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Friday, January 27, 2012

Living In The Conch Republic/Jerk Chicken/Scott Kirby


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< listen to “Liveaboard” while you read the blog! >

Living in The Conch Republic

How many times have I crossed the imaginary line driving down U.S.1 passing The Last Chance Saloon in Florida City and hence, entering the Conch Republic? Likewise, taking the left there and heading the Card Sound Road route? Either way, at that point going straight on US1 or going left onto Card Sound Rd., you’ve entered the Conch Republic. Having lived about fifteen miles north of there for so many years, I can attest, as will anyone else who’s done the same thing, when you cross that line, things take a noticeable change. Suddenly a weight comes off your shoulders and you find yourself exhaling. The grind is over and you have arrived in The Conch Republic. The Conch Republic is a country unto itself, make no mistake about it. From the very first settlers here to today, you’ll hear people throughout the Keys say “Oh, I have to go up to Florida”. It’s not necessarily Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Naples, Ft. Meyers, Punta Gorda, Palm Beach,… ex. They say they have to go to Florida because in their minds, the Keys are NOT Florida. The Keys are “The Keys” or “The Conch Republic” . The Keys are a completely different state of mind and a completely different state of being. How many times have I mentioned to someone visiting “You know? This isn’t the U.S.”? And how many times have I seen their eyes light up and a big smile cross their face and their reply is “You’re Right!” in complete enlightenment? I’ll tell you, every time! Another anecdote I’ll say to people regarding my move from Florida to the Conch Republic capitol is “You know, I only moved one hundred and thirty eight miles, but it might as well have been one hundred and thirty eight thousand miles”. That’s no exaggeration whatsoever.

The beauty of the Keys is that, on the one hand, you’re in an entirely different country, yet you’re still within the United States. Down here in the Keys, we’re very proud of the United States military personnel stationed here, and we have all branches of the service. The Navy and the Coast Guard have the highest presence, however the Army’s Green Berets train here, as well and every branch of the service are represented at NAS Station in the Truman annex.

A funny thing about the Conch Republic is that those who leave, be it going back home from vacation, or having moved from here and relocated someplace else… up in the United States ;-) they all want to return. It’s a different state of mind. As I said, I only lived fifteen miles from the boarder and it was a beautiful area, bear in mind, but it was a world of difference. Cross that line at the Last Chance Saloon.. and it’s “WOW!!!” The weight’s gone off your shoulders. The Conch Republic stretches from The Last Chance Saloon about 200 miles to The Dry Tortugas. All but the first eighteen miles are islands, the Atlantic Ocean, and The Gulf of Mexico/Florida Bay and the Florida Straits.

In a strange, quirky, albeit remote way we could be kind of like Monaco and France? Monaco is its own country, however if attacked it is considered part of France. I think it could only behoove the U.S. to have the Conch Republic in some ways a sovereign state, yet at the same time still attached to the U.S. as it currently is. In areas such as foreign relations go, it might be a good, optional card to have up Washington D.C.’s sleeve. Besides, maybe we could get the $1B dollars in aid we never got at the end of the insurrection :-)

No Todo, this isn’t Florida, or the United States. Welcome to the Conch Republic!

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KEY WEST GASTROMINY – Jamaican Jerk Chicken/What is, What Isn't

Two of my absolute favorite bar/restaurants in Key West are Schooner Wharf and The Hogfish, which is actually on Stock Island.. but still 33040. Both of these establishments sit dockside, Schooner Wharf in Key West Bight and the Hogfish at Safe Harbor Marina. Both have good menus and the Hogfish gets the nod for the better cuisine by about a point. The fish comes right off the boats, right there. It’s always a pleasure going to either, both having an atmosphere that is tough to equal.
The funny thing about both of these good restaurants is, as good as they are, neither of them have the slightest clue whatsoever on how to make Jamaican Jerk Chicken! Both have it on their menu; however I’m not really sure what they serve, not that it’s bad tasting, but it’s not jerk chicken!

To begin with, the absolute most important ingredient in Jerk is the Scotch Bonnet pepper, which is a sister pepper to the Habanero, albeit with a more aromatic flavor and similar heat rating. No trace whatsoever can be found in their Jerk. Second, Jerk is a paste made with the Scotch Bonnets, onions, allspice, garlic, pepper, salt, thyme, herbs, and pimiento. What they have is some kind of a liquid that, although it doesn’t taste bad, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Jerk seasoning. Both restaurants jerk taste similar to one another and it’s my guess that some restaurant supply company is selling them this stuff and blowing smoke up their tails with the hum that ”This is Jerk seasoning”. It’s not even close.

