Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Florida Keys, Lobster Tails & More...

As I type this post I am sitting in paradise.  The warm sun is glimmering off of the Gulf of Mexico while a gentle breeze of briny ocean air whips through the palm trees.  I am in the Florida Keys.  It is one of my favorite places on the planet!  My grandmother has wintered on Summerland and Sugarloaf Keys for nearly 20 years.  I have had the incredible fortune to come and visit many of those years.  It is the ultimate retreat from Chicago's early and usually wet spring. 

It probably goes without saying - the food here is divine!  Whether you are visiting a local fish shop for the day's catch or dining at one of the many extraordinary restaurants, the Keys offers a southernmost American cuisine rich with sweet Florida lobster tails, briny conch, moist grouper and tart key limes.

After landing at the Key West International Airport, my parents and grandmother whisked me off to one of my favorite Key West restaurants - Louie's Backyard.  The moment you walk into the old Victorian home turned Caribbean-American restaurant you know you are in Key West.  ((The King of Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet, even lived next door in the 1970's.))  I always order the same thing:  conch fritters, fish tacos and a few freshly made mojitos.  
Once back on Sugarloaf Key (about 15 miles away from Key West), we begin planning family meals which, of course, have to include copious amounts of Florida lobster tails.  These cuties can be steamed, broiled, baked or grilled.  I prefer them grilled and buttered basted. 
Can you believe that in my excitement to eat said lobsters I FORGOT to take a picture of the final product?  GASP!!!  My apologies!  I will, however, share with you with a picture of a wonderful lobster dish that we enjoyed at yet another incredible Key West eatery.
Curry butter roasted lobster tail with coconut, fennel, pistachio pistiou, Israeli couscous and cauliflower @ fin
This beautiful plate is the creation of fin Executive Chef Michael Schultz.  Located on Key West's famous Duval Street, this Caribbean small plate concept restaurant is captivating local and visiting palates with dishes like: Foie gras waffles with orange, chestnuts, and cinnamon basil smothered in a spiced rum sauce OR Madagascar jumbo prawns roasted in key lime brown butter with chorizo piperade.  My grandmother and I both had the foie gras waffle and nearly fell out of our seats it was so good! 

A fun fact for any of my Philly readers: before coming to the Keys chef Schultz worked for world-renowned chef George Perrier at the 5-star rated le bec fin in Philadelphia.  Not sure if the name of his current restaurant fin is an homage to his former work place.

Next week I will be sharing with you my G'ma Betsy's Key Lime pie recipe.  Come back and check it out!!  Here is a preview:
Key West in a bite!!!