Flavors of FL Keys

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By Linda Gassenheimer

When I wrote my first book about the Florida Keys, Keys Cuisine, published in 1991, the Keys were a sleepy chain of islands extending out from the mainland of Florida. There was a lot of good home cooking and the chefs took advantage of the extraordinary local fish. Many years later, I realized that this beautiful cluster of islands extending into the Caribbean Sea has become an even more delectable treasure. Its charming, laid-back atmosphere is still there but the cuisine is more sophisticated and is served up in a funky, chic ambiance.

Come and travel the Florida Keys with me. Discover hidden treasures off the beaten path; the charm of historic places to eat; the stories of those who created them; and the exciting new wave of international chefs bringing their style of cuisine to restaurants and resorts. You’ll meet the Keys Characters I came across, who shared their funny stories and tall tales, including local fishing guides and fifth and sixth generation Conchs.

You can use the book as a guide to Keys restaurants and hotels or to bring the flavors and sunlight of the Keys to your table.

This page has several photos to help guide you on your way. All recipes are in Flavors of the Florida Keys.


 

Flavors of the Florida Keys Video

Pictures

  • A Keys breakfast/brunch is always a treat.
    The sign at the door reads Blue Heaven, serving heaven on a fork and sin in a glass. The restaurant is packed for brunch and diners in the courtyard share space with some of the roosters and chickens that roam freely in Key West.
  • A Keys breakfast/brunch is always a treat.
    The sign at the door reads Blue Heaven, serving heaven on a fork and sin in a glass. The restaurant is packed for brunch and diners in the courtyard share space with some of the roosters and chickens that roam freely in Key West.
  • What could be better than lunch on the beach, with the palm trees swaying and the sand tickling your toes. Salute Restaurant is the perfect spot.
  • On Stock Island, Old Key West is alive and well, according to the locals: “the way Key West used to be: fresh seafood, strong drinks, magnificent waterfront views and plenty of local characters.” The Hogfish Bar and Grill Killer Hogfish Sandwich is an island favorite.
  • Lines form outside BO’s (for Buddy Owen) Fish Wagon for some of the best fish sandwiches in Key West. Buddy hitched his fish wagon to his truck, parked it in an empty lot near Duval Street, shot out the tires and has been there ever since.
  • While you’re in Key West don’t miss Sloppy Joe’s Bar. It’s been on the same site since 1937 where Hemmingway spent many hours. There’s a Hemmingway lookalike contest every year.
  • Margaritaville is another Duval Street must. Opened in 1987, it became Jimmy Buffet’s flagship location. Try their famous Who’s to Blame Margarita and their Conch Fritters with Cajun Remoulade recipes are included in the book.
  • Louie’s Backyard sits almost at the southern most point in the United States. It is a treasure that’s loved by both locals and visitors. Try Doug Shook’s Chocolate Brownie Crème Brulee.
  • Square Grouper Restaurant on Cudjoe Key has some of the best cracked conch in the Keys. The name is a play on the words square grouper, an old Keys reference to bales of marijuana floating in the water. Here’s their Flash Fried Conch with Ponzu Wasabi Drizzle.
  • The chefs at Hawks Cay Resort and Marina work in an idyllic setting. The scenery is breathtaking and the fish from the local waters, fresh, sweet and mouthwatering.
  • The fishing captains at the Hawks Cay Resort Marina bring in the catch of the day.
  • Fishing Captain Josh Ardis wows his friends with this Beer-Steamed Mutton Snapper.
  • Halfway between Miami and Key West at MM 80, this funky, little café is open for breakfast and lunch. They’re known for their great coffee roasted there and their Midway Special Turkey club Sandwich.
  • Hidden in the back of the Caribbean Village Shops is a charming café on a brick patio called On the Bricks. Their Triple Chocolate Banana Brownie is a must.
  • Hidden from the Overseas Highway in Key Largo,The Conch House looks like a Victorian Bahamas home. Their Tropical Coffee cake is made fresh every day.
  • Step into Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo and enter old Key Largo. It hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1976. I love to stop for their Key Lime Freeze and don’t miss the Churrasco Steak with Tijuana Sauce.
  • Cheeca Lodge has had many renovations. It reopened with a new chef and menu. The aroma of this monkey bread baking will bring family and friends running to your kitchen.
  • Cheeca Lodge has had many renovations. It reopened with a new chef and menu. The aroma of this monkey bread baking will bring family and friends running to your kitchen.
  • Gilbert’s Resort and Marina and their Tiki Bar have been part of the Key Largo scene since 1903. Try their Smoked Fish Dip while you’re listening to live music.
  • Looking for a piece of the old Florida Keys? Come to Alabama Jacks on Card Sound Road in Key Largo for great country western music and to watch the clog dancers with their cinched waist, hooped skirts and lots of petticoats. You can even join in the dancing while drinking a Goombay Smash. Many arrive by boat or motorcycle.
  • Key Limes reign in the Keys. There is a whole chapter devoted to Key Lime desserts. Try this Key Lime Mango Parfait and Key Lime cookies. And don’t forget to savor the Key Lime Cream Pie.
  • One of my favorite desserts is Alma’s Dulce de Leche cheesecake. It’s baked in a water bath.
  • One of my favorite desserts is Alma’s Dulce de Leche cheesecake. It’s baked in a water bath.

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