This guest post is brought to you by The Florida Keys and Key West, in conjunction with Honest Cooking. All content & photos has been provided by the sponsor.
A favorite destination for Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, Key West is known for its palm lined streets and fish that is fresh enough to draw any committed culinary traveler. With a distinct mixture of cultures, the island is not only home to a strong seafood scene, but a tantalizing fusion of cuisines. At night, the street a lit up with vibrant sidewalk cafes, that lure in people with delicious scents of their specialties. Live music and hopping bars are the perfect pairings to watch the sunset into the Gulf of Mexico.
Key West has seafood unlike anywhere in the world and the crucial ingredient is the water. The Gulf of Mexico mixes with the Atlantic Ocean making a perfect nursery for a plethora of fish, crab, and lobster. Not to mention, the fishermen of the region have come together to create a sustainable plan for the future of their industry, naturally controlling overproducing populations that threaten to take over the ecosystem.
Not only are visitors able to jump on the boat for themselves and go fishing in some of the clearest waters, but they are able to sit back and relax, knowing they can find the same fresh fish in local restaurants.
If you are looking for a taste of the freshest seafood right on the dock, visit The Stoned Crab restaurant. This restaurant serves up some of the best of what Key West is known for, the stone crab, and they also do it in a stunning setting with an unbeatable view of the water. The moment you set foot in the restaurant you will feel as if you have traveled back in time to the 1950s. Housed in a Ibis Bay Resort, built in 1956, the restaurant keeps alive the tradition of the fishermen bringing their catches straight to their dock, something that is no longer happening in other areas.
For the die-hard cooks, go for a ride on a private charter to catch the freshest fish for yourself. Lucky Fleet, chartered by Captain Moe, will take you on this adventure and help guide you in hooking the best seasonable seafood. Moe has been fishing the waters around Key West for over 30 years and knows his way around.
To learn how to prepare the seafood you just caught, take a class at Isle Cook where chefs will teach you how to cook local recipes and healthy meals with seafood.
When visiting Key West, be sure to try fish you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Considered local to Key West are the Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, and as of late the Lion Fish. Another true local specialty is the grouper, which is used to make grouper fritters.
Similar to the conch fritter, the grouper is mixed with onions carrots and a traditional Key West seafood seasoning by Key West Spice Company that is made of celery seed, salt, paprika, and red pepper. It is simple, but fresh grouper doesn’t need an overpowering of flavors. Once the batter is made, fry's the fish balls until golden and enjoy them inside of a sandwich or as an appetizer by the water.
adapted from Chef Menta
1 pound Grouper
1⁄2 cup Onions
1⁄2 cup Carrots
11⁄2 Tablespoons Key West seafood seasoning (see above)
1 Egg yolk
2 Tablespoons Key lime juice
1⁄2 cup Flour
Coconut oil, for frying
Chop grouper. Fine dice, onions, carrots and mix with chopped grouper. Add key west seafood seasoning. Mix all together with 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of key lime juice.
Add 1⁄2 cup of flour until mixture starts to form a batter. Use a spoon to make balls, fry in coconut oil till brown or bake in the oven.
Paul Menta of Three Hands Fish gives us the lowdown on seafood in Key West. A professional chef and community advocate, with long locks and a chill attitude that makes him seem more like a pro kite surfer, which he also is, Paul is the perfect person to talk to about the secret dining spots of Key West. The Philly native began his culinary career in Spain and France and eventually came to Key West to continue his love for competitive kite surfing. An athlete, distiller, chef, and entrepreneur, Paul has made it his mission to tap into all Key West has to offer.