My Florida Keys Adventure

When I was a little kid, I remember my neighborhood friend going on a family vacation to the Florida Keys. I remember her showing pictures, talking about how beautiful the water was and sharing about how the people were somehow different there. I also remember being super jealous! I wanted to visit this magical place of crystal clear water and tropical islands. Unfortunately, life became busy and agendas were made. I just arrived for my first visit a week ago, over 30 years later.

My first impression, surreal! My second impression, it sure is HOT! My third impression, there’s some good eating down here! Luckily, surreal, and good food won over in the end. It was so beautiful and the food was so good that the heat was more like a slight nuisance. Although, any available AC, or cold beverage, was much appreciated.

There’s so much to share, that I’m not sure where to start. I should maybe start by saying that my friends and I had the most amazing hostess, Briana. I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide in the Florida Keys. She’s young, fresh, fun, and has an immense knowledge of the Florida Keys. Briana knew exactly what to do, where to go, and most importantly, what to eat!

Our plan was to get to Cheeca Lodge & Spa by 3 p.m. on the island of Islamorada, but first we had to stop for some quick sightseeing and some lunch. Eighteen years running, Robbies is something between a fishing village and a laid back resort stop. There’s no place to sleep, but you will find everything from shops, snorkeling, fishing, and food. We had a leisurely lunch at The Hungry Tarpon where I enjoyed my first ever conch fritters!

Lunch was really good, and with that being said we were ready to head out to Cheeca Lodge & Spa. After being in an airplane all night and lunch in the heat, I was excited when I walked into the beautiful air-conditioned lobby of the Cheeca Lodge & Spa and was greeted with a glass of champagne. I mean really, does it get much better after a long journey? Well, yes it does. When I went to my room, I was so appreciative of the space, light, and luxury!

Image courtesy of Cheeca Lodge & Spa

I have been to quite a few resorts over the years, really nice resorts, and I can honestly say that the Cheeca Lodge and Spa has to be in the top 5. The grounds are perfectly manicured and just beautiful. Not to jump ahead or anything, but, waking up in the morning to walk around the properties, I was greeted with...

The food here is fantastic. Have I mentioned that I really like food? I’m really not picky about things like vegetarian, meat, carbohydrates…. I will pretty much eat 99 percent of the things that are put in front of me as long as it’s authentic (not fast food or chains) and made with love. Oh, and I also like to cook, and when I’m out, I like to follow the rule of ordering things that I can’t or wouldn’t make at home.

When we had lunch at Cheeca, I was impressed with the menu first and foremost. I have to add here, that I am very involved in UC San Diego’s Center for Integrative Medicine and, with that being said, I’ve taken quite a few Natural Healing and Cooking courses intending to teach. Although I eat almost anything, I truly believe that food has power to heal the body and on a whole (when I’m not traveling), I try to eat in this fashion. So, when I saw a black bean, oat, mushroom burger (Bikini Burger) on the menu, I had to order it. Just to see if it, first, was good and second, I wanted to see if I could recreate it. I was a bit torn because there were things like the lobster brie grilled cheese, ceviche….

But all in all, it was really good! And I think that I can recreate. I spoke with Chef Robert Smith and he gave me some great tips. I really enjoyed the texture and hint of cumin! And of course my friends ordered all those other things that I mentioned, so, I got to taste everything. And it was all fantastic.

There’s so much more to say, so, My Florida Keys Adventure will be continued.

Until next time,

Renee Lewis

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