Category: Reviews

Straight Wharf Restaurant

Straight Wharf Restaurant

Straight Wharf Restaurant

Straight Wharf Restaurant  is one of Nantucket’s absolute gems: an excellent seafood restaurant with four star food and service overlooking the harbor. It is great for special occasions or anytime, considering the prix fixe pricing structure they introduced this spring. For $78, you get the choice of any appetizer and any entrée from their extensive menu.  There are a couple of items with supplemental charges, like their famous clambake, but they are worth it. It is still a terrific bargain. Dessert are extra, but not terribly expensive.

Our service began with a bluefish pate as an amuse-bouche served with excellent crackers

Bluefish pate

followed by some excellent bread and butter.

On this visit we each had to again experience their (shell-less) clambake of lobster, littleneck clams, spicey chorizo, fingerling potatoes (as potato chips) sweet corn (as a delicious emulsion) for a $17 supplemental charge. This is nominally a half-sized portion, offered as an appetizer, but it is still a fantastic (and filling)  dish, as shown in the photo above. This is their signature dish and we’ve had it several times in the past, and it never fails to amaze.

Scallops

For one entrée, we had scallops. Now scallops are usually presented as just sautéed and served with little else. But here, in this outstanding restaurant, the scallops were served on a sunchoke mole`, that is a puree of sunchokes with some unsweetened chocolate added for richness, and served with green beans sugar, snap peas and some more sunchokes, along with a mango and gooseberry salsa and some bits of oranges as well. What a delicious and imaginative presentation.

Salmon with tarragon toum

It’s hard to get decent salmon in restaurants, as it is often dry and overcooked. But this salmon was slo-poached, and incredibly juicy and tender. It was served with a tarragon toum, a sort of tarragon-based mayonnaise, roasted beets, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, fennel, arugula, garden herbs and a preserved lemon vinaigrette. It was outstanding, and our only regret that after that capacious appetizer, we couldn’t finish it all.

Chocolate cherry tart

Finally,  for dessert, we had a delicious warm chocolate-cherry tart. The pudding itself was actually hot, right out of the saucepan, served with a bit of vanilla ice cream, to top it off.

The amazing thing is that including two cocktails and two sodas, our bill, including tax, was only $289. Compare that to some other restaurants and you’ll know what a terrific deal this was. And the service was warm, friendly and attentive.

American Seasons — on Nantucket

American Seasons — on Nantucket

One of Nantucket’s long running restaurants, American Seasons has been serving imaginative meals for some years, and opened this year on May 5. The friendly neighborhood style restaurant is on Centre Street, not far from downtown and a very short walk from the Nantucket Hotel and Resort.

Glasses stored near the tables

Nearly every restaurant on the island has had struggles with their supply chain and finding sufficient staff. But, while the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, the menu was shortened, with just six appetizers (chicken liver parfait, herbed greens salad, roast sea scallops, daily crudo, green bean salad and a duck egg)  and six entrees (roast pork shoulder, Giannone [that’s a brand name] roast chicken, honey roasted halibut, salmon filet, rainbow carrots, and Muscovy duck breast).

Chicken Liver Foie Gras Parfait

Our choice of the Chicken Liver Foie Gras Parfait ($23) with house made vegetable pickles and brioche toast was a real winner. It was smooth, rich and delicious, although we admit we really couldn’t finish it all and still have room for the entrée.

But remember Restaurant Rule 1:

You don’t have to clean your plate! Eat what you want and leave the rest!

Island grown greens

Our other appetizer was Island Grown greens and Herbs ($19) with apple-walnut oil vinaigrette and Pecorino cheese. A lot of it. In fact, all the grated cheese brought back the old joke about “dust my wets,” referring to pasta dishes. The salad was pretty good, though, if a bit less than we expected.

Halibut

Our halibut dish, Honey Roasted Halibut with wild mushrooms and sunchoke puree, topped with a hazelnut crust had better be good, since it cost $50. And indeed, it started out that way, but once we’d managed to eat all the sunchoke puree, it was dry and not all that tasty. So we observed Rule 1.

Roast chicken

Finally, our other entrée was the roast chicken ($44) with mushroom cream, fingerlings, trumpet royals and a sherry vinegar jus.

This brings up Restaurant Rule 2:

Never order chicken in s restaurant. They (usually) have more interesting things than that.

