To Florida and back – adventures in sunshine, seafood and decadent desserts

May 9, 2015

 

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow” ~Anita Desai~

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Returning home from vacation is always a bittersweet feeling. I’m writing this on the plane as my husband and I wing our way home to Phoenix after visiting Miami for a few days. Florida was like a whole other world to me – going from dry to humid, cactuses to palm trees, towering mountains to clear ocean waters. I explored and ate and slept well each night, knowing I could wake up with no alarm and no household chores waiting for me. But it’s the end of the trip now, and I’m ready to return to my regular routine. I can’t wait to sink into my own bed again, or get back to work in my own kitchen.

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I have wanted to visit Miami for as long as I can remember; even before I moved to the U.S. for school. I actually applied to culinary school there and was accepted, but reluctantly agreed to get transferred to Rhode Island when my wise mother suggested I would spend more time at the beach than in the kitchen if I went to Florida. But now that I was finally in Florida, I couldn’t wait to drink in all the sights, smells and tastes. I couldn’t be bothered lugging my camera – there was too much to experience, so most of these photos are shot with my phone.

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Driving through the keys to Key West was an intimidating experience. The water is so close. I couldn’t help but wonder how we’d get back to land if it just crept over the islands. The food in the keys was a decadent blend of Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisine, and I savoured the freshly caught seafood every chance I got. We ate our first Florida dinner at DJ’s Clam Shack (of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives fame) and the flavorful fish tacos and delicious lobster roll did not disappoint. Bellies full, we wandered Duval Street, admiring the lights and architecture until we were too tired to continue.

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Our second day of holidays started with an ocean-side drive that led us to a quaint French cafe and creperie. There is no better way to start your day than with cappuccino and freshly made goat cheese ratatouille crepes. I savoured island life, admiring sway palms and coconut trees and watching the locals whiz by on scooters.

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My seafood horizons were expanded on our third day as I experienced properly fresh raw oysters for the first time, and tasted conch, which I had never even heard of before. The waitress explained it was a type of snail that lives in those large, beautiful shells dotting the beaches. Delicious. From there, we made our way back up to Miami, enjoying the sunshine and stopping at tiny shops and eateries dotting the keys along the way.

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Our final night in Florida, we treated ourselves to dinner and dessert at Torotoro. The food was delicious, the staff were attentive and the atmosphere was perfect, but the crowning jewel of the evening was my dessert. I ordered the ‘A la Bomba’ and I have never been more impressed with a restaurant dessert anywhere. The rich dark chocolate sphere, tres leches and strawberry ice cream, delicate almond cookie crumbs, light cream cheese mousse topped with fresh berries and vanilla, caramel and berry sauces – the combination of flavours and textures was utterly perfect.

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And now I’m back where I started, writing to you as we soar back across the country to Phoenix. I’m refreshed from my travels, happy to have finally experienced all the wonderful sights and tastes of Florida, and ready to get back to my kitchen. I will miss fresh seafood and long walks on the beach, but I’m ready for my journey to continue.

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