Key Largo – The Florida Keys

March 31, 2016 0 Comments

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This post is sponsored by the Florida Keys & Key West.

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The Florida Keys is home to five districts, each with their own personality and attractions that make visitors feel like they are a world away.


Growing up around fish, Chef Bobby Stoky quickly learned how to do it all, from catching to cleaning and even cooking them. In the summers he would dive for lobster and in the winter his family would set up nets to catch shrimp that they would then sell from a stand to locals and visitors of Key Largo. In 1982, his parents became the owners of Señor Frijoles Mexican Restaurant and so started Bobby’s path to becoming a chef. Bobby’s family moved to Key Largo in the seventies because they loved to fish and his father became a charter boat captain. A resident of the district for over 35 years, he is sure to be an expert in all that must be done in the area. And today, he is our guide to all things that must be seen and devoured in Key Largo. Chef Bobby gives us the lowdown on what he would do on a day off in Key Largo.

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The northernmost district of The Florida Keys, Key Largo, is home to tropical views and beautiful botanicals. The site of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo is a true outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Because of where it is located, any visitor to Key Largo must spend a considerable amount of time in the clear waters. Bobby suggests paddle boarding in the picturesque Everglades National Park or diving off the coast. Head out on a charter boat and go fishing with the pros. Then you can say you caught your own dinner!

Key Largo’s beautiful scenery has made it the ideal location to shoot a multitude of movies, and it hosts Humphrey Bogart’s Film Festival every year. For movie buffs and avid fishers, Key Largo is also a perfect destination for food travelers looking for the lowdown on fresh seafood and Key Lime Pie.

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The Stoky family went on to open other restaurants and today Chef Bobby runs the kitchens of eight different legendary restaurants in Miami and The Florida Keys. One of his most popular locations, Sundowners, sits right on the Florida Bay in Key Largo and offers guests a beautiful view of the sunset with a tropical cocktail in hand and a plate of fresh Florida Keys seafood. Chef Bobby even wrote a book that is a great reference for the cuisine of The Florida Keys called, Recipes and Tall Tales from Legendary Restaurants of the Florida Keys.

Head to Key Largo to stay in a magical­feeling an underwater hotel, or to scuba past schools of fish and submerged statues. Bobby recommends travelers looking for adventure stay in Jules Underseas Lodge. Submerged underwater, it is a truly stunning stay. Instead, if you are hoping to spend your time in the water rather than simply under it, consider Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort. And finally, for couples who need a romantic getaway, book a stay at Key Largo’s Kona Kai. Beachfront bungalows offer the perfect amount of privacy in close proximity to the beach.

So what kinds of fruits and flavors can one find when they travel to Key Largo? Bobby could give us quite of list of food to be sure to try, but these are some of his favorites. The Keys are famous for their fresh yellowtail snapper and stone crabs. In his own restaurants, Chef Bobby especially loves to cook yellowtail snapper, right off the fishing boat, encrusted in onion and served with mango salsa. And on a hot day, he opts for something lighter like a grilled mahi mahi. Native to the area, the Florida Keys spiny lobster looks similar to the common lobster we are more familiar with, but the spiny lobster’s antennas are larger and thick. From November to June, have a bite of Key West’s Pink Shrimp. The bright crustaceans have a uniquely sweet taste that is easy to fall in love with. Fresh fish must be made with fresh flavors, and Bobby admits that visitors will find plenty of tropical fruits in dishes, like the Key lime, mangos, pineapples, starfruit, or dragon fruit.

“I often comment that farm to table is not a new phenomenon in the Keys –it has been part of our fishing history..fresh fish from the ocean to your table every night…that’s what the Florida Keys are famous for.”

Also known as the Conch Republic, the restaurant menus of Keys Largo are loaded with dishes containing conch. Over the years, the locals have even come to be called Conchs. Although fishing restrictions off the coasts for conch are quite strict today to prevent over fishing, the seafood is still a well loved tradition, even if that means bringing conch in from the Bahamas to keep the dishes alive. From conch chowder to conch fritters, conch salad, conch encrusted yellowtail snapper, and even conch eggs benedict, you can find just about anything with conch in Key Largo. Chef Bobby’s favorite way to eat conch is called cracked conch. Originating in the Caribbean, when done correctly, cracked conch is battered, fried and tastes sweet and tender. Bobby likes to serve the fried seafood with a tangy cocktail sauce or wasabi aioli. Head to Sundowners, Market 88, or Buzzards Roost in North Key Largo to try a rendition of Chef Bobby’s favorite cracked conch.