It was not particularly impressive. It was bordering on dry, and really didn’t have a lot of taste. Our bill was $179 including tax, but before tip, and included two $15 gin-and-tonics.

We hope that they polish up their menu, because this Is usually quite a good restaurant.

Stephen Spielberg’s Slum Clearance Story

Stephen Spielberg’s Slum Clearance Story

Stephen Spielberg’s take on West Side Story seems to be about a slum clearance project rather than a modern take on the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. I will assume that you are familiar with the story: this article contains plot spoilers.

I am not sure exactly why Spielberg made this movie other than perhaps to comment on the evils of urban renewal. While he claimed that this was closer to the Broadway production than to the 1961 Robert Wise movie, it really isn’t true. Gone is the ballet sequence and Laurents’ dialog has been replaced by Tony Kushner’s talky speeches which make the movie drag when it should soar. And the destruction of upper West Side tenements was never part of the plot of the script devised by Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein.

Only part of the opening sequence is really choreographed as a dance number, and it eventually devolves into a brutal fight. And the dialog that follows has some pretty cruel lines that seem unnecessary. In the original show, Lieutenant Shrank (Corey Stoll) and Officer Krupke (Brian d’Arcy James) come on for just over a minute and deliver 5 lines about cooperating with them and leave. In this version, Shrank’s nasty comments on the Jets and Sharks go on for about 4:45, and includes this winner:

“By the time you get out, this will be a shiny new neighborhood of rich people. With Puerto Rican doormen to chase trash like you away.”  

Filmed in sets more like a bombed out city than the Upper West Side housing projects it is really depressing to watch and is possibly a major indication of why audiences are staying away from a movie which, though problematic, has real merit in many other scenes.

Kushner also took it on himself to invent backstories that don’t add much of interest. Tony, in Kushner’s version, had spent a year in prison for nearly killing a boy in a gang fight. Just the guy you’d want your sister to marry!

And for no reason, both Bernardo (David Alvarez) and Chino (Josh Andres Rivera) are amateur boxers. While playwright Arthur Laurents described Chino as a sweet-faced young boy, whom Anita and Bernardo want Maria to marry, Kushner piles it on, making Chino not only a boxer, but a student studying accounting and (snort!) “adding machine repair.” Why do we need to know this? It explains why this Chino wears glasses?

You probably have read enough about this movie already to know that the character of Doc, who runs the drugstore where the Jets hang out has been replaced by Valentina, the late Doc’s wife, played by Rita Moreno, who was Anita in the first movie. This gives her a chance to comment on the story from the Puerto Rican point of view as well as advise Tony. It works quite well.

Laurents, in his book Mainly on Directing, praises the economical use of lines as a technique he learned working on radio. He points out that only 2 lines separate Anita’s discovery that Tony had just left Maria’s bedroom and the beginning of the powerful song “A Boy Like That.” Kushner observed that precept in that scene but unfortunately not in many other scenes in this overly long movie.

There is a lot of other parts of this movie that deserve praise: unlike the first movie, all the performers do their own singing, and they are far better actors than in the Wise film. (In his book, Laurents notes that the acting in that movie was terrible.) And further, the Sharks are actually Latinx actors, not white guys and girls painted brown.

Tony and Maria, the star-crossed lovers, are played by 27 year old Ansel Elgort and 20 year old Rachel Zegler, although neither matches Larry Kert or Carol Lawrence in singing ability. Both sing well enough to seem convincing in their roles. Zegler as the rather young Maria clearly has fallen for Tony, but there is only one place where that intense love shows in her singing: in the power duet with Anita (Ariana DeBose), “A Boy Like That,” that to me is the best musical number in the show.

Elgort has a light, pretty tenor voice, but he never really cuts loose with passion either in his singing or his acting. In fact, he is the only actor whose lip synching of his performance during sound recording seems off. This is possibly because he was singing more strongly in the studio than he was on the set, and his mouth movements didn’t quite match his singing. For comparison, here is Aaron Tveit singing Maria with real passion.

Ariana DeBose has received a lot of praise for her acting, dancing and singing, and it is much deserved. “A Boy Like That” is certainly her top number. However, in this duet with Maria, she doesn’t hold on to her notes as long as she should to blend better with Maria. But her performance leading the big dance number “America” is outstanding.

