Another Fun Place to Eat…..

Dining outside at the Conch House in Key Largo

Dining outside at the Conch House in Key Largo

With Spring Break time upon us, there is always the question of where to eat in Key Largo. As a tourist town, most restaurants have to be good to survive beyond the first year. Serving good food is not the only requirement of course since several other issues also determine whether a place can stay in business or not.

The Conch House in Key Largo is one of the smaller restaurants that does not have a waterview and have therefore carved out a spot that features a lovely garden setting. In fact, if you don’t know where they are at MM 100.2, Ocean Side, you won’t see them from the road. It is in an old Conch-style frame house tucked behind large trees and plants, the front view of the place virtually screened from traffic. While there are tables inside, on the porch and out on the terrace is where the primary seating is located. The food is fresh and they feature salads, sandwiches, and wraps, although they have started serving dinner as well. We haven’t tried them in the evening so I can only speak for lunch. It is also the place that introduced us to Monk in the Trunk, an excellent craft beer.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of their claims to fame which is being featured on an episode of the television show, “Man v. Food”. Conch fritters are a speciality and the star of the show came a few years ago I think it was for some sort of timed challenge, but I don’t know all the details. Like most restaurants in Key Largo, this is not a place to expect to be in and out quickly. It is, however, a lovely setting with good food and a friendly staff.


The African Queen Restored…….

Distant look at the restored "African Queen" that gives tours in Key Largo.

Distant look at the restored “African Queen” that gives tours in Key Largo.

Well, to be honest, the “African Queen” is not my favorite Bogart or Hepburn movie, but it is definitely a classic. And while Key Largo is more well-known for “Key Largo” having been filmed here, the connection with the boat from the African Queen is an interesting one. When we first relocated into the are, “The Queen” was available for some tours, but that ceased before we had the opportunity to go on one. Then she was on display for a while without being able to take tours, and that, too, sadly stopped. I always personally hate to see something iconic fall by the wayside and so I felt a bit of a pang to hear the news, and then didn’t think much more about it.

I don’t actually recall when I heard that someone had, in fact, stepped in and felt so strongly about the “African Queen” that she was to be restored to once again take to the waters around Key Largo. Now, there can be a little confusion because in the lapse of time, one of the local glass-bottom boat operations used the term “African Queen”, but the correct web site to go to is: The story of how it all came about is of course fascinating and the types of tours they do are even better than before.

What brought all of this to mind was not that we’ve managed to take a tour yet, but “The Queen” comes past Horizon Divers as she chugs out the canal to get to the ocean.and we’ve seen her several times. My husband snapped a photo the other day as the dive boat was coming back for the day. It’s difficult to see the boat in this picture, but their web site has some really nice shots.

Since we’re on the subject of Key Largo and Bogart movies, a quick word about the Caribbean Club. The big sign about the movie being filmed there is hard to miss and you can indeed walk the same ground as did Bogart, Bacall, Robinson, Huston, etc., The Caribbean Club is a bar though, not a restaurant, and it is one of the more colorful late night spots in the area. I usually swing in there for one drink when we have company that asks to see the place. You can sit at one of the tables in the back overlooking the Bay and sip your beer, rum, whatever, and imagine what it was like in 1947 as they were filming. (Well, the movie was released in 1948, so maybe they filmed it that same year.)


Another Easy Recipe: Hamburger Chowder……

Well, technically it isn’t chowder since it doesn’t have potatoes, although you could put them in if you wanted to. There are several good things about this dish other than being tasty. It can cook in as little as 30 minutes, you can do the chopping beforehand if you want to and simply pop the chopped vegetables in the refrigerator, it can be made lean and low-fat, it includes a serving of vegetables, it freezes well, and I suspect it can be prepared in a slow cooker, although we’ve never tried that. As with many of the dishes we cook, you can spice it up if you’d like with dried peppers, although we tend to use only a little red pepper in this one. We do use the leanest type of meat we can find, but that’s a personal preference.

Ingredients are: 1-1.5 pounds of ground beef (or substitute ground turkey or chicken); 1 can tomatoes; 1 can sweet corn, 1 can cream style corn; 1 can cream soup (onion, celery, mushroom – your choice); 1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped; 1 rib of celery, chopped;  salt and pepper to taste; 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil for browning meat. Optional seasonings – 1/2 teaspoon each red pepper flakes;dried oregano, rosemary, and basil. Optional vegetable – 1/2 green, yellow, or red pepper, chopped.

Brown the meat in a 3-4 quart dutch oven or similar pot. Remove the meat, cook the vegetables for 3-5 minutes, until soft. Add browned meat and all other ingredients. Stir throughly and cook over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Stir again. Cover and look on low for 30 minutes or up to an hour if you have time. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on the liquid. The consistency you are looking for will be a thick soup, so you might need to add a little beef or chicken broth as it cooks.

This is another dish that we serve with crusty bread and a big salad on the side. We usually drink beer with it, although it pairs well with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Beaujolais, Malbec, or Pinot Noir, too.


Chilly and Chili……

A team in the previous Homestead Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-off and Outhouse Race.

A team in the previous Homestead Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-off and Outhouse Race.

Yes, those in cold climates are welcome to start chuckling whenever you wish as we fuss about temperatures plummeting into the low sixties. The cold front that wreaked havoc to the north is blowing in and while definitely milder than what it was, is bringing us lowered temperatures, wind, and apparently rain tomorrow. With our usually sunny, warm weather, all winter long we have many different festivals and events planned for each weekend and today is no exception. There are at least six here or in the nearby area. One of them is the 19th Annual Chili Cook-off and Outhouse Race which I realize is not your usual combination. It’s sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and as you can imagine, this is not on the  professional competition circuit. It is a local one though with plaques going to both the chili and outhouse race winner and placers. The outhouses, by the way, have to be pushed as a means of conveyance. Teams can be really creative with some of their design and construction. It’s basically the same as a “bed race” for a frame of reference. The origin of “outhouse” versus “bed” is a bit muddled though.

Anyway, this year there is also a business expo and I’m going to have a booth as much to promote the March 13th Book-give-away and the pending release of Small Town Lies as to try and sell books. After all, this is not the sort of event that people attend thinking, “Gee, maybe there will be some good books to buy today.” With the high temperature of only 70, that means you’ll find us bundled in sweaters and jackets for at least the morning. Since it is outside all day long, we are now also the owners of a 10 x 10 canopy that allegedly will go up with no assembly and no tools. My husband, wonderfully supportive as always, will no doubt bring his tool box, and a roll of duct tape, however, to be on the safe side.

So, have a wonderful weekend whatever it is that you have planned, and if you’re in the Homestead area, come on down to Harris Field for the Chili Cook-off and Outhouse Race.

Chili Competitors (Images from Chamber of Commerce.)

Chili Competitors (Images from Chamber of Commerce.)