So, while I strongly suggest going to both of these superb establishments, if you’re contemplating the Jerk Chicken, avoid it. The rest of their menus are superb for a dockside bar/restaurant, and both have a great staff as well.

Who does make a real Jerk Chicken in Key West? Well, Blue Heaven has for years! Theirs tends to be a bit milder than I would prefer myself, however they’re not looking to have some inexperienced customer burst into flames, then follow it up with farting like a flame thrower at the table. On a scale of one to ten, I’d put it as an eight. Although on the mild side, it does have a very nice flavor.

Bobalu’s, next to the Green Parrot on Southard St., has what has to be the best Jerk Chicken in town. Not fire breathing dragon hot, but zippy and a great flavor. They serve theirs as a sandwich. Fantastic! On the scale of one to ten, it’s a nine. You can’t go wrong with their jerk!

Hat’s off to Bobalu’s for the best Jerk in town!

For a superb Jerk seasoning check out Grace’s!

http://www.gracefoods.com/index.php/sauces-and-condiments/grace-jerk-seasoning-hot-a-spicy-detail

If I ever should open a restaurant in town, my jerk will be a ten. I’m not taking any prisoners. Fresh, homemade Jerk, with a fabulous flavor, and hot as hell. Yah Mon!

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Scott Kirby

Stopped by Smokin’ Tuna yesterday afternoon and caught Scott Kirby doing a set there. What a pleasure. Scott is an amazing acoustic guitar player, on top of being a fantastic singer and songwriter as well. Scott has been based in Key West since 1988 and has six albums out, the latest being “Row Me Home”, which was produced by Russ Kunkel. If you’re into great, laid back acoustic based music with a sailor’s perspective, Scott’s music is something that you’ll happily grow old with. What’s not to like? For more info on Scott, check out his site and his tour dates to find out when he’s in your neck of the woods.

http://www.scottkirby.com/

Saturday, January 14, 2012

DOGS IN BARS - KEY WEST


Life on My Terms by Key West Chris Rehm
< listen to “Life On My Terms” while you enjoy the Blog! This song has never been released at this point. I wrote it for my cousin Joe “JoCo”or “Jombo” Connolly when he passed a few years back. It’s an up beat song ‘cause that’s how Joe was! That’s him at the very end of the song too!>

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Dog Friendly Bars

It’s funny, in a strange sort of way and has happened more than once. European visitors will stop me when I’m walking my dogs and express astonishment that dogs are not allowed in restaurants in Key West. “Everywhere you go in Europe, you’ll find dogs with their families in restaurants. Why not here?”

Welcome to the United States way of life: Lawsuits. The most recent being about a year and a half ago at Turtle Kraals, where a woman tripped over a dog and sued the establishment for $18,000.00. For the next six months no establishments allowed dogs in. After that it was decreed that dogs could be allowed in open air restaurants, as well as any bar that doesn’t serve food. This would be at the option of the bar or restaurant’s management. For instance, The Green Parrot is a bar that does not serve food, however because of a dog fight in there several years ago; the management does not allow dogs.

I also run into people who left their dogs at home and stop me for their doggie fix when they see my Whippets, Cajun and Tooloulou. Tourists do tell me that a lot of the B&Bs as well as hotels are dog friendly. I rely on them for this info as I don’t stay in them and have very little contact with them as a result.

Restaurants and bars, are not so much, regretfully. Following are some of the bars and restaurants that do allow dogs. However, what I’ve done here, was get the real experts on the subject, rather than use my own judgment, when rating the various dog friendly establishments. Therefor I’ve set up a panel of experts to assist me with the Blog this week. I’m certain no one will mind if I call out for a bit of help on this one.

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SCHOONER WHARF: Schooner Wharf is a bar and outside restaurant that has a large reputation on allowing canines, to the point that it’s on many of their t-shirts! Key West legend Michael McCloud often plays with his dog, Cinderella, sitting righ on stage, in his guitar case! When the lawsuit had every bar including Schooner Wharf closed to dogs, Mike had his dog registered as a service dog. That took care of everything as far as Cinderella went! Covered seating and outside seating. Live music all day long starting at noon.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 10

BLUE HEAVEN: Blue Heaven also allows dogs. I’ll often go there at night and have a beer under the water tower bar, having walked there from home with Cajun and Tooloulou. They love hanging out in the sand there. Outside seating and live musicmost of the time.