To me the strongest acting by far came from David Alvarez as Bernardo. He communicated a strong, powerful gang leader ready to take on anyone. You can’t take your eyes off him!

Justin Peck’s choreography was certainly different from that of Jerome Robbins, but while the Prologue was rather straightforward, the dancing in the Mambo sequence at the Dance at the Gym was truly thrilling. On the other hand, the Rumble wasn’t ballet. It was just a violent fight with Tony eventually holding Bernardo down and hitting him repeatedly until someone stopped him. This was recapitulating the violence he was imprisoned for and was in terrible taste. Of course, he eventually stabs and kills Bernardo after Bernardo knifes Riff and that would have been more than enough.

The original orchestrations were by Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin, but with Bernstein editing their work so he gets an orchestration credit as well.  Orchestrations for this film were by Doug Besterman, Michael Starobin and Garth Edwin Sunderland. Nearly all of the music sounded like Bernstein’s originals except Tonight. Bernstein marked this number as “Moderate Beguine Tempo” in other words a dance rhythm. Part of that is the repeating Da-da da-Da-da-da-da in the accompaniment. But in the Broadway cast recording, there is also a bass line that is off-the-beat—on-the-beat that is completely missing. This helps move the song along. There were also a few odd orchestral passages in the Prologue that I never heard before.

One of the most powerful numbers in Act I is “Cool,” where Riff and the Jets sing about keeping their tension contained until the forthcoming rumble. But instead, in this version, Tony sings it. Riff has bought a gun from a bartender and the song seems to be about tossing the loaded gun around among themselves. Again, this was nothing envisioned in the original LRB script, and considering that the gun did not need to be cocked to fire, was rather stupid.

Musically, my favorite part of West Side Story has always been the Tonight Quintet, featuring Tony, Maria, Anita, Riff (Mike Faist), Bernardo and the Sharks and Jets.  On stage this can be very effective, grouping them to suit the music. In the film, this is harder to do, and revolving shots between the five groups just doesn’t work as well. The vocal sound, however, was outstanding.

Usually, the Somewhere Ballet is included in WSS productions, where Tony and Maria and a couple of the Jets and Sharks battle out the Rumble again in ballet form, while an offstage soprano sings “There’s a Place for Us.”  It’s a shame that this was lost and giving this song to mezzo Rita Moreno to talk her way through didn’t have the same kind of effect without the ballet. But it was nice to give her this honor.

“Gee, Officer Krupke” was inserted in the first act to give some comic relief but the tragedies hadn’t happened yet. Honestly, this was one of the least funny stagings of this number that I’ve seen.  Needs more vaudeville, I guess.

You may have read that Sondheim hated his lyrics to “I Feel Pretty” and wanted to cut the song, as did Spielberg. But fortunately, Kushner intervened because he felt that the suspense of Maria not knowing that Tony was dead was important. And it is a good thing they didn’t, because this number is a standout in this movie, performed by the women who work nights cleaning Gimbels, including Maria, of course.

The ending is close to the original, where Chino finds Tony and shoots him just as Maria arrives. In the original they sing a bit of “Hold my hand and we’re halfway there,” from Somewhere before Tony dies. I missed that but when both gangs walk off together, it was still extremely effective.

So, overall, a mixed bag. I wish they had lived up to their promise to stay close to the original, since the cast would have done it well.

Newman’s Own Pizzas

Newman’s Own Pizzas

We thought that the Newman’s Own pizzas we say in the grocer’s freezer would be a nice change from our making our own. The pictures, at least, looked enticing. So we picked up a couple of them: Supreme and Harvest Vegetable.

Boxed pizzas

The pizzas come in a box and sealed in plastic as well, on a cardboard disk about 10 ¾   inches. So, the pizzas are about 10 ½ inches each.

Pizzas before baking

You cook them in a 425˚ F oven for 10-12 or 11-13 minutes: the veggie one takes the slightly longer time. You are supposed to remove them from the cardboard disk, but the picture didn’t make that clear, and after we put them in the oven, we discovered that fact in the text, and used our pizza peel to lift them off the cardboard to continue cooking. You are supposed to cook them until the cheese melts and the crust browns a bit. Because of our snafu, this took a bit longer then 12 minutes, but they came out looking pretty nice.

Pizzas just out of the oven

We cut them into 6 pieces each.

