Welcome to my backyard--the Florida Keys! I'm a travel writer, blogger and photographer with a passion for all things Florida, especially the Florida Keys. These islands are so much more than Duval Street and Jimmy Buffet. They are rich in history, culture, cuisine, nature and events--all surrounded by pristine waters teeming with wildlife. Whether you're a local or a visitor, the Conch Republic has many surprises in store. Let me be your guide.
At first glance, Tasters Grille& Marketin Tavernier (halfway between Key Largo and Islamorada) offers no hint to the gastronomic delights that lie behind its non-descript frontage in a strip shopping center. Encouraged by rave reviews from an ardent local following, I found myself at their doorstep, flanked by a post office and a movie theater. Co-owner and sommelier Tom Smith, an affable sort with a goatee and wire-framed glasses, takes me down a small hallway, which opens up onto a verdant wooden deck overlooking a lagoon. Tiki torches flicker in the night, as I start with a tasty Australian Chocolate Box Sparkling Shiraz aperitif.
Chef George Patti, who owns Tasters with Smith, pops out of the kitchen in his chef's whites to recommend his specialty: pan-seared foie gras. I admit, even though I consider myself a fledgling foodie, I’ve never been able to eat any dish with the word liver in it, even if it's in French. However, faced with the chef's persuasive argument, I relent and take a tentative bite. The outside of the foie gras is seared into a caramelized sugary crust, which gives way to a luscious creamy center. It’s like velvet melting in my mouth. Patti layers it with a sweet fig jam and crispy brioche toast, and I savor the textures.
A medium-bodied 2010 Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier blend from California is served to accompany the rest of my meal, which is equally creative. I sample jumbo sea scallops over a beet-soaked Israeli couscous and pork belly fried rice topped with a fried organic egg. Dessert is a perfectly light and zesty homemade yuzu and watermelon sorbet. Satisfied, I gaze down into the water, where tarpon swim beside a glowing green light, and know I will never forget this night when I fell in love with foie gras.