Before we get into food, the Florida Keys are really cool.
Getting there from Orlando, the first base of our holiday, boils down to road or air.
At the time of the trip we had a two-year-old in tow and my wife was carrying our second. Driving was out of the question.
We took to the air.
The plane was a third full, and with a max capacity of thirty-something, it goes without saying that it was the smallest, most empty plane I had ever been on.
My wife hated it.
I thought I liked it until we hit turbulence; I wasn’t a fan after that.
My two year took it in his stride.
One thing that made the flight enjoyable was the view. A propeller plane doesn’t go so high, so we got to see all the islands and the water. The latter was blue, peaceful, and so inviting. Like a starving man seeing a banquet, the whole family was desperate for a swim.
The landing was smooth enough, and Key West airport took the planes lead; tiny and almost empty.
Getting our bags and rental car were a breeze.
I could go on to talk about the beaches; Bahia Honda in the shadow of a large, decaying bridge. Fort Zachary Taylor is very cool and the collective stubbornness of its soldiers interesting.
But I wanted to talk about food.
First up: The Greatest Almond Croissant in the World.
I haven’t tried all of the almond croissants in the world, but I would fight anyone who claimed there was a better one.
The place is called La Grignote, a French artisan bakery close to the southernmost point of the US.
Ironically the only reason we went there was because Banana Cafe (La Grignote’s more famous neighbour) was full up.
I’m so glad fate intervened.
For me, a great croissant pasty has to have snap on the outside but chewy on the inside. Not only did La Grignote’s rendition nail these two, but the almond cream also had a real punch. The consistency meant it all mixed beautifully in your mouth.
That’s the magic; three clearly distinct textures meeting and making a better one. It’s a form of gastronomic performance art.
Despite only having three days in The Keys, we visited the place twice. I would easily brave another choppy flight for an almond croissant again.
In a slightly different part of town is a joint called Bad Boy Burrito.
My knowledge of the place came from another twist of fate.
The night before we left Orlando I was watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which turned out to be a Key West episode!
Of the few places featured on the show, I had to pick Bad Boy Burrito for two reasons; fish tacos and their homemade pineapple habanero sauce.
Why those things?
- In the UK fish tacos aren’t very common. They are one of my favourite things ever.
- I love spicy things, but I have a condition that means I have to be careful. The sweet element of this sauce said I could get the heat and still tolerate it.
I was expecting to like the food. It was right up my street. Yet somehow it exceeded my expectations. The fish had a nice bite to it, the tacos had the perfect amount of chew, and the salad topping snapped nicely on my teeth.
The sauce was the star of the show, though. The pineapple habanero was sweet upfront and tangy spice at the back. But on the recommendation of the waitress, I got one taco with a green sauce. She said it went better with the fish. Perhaps she oversold it versus the pineapple habanero, although it was still damn good. I’d definitely suggest a trio of tacos and at least one fish with the green sauce.
You should also know; I had to fit this in as a snack because my wife and kid didn’t fancy Mexican food for lunch.
Don’t blame them.
We are used to the cold.
The idea of spicy food in over thirty degree Celsius heat wasn’t floating their boat.
It was fine. I like snacks.