Dining Outside the Home: Nine One Five in Key West, Florida. During the day you may walk by this charming whitewashed Victorian home, with ocean blue accents, thinking it’s a magnificent private residence. What a glorious sight. However once the evening hours roll around, every table seems to be filled with jovial guests on the wrap-around veranda before overflowing into the front yard beyond the white picket fence. Notice how the amber lights soften the mood for intimacy and celebration. Your first thought may be, “How do I get invited to the party?” My advice? Make a reservation because if you don’t, you’ll wish you did. Take time to enjoy every course. For starters, think about the raw Ahi Tuna Gravlax or fig balsamic Burrata. Delectable choices. Homemade pastas like fettuccine, cannot be resisted, especially when mixed with Key West pink shrimp and capers. The menu is varied to appeal to every palate. Go ahead, you’re worth it.
Dining Outside the Home: Pinchers Crab Shack in Key West, Florida! Sometimes you need to take a break from the noonday sun to whet your whistle. No worries, Happy Hour runs every day. Sit at the bar, a short distance from the stage where live music is very laid back, for the perfect vantage point for Duval Street commotion. Sip on classic cocktails, some with Cuban rum, and it won’t be long before you’ll be transported to warm southern beaches where ocean waves wash your worries away. When you get hungry, rely on local fishermen to supply the freshest seafood the Gulf has to offer. It’s all good at Pinchers.
Dining Outside the Home: Red Fish Blue Fish in Key West, Florida! When you’re wandering around Mallory Square, step off the beaten path a block or so to discover a hidden gem where seafood is prime and the drinks go down easy. Order one of the signature cocktails from Red Fish Blue Fish, made with real fruit and fresh juices. Stay awhile, and without a doubt, you’ll be smitten by the most breathtaking sunset in the Florida Keys. This is cause for celebration. The sheer beauty and passion of the residents is enough to make anyone feel at home once they cross the threshold of this popular seafood joint.
Dining Outside the Home: Willie T’s in Key West, Florida. Pull out a chair at an open air table, where lively music sets the mood, dollar bills cover every square inch with messages scribbled in jest, and the smell of conch fritters makes your mouth water. Try not to gape too much at your neighbor’s food or you may end up ordering everything on the menu. Tropical drinks go down smooth and easy, especially mint mojitos. When the succulent lobster salad, stuffed with celery stalks and crispy leaves, overflows from the warm, buttery bun, simply grab a fork to spear the chunky mounds of lobster meat before gripping the roll with two hands. Wipe your chin. No one is watching.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Mealtime Crab Cocottes! Seafood can be my obsession and I’m not afraid to be a glutton of it, especially if I’m visiting a locale that is a coastal destination. In my defense, how can anyone resist signs and billboards openly declaring “Best Seafood in Town!”? But eventually one returns home to a land-locked State where seafood is as scarce as hen’s teeth. So when the cravings continue, I head over to the local supermarket in search of a packaged substitute. Maybe it’s the succulent crabmeat or perhaps it’s the French butter, but I have to admit this recipe isn’t half bad.
MEALTIME CRAB COCOTTES
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat
8 ounces imitation crabmeat, flaked
1 tablespoon pimento, diced
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1-2 tablespoons French butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat bottoms and edges of two ramekins with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, seafood seasoning, garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix well. Gently fold in lump crabmeat, imitation flaked crabmeat, and diced pimento. Divide crabmeat mixture evenly between ramekins. Top with Panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle paprika over all. Drizzle melted butter on top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly. Serve with artisan bread and side salad.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Culinary Crab Rolls! Seafood lovers will look for any excuse to substitute chicken or beef. Do we really need a reason? Building healthy lifestyle choices could be enough to make me try new things. Seafood is a lean protein option which does fill me up the way fruit, vegetables, and nuts do. The fact remains that I truly like the taste of seafood. Pairing it with bread is practically a bonus. Need I say more?
CULINARY CRAB ROLLS
6 frozen bread dough rolls, thawed according to package instructions
3/4 cup crabmeat, precooked and chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray muffin tin with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, combine crabmeat, mayonnaise, green onion, and red pepper flakes. Once dough has risen, press into a 3-4” circle. Fill the center of each circle of dough with a heaping tablespoon of crabmeat filling. Gently pull the edges around the filling to form a ball, lightly brushing the seam with beaten egg, then pinching the edges to seal. Place in muffin cup, seam side down. Brush tops with beaten egg. Repeat with remaining rolls. Set aside to rise until puffy. Dough should be nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
Dining Outside the Home: Hualani’s Restaurant in Lihue, Kauai. Celebrations of life are a good reason to reserve a table at Hualani’s Restaurant, where the ocean stretches forever in a sea of aquatic blue. After all, there’s nothing quite like watching palm trees sway against a torch-lit sky as the sun slides behind the Haupu Mountain Range. Relax with a crafted cocktail. Stretch your palate to try something extraordinary from land and sea like Whole Fried Market Fish, Mashed Okinawa Potatoes with scallions, and Spiced Rum Pineapple Confit. It’s the attention to detail and presentation that embrace a dining experience that will be long remembered.
Dining Outside the Home: Tom Ham’s Lighthouse in San Diego, California. Did you ever wish, as a kid, that you could eat in a real lighthouse? How cool is that?! Tom Ham understood the allure of making dreams comes true. This is the only restaurant in the United States to have a USCG operated and maintained lighthouse attached to it. Its location is even listed on nautical maps as Beacon #9, making Tom Ham’s Lighthouse an architectural landmark. Dine outside on a sunny day with a view of Harbor Island, Coronado Bridge, the San Diego Bay, and skyline. Munch away on Corn and Shrimp fritters before ordering the fresh Tuna Niçoise Salad. This is just a sampling of the fabulous food you’ll experience from the restaurant on the water’s edge. Thank you, Mr. Ham, for making dreams come true.
Dining Outside the Home: La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai. An Old World Italian dinner is as priceless as the family recipes that brave the test of time. At La Spezia, the customer becomes the guest of honor with classics “like Grandma used to make” that include house-made pastas, rich creamy sauces, and seafood specialties. They also understand the importance of island heritage to include local land and sea favorites. Put down the cell phone, sit back, and sip on a citrus Aperol Spritz. Taste the Prosecco? Now that’s refreshing. Nibble on focaccia bread and linger over conversation. This is a long-established Italian tradition and one you won’t want to miss.