Sunday, May 16, 2010

Eating Up The Mainland

A trip to the mainland is an opportunity to eat something different. It's not as though we are restricted to a diet of worms and bivalves, at least most of us who live in the keys aren't......but the wife and I like the opportunity to get some road food under our belts when we wander far from home. Cheyenne has a well developed desire to see distant places, which I expect is a product of too many years trapped in a yard, tried to a chain and producing litters of valuable Labrador puppies. We checked out the back of Bob's Bunz in Islamorada (a town that calls itself, rather pompously, "Village of Islands"):My wife told me to look for somewhere to eat breakfast in the Upper Keys, so the night before we left I got busy at work and rounded up this place, which garners rave reviews in TripAdvisor.It lies about a quarter mile north of World Wide Sportsman, a dreadfully boring place that sells fishing tackle and fishing "lifestyle" stuff. It is a well known landmark in Islamorada ("Village of Islands") the fishing capital of somewhere, the Florida Keys they say. Luckily the wife took charge of seating arrangements while I walked Cheyenne, for by the time we got back and the dog was watered and secure in the car a line was forming.
Bob's Bunz used to be known as something else and the old bakery sign still flies above the highway. I found my wife jealously guarding a table and a cup of coffee was waiting, alongside the largest basket of dairy creamers I have ever seen.One reason I was attracted to Bobs Bunz was the fish breakfast offered, as seen below. My wife had eggs benedict on muffins and a cheerful waitress kept the coffee coming.
Bob is a pastry chef by trade and a large part of the business is selling baked goods. We were advised to order our pastries first as his cinnamon rolls sell out early and we ate breakfast while jealously guarding our little cardboard box. I am quite partial to orange flavored pastry and these bizarre "muffin tops" were quite delicious, even without the body of a muffin underneath:They were somewhat sponge-like resembling thick cookies but crispier than a sponge cake and quite excellent. Mango turnovers? What's not to like?
The worst thing about the restaurant is the tedious theme of Bob's buttocks, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, a sort of parlor game play on words that I found rather tiresome. The food at Bob's Bunz (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more) is worth a second visit. Maybe a third too.

Key West has some excellent eating out but ethnic varieties are in somewhat short supply. Which explains why we frequently get Mexican in Homestead or Indian wherever we can. Vietnamese is something we miss also, especially as we used to live near San Jose, California, home to a vast Vietnamese expatriate community.
Green Papaya in Miami Lakes helped fill the void. I wanted pho, the traditional broth and noodle soup but it was just too hot of a day so we settled on pork with noodles and a pork chop. We usually indulge in a cup of Vietnamese coffee, brewed at your table with a drip filter that drops coffee into a glass of evaporated milk.
On this occasion we went simple though I did order a helping of Mama's Pudding a starchy not-too-sweet concoction of tapioca and yucca that I enjoyed thoroughly (so much so I forgot the camera) and which my wife thought belonged in an English boarding school menu. She put her spoon down and wrinkled her nose as I chased the last scraps round the bowl. Cheyenne is a creature of habit and because it was getting dark it was long past her dinner time, so I whipped out the bowls and got busy after her last walk of the day.For dinner we bought the makings of a picnic, bread salami cheese and Pinot Noir and had dinner al fresco outside Denise's beach house in Briny Breezes. Denise herself was on vacation in Ecuador so we had the house to ourselves. We were stuffed after twelve short hours on the road.
My wife watches the Food Channel when she works out at Pirate Wellness Center on Cudjoe Key. And, because we have no television reception at home she goes on line and downloads recipes and addresses of places she wants to visit. It turns out a highly desirable Jewish deli is in Boynton Beach. Actually it is located in a nondescript strip mall seven miles inland from the ocean:
Luckily for us she had the address stored in her iPhone and we had no trouble locating the deli:American Jews of a certain generation are, in some fashion I cannot quite explain, easily identifiable. For my wife every visit to a Jewish cultural institution, be it a cemetery or a deli is a reminder that she is not alone in a Gentile dominated world. We would have been lucky to be alone. The place was absolutely packed.
It didn't take long and soon we were passed the owner who entertained the waiting line of customers with his own line of patter ("Move forward please. I don't want anyone walking by to think that we are too busy."). At our table we got coffee and, unasked for, coffee cake to eat while we struggled with the million item menu.
My wife settled on an acre of Matzo Brei, a concoction she likes to make at home consisting of scrambled eggs mixed with wetted unleavened bread (Matzo) and in this with some smoked salmon flakes thrown in as well. It was delicious.
We agreed my corned beef hash was the best we'd tasted, and naturally there was far too much of it.
It wasn't like I needed the toasted egg bagel either. And because there was a crazy two-for-one special going on our entire breakfast including coffee came to less than eleven bucks.
I looked around and my wife, who grew up in the Quad Cities, or more precisely Rock Island when she was an infant said the people in the place reminded her of her grandparents' generation. She spent almost her entire life assimilated in Northern California hippie-dom, but she still remembers the Jewish community in Rock Island and she says it looked much like this.They had a lavish pastry section of course and we bought some.
I cannot stand Jewish deli food like whitefish and vinegar and sour cream dunked products. I think eastern European delicacies are, on the whole, revolting.I must confess I did want to try the fish spam on display. I wondered what gefilte fish made properly and not out of a jar might taste like:
A treat perhaps for our next mainland trip, when seeking out what we cannot get at home is the name of the game. Even if it is gefilte fish.