As a dancer in America, the end of the year means the end of your Nutcracker run. With Boston Ballet, I have been dancing in the Nutcracker for almost a decade. Every year, we put on around 40 shows, spreading the most joy and keeping one of the city's most famous holiday traditions alive. The work is grueling, especially for the corps de ballet women, with two shows a day. At the same time, there is a comfort in knowing that audiences are sold out, and to see all the children dressed up in their best outfits exiting the theater with glee after every performance makes it all worth it.
This year, at the end of show #42, we threw out the old year, along with all of the Nutcracker baggage and got to ring in the new one with a two week break. In large part thanks to Max, in the midst of all the Nutcracker madness, a trip to Florida was planned and on the 1st, after a New Year's Day brunch extravaganza at Townsman (see their bologna pony pictured above), we headed towards the warmth for some much needed R&R.
The first couple of days were a blur of fatigue and exhaustion, sleeping in and just trying to be a normal person again. It wasn't until the third day of our vacation, in Key West, that I felt human enough to do what I do best, delve into the city's food and drink culture.
Key West is a strange place, former military town turned major vacation destination, the people are all amazing, interesting and generous. My first recommendation? Head into a wine bar like Vino's and get a glass of wine, enjoy it there with a meat and cheese board or get it to go and wander the lively street of Duval with it in hand.
For food, head into nine one five restaurant for an upscale and inventive take on local seafood. Their housemade pasta dishes make for great appetizers to share. We loved their linguini with ahi tuna, red peppers, garlic and spinach.
Among other things to enjoy while wandering the streets is an authentic Cuban cigar. If you are lucky, you can have one freshly made right in front of you!
With only one full day in Key West, Max and I had an aggressive itinerary. We rented bikes from our hotel and pretty much rode from snack to snack. After our initial breakfast at La Creperie, we rode along the west coast of the island and had our first Cuban coffee experience at the Cuban Coffee Queen located near the water. It is basically very strong espresso with sugar. You can also get in 'con leche' and they add sweetened condensed milk to it - DELICIOUS!
Revved up from our Cuban coffees, we made our way back to an area on Petronia street with lots of foodie options. Santiago Bodega is a tapas restaurant that we were told is a must-try. Their tuna ceviche was no joke with large chunks, mangoes and tomatoes all swimming in a citrus-y marinade.
After another bike ride on the eastern side of the island, we changed gears for the evening and caught a beautiful sunset at Louis' Backyard. This is a great spot for drinks anytime, snacks and tapas on the upper deck Tues-Sunday or a sit down, white table cloth dinner.
In the morning we were set to drive to Miami for the last leg of our trip. We couldn't leave without stopping at Glazed Gourmet Donuts. Their simple glazed donut melts in your mouth and I went for their colossal pecan knot, a cross between a croissant, monkey bread and a donut. Enough said.
Along the road trip, we stopped in Marathon for lunch at Keys Fisheries Marina and Restaurant. Without a doubt, order their Lobster Reuben, grilled bread with thick chunks of lobster, sauerkraut and a special mayo. Head upstairs and slurp a couple of oysters...for the record though, east coast oysters are better;)
Once in Miami, we did an upscale hotel bar crawl in the evening in South Beach. From SLS to Delano, Setai to the W it was an evening of great cocktails and bites. The Dutch Miami brings a great blend of New York into the mix and our meal there, from bubbles to start and dessert to finish, was truly memorable.
To round off our trip, we had to have lunch at the much recommended Zuma near the waterfront. Located inside a lush hotel, lunch is the best time to eat here. Enjoy an exquisitely prepared Japanese meal for much less than their dinner menu. Top favorites of ours was their tuna, yellowfin and sashimi dish as well as the black cod and shrimp gyoza.
For a first trip to Florida, I'd say we did a pretty good job hitting some of the hot spots. Although we did not get to have a real Cuban sandwich, I think we had enough Cuban coffee to last us until our next visit. All in all, it was a great way to kick off 2016, I can't wait to see what awaits as this year unfolds...hopefully lots of delicious meals to share with you all:)