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Key West, May 2011 (Part 5a)

I Wish [Brunch] Could Last Forever

sunny 88 °F

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This was the day to rub elbows with the rich and snooty (or so I thought). We were having brunch at Little Palm Island. Perhaps this is an unfamiliar destination. Allow me to offer some enlightenment. Little Palm Island is a small, secluded, and rather exclusive resort that is only accessible by boat from a dock on Little Torch Key. The dining room on the premises is open to non-resort patrons who have reservations and wear appropriate attire. I can attest that the appropriate attire requirement is strictly enforced. A family who arrived at the welcome center about the same time we did was scurrying around to find a collared shirt for the youngest man in the party. He'd had the audacity to show up in a T-shirt and the hostess would not allow him to get on the boat until he changed.

I've known about Little Palm Island since before we were married. Back then, my fanciful mind thought we should make it our honeymoon destination. Reality has a nasty way of setting things straight. It didn't take long to see that a student and medical physicist trainee with no salary had zero hope of affording the astronomical rates. Even now, with base rates starting at $840.00 a night, a stay at Little Palm Island is probably not in the cards for us any time soon. I've kept the idea of Little Palm Island in the back of my mind for nineteen years. When the trip to Key West became a reality, I made reservations for brunch as soon as I could - I was going to get there one way or another. We justified the splurge as an anniversary celebration even though our anniversary isn't until June.

Little Torch Key is about a half hour's drive from Key West. I must admit I was a bit nervous about this little expedition. We are just middle-class commonfolk. Little Palm is frequented by celebrities, politicians, and very wealthy people. When we pulled into the parking lot and saw the Rolls Royce, I thought for sure we were way out of our league. We checked in, and once all the expected brunch guests arrived, we boarded our boat, the Woodson. This was a gorgeous, old-timey mahogany vessel with blue leather seats and original watercolors of the resort hanging on its walls. The fifteen minute boat ride was thankfully uneventful (no motion sickness). The minute I saw the dock, I knew we were someplace very special. I could not have been more wrong about the snootiness. Little Palm exudes the most unpretentious, relaxed luxury. It was an incredible experience.

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"2010 Zagat rated this Dining Room extraordinary to perfection in every cataegory - Food, Decor, and Service." (from Little Palm's website) I could not agree more with this rating. Everything was perfection. Our hostess met us at the dock and walked us to the dining room. She was sweet and very personable. Our table was situated on a shaded side porch with large ceiling fans and an unobstucted view of the water. For about an hour, a gentleman effortlessly played jazz on the baby grand at the back of the porch. Our server, Betty, was attentive but not intrusive, genuine and pleasant. As a matter of fact, the snootiness I was expecting was nowhere to be found. While everyone was very attentive and accomodating, it did not feel forced. The whole place had an understated, relaxed vibe. Very, very nice.

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As if the setting was not perfect enough, almost on queue a couple of tiny Key deer strolled around the corner and tentatively investigated. From what I understand, sighting key deer, especially during the day, is rather rare. I was beginning to feel that everything was aligning to create another of those unplanned, surreal, defining moments of the trip.

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The buffet was ridiculous. It consisted of four food stations and one bar station with fixings for make-your-own bellinis and Bloody Marys. One food station was just seafood - oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, and small servings of what I think was salmon. Lemon wedges were wrapped in pretty fabric packages and displayed around the seafood. Another station must have had seven or eight different kinds of salads like Chipotle Potato (Jay's favorite), Orange shrimp and snow pea, and a fancy white bean salad that was very good as well. There were also two different kinds of green salads offered. The third station was just fruit - strawberries, raspberries, papaya, mango, watermelon and other melons, pineapple, etc., etc, etc. This was like food of the gods for me. Everthing was fresh and ripe and delicious. My mouth is watering even now as I type. The final food station consisted of a variety of pasteries, breads, crackers, humus, and cheeses. I had a small pastery with a coconut filling that was fab (I am running out of adjectives and risking the impression of exaggeration but everything was that good.) At the bar, endless glasses of champagne were offered with raspberry, cassis, and peach syrups. There were raspberries, strawberries, and peaches to add as well. For the Bloody Marys, I never saw so many vegetable fixings in my life. We decided that the bellinins would be our fun drink of the day. We both did raspberry. Jay also tried peach - very delicious - and a peach/raspberry combo.

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Just the buffet part of brunch would have been more than satisfactory. But this is Little Palm Island and I'm pretty sure satisfactory is not the goal. Along with the buffet, we ordered tapas-style entrees off the menu. We could order as many and as often as we liked. I think we tried everything but the asparagus soup and eggs benedict. My favorite was the fried rock shrimp and Jay liked the Blackened Churrasco. (He must have because he did not share with me and I think he ordered it twice.) Unfortunately I have few food photos because I was just too busy eating.

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For the finale, a platter of small desserts was brought to the table. This showed up on ours.

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The platter consisted of some type of death by chocolate torte, churros with a caramel sauce, chocolate ice cream, and Key lime pie with a passionfruit gel. We decided the Key lime pie would be our candidate for the day. The pie part was very good, creamy and mild with a graham cracker crust. The passion fruit gel was different. The flavor was fine but I didn't care for it in combination with the pie. And the texture was completey wrong for me. It was rather chewy and was mismatched with the creaminess of the pie. I'm ashamed to say that I don't remember much about the other desserts. By this time my taste buds were overloaded from so many delicious flavors and I was thoroughly stuffed.

What made this brunch perfection is that we were never rushed. Betty encouraged us to take our time and enjoy the surroundings. We could have stayed all afternoon, visiting the buffet and ordering tapas from the kitchen. It was just a wonderful experience from beginning to end. At the end of the meal, Betty gave us us our personalized menu, presented as a little scroll tied with raffia.

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This pulled up while we were enjoying our brunch. Jay had to take a photo. Wow! What A boat.

As non-resort guests, we were restricted to the area surrounding the restaurant. After we were finished eating and were just waiting for the boat, I did some wandering around.
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Sadly, we boarded the Woodson for the trip back to reality. This time, we rode outside in the back of the boat.
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We got a kick out of this sign. Considering the fact that X-ray radiation played a signifcant role in financing this trip, I thought I should give it some recognition.
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We waddled back to our rental car and drove the half hour back "home" happy and content. What does a girl do when it's hot outside and she is drowsy with carb overload? Take a nap in the air-conditioning. And that's exactly what I did.

Posted by sjyoder 13:00 Archived in USA Tagged beaches food luxury key_west

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