Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mexican Food At Last

When I lament the dearth of Mexican food in Key West well meaning people point me to Chico's, a Stock Island institution. Chico's is very good but it is also Mexican based on some other cuisine than that which a Californian might be used to calling "Mexican."Mexico is a vast country, as long as the US is wide with half the population of the United States with as many cuisines as any country that size might boast. My wife, a native Californian, has very clear ideas about what constitutes "good Mexican" food, and the cuisine of Veracruz does not satisfy her culinary homesickness. Amigos might get a lot closer, and when she gets back from Santa Cruz we might come down here together and see what she thinks. I liked it.Amigos occupies the space formerly known as the Iguana Café across the street from Captain Tony's and the way the counters are lined up facing Greene Street makes this a fine people watching station. It is a responsible place too, of course, with the current obsession with to go cups not being kosher.Normal food and abnormal gringo food is all there on the enormous permanent plastic laminated menu.I am not fond of making my own food when it comes to ordering so I ducked the build yourself a taco exercise and ordered a carnitas, barbecued pork, burrito for ten bucks. There's plenty to read as you wait.And seeing as how I was dining with two gay men my puerile sense of humor came to the fore. One thought it was as funny as I did, the other frowned.This is an excellent people watching spot, as I mentioned, and I saw this person in a pink wife beater which i thought beats pink Crocs hands down.One of my dining fashion consultants said it was the perfect accessory, as was this:I ignored the suggestions and focused on the food, hand made where the tacos are square. A newspaper profile some time back said the owner of the place had spent time in Mexico and everything here is as authentic as he could make it.Incidentally they also offer a slim bottle of Mexican coke which some people swear by as it's made with cane sugar. I have noticed coke tastes different south of the border but it's not something I'll travel for or pay $2.25 for...The accessories are hand made by a dude whose photo is on the wall.If you need salsa they have a couple of vats up at the front. We skipped the chips so I could not say what it tastes like but I'll bet it's just fine, based on the actual food itself."Oh my God," Chuck moaned when he saw the mountains of ingredients being wedged into a tortilla.This is how you get your food at my favorite tacqueria in Santa Cruz (Tacqueria Vallarta).22 ounces of Negra Modelo on tap was $6 and lunch was served and woofed.You get a bowl of salsa and all the sauces you could want to try to make it taste as hot as you like. The Rectal Rocket was quite hot but in a good way and I actually ended up enjoying it with no ill effects later. In the neighbors' spot I noticed a chimichanga looking exactly as I expect one to look while in the background you can see the slim expensive cane sugar coke.I will be interested to see what my wife thinks because I like this place.

The Longest Day

The evening of June 21st I drove into Key West with Cheyenne on the back seat. My plan was to take her for a couple of long walks, leave her in the car at ten while I worked. At two am we'd leave and have a walk in the dark of night on the way home. The plan worked perfectly with a bonus, which was the setting of the sun at the end of the longest day of the year. From the car I took these pictures one handed and present them here un-retouched from the front seat as they happened.Growing up in more temperate climates I used to dread the longest day as it was the beginning of the end of the summer, before the summer had even really begun. When I lived with seasons I spent altogether too much time looking ahead and anticipating, not least because I hated winter and cold and gray. In the Keys it's just another day. Winter is cooler and encourages a slightly different wardrobe and slightly different activities. Summer is hotter and paradoxically drives on indoors more but also into the water far more. Winter is no longer to be dreaded.I remember summer at my father's retreat in Scotland 40 years ago sitting by the window, the insects outdoors were unbearable, and reading a book by the light of day at some late hour between ten and eleven. The absence of my mother meant I didn't have to go to bed! I remember the long drawn out dusk of high latitudes, it seems in my memory like hours between the time the sun disappeared and the night finally enveloped me. I recall with great joy sitting out, talking and feeling the slow inexorable descent of darkness minute by slow minute. In the sub tropics we are so close to the Equator darkness falls like a stage curtain, from day to dark with hardly a gap between the two. I miss twilight. No hills, no mountains, no valleys, no rivers, no subtlety. It's the Florida Keys.