While we thought the flavors of both pizzas were quite good, they really were diminutive. The thickness was less than 1/8 inch, except for the occasional pepper or sausage lump. The pepperoni was sliced so thin it only had one side. Surprisingly, the ingredients suggested that this was a yeast dough. It certainly didn’t rise much.

Edge view of Supreme pizza

The package said that a serving was 1/3 of a pizza, or two of the six slices implied in the package picture. That was about 250 calories, which is not going to fill you up very much. Each of the 6 slices weighed about 1.8 oz, meaning that the whole baked pizza weighed about 10 oz. Initially the pizzas we 15.7 or 17 oz meaning that there was at least a 5 oz water loss in baking.  By contrast, the pizza we usually make produces slices of about the same dimensions that weigh about 5 oz each.

Essentially, this was a tasty 2-dimensional pizza, that left us kind of hungry. I guess if we had looked at the grocery receipt and found they were only about $7.50 each, we shouldn’t have been surprised. We did go away hungry, though.

Ten products you can skip –as seen on TV

Ten products you can skip –as seen on TV

Cable news, even when its reporting is sound, is rife with advertising of products you never heard of. And for good reason, advertising is relatively cheap on cable news and anyone can flood the news with “wonderful new products” that probably aren’t that great.

Prevagen does not improve your memory, as explained in this Harvard Health blog. . You have probably seen Prevagen ads everywhere. Targeted particularly at seniors who may experience normal word finding difficulties, the claims may mention “studies,” but not “doctors,” because no doctor recommends. It. Allegedly extracted from jellyfish (apoaequorin) actual studies have shown no significant effect, although by rearranging their data (called p-hacking) Quincy Biosciences has claimed it does. The FDA does not agree as explained in this Science Based Medicine article. The Global Council on Brain Health concludes that  “there is no convincing evidence to recommend daily dietary supplements for brain health in healthy older adults.”

The ASPCA does not help your local animal shelter. Despite their tear-jerking ads, the ASPCA is a New York City organization, and is not an umbrella organization for your local SPCA. Give to your local animal shelter instead. Further the ASPCA has been criticized for euthanizing pets rather than saving them.

Zerowater is a water filtering pitcher which takes about six minutes to filter a quart of water. Consumer Reports rated it Very Good and the competing Britta filter Excellent. It takes only about 1:15 to filter a quart of water. However, the Zerowater seems to removes 98% more contaminants. Unless your tap water has an unpleasant taste or smell, these may not  be that valuable.

Mr Clean Magic Eraser.  These products look like a good idea and have positive reviews, although it is not clear how they improve on a damp paper towel and some SoftScrub.  According to reviews at The Spruce, “Because the eraser works by scrubbing at the surface with tiny but extremely hard threads, you should not use on highly glossy or satin finishes….it is not appropriate for paneling or wood finished surfaces. It will strip away the surface and create damage and the sponge does begin to break down after [several] uses.

Tac Shaver by Bell and Howell. The reviews of this shaver are mixed, but according to this review apparently it didn’t last long and the beard trimmer didn’t do much. The Bell and Howell company you may remember from years back essentially got out of the technology business in the 2000’s and is now just a name owned by Westview Capital Partners.

COQ10 with Turmeric – If you are taking statins, a COQ10 supplement won’t do much of anything more. And turmeric is mostly good in curries.

Flex Seal is one of those As Seen on TV pitches you probably are skeptical of. You should be. It works for some things, but has a cumulative review of 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Yoshi Copper Grill MatIt “sort of works” but can’t be placed over an open flame. You could use it on a gas grill with covered burners, though.

Spin Power – is a multi-outlet charging station for your cordless devices. It does not include any spot for phones that can be charged by induction. It has mixed reviews on Amazon as you might expect from anything from ASOTV.

WATCHMAN – is an implant from Boston Scientific for stroke prevention. It is FDA approved and in wide use, But it was criticized in a handful of studies cited by Dr David Becker from Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology and by Dr John Mandrola of Baptist Medical Associates of Louisville. If you are a candidate for this implant, discuss these objection with your cardiologist. The product has been generally  successful.

Spurtles – I never heard the word outside of the commercials from Lucinda’s Kitchen. They seem to be a set of wooden kitchen utensils made of acacia wood. Lucinda claims these exactly fit pans and jars and are more useful than what you have now. (I seriously doubt that.) You must hand wash them rather than tossing them in the dishwasher. This review calls them low-quality, not durable and having delayed delivery.

