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FloriDejaVu: Day 5

Sun. Nov. 10, 2019:
Miami, Florida to Toronto:

It was sort of nice to wake up and just head downstairs and be at the airport. It was way less stressful than usual. The security lady had to pat down my back after the scan and it was mild agony. We barely had any time to linger, we just set our bags down, I was ready to run to a larger duty-free store (near our gate was only a small kiosk), when our flight started boarding. Crap! I got some rum from the kiosk, the sign said it was $7 off, which I assumed meant it was now $21, I was pleasantly surprised when it rang through as $14. It’s too bad there was no sign of Canadian Club or 50% vodka, I had to settle for rum. There were no TVs on our flight, I finished my book and then listened to podcasts, praying that the 20% battery on my iPod would last. It did.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in Travel

 

FloriDejaVu: Day 4

FloriDejaVu: Day 4

Sat. Nov. 9, 2019:
Key West to Miami, Florida:

I woke up at 8am because I couldn’t sleep any more. By some miracle I was not hungover and had slept quite well for the most part. At the hotel breakfast they had two carafes of coffee, one full sized one and one smaller one. Except neither was marked as decaf. This was a game of Russian roulette I was not willing to play. I filled up my cup halfway from each. Except then there was no milk! They had mini boxes of cereal but no milk! At least there was creamer in the hotel room. It was raining, checkout wasn’t until 11am and our lunch restaurant didn’t open until 10am. We settled in to watch TV, Planet Earth marathon alternating with Friends, and wait out the rain.

The key lime pie was good but nowhere near as good as Kermit’s (first place) or Joe’s Stone Crab (second place). The crumb had gotten soggy in the fridge overnight and it was a bit salty but they did get bonus points for serving it with a lime slice on top. It was a nice touch. I ate the last ⅕ of the sandwich from yesterday, it had totally held up and maybe was even a smidge better (or i was just hungrier this time around?).

We checked out and had one last Key West walk ahead of us. First to the car, which was parked a few blocks away. When we left for snorkeling, we lost our prime parking spot right out front. We passed some high school girls doing a car wash at the gas station on the corner. We passed by again via a different corner after we dropped our stuff in the car and headed out to Duval St. for one last walk. I joked about if I walked in would they give me a shower. At least the rain had stopped and it was much cooler now.

Duval St. is drastically different on a Saturday than on a weekday. Everyone is out and about drinking. There were some people who were impressively hammered for eleven in the morning. One lady sitting on a bar patio shouted at Brent, “go Blue Jays!” (She was there an hour later on our walk back). I joked that we had one last chance at Margaritaville. It was during this conversation that I learned it had nothing to do directly with Key West or Jimmy Buffet, that it was just capitalizing on a song lyric from the two. It was more Hard Rock Cafe or Bubba Gump, rather than the Sloppy Joe’s I thought it was. Having just now learned that Key West was nicknamed margaritaville I decided that on the walk back we would stop in at Fat Tuesday for one last walking margarita. Also, I had not gone to Fat Tuesday while we were in New Orleans so it only made sense.

We had lunch at the Conch Shack, another place from Brent’s 1001 Foods book. They were known for their conch fritters but they had a platter of conch: fritters, ceviche and cracked. Arguably that made the most sense to order. Brent also ordered a cheeseburger, given the last one had been terrible and, in my mind, did not count. Now this, this was a cheeseburger! So flavourful and greasy and basic and oh-so-perfect. I also really like the cracked conch, which was just flattened, salted breaded and fried pieces of fish. But the true winner was the conch fritters, possibly one of my all-time favourite seafood dishes in general. As we ate, we heard faint peeping, there was a momma chicken and her six little chicks nearby and they soon got wise to the fact that we were messy eaters, dropping crumbs all over the floor. We were worried about stepping on them when we finished. Some people walked by and saw them and started taking photos, promptly scaring them off.

We stopped in at Sloppy Joe’s for a bathroom break. The place was packed with tourists. Fat Tuesday was just a wall of slushie machines. I went with the smallest of the four sizes. The signs all said that the strawberry margarita was the fan favourite, so obviously I had to get that one. Even still, the smallest size was quite hefty, 12oz maybe? It was good and refreshing except I kept getting rib freeze. As soon as it settled though, I went right back in. We stopped at Kwest to get another pack of the almost-completely-peanut-butter Reese’s cups. They were so good, even better when they were frozen. I also got a Mexican Sprite, we had a long drive ahead of us with few stops. We walked back along Olivia St. for one last look in the cemetery for the cat I had named Floyd, Flossy for short. Alas, she was gone. We walked by the car wash girls again for the third time. As we waited for the light to change Brent spotted a Polish grocery store across the street. I was compelled to go look. There was no bakery, I had really been hoping for some fresh road snacks. They did have singles of beer, which was unfortunate as we had enough drinks. I wish I had known about it sooner. They had a black currant radler! They didn’t even have the basic sól ziołowa! I did get a good laugh at the wing spice that roughly translated to “wild, south, untamed” style.

