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Just returned from a visit to the area with my family and though I'd report back on some memorable experiences, mostly positive with some exceptions.
We enjoyed some nice take-out Cuban sandwiches and empanadas from Three Palms on Biscayne Blvd.; I had never tried the version with sliced beef and shoestring-style potatoes.
In Key Largo, most excellent was the hogfish prepared at The Fish House in the "matecumbe" style: similar to Pescado a la Veracruzana, with chopped tomatoes and capers. I would have liked to get the seasonal stone crab claws but the price was wild - over $20 for the most diminutive size. Instead, we enjoyed the fried conch, which was more tender than prior versions I have sampled in Caribbean locales. Finding Key West Fisheries closed for New Years day, I returned to Fish House to purchase grouper and shrimp of good quality for grilling at our rental.
We attempted to eat a late lunch at Shipwrecks, but our presence was not acknowledged after waiting for over 15 minutes, as the place was terribly understaffed. Much better service but not great food from Robbie's Marina, where the mahi mahi sandwiches were oversalted and overcooked.
More than fair were the gator kebabs and basket from Gator Grill, which is apparently a meeting point for bands of quad ATV enthusiasts. The gator itself lives up to the expectation that it "tastes like chicken," but the Grill made some effort to liven it up. I saw some tented dirt-floor taquerias in Homestead and Florida City that looked right out of Mexico, and I would probably try one of those if I was in the area again
In Key West, had a passable but not memorable meal at the bistro on the boardwalk that is controlled by the Westin hotel - pretty standard for chain hotel fare in my experience. We could have done better with research, but the selection task fell upon non-CH types with not enough time to work with.
Had a good Peruvian lunch at Pachamamma in Hollywood. The menu was very authentic and reminded me of in-country fare from Peru. Apparently there is some ownership connection to some pollo a la brasa places in Peru. The arroz con mariscos was excellent, and the trilogy ceviche was very fine too, esp. the green preperation (though the portion was small for the $ and there was no yam or potato served with it).
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was our final meal in Miami - takeout from B&M Market. One could be discouraged from the rough appearance of the surroundings of the Market, but the owner and his patrons inside --sipping beers and watching the local news -- were very welcoming and invited us to partake in Dragon Stout as we waited and browsed the aisles of West Indian foodstuffs. The owner was very careful in suggesting a large meal suitable for our group, a mixutre of kids and adults. The results were remarkable - jerk chicken with the unmistakable hit of smoke, succulent curry goat, savory ackee and saltfish, velvet oxtail, served with a fiery scotch bonnet side sauce, rice and peas, cabbage, and large housemade roti. What a treasure!
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