Key lime jonesing

It’s not often that I wish I was in Florida. Usually I’m perfectly happy being far from it. But yesterday, on my lunch break at work, as soon as I walked out into the blaring sunshine and high temperatures of what felt like a preview of another New York summer, I found myself wishing I was in Florida. In Key West to be exact. In a hammock in the shade, somewhere near the water, with a fat wedge of key lime pie to be even more exact.

mermaid

Big Gay Ice Cream’s Mermaid Sundae. Hellooooo, summer.

I love Key West and its laid back, mellow vibe, hippy residents, and kitschy charm,  but more than anything else about it, I love the city’s most famous desert, my favorite Florida treat, key lime pie. Since boarding a plane to the Sunshine State wasn’t an option, I got my fix at Big Gay Ice Cream in the West Village instead, where I ordered the Mermaid Sundae.

A heaping cup of creamy vanilla soft serve, thick swirls of bright yellow key lime curd, crushed graham crackers, and velvety swirls of  fluffy whipped cream were exactly what I needed to take the edge off a hot afternoon. Sure, there was no hammock, no ocean, and certainly no laid back vacation mode, but that perfect combination of sweet, tangy, and tart flavors, and the creamy, smooth and crumbly crust  textures of Big Gay Ice Cream’s salute to the key lime pie was all I really needed. Everything else I just closed my eyes and imagined was there.

It’s always a good time for burgers

You know how you have to be in a certain mood to eat sushi? Or a hearty plate of meatloaf? Or a tuna wrap from the deli? (Yes, I do sometimes actually want one of those, the kind that are a little goopy and squishy. Don’t judge me.)

Well, burgers, in my opinion, unlike all of those other foods and so many others, are something I could eat any ol’ time, no matter the weather, time of day, season, or physical state I’m in. (Hungover? Yes. Sick with a cold? Yes. Strong like bull? Two please.)

So when I was in Miami looking for a place to eat dinner with my mom, sister and boyfriend, and my best friend (who was also joining us) suggested LoKal, a new Coconut Grove burger joint and craft beer watering hole, I was all about it. Burgers aaaaand beer? DONE.

Now I can add reptile to my list of meats eaten after these tasty fried alligator strips

 To start things off right, and maybe in honor of my being back in the Sunshine State, we ordered a plate of something quintessentially Floridian that I had actually never eaten: alligator. Fat, juicy strips of tender white alligator meat were battered, fried and seasoned with Old Bay, and served with a tangy marinara sauce and spicy mayo. So did they taste like chicken? Yea, kind of. Were they good? Absolutely.

She may not be the prettiest burger, but the Frita makes up for it in pure guava-cheesey-bacon goodness!

The burgers all sounded good, if not completely over the top, with toppings like chili, tons of bacon, blue cheese and one that even came served on a doughnut. I’m a bit of an over-the-top eater myself, so I went with the Frita: a juicy, medium-rare (cause that’s how I roll) patty topped with guava jelly, bacon, crunchy potato sticks, and gruyère. At first I was a little sad because I couldn’t taste the guava, and really that’s what sold me on it, but a couple of bites in I got to it and all was forgiven. The jammy sweetness of the guava, mixed in with the salty crunch of the bacon, the crispy potato bits and the gooey, melted cheese all over that juicy, soft patty made for near perfect deliciousness!  And to make matters even better, LoKal’s patties, ground fresh in-house, are made from free-range, grass fed, hormone free cows, all of which makes me feel much better about the 5 million calories I ingested. Oh and instead of making me choose between regular and sweet potato fries, I was able to do 50/50… at NO ADDITIONAL COST. Can you believe it? All for just $11! In New York, that would’ve been pushing $20.

Key Lime pie, the best dessert to come out of Florida

In keeping with the Florida fat-kid theme, I went with the one thing I absolutelyhaveto have whenever I’m in town, key lime pie. LoKal’s was a huge slice of creamy, cool, zesty lime custard on a crunchy graham cracker crust topped with a fluffy mountain of fresh whipped cream and graham cracker crumbles. It had the all the rights amount of sweet, tart, tangy and creamy that make it one of my favorites. It was the perfect way to end a really affordable, easy and just damn-good burger outing. And really, I’m always in the mood for one of those.

LoKal Burgers & Beer on Urbanspoon

Why yes, I am a Fat Pig

Sometimes I really over do it. Total overkill in the eating department. Really.

Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Fette Sau, a small, buzzy barbecue joint in Williamsburg where people gladly wait 30 to 40 minutes—outsidejust to get their grubby little fingers on smokey flavored, dry rubbed meat and cold beers was one of those nights. It was one of those nights and then some.  It was not for the weak of heart, the dainty of diets, the graceful, the delicate, the disciplined, and certainly NOT for the non-carnivores.

For size reference, each one of these trays is about 2 ft. wide. So yea, that’s a whole lotta meat piled on there.

There were four of us: three girls, one guy. To eatbrace yourselves cause this is where  things get out of handthere were two giant, paper-lined metal serving trays topped with a pound of pork belly, a pound of beef brisket, a pound of pulled pork,  four generously sized pork sausages, six soft potato rolls, a heap of tangy cole slaw, and a tub of baked beans the size of my studio apartment’s kitchen sink. Oh and for good measure, there was also a small key lime pie tart (just about the only thing we didn’t go hog-wild in ordering).

All joking aside, a good 24+ hours later I was STILL full. Really! It was such an intense amount of food, so much sticky fingered, saucy (meat was all served without, but there were an assortment of bottles at the table),  smokey, gut-sticking, artery clogging goodness. The only thing I was less than crazy about was the pork belly which was a bit on the fatty side (though I guess it’s to be expected of BELLY!) but everything else was delicious. So much so that no one could stop digging in, arms crossing over the table, scooping, squirting, sandwiching, dripping, slopping. Oh! It was gluttonous and awful and… incredible.

