Thursday, January 10, 2019

With a Twist

I could get used to eating on a sandy beach.

A short walk in the dark landed us at Morada Bay Beach Café and Bar, a sprawling enclave illuminated on the street side by flaming tiki torches (not the white supremacist kind) and on the restaurant side by more torches and white lights strung high up in palm trees. A row of colorful surfboards were stuck in the sand and a sliver of a moon hung overhead.

Tables were scattered around the sand and the music had a decided bossa nova beat, so you know I was happy. Some of us believe that you can never go wrong with songs dressed up with that beat, especially at night.

We scored a table on the farthest edge of table-land, away from the fray but with a view of the bay at night. Only problem was we were so tucked away it took a while for our server to find us.

But once he did, food and wine arrived lightening fast, as if to make up for the delay in taking our order. A bottle of Maison Legrand Sauvignon Blanc (as Pru is fond of saying, you can never go wrong with the Loire) had barely been opened when conch chowder, crispy fried Brussels sprouts, conch salad and tuna tataki showed up. Boom, instant dinner.

As someone who spends her life hungry, I wasn't complaining.

Our server, a Michigan boy who follows the tourist trade, had hair down to the middle of his back and a laid-back demeanor, but his service skills - thumbs ups aside - were top notch from years spent moving between the Keys and other sunny destinations serving vacationers like us a slice of Key lime pie with an easy attitude.

Because we'd purposely arrived post-sunset to avoid the exuberant crowd, the evening, with its dark, romantic vibe set to lounge music, felt miles away from Lorelei's Cabana Bar even though we were within spitting distance of it.

Just two sides of the island eating coin and I like to think that we're exceling at both.

It took a little getting used to, but after five days, I no longer do double takes every time I see a Key lime green house with a magenta gate or a place like St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church on the side of the road.

Pshaw, old news by now. That's just our current 'hood these days.

That said, coming back from lunch at Chad's in Tavenier - another solid recommendation from Mr. Wright's Vero Beach buddy - along what's known as the Old Road, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a 30' palm tree being moved by a front-end loader, which looked like a toy in comparison to the height of the tree.

Watching the operator try to angle the towering tree to get it in a small, curved driveway with a gatehouse in the center was can't-look-away worthy. Moving palm trees, another Keys novelty.

Just this morning, we ate breakfast at the Midway Café, a brightly colored roadside spot with a patio and multiple cozy rooms, but why would we eat inside in January if we didn't have to? Turns out the name comes from the fact that it's situated at the mid-point between Miami and Key West, but, more importantly, it's conveniently only a half mile saunter from us.

Bob's Bunz was only a few steps further, albeit north, and while the Western omelet, Belgian waffle and fresh-from-the-oven biscuit we had at the bakery café on Tuesday were perfectly delicious breakfast fare, at Bob's you spend as much time reading the walls and t-shirts, all of which play on the buns motif, as chowing down.

That I walked out of there with a black "Bite my bunz" t-shirt can be construed anyway you like. Ditto the lemon yellow Keys ashtray we scored from the Coral Isles Church (and, yes, of course it's coral colored) thrift store, a vintage find complete with images of all the Keys, bright green turtles and assorted colorful fish.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, but we used it as an olive tray during yesterday's happy hour on the deck, during which we watched a great blue heron make its way ever so slowly from the ocean in front of the house three doors north to the ocean four houses south. It took hours for his shadow to stretch longer and longer but with a libation in front of us, we had hours.

With the days stacking up and no agenda beyond the obvious, it's easy to forget there's a government shutdown or snow headed toward Virginia.

In fact, the only jarring note so far was as we strolled the boardwalk around a toney marina where huge fishing charter boats are moored. Many of the boats had brazen pelicans sitting atop them, daring anyone to shoo them away and pooping at will on the boats and boardwalk.

Atop the biggest boat, though, was a red flag snapping in the brisk late afternoon westerly breezes that read, "Trump 2020, Keep America Great." Beyond wondering if the owner wasn't out of his mind didn't lose a lot of business because of it, we didn't let it affect our stroll or mindset.

As long as I'm on vacation with Mr. Wright, eating on the sand, dancing to music on the deck and basking in the sunshine, reality can bite my buns.

Or bunz, take your pick.

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