The Mexican Sprite was so much better than regular Sprite, so smooth and tasty. I was headed from margaritaville to sleepyville, I couldn’t stay awake. I put in a request for a Dunkin’ Donuts stop and nodded off. Unfortunately, the two Dunkin’s we passed were both on the opposite side and hard to get to. I tried to eat a Reese cup but it was so incredibly melty that it was a bad idea. I stuck the top of the wrapper into the vent in order to cool it via a/c. We had been so close to making it the whole trip with only filling up the car before returning it. Alas, as we were almost out of the Keys the low-gas indicator light came on. We would have to fill up the car twice. It wasn’t meant to be. At the gas station I got green apple Fanta and a bag of chili lime (purple bag) Doritos. They had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sandwiches but we were on our way to lunch! I made a note of it for the next time we are in the States.

As we pulled into the Popeye’s parking lot, I saw that they had a chicken sandwich poster in the window. And it did NOT have a sold out sign over top. Things were looking good! We ordered one spicy and one regular. Except than Brent’s credit card wasn’t working and I was down to my last $5USD. We had come so far!! We couldn’t’ fail now!! Thankfully my credit card worked, else we would have had to settle for just one. The drive-thru had gotten so busy that we couldn’t pull out of the parking lot until one car let us pass through. The sandwiches were in little foil bags to keep the heat- except within a few minutes we were chowing down on the regular one. By the time we got to Trader Joe’s 20-minutes later we were finishing off the spicy sandwich. It was very good, I loved the soft buttery bun and the fried chicken was so good. I still could have used more pickles or lettuce or mayonnaise. I lean a little more towards it than Chick-Fil-A because i am a sucker for that crispy skin. The apple Fanta was really hitting the spot.

Trader Joe’s was confusing. There was a line to get into the parking lot and a guy in a vest directing traffic. Brent pulled into the parking lot of the Burger King across the street while I ran in. I grabbed as many jars of Everything But the Bagel spice as I could safely carry. It was actually half of the stock left. The guy looked at my five jars and looked at me curiously. I said we didn’t have it in Canada. He understood, he knew they were $10CAD each on Amazon. In total I paid $11 USD for all five of my jars. I immediately regretted not running back and grabbing the rest that were left on the shelf. But then I thought of Brent sitting in the parking lot and I rushed out. I had already taken longer than I’d wanted because the cashier was so chatty. He ended up shaking hands and exchanging names with the guy in front of me in line.

We topped off the gas tank in the car and I ran inside to grab an iced coffee for the next morning (something i had forgotten to do at the first gas station). I also found a Hershey’s strawberry and waffle chocolate bar and summer splash Starbursts. We were staying at a hotel in the airport which would save us some time the next morning and make the early wakeup a little less brutal. Our room did not have a mini fridge but it did have an ice bucket. We arrived in the room right at the start of halftime in the football game, perfect time for Brent to go get ice while I started on packing. I filled the sink and arranged our drinks while Brent went to get a second bucket of ice. I added the Reese’s cups in there as well. Packing was like a game of Tetris, I really had to cram everything in. The All Day watermelon wine spritzer was surprisingly good, given it was a wine from the band of the same name. It felt a little like a prank but it got the job done. The rose one was better though. I had a funny photo of both of them sitting in the sink on ice. I played a little Mario Odyssey while Brent watched football. We finally cracked into the tostones, they were not good. Far and away the worst we’ve ever had. Thankfully we had the backup Doritos which tasted faintly like Froot Loops thanks to the overpowering lime. The frozen Reese’s cup was so good. I kind of regretted not just grabbing the whole box.

When we checked in we saw that there was an airport Margartaville, I joked that we had one last shot. Now that we were out of hotel drinks, it seemed kismet. I was finally going to Margaritaville! It reminded me of Jack Astors. Our table was a surfboard. I had considered getting the original margarita but then Brent said he was also getting a margarita, so he got that one while I got one with fresh raspberries. Good thing, given the original was way stronger and it would not have ended well. I’d already had two cans of wine. They were not spritzers, it was just straight up wine. Eventually i realized the strength of my margarita had been masked by the raspberry puree. We split an order of the chicken quesadilla, it was alright. The real winner was the chips and guac on the side.

Back in the room I was trying to write in my notebook but I was fighting a bad case of the mega-hiccups. The shower was one of those high-pressure ones, not great on my sunburnt back. I flipped between Love It Or List It and a Thanksgiving cooking show.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Travel

 

FloriDejaVu: Day 3

FloriDejaVu: Day 3

Fri. Nov. 8, 2019:
Key West, Florida:

The key lime pie from Kermit’s was so good, it was the best one yet (and overall, it is still the best one I’ve ever had). The pie was smooth and creamy and the crust was barely noticeable but in a good way because the crumbs were so buttery, they just blended right in. We had an early wakeup on account of the rescheduled snorkeling trip. It was way too early for me, case in point my notebook: “there was no coffee for milk again” and we were up before the hotel started serving breakfast. Thankfully I had spotted a Dunkin’ Donuts on our way in yesterday and wouldn’t you know it we had to go back that way to get to snorkeling. It was meant to be. I have never been in the States this close to Christmas before, I was tempted to buy a DD donut Christmas ornament or a winter hat but it had a pompom. The gingerbread s’mores flavour was alright, it was a bit too sweet for my liking but they nailed the marshmallow flavour. Our snorkeling trip wasn’t until 9:30am but we had to be there early to sign in and get sorted. I felt naked without my rings on.

