A Culinary Insiders Tour to Miami and Key West (Part III)
This is a continuation blog post, Part III, from a series of posts describing the itinerary and experiences on a recent Travel with Doc Culinary Insiders Tour to Miami and Key West.
Part I can be found here: A Culinary Insiders Tour to Miami and Key West (Part I)
Part II can be found here: A Culinary Insiders Tour to Miami and Key West (Part II)
A quick recap of Part I and Part II: Our group has finished four full days of gastro-tourism in Miami. With food explorations in Little Havana, Wynwood, South Beach, downtown and other parts of Miami, our group was now ready to head south to Key West. Highlights from the first four days included dining at Alter, gastroPod, Eating House, Bachour Bakery & Bistro (including a pastry workshop), La Mar and a cocktail workshop at The Broken Shaker. All of the chefs were so kind with their time and explanations of their foods and preparation.
DAY 5, Wednesday, April 20, 2016
After four fun, food-filled days in Miami, it was now time to head south to Key West for two nights. Our first stop south of Miami was Robert Is Here, a famous fruit market located in Homestead, FL. This fruit stand was started in 1959 when Robert was just 6 years old selling cucumbers from his family farm. Since then the fruit stand has grown and now specializes in tropical fruits, fresh fruit milkshakes and homemade key lime pies. We ended up purchasing a variety of different tropical fruits and sat at a picnic table to cut into them for a taste. It was a great morning snack for the road and a great selection of interesting fruits and tastes.
For lunch we made a stop in Key Largo at the Key Largo Fisheries, a local fish market and boat dock that serves up the local catch of the day overlooking the various fishing boats. We tried some shrimp, snapper and stone crab chowder. It was a relaxing spot on a beautiful day of driving down the Keys.
Arriving in Key West in the middle of the afternoon, we checked into our hotel, The Curry Mansion, and had a relaxing drink on the patio. The Curry Mansion was built in 1899 and according to local lore, the cook created the famous Key Lime Pie. The hotel was nice and we recommend staying in the The James House which is located across Caroline Street. It is a nice quiet spot.
Our dinner plan was the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island. Chef Norman Van Aken in Miami highly recommended this restaurant and it was a lively place situated in a marina surrounded by shrimp boats with a true local feel. Owned by Bobby Mongelli, the Hogfish Bar and Grill is a must stop on a visit to Key West. It is not situated downtown, but it definitely has some of the freshest catch around. There is a true Jimmy Buffet feel to this place as well, as most people are just relaxing, having cocktails and enjoying the views and food. Bobby sent some special appetizers for our group including some incredible fresh shrimp. We ordered a variety of different fish specials and enjoyed our first taste of Key West.
After dinner and back in town, we ended up at The Other Side, a great hidden cocktail bar serving up some delicious takes on famous recipes. It was a great way to end up our day of traveling down to Key West from Miami.
DAY 6, Thursday, April 21, 2016
Our last full day of the Culinary Insiders Tour to Miami and Key West involved some sport, some torrential rain and ended with a great last meal and pig roast. Up early in the morning for our fishing charter, we headed back to Stock Island and grabbed a quick Cuban breakfast and some Cuban sandwiches for the boat.
The fishing experience included approximately 6 hours on the boat going to different spots around Key West with the intention of catching snapper and whatever else would grab our lines. It was a day that started with a lot of excitement as we both hooked sharks early on and some snapper. Doc Sconz was even able to get the nurse shark he caught up to the boat before letting it go. As we traveled from key to key, the fishing started to get more difficult as the weather started to turn and by midday we were running out of luck. But it was a beautiful way to see Key West from the water and the southern most part of the United States. Once back on land, we brought the fish we caught to our chef for the evening, chef Martin Liz, who would be providing us with a ceviche workshop that evening.
Once back in Key West and washed up, the tropical rains began. Fortunately for us, they came at a good time and ended before our last meal of the trip at The Lost Kitchen, a new venture in Stock Island that is run by chef Martin Liz. Chef Liz started this new private dining spot not far from the Hogfish Bar & Grill on the same marina. It is to be used for private cooking events like ours and for other cooking classes and functions. Chef Martin Liz is classically French-trained and focuses on Key West’s local harvest, seafood and Cuban specialties. For us, he went above and beyond by doing a traditional Cuban pig roast in a Caja China that was custom-built. We started our meal with a ceviche workshop using the fish that we caught earlier in the day. It tasted so fresh and his style of ceviche was very good. This was also followed by a shrimp appetizer before the full meal of the pig roast and sides. Joining us for the evening was Bobby from the Hogfish Grill and his wife Michelle, as well as another couple that own a restaurant in town. It was a great group and fun to be with the local restaurant experts.
What a great way to end our Culinary Insiders Tour of Miami and Key West. It was a memorable meal of true Key West spirit and food. In looking back at all of the memorable meals and experiences on this tour, it is hard to pick standouts since they were all so different. From Cuban to fine pastries to seafood and BBQ. A great time was had by all. Our trip ended the following morning with some guests flying back to Miami.
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