Traveling to the Florida Keys this summer is on my list of to do’s. I’ve been to Disney World three times and while I love it, I’d like to explore other areas.
I’ve looked into the Florida Keys and Islamorada caught my eye with its picturesque views and boasts of fresh, fabulous seafood. Our family eats mainly salmon and some Tilapia when we can find the wild vs. farm raised option at home. We love lobster and trying other types of fish usually save that for when we travel.
A favorite destination for Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, Key West is known for its palm lined streets and fish that is fresh enough to draw any committed culinary traveler. With a distinct mixture of cultures, the island is not only home to a strong seafood scene, but a tantalizing fusion of cuisines.
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. The southernmost paradise, Key West, is just miles from Cuba and is home to an enviably temperate climate and a delicious array of fresh seafood set to a beautiful backdrop.
Bringing together a multitude of cultures that have made Key West home during its history, Key West’s food scene has delicious flavors, like African and Cuban, that are difficult to find anywhere else in the US.
Paul Menta of Three Hands Fish, a professional chef and community advocate, is the perfect person to talk to about the secret dining spots of Key West.
The Philly native began his culinary career in Spain and France and eventually came to Key West to continue his love for competitive kite surfing. An athlete, distiller, chef, and entrepreneur, Paul has made it his mission to tap into all Key West has to offer.
His most recent venture, Three Hands Fish is a community supported fish market in Key West. Its members, chefs and home-cooks have access to the freshest fish, shrimp, stone crabs, and lobster that come in on the docks.
As Paul describes it, the first hand is the hand of the fisherman, the second the market, and the third is when the fish makes it into the hands of the individual or restaurant.
Paul is proud of his market as it brings local, traceable seafood to the people with plenty of variety to avoid over fishing a specific species.
Key West has seafood unlike anywhere in the world and the crucial ingredient is the water. The Gulf of Mexico mixes with the Atlantic ocean making a perfect nursery for a plethora of fish, crab, and lobster. Not to mention, the fishermen of the region have come together to create a sustainable plan for the future of their industry, naturally controlling over-producing populations that threaten to take over the ecosystem.
I support local and love when I see communities coming together to help each other and their environment.
It’s a win for everyone!
If you’re looking for a place to stay, Paul recommends Ibis Bay Resort, which is home to The Stoned Crab and also has a retro feel. Stop in for fun cocktails and great seafood the restaurant catches themselves.
Head here for stone crab, lobster, Key West shrimp, and more local fish. Be ready for a good time at The Stoned Crab!
Paul makes Grouper Fritters. Fisherman of Key West are able to catch the grouper right off the coast, so this is a true local specialty.
Similar to the conch fritter, the grouper is mixed with onions carrots and a traditional Key West seafood seasoning by Key West Spice Company that is made of celery seed, salt, paprika, and red pepper. It is simple, but fresh grouper doesn’t need an overpowering of flavors.
Once the batter is made, Paul fries the fish balls until golden and enjoys them inside of a sandwich or as an appetizer by the water.
- 1 pound Grouper
- 1/2 cup Onions
- 1/2 cup Carrots
- 1 1/2 tbsp Key West Seafood Seasoning
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 2 tbsp Key Lime Juice
- 1/2 cup Flour
- Coconut Oil (for frying)
- Chop up Grouper, or throw it in your food processor
- Fine dice Onions and Carrots and then mix with Grouper
- Add Key West Seafood Seasoning and mix
- Add Egg Yolk and Key Lime Juice and mix together
- Add Flour until mixture starts to form a batter
- Use a spoon to make balls
- Fry in Coconut Oil until brown, or bake in the oven on sheet tray
- As a sandwich filling instead of an appetizer, make the rounds larger
I personally find it challenging to find fresh fish I like where I live and my girls aren’t big fish eaters so we decided to make a chicken recipe I found on Sayplease.com with a touch of the Florida Key feel. The sauce used in this recipe can be found at Lazy Days restaurant. Stop by and try it if you’re in the area.
I can’t wait to try this with flounder or cod when I make to the Florida Keys!
- Chicken Breasts
- Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 Beaten Egg
- Salt and Pepper
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Garlic Powder
- Oil of choice (I used Coconut Oil)
- 1 Stick butter, sliced into 8 cubes (I used grass-fed Kerry Gold butter…My favorite!)
- 1 Cup chopped green onion
- 2 Tomatoes, Dices (I used cherry tomatoes because that’s what I had on hand)
- 1 Clove Garlic, chopped (I used minced garlic)
- White Wine
- Juice of half lime
- Zest of half lime
- Salt & Pepper
- CHICKEN: Beat egg, flour, and breadcrumbs into separate shallow dishes
- Dip chicken into beaten egg, then flour, then breadcrumbs
- Saute in skillet using coconut or olive oil
- Place cooked chicken into 170 degree oven to keep warm if necessary while making sauce
- SAUCE: Cook lime juice and wine in a heavy small saucepan on low heat until begins to reduce
- Toss cold butter in flour until coated
- On low heat, add the butter, piece by piece, to the reduced wine whisking continually
- Fully incorporate each piece of butter before continuing
- From time to time, remove pan from heat to prevent sauce from over-heating
- To plate
- Add diced tomatoes and chopped onions to the sauce pan
- Stir for one minute and pour on top of the chicken
I received compensation to bring you this information on the Florida Keys and hope it was helpful to you.
Have you visited the Islamorada or the Florida Keys? Let me know what you thought about it!