There were more people on this trip than the last time we had gone snorkeling which was good, we didn’t have to make small talk. As we sat on the boat in the dock going over the safety procedure it started raining. Luckily, we were under the roof, but some of the others just sat there in the rain instead of either stripping down to their bathing suits OR coming under the roof. It made no sense. It was about a 30-minute boat ride to the first spot off Louee Key. We passed by Palm Island. Brent looked into staying there because they had snorkeling out to the coral reef we were going to, but they still haven’t fully recovered from the hurricane two years ago. I had a mild flash of panic at the thought that we were out in the open ocean with no land in sight, it was unsettling to think there was nothing to swim towards should something awful happen. We didn’t have wetsuits or pool noodles. Instead, in the interest of safety, we had to wear screaming neon yellow vests that could be inflated. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I really was expecting to have to go back to the boat for a noodle. As always, I had to remind myself that with the snorkel I could breathe with my face in the water. Even still, the first few times I held my breath. Then I would only put my face under for short intervals akin to holding my breath. Even then I was still breathing heavily and having to remind myself to calm down and just breathe normally. All I could hear was my heavy breathing. Adding to my discomfort I couldn’t pee in the ocean.

We also had some scuba divers on our boat and it was neat to look down and see them far below us, much closer to the reef. They scared a school of yellow fish who swam up to the surface and I just floated along with them. It was kind of fun swimming along with them, I had finally gotten used to swimming with the snorkel mask and breathing normally. There were two giant beautiful blue (parrot?) fish pecking at the reef. One fish had a red head and a green body and reminded me of Christmas or a traffic light. It was not a stop-light parrotfish though. Back on the boat waiting for everyone else to come back, we tried to identify what we had seen using laminated cards. It was hard to focus as the boat kept rocking and we were both trying to keep it together and not get sick. I was too tired to go back in. at the second spot everyone was clamoring to one spot but i was too slow to get there in time. I missed seeing a shark! The annoying yoga dad would not shut up about he got “like 40 seconds of shark footage,” as if that is so impressive. Brent got to see it, but he missed out on the eel that the last stragglers saw. He missed out on it because he wasn’t doing so well. I knew he had gotten sick because when I looked over at him, he was suddenly surrounded by fish. Gross yes, but it was also effective. It was cool to see all the fish poking about and the corals were a beautiful shade of deep purple. The coolest part was that at first you could barely see much, but as your eyes adjusted a whole underwater world would appear. The ocean was an incredibly beautiful shade of blue that was unreal. Off in the distance you could see the shallower corals as darker patches of ocean. Towards the end I was kind of just swimming laps, not quite tired enough to risk being on the boat but too tired to swim out too far. Back on the boat I was tired and hungry and trying so, so, SO hard to keep it together.

Back in the shop I purchased the salt & coconut oil scrub I had sampled in the bathroom that morning. Their marketing gimmick paid off. On the way back we stopped at Wendy’s and Publix for lunch. We grabbed spicy chicken nuggets with creamy sriracha dip from Wendy’s and ate them in the parking lot on the way to Publix. The chicken nuggets were so damn good, they need to be a regular thing and made available in Canada, as does the equally good dipping sauce. The selection at this Publix was not as good as the previous one we had been to. They didn’t have the holiday turkey sub but they did have the Miami Dolphins one. I got the Havana Bold which a lot of people said was good. Watching her make it, I realized oh man it was meat heavy: ham, bacon and melted cheese. I added some spinach and lettuce and pickles to try and balance it out. The drink selection was equally paltry, I got a Stella Artois cider and was about to give up when I found two wine spritzers from an aptly named company, Day Drinkin’. To change things up we got a chocolate cake slice with buttercream. There were no wacky Oreos but I did get the Publix brand raspberry iced tea (another internet recommendation).

The sandwich was indeed heavy, but so delicious I could forgive that. Needless to say, I didn’t finish it. That’s ok, it would hold up well for later snacking. The raspberry iced tea was more of a sweet tea. The chocolate cake was a sad pathetic dud, it was hard to believe it was from the same bakery! Our final verdict on Pub Subs: chicken tenders are the best. At first, I was not impressed with the Floyd’s spiked lemonade but the more I drank it the more I liked it (shocker!).

We left earlier this time for the sunset, we had to make a pitstop at CVS for aloe. When Brent had mentioned getting sunscreen for our snorkeling trip i laughed, it’s November I said! Turns out i was wrong and now we both had badly burned backs. I felt bad for laughing earlier. I was also hoping to find the Burt’s Bees Res-Q ointment for my itchy legs but there was no sign of it. They didn’t have any travel-size aloe but it was only $3 and we needed it badly. Brent was wearing his Santa Paws t-shirt and it seemed to be a cat charm. We had met three super cute cats before even getting to CVS. We also passed a couple who were debating whether or not they should go back to the hotel to change first. She was in a thong bikini. She was nowhere near a beach, a boat or a pool.