We try ‘Freshly’: delivered meals of little distinction

We try ‘Freshly’: delivered meals of little distinction

Freshly has been advertising heavily on TV and the Internet, promising “meals cooked by chefs and sent to you fresh.” The meals aren’t terribly expensive, amounting to $8.99 per meal in small quantities and $7.99 per meal if you commit to 12 per week.

We too advantage of an introductory offer and ordered six meals, figuring that we would order the second six after we’d tried them out.  As you will see, we never got that far.

We placed our order on March 30 for 6 meals: two each of

  • Slow-cooked Pork and Herbed Gravy with Skillet Kale and Roasted Potatoes
  • Steak Peppercorn with Sautéed Carrots and French Green beans
  • Homestyle Chicken with Butternut Mac and Cheese

We got an acknowledgment that they would be delivered on Friday April 3, and they did come late that afternoon, but after our dinner plans had already been decided as homemade pizza.

The meals come packed in an insulated box surrounded by two sheets of frozen gelatinized water-ice. The meals were cold but not frozen and we quickly refrigerated them. Their literature says that they should keep for at least 5 days, or you should freeze them to keep longer. They also noted that we should use them fresh by the Use By dates, which were April 9 and 10. You can heat any of them up in the microwave in around 3 minutes.

Pork

Saturday April 4, we decided to try the Slow-cooked Pork and Herbed Gravy. We supposed there would be real pieces of pork in the dish, but it was for the most part present only in very small granular pieces, like bits of ground beef. These meals are not for hearty appetites, the pork dish was rated at 420 calories, and the portions were small. But we are dealing with the old Catskills joke here: “The food is terrible and such small portions.”

The pork mixture had an unpleasant aftertaste that grew with each bite. We found we had some leftover homemade applesauce in the refrigerator, and by alternating bites of applesauce with the pork mixture, we were able to finish eating it. The Skillet Kale was another story. While there are number of well-known techniques to reduce the strong flavor of kale, they didn’t seem to have used them. It allegedly contained turkey-bacon crumbles but we didn’t notice them. The taste was simply vile. We rated this dish as one of the worst dinners we had ever had.

steak

But we still had two more meals to try. Steak Peppercorn with Sautéed Carrots and French Green Beans seemed innocuous enough, so we had it for dinner on Tuesday April 7, long before the April 10 Use By date. The beef was actually Flat-Iron Steak, but their literature seemed to indicate that they had marinated it in something, so it was fairly tender.

beef cut opneHowever, by the third bite we knew we were in trouble. There was a taste and aftertaste that was so strong it began to make us feel nauseous, and we didn’t finish it. The carrots and beans were no better. My companion asked, “how can they screw up carrots?” They too had a different, unpleasant aftertaste and we ended up tossing both meals in the trash. The steak is supposed to be “topped with a creamy peppercorn sauce,” but we really didn’t detect this at all.

Since we hadn’t had much to eat, we broke out one of the Homestyle Chicken dishes, with Butternut Mac & Cheese. At first, we though this was going to be a winner, but by the third bite, the chicken tasted odd, although reasonably tender, and we couldn’t finish it either. The only thing we can say is that the mac and cheese was OK. But the green beans had the same off taste as the other vegetables, and we couldn’t finish them either. This may have been the “fragrant garlic oil” but we didn’t note any garlic flavor.

chicken

Now, we’ve eaten in lots of restaurants in a lot of places, and there have been a number of misfires in all those meals, but this is the only time we can think of where we really couldn’t finish the meals because they were absolutely terrible.

We immediately canceled our subscription to Freshly and they sent us nice polite acknowledgement. However, they’ve placed a cookie in our web browser’s database that keeps us from browsing their website further unless we renew our membership. This is unprofessional. Fortunately we have other browsers we could use to look up their prices and policies.

We obviously don’t recommend Freshly at all.

 

 

Ziggie and Mad Dog’s steakhouse—Islamorada

Ziggie and Mad Dog’s steakhouse—Islamorada

If you think that a steakhouse called Ziggy and Mad Dogs is not likely to be of interest, you may be partly wrong. According to the history on the menu, the restaurant was founded in 1952 as Ziggy’a Conch by Ziggy Stocki. And in 2005, Jim Mandich, who had played for the Miami Dolphins as “Mad Dog” Mandich purchased the restaurant. He and his partner Randy Kassewitz refurbished it and opened it as a steakhouse called “Ziggy and Mad Dog’s.”

