call it over here.
Seriously! Would you look at it.  My mam, when she was visiting me in January, commented that she had the same one circa 1981.  Ugh. I never use it.  Thank God I have the option of barbecuing over here!

The microwave however is cool! As you can see it is nice and big - much bigger than Irish ones.  It is nice and strong too. What is cool also is that there is an extractor fan inbuilt underneath it.  So it very cleverly works as both.  How about that eh?!

I think you can see that the dishwasher is the similar to Irish ones.  Very slight differences in where you load cutlery and the washing cycles etc., but nothing major.

 The fridge! The fridge I like! So much bigger than Irish ones.  I placed the can of diet coke on the left of the photo for scale.

Hmmm.  I probably should have taken a photo of the inside of the fridge.  Guess what is in there?  Big American products lol.  The container of milk is gigantic compared to Irish milk.  Three or four times the size of Irish milk I would estimate.

What is also cool is the freezer (a) it fits loads and (b) inside the freezer is an ice maker.  How cool is that?

And then we come to the washing machine (top loader) and  front loading) dryer .  A dryer! The luxury of it all astounds me.

I know this sounds a bit mad (what with all the rain over in Ireland), but dryers are just not that common in Ireland.  And frankly they are very expensive to run/use a lot of electricity.  We mainly "line dry" in Ireland.

Washing machines are so much better over here.  Their cycles run in half the time, and the clothes come out twice as clean.  Go figure!  

So that is pretty much it!  I do hope you found this post somewhat interesting, comments or questions below are very much appreciated!

And in case you are wondering.  These are the brands of  my utilities
  • Stove - Summit
  • Microwave - General Electric
  • Dishwasher - Kenmore
  • Fridge - Kenmore
  • Washing Machine - General Electric
  • Dryer - General Electric
A regular reader of mine (in the USA - links in with me from twitter) gave feedback that a rental property in Key West is not neccessarily representative of the whole of USA/all utensils/  They are right. And maybe I should have made it clearer from the outset. I have seen much more cooler cookers/fridges/microwaves on my travels across the US through the years.  Being completely honest I actually am not really happy with the standard of mine in my rental.  I would much prefer more modern, sleeker, stainless steel etc.  But hey! I live in Paradise.  I can't complain.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Life in the Tropics

I've always been a target for mosquitoes, so no surprise I am getting bitten alive here in Key West!  I have lumps/bites/welts all over me.  Not the most attractive as you can imagine! Plus also a pain - they are so itchy and scratchy. Last night they woke me up at 3am, so bad and itchy that I had to go get my anti histamine cream and apply all over before I could get back to sleep.

So I am going full Rambo on them! I think the most important thing is to tackle the source.  I went to CVS and bought the Raid on the left (green spray) so am going to use this religiously in the house and (newly named) Tiki Lounge.  It should also be noted that Key West/Florida have a fairly aggressive spraying regime (ground and air) so I can only imagine what it would be like if that was not in existence.  Last week a notice was left at the house saying they had sprayed, plus giving good advice on preventing them - the big takeaway I took was not to have standing (stagnant?) water (e.g. rain water/flower pots) left around.  I took action and emptied anything like this I could I identify in my yard.

Finally! Important note! 
This blog post is not a complaint!! I love living in Key West.  This is just something I have to live with.  Paradise is worth it!

Monday, 25 March 2019

Barbecue Tales part 10 - Pork Chops

Even though El Siboneys was calling out to me I decided I would do another day of cooking at home.  I love the novelty, and the difference of cooking outdoors on a barbecue compared to cooking at home in Ireland. And it always tastes good so absolutely no regrets.  Although I must say the lure of El Siboneys is so strong!!! Particularly because I live so near it, and omg the smell that emanates from their building as you pass...holy hell it's good!

Anyway! Pork it was!
First I prepped the pork by putting a generous lather of olive oil on it and then a lovely garlic meat rub.  At this point I also prepped the vegetables - garlic, tomato, carrots and broccoli and butter into a little tinfoil tent.  I decided to try grilling green pepper separate rather to all the other veg.

I then immediately put the wild rice on to cook.  The base for wild rice is brown rice - it is brown rice, seasoning and some veg (tomato etc) - and because of this it does need a good amount of cooking time.  A lot longer than if it was white rice.  It takes approx. 25 minutes and 5 minutes sitting time to cook according to the directions on the box which I don't really follow.

And yes I know my stove looks like it comes from 1982.  Kind of embarrassing I know.  Cousin Kasey has suggested to me that I do a blog post about the difference between Irish kitchen appliances and US appliances and all of my appliances are soooooo much better/nicer/bigger here in the US...except for this awful stove (or cooker as we would call it in Ireland)

So there we have the pork chops cooking away on the grill, plus the tinfoil tent of veg on the right.

It was very hot today and as I cooked, the sun was beating down on the back of my legs and I could feel perspiration rolling down my back.  Lol! Nice, Amy, real nice. Bet you're enjoying hearing this.  On one hand, totally gross I know but on the other hand, I have to say - I relished it.  Again so different to Ireland!

I apologise, this food/plate does not really look the best.  In real life it (a) looked so much more attractive than this and (b) most importantly, tasted amazing!  Really really tasty.  I had not cooked pork before as you will know if you have been following my "Barbecue Tales"  blog posts and it was nice that this went so well.  Pork can sometimes be difficult to cook, in a matter of seconds it can go from tender, tasty and moist to tough as leather  But this tasted so nice that pork will definitely be going on to the home cooking rotation/grocery shopping list.

Another great day out on the Salty Goat fishing boat

I wish I could report to you that this is a fish that I caught.  Alas no, this was Dan's (pictured) haul.  Isn't that amazing. It's a mutton snapper and I estimate it was around 25lbs.  What a beauty.  Well done Dan!

I am happy to report though that I had an incredibly enjoyable, and successful day.  I caught 35 fish! 35!!!  And lucky I did because including myself I had 4 people scheduled to call for dinner that night.  Imagine the embarrassment if I hadn't been able to serve fish that I had caught myself after inviting and promising a seafood supper!!

It was a most enjoyable evening of succulent fresh fish, with key lime pie for dessert, washed down with a  lovely bottle of sparkling Spanish cava.  

And a beautiful sunset of pink and blue hues to finish it all off perfectly.  Life is good.