I joked again about going to Margaritaville and Brent called it lame. Except then he mentioned that he had looked into staying at the Margaritaville resort. What a missed opportunity! We walked out to the pier for the sunset except we arrived at a hotel (?) dock with a giant yacht, not the nice square from yesterday. There was a drunk guy on the yacht yelling at the people on the land down below about how drunk he was that he couldn’t remember who he was. I needed to get away from him, fast. We walked along the waterfront, periodically stopping so I could get a slightly different view of the sunset. We sat down by the busy waterfront. The beauty was periodically interrupted by a terrible singing busker, she really needed something new to do. And a lady talking about her “energies” and how they can be neither created nor destroyed, just repurposed. There were a lot of yachts and sailboats out on the water making for pretty pictures. To complete it, a seaplane flew by as well.

We walked over to Tiki House because apparently tiki bars are a Keys thing. I based this solely on the number of bars I saw on the drive down. Given we were in a tiki bar, I had to order a zombie cocktail. I grabbed a table while Brent went to the bar to order. I could not see him around the pillar, apparently, he was trying to get my attention. I could see why when he arrived. There was a blue flame shooting out the top of my drink. They lit a lime on fire! It seemed a bit dangerous. I took a picture then took a sip, only then realizing I had taken a picture of the backside of the glass. Oops. It was such a popular drink that they had it premixed on tap. I liked the hint of cinnamon. It was also very appropriate as I had listened to an episode of Gastropod about tiki bars and the zombie cocktail a few weeks ago. A lady walked up to us and asked me about my fire drink, I had to explain to her that you first have to blow the flame out and then take a sip. She was not as drunk as the guy dancing by himself, his shorts slowly falling down. We missed it, but it looked like he had been asked to leave the bar.

Up next in our mini bar crawl we went next door to Captain Tony’s, allegedly the original site of Sloppy Joe’s before it was called that, and they also claimed to be Hemingway’s favourite haunt. As if the man could not have two favourite bars?! We ordered at the bar and got a table. This was the strongest but not the sweetest mojito of the trip. The more I drank the more I contemplated taking off my bra and donating it to the bar to add to the decor. The bar was strung with bras overhead. Literally hundreds of them. This bar was more dive-y than tourist-y and I liked it. There was on food menu and they only had two cocktail options: mojito or a rum punch in a 22oz souvenir cup. I joked about one day dying in a house filled with crappy plastic souvenir mugs and the poor soul who would have to clean the place out. I was tempted by the latter, but the size put me off- i still had to make it to dinner. It seemed a little more like a place Hemingway would like, compared to Sloppy Joe’s. All around us people were smoking cigarettes, it was odd given how long it has been illegal back home. The place was filled with drunk baby-boomers. A guy walked in just to use the bathroom. He was wearing a cream coloured linen suit and he could not be more Miami vice if he tried.

We couldn’t cross Duval St because there was a parade of speed-boats. This did not bother me in the least, I was feeling nice and slightly drunk (or loose, if you believe my notebook). We had missed all of the speed-boat races and now we were seeing the end of the parade. Except there were still going to be races that weekend, so why the parade? It made no sense. Plus, the boats were pulled along in trailers on their sides. One of the boats had people on it tossing little bottles of chocolate milk and then the next one was tossing mardi gras beads. We followed along behind as it wrapped up.

We stopped in at Kermit’s so I could get the fancy tin of cookies. I also sampled some of the other key lime products and debated getting the key lime peanuts as a late-night hotel snack but Brent talked me down. We were on our way to dinner after all!

Pepe’s was predominantly known for their key lime pie so our dinner options were wide open. When the server led us to our table, he apologized to a black and white cat that he had disturbed. It was when I turned, I saw that the merchandise featured a cat. This restaurant had its own official cat. I was all for this! Brent had the filet mignon with green beans and one of the best baked potatoes I’ve ever had, so good and salty.  I ordered one of the daily specials: mahi mahi with pink shrimp and lobster sauce. I had coleslaw and corn on the side. Both dishes were excellent. To start I had a rum punch to make up for earlier. The people next to us were some lit baby-boomers. One of the husbands started talking about when he first discovered bourbon, at which point I locked eyes with his wife and we both chuckled. They had the same salt scrub in the bathroom and I was tempted to buy more. We got the key lime pie and my freshly squeezed juice margarita to go. And from here things just started to go sideways. It was a strong margarita. I remember saying something about a dingy taxi resembling a coyote?

We got to Duval St. and it was packed, all the boats were packed in the streets and people were crowding around and drinking. It was like a mild, middle-aged Bourbon St. At this point I was “comfy drunk.” We stopped at KWest to get Brent a walking beer so he could catch up to me. I found peanut butter topped Reese’s peanut butter cups and it was the closest we’ve ever been to finding all peanut butter Reese’s cups! I tore right into it, forgetting that we were in Florida so of course it was a melty mess. It was a king size, so my second one would have to wait until it froze a bit back in the hotel. It was so damn good though that i did periodically consider eating it, even though it would be even messier, having had more time to melt. Passing by the cemetery the usual cat wasn’t there, which made sense, she was probably out hunting.

Back in the room I got into my pyjamas. We alternated watching Planet Earth and Spongebob– as in the exact same shows we had been watching before we left for the sunset hours ago. We put the pie in the fridge, we were still too full from dinner (good thing I hadn’t gotten more snacks). The pie would have to be for breakfast, as was quickly becoming tradition. No complaints here, I was all for it.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Travel, Uncategorized

 

FloriDejaVu: Day 2

FloriDejaVu: Day 2

Thurs. Nov. 7, 2019:
Marathon to Key West, Florida:

I had made until 9:30pm before caving and going to bed, I had to stay up and watch the new episode of Modern Family to see if the show still holds up. It was alright. It had been a rough night, I had trouble falling asleep and then later I woke up with a massive headache around 2am, in my tiredness I was somehow convinced the water was not safe to drink.