While basically a steakhouse, the menu does include chicken, pork chops, veal chop and some seafood and pasta. The outside of the restaurant maintains the informality of the original, although the inside is somewhat more formal. But with ESPN playing on TVs in every room, it has a bit of a sports bar atmosphere about it, rather than the décor you might associate with charges approaching $200 for two (with tax before tip).

tables

Every few minutes a drop of water would fall on my head, probably from a leaking air conditioner in the ceiling, which I didn’t find endearing. The waiters are pleasant and knowledgeable, but as steakhouses go, we’ve had better for the same price range.

Our two salads: the Mad Dog Wedge and Mixed Baby Green with Goat Cheese (each $12) were good enough but not much better than you might find at Applebee’s. They also bore little resemblance to the photos on their website.

ribeye

Our Cowboy Ribeye ($40) had a crisp burnt crust and served with Bearnaise ($4 extra) was properly served medium rare. But with the crust obscuring the contours, it was difficult to delineate the bone to cut around it. However, the meat we found was juicy and tender.

medallions

The Smothered Medallions ($36) were easier to work with and more tender, as it was a filet mignon with caramelized onions, au poivre sauce and stilton bleu cheese. It was probably the better choice.

onion ringsIn our mind the Garlic Salted Onion Rings ($8) were the best thing on the menu. They were crunchy and dry to the touch and not a bit greasy. We were very impressed.

Our two scoops of gelato brought the bill to $189 before tip including two drinks and two glasses of wine.

Overall, this is a pleasant enough place, but we wouldn’t repeat the experience. There are so many better restaurants in the mid Keys to try.

 

Pierre’s: elegant dining in the Florida Keys

Pierre’s: elegant dining in the Florida Keys

Pierre’s, in Islamorada, is one of the most elegant restaurants in the Keys. Where informality usually reigns, Pierre’s features a more formal atmosphere with excellent French fusion cuisine and highly trained staff.

place settingPierre’s is situated in an old plantation-style house, with a lounge on the first floor and an elegant oak-paneled restaurant on the second floor. An elevator is available just behind the desk where you check in. On warm(er) evening you can also dine on the veranda, where you can also watch the lovely sunsets.

The dinner menu features vegetarian dishes, seafood, beef, chicken and lamb dishes as well as appetizers that include soup, salads, caviar, crudos, ceviche, charcuterie and a cheese board. While not inexpensive, dinner at Pierre’s will probably be the bets dinner you will have on the Florida Keys.

cheese platter

We started by sharing the cheese platter, which included s triple crème, a bleu cheese, and several harder cheeses, unfortunately not identified, fig mostarda, nuts, grapes and crostini. It was plenty for two, and a few bites for four, but everything was a rich and thoughtful selection.

grouper

For entrees, one of us chose the Local Catch Meuniere with Crab. The local catch was grouper, apparently only four hours out of the ocean, served with roasted fingerling potatoes, beurre noisette, haricots verts, Pierre’s garden parsley salad with pickled shallots, bell pepper rings and Meyer Lemon olive oil, and topped with crab. The fish was moist and tender with just a hint of acid from the Meyer lemon.

lobster curry

For our other entrée we ordered the Florida Lobster Curry, served, amusingly, in a coconut shell, over forbidden black rice and braised baby bok choy, all served with a Thai coconut curry sauce. This was certainly one of the most imaginative presentations we’ve ever seen, and the lobster was perfectly cooked without being in any way tough.

For desserts we ordered a traditional chocolate tart, which was chocolatey rich on an excellent crust, and a white chocolate cheesecake, which was both lighter and more flavorful the typical cheesecakes and definitely worth your attention.

Overall, our experience at Pierre’s was outstanding. The waiter and servers were courteous and knew what they were doing. Our only criticism was a long wait for the check.

Beware, however of their dark, unlit black spiral staircase, and take the elevator instead. It is really hard to see the steps. Be sure to ask if you can’t spot the elevator.

dining room

M.E.A.T. – An outstanding burger place in Islamorada

M.E.A.T. – An outstanding burger place in Islamorada

M.E.A.T. Eatery and Taproom has restaurants in Islamorada and Boca Raton. They both features single and double burgers, as well as pulled pork, blackened fish, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and variations like the Cow and Pig Burger. Their hamburgers are called the Nancy Pants, and come in single and doubly variations. And on top of that, all of their delicious fries are cooked in duck fat!

