Well, there it is. We've had another visit to Kaya Island Eats. I'm going to gush, I can't help it. There is finally a fine dining establishment that I enjoy going to repeatedly.
You know I'm pretty much about food. I'm a fan of food on every level. I enjoy preparing food, serving food, and eating food myself. I appreciate love and thought that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to a good eating experience. I appreciate the training and dedication it takes to be a good chef, and the passion a chef needs to have longevity and happiness in the food industry. All that being said, I think there's a perfect combination happening down on Saddlebunch Keys with Kaya Island Eats. This is how we rolled.
At about 5:00pm, I was getting ready for a run. The other happy vegan stopped me as I was getting ready and said why don't we go out to a movie, and maybe dinner. Movie? And dinner? On a work night. That's just crazy talk. Tempting.... but still crazy talk. I began to cave into the idea, so I looked up the movies. Nothing playing either of us wanted to head down to Key West for. So, I said "nah" let's do it another time. He was persistent and said how about a drive to Key West for a stroll through the neighborhoods, a cocktail and maybe a late dinner. A late dinner? On a work night? Still crazy talk. But, again I began to cave. I looked outside, and saw a very dark cloud approaching. This wasn't good news for my run. He flipped on the radar weather, and we both saw a run was not to be at that time. I agreed to Key West, and we both agreed to no particular plan, let's just see where we end up.
As we began to drive, we encountered torrential rains about 10 minutes into the drive. Within 5 minutes, it was sunny and clear again. Just a few more minutes later, the skies re-opened with torrential rains, thunder and lightning. At this point we were only half way to Key West, but 2 minutes from Kaya. Neither of us wanted to walk the city in the rain, so we detoured into Kaya.
It was still a deluge when we pulled into the (covered) parking lot. I didn't want to walk up the stairs, we never carry an umbrella. To our amazement, there was an elevator underneath to carry us nice and dry upstairs!
Once we got upstairs, we were greeted by the hostess with a giant smile asking if we'd be dining tonight or at the bar. For the first time ever, we said we're going to have a drink at the bar, and then we'd like a table. No problem she said. Off we went to the bar.
A little light and happy banter was next between the wonderful bartender (gaa..... so bad with names! I'm sorry, it began with an "s" and she was awesome, but it has slipped from my mind) and a few other patrons nearby. I ordered something called "Bethany's Birthday Cake" which was a beautiful drink rimmed with hibiscus sugar. When I asked bartender "S" her recommendation of the drink or not, she laughed because sitting next to us at the bar was the Bethany who the drink was named after. With that recommendation, who could pass it by.... not me. Once our drinks arrived, a beautiful fresh homemade salsa and tortilla appetizer arrived as well. The owner, Scott, knows we are vegan, and he takes exceptionally good care of us (as well as our own customers we send there, and quite frankly of ALL patrons in his restaurant!). The tortilla was delicious, as were our drinks. We watched a bit of the Olympics while chatting amongst ourselves and others at the bar. I honestly cannot recall the last time I went out and just sat at a bar with no schedule, no particular place to be, and no deadlines. We watched the weather outside too.... on our one side the sun had already come back and was shining down, on the other side, the downpour continued.
|This was what's left of my "Bethany's Birthday Cake" cocktail by the time I remembered to take a photo, as well as a the tortilla with fresh, house made salsa. Tasty morsels indeed!|
We decided to have dinner, and almost as quickly as that happened, the lovely Bethany of the Bethany's Birthday Cake cocktail sent us a round of drinks. Seriously cannot remember the last time that happened either, thank you Bethany!!!
|As we were waiting, one of the most delicious things I've eaten in forever came to our table.... a blooming onion!|
It was perfect!
Not greasy, and had a spankin' hot bbq dipping sauce!
Once we were seated, we both agreed we were going to throw caution to the wind and break the rules with eating; we wanted pasta, potatoes, and no one was going to tell us otherwise. So, our lovely dinner was a beautiful simple salad with hibiscus dressing, pasta in vegan butter sauce with capers and pink peppercorns, french fries with truffle ketchup (!!!) and of course I had a glass of their signature hibiscus punch (non-alcoholic deliciousness). Our server, Matt, has been at Kaya since its inception, and we adore his apparent light hearted approach to life and excellent sense of humor.
|Pinch me, is this for real? |
Pasta with portobello and a simple vegan lemon butter sauce, capers and pink peppercorns.
Now you're talking!
|There's always leftovers for me to take home!|
By 11am the next morning, they were gone. I actually think it was even better the next day.
I ate it cold;
I could not go the whole day knowing it was in the fridge calling to me.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love when other people prepare food for me?! Ok, ok, I know that's a constant running theme on this blog, but I LOVE when other people prepare food for me!
Scott came over to our table during dinner, as he does with pretty much all patrons, checking if everything was ok. Was it ok? It was better than ok. It was wonderful. Delicious. Beautiful. Perfect.
I do write about food a lot on this blog. That's one of the purposes here... food, animals and life in the Keys. To the list of places we adore (Good Food Conspiracy, Help Yourself, Sugar Apple, The Cafe, Food for Thought) we have added Kaya Island Eats. They consistently go out of their way to make every patron feel important, to make every meal matter, and to have a fun time playing with food in the kitchen along the way. I cannot help but think about my prior blogged about naked tofu experience at an alleged 5 star restaurant in Key West and how different a simple shift in thinking from a chef makes for a great dining experience, or for the worst ever in the Keys (naked tofu post-traumatic stress I suppose). For the record, no chef or manager or ANY person from that alleged fine dining establishment in Key West who served me the naked tofu ever had the courtesy to respond to my letter. Nothing. Obviously they don't care about me or my dining experience. I will never recommend them to anyone; anyway why would I when we have places like Kaya that take such magnificent care equally of everyone who dines there.
After all was said and done, we made our way back to the car for the ride home, and were met by a sweet little gray girl kitty. She had tags and a collar on, and let me hold and snuggle her for a moment. I was too enamored to take a photo of her, and hated to say goodbye.
Kaya is on an extremely well earned 2 week vacation. That's how it is summertime in the Keys. Lots of places close for a respite, things do move at a slower pace this time of year. It's been a great few months of wonderful food and experiences at Kaya. Enjoy your vacation folks, can't think of anyone who's worked harder than you. See you soon enough!