Before heading out on the road, we stopped at the gas station across the street because our hotel room had no creamer or milk for the coffee. There were chickens in the parking lot which lent a lot of credence to the fried chicken shop in the gas station, I joked that it must be really fresh. One of the chickens started clucking at me when I took their picture. The coffee was what you would expect from a gas station but it did the trick. We split a chocolate Moon Pie for breakfast. At first it kind of looked like a Jos Louis but it was more of a cookie with marshmallow filling and then all covered in chocolate. We also got a bag of tostones for snacking on later and a Mexican Pepsi. I saw a pink bird flying overhead and correctly guessed that it was a roseate spoonbill once we saw the beak shape. The only reason I knew this was from my time spent playing Red Dead Redemption 2.

It was a good thing we had stopped for that coffee because we didn’t pass anything until we got to Key West an hour later. I would’ve been one sad cupcake. We got to our hotel around 11am and check in wasn’t until 3pm. We thought there was still a chance our room could be ready? Nope. At least we got one of the few parking spots outside of the hotel. Everything was in walking distance of the hotel, so we didn’t need the car.

It was a short 15-minute walk to Hemingway’s house. There was a sign by the ticket booth saying “do not pick up cats.” This was my kind of place! Cats! It was really funny once inside to see the signs telling visitors not to sit on our touch the furniture and yet there’s a cat, sitting on Hemingway’s bed cleaning itself. There were so many cats throughout the property, that alone has it ranking in top historical houses of all time in my opinion. In the museum texts they referred to Hemingway as “virile” which was just hilarious. It was nice to see his writing studio and, in the end, I left the museum wanting to read a biography of Hemingway. Partly because I wanted to learn more about the six-toed cat he was gifted and how he became a crazy cat person.

From the balcony I could see people across the street that had climbed a tower of some sort. I wanted that view! I demanded we go across and see what it was. The tower turned out to be a lighthouse, except it was no longer on the coast but inland. Apparently, it had gotten destroyed in the mid-1800s so to protect it they rebuilt it further inland away from the coast. There was a funny sign by the ticket booth stating how many steps and that no you cannot see Cuba from up there. We had a good view of the entire island and we could see the southern most tip of the USA. Ergo, that was where we had to go next. I did not enjoy the stair climb up or down, the heat and the tight narrow winding made for a bad combo.

There was a giant buoy marking the southern most tip and apparently this was quite the sight to see. There was a line up of at least 20 people waiting patiently to have their photo taken beside the giant painted marker. One guy’s wife stood off the side of it, almost in the street, circumventing the line. I took a photo of it from the other side, I didn’t get the text telling me it was 90 miles to Cuba but I also didn’t care.

Up next on our sight-seeing tour we took to the main stretch, Duval St. Aka party central. We stopped in at Sloppy Joe’s for a drink because apparently this was Hemginway’s favourite haunt in Key West. We debated that over two drinks. It was not the original name, location or ownership. We still had to go as it was a “Key West” thing to do. The musician in there sucked and thankfully he finished up soon after we arrived. For the first round Brent had their in-house beer and I had a rum runner because it is the “official” drink of Key West and it was made with local rum. It was actually really good for something containing dreaded banana liqueur. For the second round Brent had a margarita and I had a key lime cider. It wasn’t very limey but still pretty good. This was a rare occasion for us to trade halfway. We also got the second round for free. After our first order the server gave us a bill but we said we’d be having another so she took it away. Then another server got our second round and, in the end, we only got charged for two of the four drinks.

here was a line out the door of people waiting to get into Margaritaville. All it says in my notebook is: WHY??? We were unsure about the open-drinks policy, it kind of seemed like it was allowed? We walked over to where we would be watching the sunset tomorrow to scope out the place and make sure it was good. It appeared to be more a bar patio than a dock. But it was pretty casual and we could just get a drink.

We continued along the pier to scope out the evening’s dinner and sunset spot. It didn’t seem like a particularly good spot, maybe it we had a table on the upper deck? On the way we saw all of the speed-racing boats and people crowded around. I did not get the appeal of looking at a bunch of boats in a parking lot.

We had lunch at Conch Republic Seafood Company. We had to keep it light as it was already afternoon and our dinner plans were early because they centred around sunset. We split a conch chowder and a callaloo dip. The chowder was more of a spicy soup but still very good. The dip was basically spinach dip except with the Caribbean plant callaloo instead. It was surprisingly good and I liked that it was served warm. I had tried to order a key lime mojito but with the Pilar local rum. The guy looked at me confused, the key lime mojito is made with key lime liquor and apparently you can’t swap them out. So, I had the “Hemingway” mojito which was made with that rum. It was the worst mojito I have ever had, I should have known it would be trouble when it was served in a pint glass. It was more soda water than anything else.