I spent the rest of the night (and most of the following day) in a pork and beef induced haze, feeling fat and slow, repulsed by the mere thought of food.

And the best part? Fette Sau means “fat pig” in German. Appropriate? You bet your fat ass.

Island living and eating

Right before catching a plane back to New York we decided to eat one last meal in Florida, and what better place to wrap up a a relaxing beach weekend than at Tommy Bahama.

Didn’t know Tommy Bahama sold food? Yea well, me either. I thought they only sold linen shirts, swim trunks and other I’m-on-vacation clothing but apparently the “Purveyor of Island Lifestyles” also has a chain of restaurants. We made a pit stop in Sarasota and checked it out.

I have to say, I was somewhat skeptical. In my head I was ready to write the whole place off. Beachwear and food shouldn’t necessarily come from the same place, right? I mean, I don’t pick up bikinis at the supermarket. Just because Tommy could make nice casual island getups didn’t mean he come make nice food,  I reasoned. But I’m happy to report, I was wrong.

Fish tacos

Going with the recommendation of someone who’d already been there, I went with the fish tacos. One, because it seemed fitting to eat seafood in a beach town and two, because I’d never actually had fish tacos before. (I’m usually a beef or chicken kind of girl.) The three soft, white corn tortillas full of blackened fish (no, I actually don’t know exactly what fish), pico de gallo and a spicy chipotle aioli sauce were colorful in appearance and taste. The fish was tender and soft with that slightly burnt spiciness I love from the blackened outside. The other ingredients gave it a zesty, peppery savoriness that was refreshingly unlike most tacos I’ve eaten. With the tacos came a kind of weird side: three fried plantains in a crispy tortilla shell filled with a pineapple and coconut  sauce. I love plantains so I of course ate this up quickly, but I didn’t get why they were cold, almost like they’d been pulled out of the fridge. Maybe it was to play off the warmer flavors of the tacos, but this could of been much better if they were heated up.

Key Lime Pie

My last wish while in my ol’ home state was that I get a slice of my favorite Florida dessert: Key lime pie. Tommy’s was good, and as the waiter had put it, was “not too sweet, not too tart.” It had a nice thick, creamy consistency and a subtle citrus after taste. My only suggestion for improvement would’ve been to top it with a little less whip cream.  All that fluffy white cream took the spotlight off the tangy key lime flavor. Aside from that, it was a sweet adieu to Florida. I had another island to get back to and Tommy Bahama wasn’t exactly the purveyor of that one’s lifestyle.

In vino veritas… unless the vino’s boxed

Way back when, during a carefree college semester spent in Italy, a couple of friends and I learned a valuable lesson we’ll carry with us forever: never, ever trust boxed wine.

We were taking a daytrip to the small, mountain town of Abetone and like many of our fellow classmates abroad, thought that adding wine to the equation would be a fantastic idea.

Wrong.

Unsuspecting fools that we were, Daphne, Cortney and I chose the wine on sale, the fermented-Juicy Juice-tasting liquid that came in a box and cost one euro a carton. We bought three and walked out ready for a good time.

Maybe 15 minutes later, as the bus lurched up the twisting and turning mountain road, and the warm, acid Tavernello sloshed around in our stomachs, we realized the error of our ways.

“Pleeease don’t let me puke on this bus,” I silently begged God, “I promise I’ll never drink boxed wine again. Lesson learned. I swear!”

Boxed wine: no longer just for budget-conscious drunkards

And I stayed true to my word, until this Saturday when the $35 dollar wine we ordered at Washington D.C.’s Farmers & Fishers at the Georgetown Waterfront showed up in you guessed it, a friggin’ carton.

“Who ordered the boxed wine?” people at our table asked mockingly, before the Yellow + Blue box of Argentine Malbec was planted in front of me and a couple others.

Cortney, who was on that vomit-inducing bus ride years ago and also at dinner in D.C., looked at me with eyes that said, “Uh oh.”

We should’ve seen it coming, though. F&F is a trendy restaurant with a lot of talk of green this, eco-friendly that and lots of sustainability packed in between. Before we even ordered, our plaid-shirted, gauged ear, shaved-head waiter rattled on and on about F&F’s fresh, farm-sourced ingredients and sustainable ag practices.

“Well the box is completely biodegradable,” he explained when we politely masked our horror and asked about the bottleless wine. “The inside is lined with balsa wood so it doesn’t affect the taste. It actually makes it taste better.

Hmm. Well, uhm, ok. Boxed wine it is, we agreed at the table.

I can always count on dessert to save the day.

The rest of dinner went well, with most of us opting for F&F’s Restaurant Week menu ($35 for a three course meal, boxed wine not included). Mini cheese pizza to split with the group, table-made guac, Chesapeake style Mahi Mahi, and my favorite from this particular food line-up: Key lime pie tartlet.

While everything was pretty good, the dessert stole my heart. Key lime pies just always take me back to the good things about Florida, the few that I actually like, like warm summer days spent at the beach, trips to the Keys and stuffing my face full of tangy, sugary goodness.

In the end, the Malbec-in-a-box wasn’t bad either. After a couple of glasses, we got over the carton stigma and went on with our meal. One thing is worth noting, though: the balsa wood-lined interior. Curious to see what the inside of our box looked like, someone at our table tore it open (once it was empty, of course) and well, there was another surprise: no balsawood, just the standard waxed cardboard you’d find in most boxed beverages.

So, with that being said, I stand by my original lesson learned: never, ever trust boxed wine.