Cajun and Tooloulou rating: 8

MCCONNELL’s: McConnell’s Irish bar at 900 Duval has both an inside and outside patio. Owner Jerry McConnell loves dogs and beams from ear to ear when he sees one. Great staff and atmosphere! Perhaps the finest pint of Guinness in Key West is drawn here as well.

Cajun and Tooloulou rating: 10

TATOOS & SCARS: Tattoo & Scars bar is on Greene St. just a few doors down from Sloppy Joe’s. It’s owned by Cowboy Bill. I was in there a couple of times with the hounds. Inside seating.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 8

SMOKIN TUNA: Smokin Tuna may be a bit hidden on Charles Street, directly across from Irish Kevin’s, but it’s a great stop for dogs. Like Blue Heaven, the floor is sand. Great live music too. Outside seating.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 9

THE PORCH: The porch has been open a year and a half and is very dog friendly. Here is a beautiful setting in the Porter Mansion (circa 1842 or so) and an extremely wide selection of craft beers and a great, knowledgeable staff. Inside and outside seating.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 10

THE CORK AND STOGIE: The Cork and Stogie is not a bar or a restaurant, however it does contain a beer and wine bar within. Very dog friendly Mom and Pop establishment with Dave and Leslie. The Cork and Stogie always has a great atmosphere and always a friendly crowd. Inside and outside seating, dogs welcome outside.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 10

KEY WEST BAIT AND TACKLE: Key West Bait and Tackle also is not a bar or restaurant, per say, however it does have a bar in it that serves beer and wine. Inside and outside seating and salt of the earth, as you expect from a bait and tackle shop. Dogs welcome outside. The dogs love it and often in the season you’ll find artist Durf burning his craft. Dogs welcome for outside seating.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 10

CAPTAIN TONY’S SALOON: A true Key West classic, Captain Tony’s is a bit of a split decision on dogs as they are permitted in until 7pm. However, after seven, no dogs. Inside seating and live music. Because of the 7pm rule…

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 7 (what else could it be?)

LOUIE’S BACK YARD: Louie’s Back Yard’s Afterdeck allows dogs until five pm. Additionally, it’s located directly next to Dog Beach. With an early curfew on the canines, my pooches were inclined to give the cut off time as their rating, as they did with Captain Tony’s. However, with the location right next to Dog Beach and a marvelous view to boot, the rating was charged up a couple of notches!

Cajun & Tooloulou rating: 7

THE RUM BAR: Perhaps the smallest indoor bar on the list, located in the base of the Speakeasy Hotel on the 1000 block of Duval, the Speakeasy is in a historic building. With a warm and cozy inside, with a fresh air outside porch overlooking Duval St. , as the name suggests there is an uncountable amount of Rums from around the Caribbean to be had, as well as beer and wine.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 8

KRAWL OFF DUVAL: Krawl Off Duval is just that. Located just a couple of doors east of Duval on Southard, Krawl Off Duval is Key West’s second Craft Beer Bar. A great selection of beer from around the world, with an emphasis on draft. Inside seating with outside porch seating both upstairs and down on street level.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 9

GEIGER KEY: Off of Key West there is Geiger Key Marina. If you don’t know where it is, I’m not going to ruin the secret!  Fabulous setting on the water, this is the back country Keys and dogs are welcome! A Tiki bar right on the water. Quiet, peaceful, really laid back atmosphere. Music on weekend evenings.

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 10

HOGFISH BAR & GRILL: The Hogfish again is off the beaten path, this time on Stock Island, right on the marina. There used to be a sign there that said “No Dogs”, however I’ve seen dogs there plenty of times, so perhaps its tongue in cheek? To be honest, I’ve never been there with Cajun and Tooloulou, so I must rate it myself. Rating: 10

B.O.’s Fishwagon: What can one say about B.O’s? To call it a shack, may be kind. But it’s real Key West and they allow dogs in there as well, as it’s open air with a corrugated roof, it’s an outdoor restaurant. Like the Hogfish and Geiger Key, they have several deliveries a day, direct from the docks, not a Sysco truck from Miami, by way of Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile… ex. It comes straight out of local waters. Friday night is the best time to go as Bong Hits for Geezers will be playing (Barry Cuda, Richard Crooks, and a rotating list of guest musicians including Kenny Fradley and Chief Billy Two Beers. If you don’t have fun at B.O.’s, get yourself a spade, dig a hole, and jump in, ‘cause you’re dead!