We walked back along the marina side of the pier (on the way to lunch we had walked along the road). We saw a crowd gathered by the dock so of course we had to go over and investigate. We could see giant fish swimming around, why were they hanging out so close to the dock and to fishing boats?! As we kept looking, we saw a giant grouper and as if that wasn’t exciting enough… a shark casually swam by! It was the most exciting and unexpected thing to happen. I did not think that I would ever see a shark in the wild in my life and here it just randomly happened. I’ll admit, I found the shark pretty cute, just swimming along. I did not expect grouper to be either so big or so ugly, it stands in stark contrast to how delicious it is.

We walked to Ben & Jerry’s on Duval St for dessert. On the way we passed by a momma chicken and her little babies peeping, it was too cute. There was a guy sitting on the stoop outside saying the place was closed but the girl who works there said to ignore the idiot. Things only got weirder inside. As we were deciding on flavours another guy came in and she was talking to him. Apparently, he had squirted her boyfriend’s 5-year old kid and now she was saying (jokingly?) that her kid had PTSD? It was all way too weird for me. We got our ice cream and got the heck out of there. I was so happy to finally get my Phish Food fix BUT it melted so damn fast in the Florida heat.

We still had time to kill before our room was ready. We headed over to the zero-mile marker, because according to all the tourist tchotchkes in the shops, it was a thing to see? We ran across the street, got a picture of the marker and ran back before the light changed. (We later saw that our side of the street also had a marker, oops.) We started back towards Duval St. where I had seen a liquor store but then Brent found on one the zero-mile marker street so we went there first. I am sad to say that there was no green parrot at Green Parrot Liquors. The selection was also not that great. We walked back to Duval St. to KWest liquors. It only dawned on me later that it was not “quest” but “Key West” and I momentarily felt like a dummy. The selection was also terrible, until we found the cooler of ice and singles near the door. They had singles of The Claw, we didn’t need that 6-pack after all (but how were we to know that?) I even stopped at a corner store on the way and struck out again. I would be needing a Publix pit-stop the next day.

Brent cracked open his Jai Alai for the walk back to the hotel. I was carrying the other Florida beer. It was a cinnamon and hibiscus beer, it did not sound good. It was nice and cold so I held it against my head and neck. Eventually it warmed up and the can was dry. We passed by the graveyard again, it was weird because all the tombs are above ground. There was a cat sleeping on one of the graves. We also saw two roosters fighting in the street, an actual real-life cock fight. The winner strutted around inside the cemetery while the loser stood on a car and kept looking back in at the cemetery.

There was a line when we got to the hotel. The lady in front of us checking in was claiming that her ugly little yappy dog was a service dog. There was no way it was. Then a guy came in all huffy and mad and angrily sat down in a chair. He cut us off and started complaining his key didn’t work, he asked for a key that does work. The (poor) hotel clerk said all the keys work, and was about to offer him another key. But then another lady came in, she wanted some water bottles. She told the guy to try the other lock on the door. She looked at us, clearly waiting in line, apologized and continued ordering two bottles of water. Then she realized she had no money and went out to get her wallet. We just stood there whole time watching this saga unfold wondering what the f—k is going on here?! Our hotel room was more of a small apartment again. This time we had two bathrooms! The living room had two air-conditioners and a fan.

The nice cold Strongbow was just what I needed after all that heat. I settled in with my ebook, there was zero chance of any good TV in the middle of the afternoon. At least the wifi was finally good, it barely connected at the last place. We looked up the time of sunset and headed back out to Schooner’s Wharf restaurant. They are listed as good spot to watch the sunset, but even when we went up to the deck, the view was not that good. We left and walked over to the Sunset Pier. We caught the second half of the sunset as we walked over to Mallory Square. Now THIS, this was the place to watch a sunset! Beautiful unobstructed views, no restaurant requiring us to make a purchase. In the view we had all of the yachts and sailboats that had gone out on the water to see the sunset. Periodically a speed-boat would race through. The square was really nice, we were going to come back for sure. On the way out we passed through a gift shop but there was no sign of a manatee magnet for Adrian.

We went back to Schooner Wharf for dinner. It was an outdoor covered patio but it was so poorly lit. We had to use our cellphones to illuminate the menu. We were sitting near the stage where a band was setting up. Brent kept singing cheeseburgers in paradise and saying he had to order a cheeseburger. I didn’t get it. They were known for their pina coladas           (hard pass), conch chowder (we had it for lunch) and conch fritters. Our server gave me a weird look when I ordered the Key West shrimp BLT with no tomatoes. It’s not that odd a request when you have something else in there in addition to the BLT part. The sandwich was so damn good, as were the conch fritters. The only let-down was the burger, it was bland and all I could taste was onions. I finally got to try key lime mustard and I loved it. So much so I made a note to myself to buy it or find a recipe to make it. I finally got my key lime mojito fix at dinner. It was so much better, with just a splash of soda water. It was really sweet and it went down way too easy. For my second drink I had another mojito, this time made with 21-year aged Panamanian rum. I had sip of Brent’s pina colada, only verifying my stance: they’re so gross. I kept saying thousand percent nope in response to it. The band playing was much better than earlier in the day, they were actually good.

