Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cold Front

It rained on and off Saturday morning, with rolling thunder for accompaniment, and scattered sunny intervals to remind us that rain doesn't persist into drizzle on a normal rainy day in the Keys.It was a weather event that marks the transition in the keys from summer to winter, from the hot and humid season to the cool and dry winter. Rainy season is in the summer, and winter rains are usually brief, well defined, and predictable because the downpour precedes the arrival of the cold front from the north. In winter the days are usually sun and warm 80 degrees/30C is warm in winter by most standards. Then before the arrival of a cold front the weather gets muggy and close and everyone walks around sweating and complaining. The winds go to the south, and then the west and then the north-west or north, clocking round till the big black clouds arrive and pound down some rain and wind and blow quickly away.
Then the winds revert to their winter norm of north east first for a few bright sparkling sunny days and then Southeast before the cycle starts again. This is the first well defined cold front of the Fall and pretty soon swimming in the ocean will be an activity reserved to polar bears from Up North as water temperatures will drop to their winter averages well below 80 degrees. A lot of people have been looking forward to this transition thanks to an unusually long hot summer with temperatures well above the norm. Me? I am glad I live someplace where I don't dread the onset of winter anymore, no more long gray drizzly days with mud and lashings of frost. Cool, dry and sparkling sun is quite bearable in the long run. The rain has caused me to reflect on a few things. We went to see Michael Moore's new film when it arrived at the Tropic Cinema Friday night, and as usual I learned a few things and had my prejudices reinforced. My wife told me over dinner about one of her kid's single mothers who lost eight hours of work at her Dion's store and is desperately looking for work to make up the difference and can't find any. Which was one of the themes of Moore's movie, the dictatorship of the workplace, where it's easy to dump workers to keep profits rising. I got out of retail when i discovered that managers are paid in proportion to the profits they make, creating a store that operates in minimal, high stress staffing levels so the boss gets a bonus from the owner. And people rag on me for working for the government.
The designation of US Highway One as an All-American Highway seems like another empty gesture, and it's got the tourism people hopping up and down as though now visitors will notice one an unusual road the Overseas Highway really is. I must say the voices I've heard from Congress demanding a public option in the health care debate seem to be pretty loud this time around so I'm hoping they aren't an empty gesture. I go back to the start of the economic crisis and continue to wonder why Congress didn't spend $12 trillion to pay off every mortgage in the country instead of spending $13 trillion to bail out the banks that are back at their shenanigans again! Especially in light of the platitudes expressed about consumers being the engine of the economy. Oh and, what happened to the notion of regulating these banksters? And I've heard that in Illinois vehicle registrations have gone up $30 a year (they doubled in Florida). Now that is something to cause any red blooded taxpayer to get mad at the government! Don't bother getting mad at the privately run banks and insurance and chemical monopolies and their taxpayer subsidies! It's easier to rag on about the President's birth certificate.

Well, at least I don't have to hock my testicles to buy heating oil this winter.

Bad Boy Burrito

I have lamented previously the absence of California-Mexican food in Key West, and my wife and I tend to have rather tedious conversations from time to time, as old married couples do, about what we miss from our previous life in Santa Cruz, California."Taqueria Vallarta!" she shouts, as predictable as the sunrise in the east. Burritos were a staple of my impecunious youth in California, a flour wrap for gringos containing all the important food groups, beans, rice, lettuce and meat, sour cream and some form of tingling spice. A burrito is comfort food for my wife and I, a memory of our youth. So when Bad Boy Burrito opened it's hole-in-the-wall operation on Simonton Street I needed to go check it out.
It is a totally tubular operation (man), a narrow cave, which is apparently all the space you need to create a burrito. I should point out burritos are a totally gringo invention. If you dare go south of the border to the land that reputedly brought us swine flu, street food consists only of tacos, corn meal discs laid flat and covered with the ingredients selected. The notion that one might take a huge flap of flour tortilla and roll everything inside is purely North American, and what a beautiful invention it is! In Ciudad Juarez where they were invented, apparently, they were just single ingredient tacos rolled up for convenience. To have a babe serving behind the counter is just an added convenience, as it were and it was kind of her to smile for the camera after she got tired of making goofy poses.Bad Boy Burrito to me is an interesting mix of California style in presentation, and Key West Cuban ingredients rather than what one expects in a California burrito. The use of basmati rice is interesting, especially combined with black beans in the classic Cuban moros y cristianos, and because burritos can be anything you want them to be, I'm not saying this is in any way wrong or unappealing. It was entirely new and delicious in a familiar wrap.
Alongside the burritos you get smoothies and salads on offer and everything looks magnificent. Even the art:Everything is made to order as it has to be when you are encouraged to mix and match whatever you want, and hands were flying to fill the order of a Buell rider I met outside the restaurant:
Steve wanted shrimp but the young owner came up and said he didn't yet have any shrimp fresh today, he only had left overs from yesterday and he "wasn't going to put them in a burrito today." Which was a principled stand that impressed me. I ordered with confidence.
The only seating arrangements in Bad Boy Burrito are these stools which overlook the street and First State Bank across the way. Motorcycle parking is out front as there is a conveniently painted yellow curb so one could eat a fresh burrito, read the paper while perched on a stool while still keeping an eye out for passing parking control officers. Multi-tasking at it's most useful.
I secured two steak and sour cream burritos at eight dollars apiece and lofted them back to the dispatch center at the police department. It was my day off but Rachel and I had some catching up to do and we dispatched our food at her work station. Noel, seen in the background fiddling with something, said he wasn't hungry: his loss. This is not a burrito of fond memory that my Radio Station Manager used to bring back from Tacos Moreno when I worked at KUSP-FM in Santa Cruz.
Lance Linares loved those things, al pastor (shepherd's style), dripping grease from the barbecued meat, much more in the Northern Mexican single ingredient style writ large. We the radio staff sat around in silence dripping oil from our chins, imprinting greasy fingerprints on the radio equipment. These burritos are pure 21st century, fresh, bright and perfectly suited to my middle aged revolutionary self. A side of crisp salsa was lurking in the bottom of the bag so I ate it as a relish on it's own, it was too good to pass up:
Our meal totaled out at $16, cash only and I can't wait to get back and try something else. I hope Bad Boy Burrito survives to become a Key West gold plated standard. They have suddenly and single handedly raised the quality of life in a town that still needs a true California-Mexican restaurant. Bad Boy Burrito at 1220 Simonton Street isn't that, but is something all it's own and quite delightful.

Their menu is on-line for all to see:
They have a moped and will deliver.