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Before diving into a plate of Key Largo seafood, how about diving down below to see where the fish comes from? As a diver, Chef Bobby has grown up with the stunning reefs of the Florida Keys. His favorite spot to dive or snorkel is in north Key Largo off of Horseshoe Reef. There is so much marine life to be seen on the reefs of Key Largo, so when you come to the area, be sure to dive in and get a closer look.

For an above the water experience, take a nature tour by way of kayaks through one of the mangrove channels that line the islands. From a boat you can see colorful fish, impressive manatee, and an array of birds. Keep your eyes open, sometimes you will even see bottlenose dolphins or turtles.

If you are heading out for a dive or a kayak adventure, start your day with a Key Largo breakfast. Chef Bobby likes to go to the Key Largo Conch House for a Key West shrimp, conch, crab or lobster benedict. Another favorite among the locals is The Hideout Restaurant. This hole­in­the­wall eatery serves a fish and grits breakfast, a dish that was once the traditional morning meal of the Conchs. Don’t forget dessert! In all of the Keys, the local restaurants are fanatical about serving the best Key Lime pie and so visitors will find many different versions of the traditional sweet. At Chef Bobby’s Sundowners restaurant, they serve the pie piled high with meringue, the traditional topping. From frozen key lime pie to chiffon­style or a custard pie that is the original, there are so many different variations. Bobby’s favorite pie, besides the one he makes in his restaurants, can be found at Key Largo Fisheries Bayside Café. Not too sweet, nice and tart, and served plain without meringue, this pie is a classic and can even be shipped around the country.

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A great feature of Key Largo for any culinary traveler is its lack of chain restaurants. Chef Bobby proudly admits that most of the restaurants found in the district are owned and operated by locals who are committed to serving great food. Besides one of his own restaurants, Bobby loves to take visitors to Key Largo Fisheries Backyard Café for lunch. Sit at a table on the deck overlooking one of Key Largo’s remaining commercial fishing fleets while dining on fresh Florida Keys Lobster, yellowtail snapper, Key West pink shrimp, and fresh stone crabs. Chef Bobby’s favorite is the lobster croissant BLT!

One of Chef Bobby’s all­time favorite recipes is this yellowtail snapper. The onion crust is in this dish is also great on shrimp, scallops, lobster, or chicken, but Key Largo yellowtail is amazing.

Vegan green vanilla protein smoothie

February 6, 2016 0 Comments

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We tried something new in our breakfast smoothie. We added pea protein to it to make it more nutritional. Pea protein is a natural vegetable based protein which offers a comprehensive nutritional and amino acid profile. It has over 23g of protein per serving which will contribute to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. It’s also low in fat.

Cashew butter is also great tasting and natural source of healthy protein. Cashew butter is loaded with phosphorus, copper, iron and magnesium, which all present wonderful health benefits both independently and in combined various kinds of food. Cashew butter also contains half less sugar than peanut butter and significantly less additives.

Vegan green vanilla protein smoothie

Ingredients (serves 3)

– 2 ripe bananas, peeled
– 2 cups hazelnut milk (any other non-dairy milk can be used)
– 4 tablespoons cashew butter
– 2 tablespoons pea protein powder
– 2 tablespoons flax seeds
– 1 tablespoon lucuma powder
– 1 small handful kale, leaves removed and torn into small pieces (spinach and Swiss chard can be used too)
– 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded

Method

Place all ingredients in the blender and process for 5 minutes, until smooth. If you find it too thick, add more hazelnut milk.

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Raw Vegan Orange Date Truffles

January 10, 2015 9 Comments

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Was your New Year’s resolution to get healthier? I know it’s not easy to stick to new goals when you’re balancing work and family life. But still, there’s hope.