Their taproom features a dozen or more beers on draft, and many more by the bottle. They also offer wines by the glass and bottle.

wings

Among their Fun Foods, suitable for starters are their unusual Chicken Wings: House Smoked and topped with a Honey Chipotle BBQ and Bleu Cheese Crumbles. They were featured on Diners, Dives and Drive-ins, and winner of the Best Sauce in the South Florida Wingfest. They wings are, grilled, not fried and the idea of saucing them and adding bleu cheese crumbles is a great one that I may steal for my own kitchen. You get eight pieces for $13.95. I think we finished six of them! They were really terrific, and fortunately they offer wet-dry wipes and napkins alongside.

We, of course, had to try the Nancy Pant Burger: 5 oz Angus Burger served with Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato & House Fries. One of us got the single and one of us the double. They were juicy and perfectly cooked, and unlike most such sandwiches, they didn’t fall apart in your hand (that much). These are truly great burgers, they were named to the Top 101 Burgers in America several years running.

condimentsIncidentally, the burgers come with several unique condiments: a specialty mango-chipotle ketchup and a caraway/vinegar mustard. The mayo is unchanged and classical ketchup is also provided.

The whole M.E.A.T. experience is fast and courteous, and completely unlike fast food emporia. You can pick up a menu from the bucket when you come in, and sit at any table or at the bar. When you decide what to order, you go to the counter and place it. They give you a receipt and a card to leave on your table so they know where to bring the food. They’ll deliver your drinks and food as soon as they are ready, or in two steps if you order wings as a starter.  Then, you pay on the way out. The food and service are terrific, and we’ll go every time we are in the area. Our bill, with two drinks was only $52, about one third of our Chef Michael’s bill. What a great place!

facade

 

 

 

Chef Michael’s in Islamorada

Chef Michael’s in Islamorada

If you look at lists of the top restaurants in the Florida Keys, Chef Michael’s always comes out near the top. Their sign features the hogfish, a local mild-tasting fish that can be prepared any number of ways. And they do.

outsideDespite the unprepossessing façade, Chef Michael’s is a fine restaurant with excellent food and a knowledgeable staff. Since our hotel was close by, we walked over about 5:45 only to find the place already very busy. They were able to get us one table, but take our advice, and make a reservation. People come from all over the Keys to eat there.

Their menu includes seafood as well as meat and poultry. Interestingly, while the actual fish they serve change daily, they offer the same preparations:

  • Pontchartrain – lightly blackened then topped with crawfish & shrimp in a piquant Creole cream
  • Ambassador —sautéed w/ crabmeat, shiitake’s, capers & key lime butter
  • Adriatic — grilled, then napped w/ our olive oil & herb concoction
  • Juliette — seared w/ shrimp, scallops, chardonnay butter & toasted almonds
  • Mixed Nuts —pistachio, cashew & macadamiacrusted, served w/ our “nearly famous” mango sauce 

as well as Grilled, Sauteed, Fried or Blackened.

For appetizers, we chose the Conch and Crawfish Fritters and the Bahamian Conch Chowder. The chowder was rich, spicy and filling, but we ate every bit. The conch fritters were excellent: mildly spicy and crispy and a remoulade dipping sauce.

Since hogfish was on the menu that night, we ordered Hogfish Pontchartrain, and while it looked at first like a small portion, it was incredibly delicious and very filling, especially with the crawfish and shrimp on top. The Creole cream went well with the fish and with the accompanying rice.

hogfish

We also ordered the Seafood Pasta, Shrimp, Scallops & Lobster, Oven Roasted Tomato & Basil Cream, which was a huge portion that might feed two or three people. But every bit of it was delightful, and way above what you normally get in seafood pasta dishes.   

pasta

Chef Michael’s is the kind of place where the waiters are really knowledgeable and happy to help you choose your food and wine. Our waiter also made it a point to stop by several times to make sure that we were pleased with everything. We were.

We have to admit we skipped desserts, but they appear to be house-made, and the Salted Caramel Cheesecake Brûlée and the Chocolate Toffee Mousse Cake both sounded terrific.

Chef Michael’s is not to be missed if you are visiting Islamorada, or the Keys in general.