Welcome to Key West Kitchen


Meet Kerry

kerry with a rum punch at home in key west

Kerry has been in Key West for almost twenty years and, even though he loves to travel, he can’t imagine where else he would live.

The following is a recent interview with Kerry.

Key West Kitchen: What brought you to Key West in the first place?

Kerry: I was at a point in my life when, even though I had enjoyed my career with an international accounting firm, I felt that I needed a change. I hadn’t planned on a dramatic change, but I knew that I needed to think things over. I had been to Key West once on vacation and thought I would go back, relax and reflect. A week turned into two and, although I still don’t know quite how I figured it out, I went back to the firm, gave them my notice, and a month later loaded my stuff in a truck and moved to Key West. I rented a small apartment near Louie’s backyard, which I made my headquarters! Bought a bike for $25 and I was on my way!

KWK: Lots of people vacation in Key West without moving here. What was it that led you to think you wanted to live in Key West full time?

Kerry: I definitely fell in love with the water, sun and sea air, but it was the people here that made me realize why this is a special place. The diversity and openness is amazing. I had never seen a place with people from so many different backgrounds all going to the same parties, the same bars, the same restaurants, and genuinely caring about each other. Nothing made you an outcast, not your financial condition (mine was pretty poor at the time), the way you dressed, your spiritual beliefs, your sexual orientation…none of that stuff mattered. I knew I was home.

KWK: If someone only has a long weekend to spend in Key West, what would you recommend that they do?

Kerry: Stay longer! Actually, you can pack in a lot in a long weekend. Go to The Afterdeck bar at Louie’s Backyard for a cocktail by the sea the first evening. You will probably end up there every evening for at least a drink. Dinner upstairs is casual, and Nicole will recommend some excellent wine choices. The next day, go to Fausto’s Food Palace on Fleming Street and put together a beach picnic. Head for the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor and enjoy lunch with a magnificent view and great water for a swim. Plenty of places for dinner that night, like Antonia’s and La Trattaria on lower Duval, 915 on upper (and quieter) Duval, or Marquesa on Fleming. Catch the tour of Truman’s Little Whitehouse in Truman Annex, where the President spent many visits to Key West. If time allows, plan a day trip to the Dry Tortugas. Great three-hour cruise to one of the most unique national parks in the country. Do some shopping at Assortment, Hands On, Fast Buck Freddie’s (and Fast Buck Freddie’s Home Store), and Key West Aloe. Definitely have drinks at Schooner Wharf, Sloppy Joe’s (it’s not just for tourists!) and the Green Parrot. Watch the sun set as much as possible. Come back.

KWK: How about a longer stay, say, a week?

Kerry: Look into renting a house. That way, you can either go out or cook at home like a local. Go out fishing and cook your catch for dinner. I have some great recommendations for stocking a beach house for a week on the website (click the Lifestyle link). Rent a bike or golf cart to get around, but mind the rules and be safe. Visit all the galleries and see a show at one of our theaters. Rent a sea kayak. Take binoculars for bird watching. Explore town with a tree and flower guide. Take a class or workshop at The Studios of Key West. After a week, you’ll go home rested and relaxed. Or go home, pack up and move down!

KWK: Is food important to the cultural world of Key West?

Kerry: Most definitely. I think that almost everyone who moves here cites the abundance of world-class restaurants as a huge factor in their decision. We have a ton of fresh, local fish, fruit and seafood and, because we have quite a discerning crowd down here, well-stocked groceries and markets for everything else. It’s a small town with the culinary environment of a major city, which is great. We spend a lot of time in each other’s kitchens making dinner.

KWK: How did you develop your love of food and cooking?

Kerry: I grew up on a farm in Tennessee where we raised cattle and put in a large garden each year. We always had an abundance of fresh ingredients. My grandmother was the most independent person I think I have still ever known. She raised chickens and cows, used their eggs and milk, made butter, raised her own vegetables, cured her own ham and, except for stuff like baking powder and sugar, she hardly needed a grocery store. She cooked simply, but had a broad repertoire of dishes. She made a wonderful braised rabbit, and even made delicious donuts for us kids. My mother learned from her, and is still an excellent cook. My father’s father cooked on a riverboat on the Tennessee River, and Daddy cooks as well. He specializes in all things breakfast and makes better hushpuppies than anyone. Really. So I naturally helped out and learned as I grew up. Travel also heightened my curiosity about food and has caused me to explore more and more different styles of cooking.

KWK: Where do you go for vacation when you live in a vacation spot like Key West?

Kerry: As much as we love Key West, you have to “get off the rock” every so often. It is a small island, after all. We go to a major urban area, like Paris, New York or San Fransisco. The food in Italy and Spain is amazing (we love Venice and Barcelona particularly). Believe it or not, we also go to the Bahamas. We love Harbour Island. It really is quite different from the Keys. But a great thing about living here is that, at the end of every vacation, when often you can feel sad that it’s over… you get to go back to Key West!

What's new in the Kitchen


For the Love of Goats (and Goat Cheese!)

I love goats. They are endlessly curious, highly acrobatic and just plain fun to be around. They are, well, capricious, a word whose Latin root literally means “goat-like.” My love of goats is followed closely by my fondness for goat cheese, with its distinctively tangy taste reminiscent of the farm. I was reading about artisanal cheese makers a while back and came across a post about a small goat dairy in Tennessee that is making some outstanding cheeses. Reading a little further, I saw that the farm was within a half hour’s drive from my hometown! On my next trip back to visit family, I decided to stop by.


Tips and Techniques

  • 7K

    Steps for: Making a Roux

    A roux is simply a mixture of equal parts fat and flour that is browned and used to thicken and flavor a sauce.  A roux (French for “reddish brown”) can be browned to any number of levels, from a blondish color for milder sauces to an almost black for certain Creole/Cajun dishes.  The darker the roux, the less ability it has to thicken the dish.  For our Key West Pink Shrimp Sherry Sauce that we serve over pan-fried fish, we make a roux somewhere between the blonde and peanut butter color.  This gives the sauce a nice, nutty flavor and still gives it some thickness.
  • step-1-roux

    Step 1:  Melt the butter

    Add two tablespoons of butter to a saucepan over medium heat and melt, skimming off excess fat that may rise to the top.  Cook until just bubbling.
  • step-2-roux

    Step 2:  Add the flour

    Add two tablespoons of flour to the saucepan, whisking thoroughly into the melted butter.   Continue whisking while the roux cooks.
  • step-3-roux

    Step 3:   Watch and smell

    The roux should reach the early blonde phase in about five minutes, when it loses its raw flour smell.  Continue stirring, reducing heat if it appears that the roux is in danger of burning (if you burn it, it’s over…you must start again.  A burnt roux is not salvageable).
  • step-4-roux

    Step 4:  Finish and stir some more

    When the roux has reached a nice, deep tan color, remove from the heat and continue to stir until it has cooled somewhat and is in no danger of burning.  You can use right away or refrigerate for a few days and use later.

    Note:  if using right away, make sure that you have your next ingredients ready before beginning your roux.  Add them immediately as soon as the roux is done and continue cooking to prevent the roux from burning.
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