Stick at least with one, for example to eat healthier snacks or desserts. These orange date truffles are not only delicious, they are full of protein. Hemp seeds (or powder) provide a rich source of gluten-free protein loaded with essential fatty acids and fiber. In addition, hemp seeds contains vitamins such as C, E, B1, B2 and carotene, which are in a fat soluble digestible form and trace minerals such as phosphorous, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The protein in walnuts provides many essential amino acids. Also the form of vitamin E found in walnuts is somewhat unusual, and particularly beneficial.

This is the way Adam eats these truffles: he never eats a whole one, he prefers to have small bites from each. :)

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Raw Vegan Orange Date Truffles

Ingredients (makes 20-25 pieces)

– 1 cup walnut
– 1 cup almond
– 18-20 pieces dates, pitted
– zest of 1 orange and juice of 1/2 orange
– 2-3 drops Lecker’s orange oil (optional)
– 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
– 2 tablespoons hemp protein powder
– pinch of salt

Method

In a food processor pulse the walnut and almond until the consistency becomes flour. Add dates and all the other ingredients to the food processor and run until smooth.

Form little balls with your hands. Eat them straight or keep them in a box in cool place (or refrigerator).

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The small bowls were made by me at Apacuka Ceramics Workshop.

Beet-Potato Two Colored Gnocchi

November 19, 2014 2 Comments

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Thanks to Fiji Water to sponsor this partner post about “Perfection Takes Time”. All the opinions written in this post are my own.

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It takes a lot of time to make the perfect gnocchi… at least for me. Especially if the cute, little gnocchis are two colored: red from the beet and yellow from the potato. Aren’t they beautiful?

When I was thinking what to “create” for this campaign, gnocchi came to my mind. Whenever I make gnocchi, it takes a lot of relaxing time, persistence and patience to roll the dough into the perfect “ropes” on a lightly floured surface. I think a dish that takes time to make, deserves a simple serving… I tossed these two colored little potato pillows with extra virgin olive oil and topped with shaved Pecorino, a pinch of freshly grated black pepper and you are in heaven.

On a Saturday or Sunday morning if the weather is gloomy and cloudy, go to the kitchen and make these delicate, light gnocchi. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy… but the end result… oh my, yum!

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Fiji Water trickles down through the layers of volcanic rock over time and gathers minerals and electrolytes along the way that create Fiji’s soft smooth taste – slow cooking and baking often brings out the most amazing flavors and scents of almost any ingredient. This process is what the “Perfection Takes Time” campaign is all about. The fact that sometimes, slower is better.

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I learnt this recipe from a Hungarian chef, Viktor Segal who I tested a recipe for his first cookbook for.

Get this and many other “Perfection Takes Time” recipes here or visit Fiji Water’s homepage.

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Visiting A Hungarian Organic Farm

September 17, 2014 3 Comments

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Salanova lettuce

I met the Heroes of Responsible Dining at spring time. They are a group of four friends and a couple of volunteers who believe that saving the environment can be fun! With the Heroes of Responsible Dining initiative they aim to promote responsible choices when eating out or at home. The campaign is organized by the Hungarian non-profit organization Ökológiai Evolúció Alapítvány.

They started a new campaing a few weeks ago about getting to know more and shaking hands with your farmer. Knowing your farmer isn’t about distance, it’s about relationships. Talk to them at the local farmers market, ask them about the vegetables and fruits – where they are from and how they are grown/produced. This is a great way to find out their growing practices and policies.

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Thanks to this campaing I had the opportunity to visit one of my favourite organic farmers, Mátyás Nemes and his family in Fülöpjakab. Hungary. It was educational and so much fun for me and I really feel like I get so much out of meeting my favourite farmer and visiting his farm. On the farm horticultural activities are carried out all the year round, by applying the methods of vegetative growing in green-houses of foil with minimum heating, and cold forcing of the plants in green-houses of foil. Hardy plants are grown on the fields from early spring to late autumn. Some 70-80 plant varieties are produced in a year, mostly for sale on the market of organic products.

Know your farmer, know your food!

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Mangalica breeding at a nearby farm (mangalica is an indigenous species of pig in Hungary)

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Ganoderma lucidum mushroom at a nearby farm

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Purple Salanova lettuce (my favourite)

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More lettuces…

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Kale heaven!

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Baking bread was the high point of the visit!

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Vegetarian Hungarian bean goulash

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The boss :)