We stopped at Kermit’s Key (West) Lime Shop for key lime pie for dessert. Well actually, it would be tomorrow’s breakfast, we were both stuffed. I got key lime ice box cookies for my co-workers and family as souvenirs. As we headed back, I kept thinking about the larger size of cookies that came in a tin with a nice painting of Hemingway’s house complete with cats on the fence. I cursed myself, I should’ve gotten that one and used the tin to store my travel mementos! What was I thinking!? I had to go back the next day, it was decided. We stopped at a convenience store and I got a strawberry Fanta, again the drink selection was paltry but I also didn’t really need another drink. Those mojitos were strong. We watched the new Jersey Shore reunion (or according to my notebook “remix”) show and I yelled at all the plot holes.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Fooding, Travel

 

FloriDejaVu: Day 1

FloriDejaVu: Day 1

Wed. Nov. 6, 2019:
Toronto flight to Miami, Florida:

The downside to a 6am flight is the ungodly wakeup, in this case 2:45am. The subway was not running yet to so we took a Lyft to the airport. We were desperate for any possible time savings. Brent had thought that security didn’t open until 4:00 and the possibility for Wendy’s was floated. But the lady by the gate said that security was in fact already open. We had checked in the previous night and we had our boarding passes on our phones. I kept dropping my phone and forgetting that I had the boarding pass on their, I was so used to having a paper pass. I had chugged a Red Bull on our way to security but apparently that was not enough to keep me awake. Once past security, I went to Starbucks in search of more caffeine. The dragon fruit refresher with lemonade really hit the spot, it felt too early in the morning for coffee. I had gotten Brent a bacon-cheddar-egg sandwich from Starbucks and I was genuinely surprised at how good it was. Also weirdly good were the ketchup Pringles. I finished off the last of my Halloween mini candies while browsing Buzzfeed on the complimentary iPad bolted to the middle of the table. It was awkward to browse and eventually I gave up and tried to load my ebook via the TPL website but it didn’t want to cooperate so I brought out my iPad and set it in front of the bolted one. Much comfier and now I could read Best American Food Writing 2018. The story about peanut butter & jelly sandwiches was making me hungry again. I went back to the bolted iPad and loaded up reddit, the aww subreddit did its job. I lost my marbles over the cuteness of a baby hippo and left it for the next person to see, it was time to board.

Boarding was really fast, except then we were delayed for 40 minutes because apparently, they had forgotten to file a flight plan. We watched the first episode of Fleabag and it was great, but I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake. I starting falling asleep and twitching but my head kept snapping back, which was unusual because usually it snaps forward. Eventually I woke up and downed a whole can of diet Coke and ate some Biscoff cookies while listening to All In The Mind podcast. And then I immediately went back to sleep. I reached a point where I couldn’t sleep any more, but at this point Brent was enthralled with the Dead Cells video game. I was still kind of groggy so I watched Friends. Because we had been up so early, I was already really hungry again. The sweet chili heat Doritos were a nice break from all the sweet stuff I had been eating.

I always forget how hot Florida is. As soon as we had our car, I changed into a skirt and sandals- right there in the parking lot. It was way too hot for socks and pants. It was a 20minute drive down to South Beach in Miami. I could not believe the size of the Norwegian cruise ship in the port. I wondered how it compared in size to the Titanic. We drove by Joe’s Stone Crab and there was no line-up which was a good sign. We parked just down the street and then walked by again, just to make sure. We had 40 minutes before it opened. Still no line, maybe lunchtime wasn’t as popular? It was still early in the season as well. We walked down to the beach, the sand felt so nice. The water was not as warm as I had expected and it soaked the bottom of my skirt. As we walked, I reminisced about GTA Vice City and joked about their being a moped behind a building with a pizza delivery mission. We stopped at a liquor store on the way back. Brent pointed out a drink called “The Claw” which apparently everyone was going crazy for. I was skeptical as it said it had seltzer and was low calorie. We dropped it off in the car and walked one extra block and arrived at Joe’s right at 11:30am. All of the staff were so fancily dressed, it felt a bit awkward but then looking around everyone else was dressed as casual as we were. This only got further confirmed when our server tied paper bibs around our necks. It felt so silly and I couldn’t stop laughing. We ordered six stone crab claws, fried chicken coleslaw and sweet potato fries. We had a good assortment of hot (chicken, fries) and cold (coleslaw, crab claws) dishes. The crab claws came pre-cracked and we just had to fish out the meat. On the side there was a mustard dipping sauce, but the crab was good enough on its own that it didn’t really need the sauce. Everything was delicious but it was not a blow-away meal. The sweet potato fries were good, sprinkled with cinnamon but the serving was too big and they didn’t stand a chance against the crab or chicken. The sides were way too big and eventually we had to give up. We went to the takeout shop next door to get our key lime pie to go, otherwise it would have been embarrassing given how much food we had left.

Driving back to the mainland we passed by Star Island and I could not believe the size of the yachts in the private docks. Some legitimately seemed bigger than our apartment. We wondered if we could go onto the island but as we passed the road, I spotted a gate. Too bad, it would have been fun to drive around and gawk. We ate the key lime pie in the parking lot of Villa Vizcaya because we were full of savoury but not sweet and it would not have survived the trip to the hotel. A lesson we had learned last time we were in Florida when we got key lime pie to go from Frenchy’s. It was a good pie, not too tart but not too sweet, with a good buttery crumb. In the end it ranked second place for me. Villa Vizcaya was great. As always there were a few quinceañera photo shoots happening. As we were walking up, I told Brent the story of the giant spider between the trees I had seen last time, and wouldn’t you know it there was another such giant spider in that same stretch of path! I joked it was the same one. We saw a weird bird standing among the mangroves. There was a lizard whose head, body and tail were all different colours. We also saw an iguana. It was so hot I drank as much as I could from the water fountain until my stomach was full.