Cajun and Tooloulou Rating: 10



Special thanks to Cajun and Tooloulou for helping out!!! They’ve wandered all over Key West with me for since they arrived in my life over three years ago and are very, very well known all around town. They truly are experts on bars and often help guide my way home! Bottom line is, there are a fair amount of places where you can bring your dog to. Something to consider if you're thinking of visiting and bringing your pooch!

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One of the fun things about writing a blog is viewing the stats! I get viewers of course from the U.S., but also Canada, the U.K., Russia, the Ukraine, China, India, and Brazil on a regular basis! Isn’t the internet amazing? Welcome to all!
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the second busiest week in Key West, after Fantasy Fest. This year was no exception! Key West was packed! My friend Buscuit Miller was in town playing at Schooner Wharf for New Year’s. We went sailing with Captain Larry Poff and had a fantastic time! I was at Schooner Wharf for New Years as well and Buscuit and the band rocked the house!

After I left Schooner I stopped by McConnell’s at 900 Duval on my way home. Deb Hudson and the Groove Daddies were kicking it out, on this evening with Bubba Low Notes on bass, filling in for Din Allen.

Jeff Allen and Carol Ewald, owners of http://beachfrontradio.com/home.cfm were back in town for a busman’s holiday, of sorts combining both business and pleasure. Beachfront Radio is the largest TropRock station in the world. They bought me dinner for my birthday on January 3! Thanks guys! Had a great time with them as well at McConnell’s, Captain Tony’s, and the Rum Barrel a couple of days later. Lots of fun! Hurry back guys!

On January 6th I stopped by The Green Parrot and caught the band “Donna The Buffalo”, for the first time. A lot of unfamiliar faces in the crowd and I realized that, like the Grateful Dead, these fans followed the entire tour! Fantastic! If I had to classify the fans, I’d put them in the same category as fans of the ‘Dead as well. It was a great time and that band was really good quality and a lot of fun, as were the fans! Throughout the gig I’d see people singing along with the band on their original reportois. A lot of the songs were organ (B3) based, so that was a real cool twist. I highly recommend catching one of their gigs if they come to your town!
Thanks! Hope you enjoyed this week’s Blog! See you next week!

All the Best From Key West!

“Key West Chris” Rehm

http://keywestchris.com/

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Conch Rock!!!

Life on My Terms by Key West Chris Rehm
^enjoy “LIFE ON MY TERMS” while you read the blog!^

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CONCH ROCK
What exactly is “Conch Rock” anyway? Simply put, Conch Rock is any music that is written and created in the Conch Republic. The next obvious question is “Where exactly is the Conch Republic?”. Well, geographically the Conch Republic starts in the Dry Tortugas, about seventy miles west of Key West and runs east, through the Marquesas Keys, then on through Key West and up through the archipelago of the Florida Keys, including all the key islands in the Florida Bay, then up U.S. 1 through Key Largo, up the eighteen mile stretch, to the Last Chance Saloon in Florida City. Additionally the keys north of Key Largo; Old Rhoades Key, Elliot Key, Sands Key, and Boca Chita Key are in the Conch Republic as well.
Any music, by any artist, created within these geographic boundaries, is Conch Rock.

An addendum to this follows: As Sir Peter Anderson, Secretary General of the Conch Republic often states, The Conch Republic is a “Sovereign State of Mind”. Because of this, anyone who is in a “Conch Republic State of Mind”© outside the Conch Republic, but is writing a song about the Conch Republic, ..lets say fishing off Islamorada, or hanging out at a bar at a marina in the Keys, what have you, it doesn’t matter if they are in Modesto, California, or Put In Bay, Ohio, so long as they’re writing music about the Conch Republic, they are also producing Conch Rock.

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Conch Rock and Trop Rock are, more often than not, one and the same and share the same roots. Conch Rock however, has a much broader definition, as it is any music produced in the Keys, or written about the Keys. Which came first, Trop Rock or Conch Rock? It’s almost akin to asking the chicken or the egg question. Many people credit Jimmy Buffett as the father of Trop Rock, adapting many of his Caribbean influences and blending them with American Rock, Country, and Blues. Of course he was living in Key West when he first started doing so, was he playing Trop Rock, Conch Rock, or both? As previously mentioned, Conch Rock is a bit more flexible in its requirements. Below is an example of a song which is Conch Rock, but not Trop Rock. Enjoy “MILE ZERO”

Mile Zero by Key West Chris Rehm
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