Think Key West and youre sure to
conjure colorful Margaritaville images of fun and funky Duval Street,
and the exuberant daily celebration of sunset at Mallory Square
complete with unicyclists, fire-eaters, hoop-jumping cats and tightrope-walking
dogs. Theyre all still there. Ernest Hemingway wannabes still
seek out Sloppy Joes Bar, and the crowd still cheers or boos
depending on the pyrotechnics of the suns performance as it
drops into the sea.
ABOVE: THE MARQUESA HOTEL IS A CHIC
COLLECTION OF FOUR BUILDINGS DATING FROM THE 1800S, WRAPPED AROUND
A LUSH TROPICAL GARDEN AND A PAIR OF SWIMMING POOLS.
But if you havent lately made the famously eccentric scene,
it may come as a surprise that the two-by-four-mile island sports
some 80 restaurants and bars, and is fast becoming a food town.
The best time to check out the burgeoning culinary picture? Make
it the annual Food and Wine Festival, on tap this year from July
29 through August 7. Among events starring local chefs of note:
At Michaels Restaurant, Chef Michael Wilson will
demonstrate the preparation of four sumptuous desserts and pair
them with fine wines.
Chef Alice Weingarten will begin with a wine reception
and follow with a three-course dinner at Alices Key West.
Pisces Restaurant will combine champagne with Chef Andrew
Bermans house specialties featuring lobster and oysters.
Chef Paul Orchard of Mangoes Restaurant will serve up
signature dishes in an entry called Around the World with
Then there are the only-in-Key-West adventures in eating you can
encounter on your own, such as brunch at Blue Heaven Restaurant,
where the eye-opening offerings range from freshly-caught fish to
freshly-baked banana bread. The setting: a pleasantly shaded courtyard
with painted picnic tables and a population of roving resident
For such a small swatch of turf, the insouciant island boasts a
number of prime historic attractions not to mention art galleries
along its easygoing streets rich in Victorian gingerbread
architecture accented by the flaming flowers of Royal Poinciana
trees. Much of the bounty can be soaked up via rental bike or on
foot, with the occasional stop to fortify yourself with a conch
fritter or a portion of key lime pie. Or you can hop aboard an Old
Town Trolley for a narrated tour, stepping off to explore and reboarding
free as the trolley loops around.
Be sure to take in the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, partly
furnished with Parisian pieces collected by second wife Pauline,
who swapped the Key West-style ceiling fans for stylish chandeliers.
Prowling the premises are descendants of Hemingways renowned
six-toed cats with names the likes of Scott Fitzgerald and Bette
Davis. In his separate studio, Hemingway turned out For Whom the
Another must-see: the Harry S. Truman Little White House Museum.
Beginning in 1946 President Truman spent 175 days altogether on
the island, changing to a splashy tropical shirt on arrival. In
the collection of memorabilia is a blow-up of the famous photo of
Truman at his piano with a young Lauren Bacall stretched seductively
My fave place to stay in the southernmost city is the chic little
Marquesa Hotel, a collection of four buildings dating from the 1800s,
wrapped around a lush tropical garden and a pair of swimming pools.
Adjoining the hotel is Café Marquesa, where Chef Susan Ferry
adds status to Key Wests spreading reputation as a restaurant
Information: (800) ASK-KEYS.