Back on the road Brent’s phone rang. Our snorkelling trip for the following day had to be rescheduled until Friday. Apparently, they were expecting 4-foot high waves tomorrow. It wasn’t so bad, we would just have to move around some plans and have a bit more driving but at least it wasn’t outright cancelled. Pretty soon we were in the Keys, but not before the final warnings. Leading up to it there were signs saying last food/gas/whatever for x number of miles. Soon we were seeing signs for the Sandal Outlet, warning us not to pay Key West prices for t-shirts. There were a lot of weird little shops in Key Largo. There was a pickup truck advertising a shop where they were selling pigs feet and Speedos?! In between the little towns there really was nothing on the road, they weren’t joking. In the next town they had a Hobo’s Café. The first part of the drive was not as pretty as expected, passing through the larger towns with their sparse outcroppings of chain stores. Eventually the view changed, from the bridge we could see narrow keys in the water and a single parallel line of hydro towers. The water was a beautiful blue. But I still got the feeling that it was better from the sky, we needed an aerial view.

We were staying in Marathon and our first stop was Publix. Our dinner plans consisted of Pub Subs, cake and snacks. I also stocked up on coffee and instant pudding (Oreo, Sonic strawberry milkshake and coconut!). I had read online that Publix bakery’s soft frosted sugar cookies are also great so we got a pack of those in addition to the funfetti vanilla cake with buttercream frosting. Brent recreated the Tampa Bay sub with chicken tenders and I had the jerk turkey. Only after I had ordered it did I see that they did in fact have the holiday turkey sub, I had just missed the sticker. We also got giant chewy sour Nerds (are they even really Nerds then? Yes, they taste just like Nerds). The chicken tender sub was the clear winner. The cake was perfect as always. The cookies, a usual favourite of mine, somehow fell short. They seemed kind of powdery/dry, it’s hard to explain. Thankfully we had also built a six-pack at Publix, The Claw was not good. It was exactly what you would expect from an alcoholic lime seltzer. Thankfully I had some Angry Orchard rose cider for my second drink. We alternated watching Modern Family and Family Feud. We were staying in a mini apartment complete with fridge but the ice maker was broken. Brent was drinking a Boston marathon beer and I only realized later in the night: was this because we were IN Marathon?! He said it had been unintentional but makes sense why that obscure beer was available. TV got better as the evening wore on, now we were watching Bob’s Burgers and Jeopardy and an episode of Nature about cheetahs. I gave up on the cookies and The Claw, they were just not good. I was so tired and it was only 8:30, I wanted to go to bed so bad but I made myself stay up until 9pm so it was at least a little reasonable.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2019 in 1001 Foods, Fooding, Travel

 

New Distance Record

New Distance Record

Tinuno had been voted best Filipino restaurant, but it may as well have been voted closest ever to our house. If we had gone the correct route it would have been a 7-minute walk. The whole way there I was like WHERE IS THIS PLACE?!

The place was tiny and crammed. Every table was taken and again, we had to wait. We were at least able to place our order ahead of time. We went with the price fixe because it included everything. It took a while for our food to come out, the people beside us were insufferable computer geeks. But I had a can of mango nectar so I was content. I think I may have also been thinking about Halloween candy (at this point I had given in, it was over).

Dinner was a spectacle to behold. A giant pile of rice on a banana leaf on a cutting board. It was covered with grilled whitefish, octopus, okra, crawfish and pork belly. One bite and I was in heaven. This mountain of delicious grilled (authentic as confirmed by Paula and to a lesser extent Brent) cost us each a whopping $15. Were it not so busy I could easily see this being a regular thing, we are for sure going back at least once with Paula & Ryan. I wish they did to go.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2019 in Fooding, Uncategorized

 

Skippa

Skippa

Every time i thought about or we talked about, our upcoming dinner plans at Skippa, I would always hear the restaurant name in my head in the voice of one of the penguins from Madagascar. We arrived on time, it was our table that was late. Turns out the last group was slow and now we had to wait. The restaurant, top 100, was tiny. There was no bar where we could at least have a drink. Instead we waited on two chairs that really did seem to be in the way of the busy restaurant staff. They kept apologizing and saying soon- which honestly just made things worse.

Eventually we were seated. While we had OK views of the prep, most of it was happening to our left so we had to kind of crane our necks. Skippa offered a traditional omakase menu but they also had a-la carte. No thank you, we are here to see the best the chef has got. This was our fourth omakase sushi experience, we were semi-pros at this point and the competition was tough (except Sushi Kaji, it would be really hard to not top them). If your meal starts with a warm cup of sake you know you are in for a treat.
All in all it was a good dinner, not as good as Shoushin or Yasu but still an awesome night out. Dessert, as expected, was barely there. On the walk home I contemplated a box of mini Halloween candy, it was the start of the season and so far I had been good and not given in. I abstained but oh man did the cravings plague me.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2019 in Fooding, Uncategorized

 
 
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