travel

Key Largo – The Florida Keys

March 31, 2016 1 Comment

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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.

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 🙂

A Big Place of Heaven: Whole Foods Market – London

June 22, 2014 3 Comments

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I don’t remember when I heard about Whole Foods Market for the first time but it was a while ago. I knew I had to visit at least one store as soon as I can. This waited until June, 2014 when I traveled to London to Food Blogger Connect conference. To make the story short I visited a few stores in London and of course my favorite one was the Kensington High Street one.

At 80,000 square feet, the Kensington home is the largest of the 5 London shops, indeed the largest in the world, which means that they can offer you more of the things that you love. Features within their foodie heaven: coffee and juice bar; in-house restaurant venues including pizza & calzones, wok station, texas BBQ, burritos, & tacos with vegetarian and vegan options; omlette station with your choice of veggies and cheeses; made in-store pastries, breads, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and sweet bars; 3 salad bars, one hot bar and one soup bar with hundreds of meal choices; all-natural and organic produce; etc.

If you are in London, please do not miss this place! 🙂

Photo heavy post!!!

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Whole Foods Market – Kensington
63-97 Kensington High Street
The Barkers Building
London
W8 5SE
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/kensington

Monday to Saturday 8am to 10pm (restaurants close 30 minutes before store closes)
Sunday in-store browsing from 11am; sales 12 noon to 6pm; restaurants open 10am to 5:30pm

Spring In Paris, Part 1

January 28, 2012 5 Comments
I. and I visited Paris, the capital of romance last Spring. It was our third time there but the city always seduce us whenever we go back. Seeing the Eiffel Tower live, my eyes fill with tears. It is so beautiful especially if the weather is nice and sunny.
And nearly one year later what I remember of Paris? Croissant, croissant, baguette, cheese, picnic in the park, lots of walking, market, wow this Eiffel Tower is huge, coffee latte, a nice glass of red wine, croissant, metro, macaron, chocolate, croissant, baguette, jam, butter, metro, pain au chocolat, petit coffee, lots of walking, Eiffel Tower again, market, metro, macaron and… everything again. Now that I wrote down all these I would love to go back to Paris… now!
Cheese heaven at Rue Montorgueil Market
Great breakfast place and bakery, Le Pain Quotidien on Rue Montorgueil

 

 

Beautiful pink cherry blossom in Paris
Place du Tertre, Montmartre – I would love to sit here now watching people passing by, eat a big bowl of salad with French dressing, a big portion of fries, baguette with creamy butter and drink a nice glass of white wine and a bottle of Perrier…

More to come… Stay tuned!

 

Koya – Udon Noodle Bar – London

November 4, 2011 0 Comments

I love noodle soup. So when I read about Koya in Gwyneth Paltrow’s newsletter, the GOOP, I knew I had to go there. I was happy that my foodie friends, Sarka and Giulia were also keen on trying this place.

Once you step through the navy doorway curtain of this very plain-looking specialist, it’s noodles with everything. This is thick, white udon, made with wheat flour imported from Japan, then kneaded by foot (in a good, hygienic way) for extra chewiness.

Customers can vary how they have their noodles: according to temperature: hot udon with hot broth (dashi), cold with hot broth, or cold with cold dipping sauce; and topping from various meats to mushrooms with walnut miso. Staff seem happy to advise.
We got there by lunch time and the place was very busy packed with Japanese people. That was one good sign we went to the right place. Tap water was placed on the table immediately as we sat down, which is always nice. The menu is simple and there are always specials on the blackboard.

We ordered three small-plate starters/salads to share, then everyone had their own noodle soup. All of us ordered hot  udon with hot broth. I asked for vegetarian broth and it wasn’t a problem.

The fresh noodles were amazing: slippery and chewy. Yum! I loved my toppings too: fried tofu with fresh spring onion.

They are open everyday from 12:00 – 15:00 and 17:30 – 22:30 (Sunday to 22:00). Koya focuses on the friendly characteristic of udon and proposes various recipes, delicious to both Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

My advice would be to go and sit down at the counter and watch the team in action and if you have opportunity speak to the chef.

Koya believes their genuine and honest attitude will establish an eatery to be loved by all. I believe it too!

Koya
49 Frith Street, Soho
London
W1D 4SQ
www.koya.co.uk

Closest tube station: Tottenham Court Road tube
Telephone: +44 20 7434 4463
Twitter: @KoyaUdon
Main courses:£6.70 – £14.70