Between my summer and fall semesters of culinary school, there were three weeks off. Two of those weeks I spent in front of my computer, finishing the writing of my next book, “Unique Eats and Eateries of Savannah,” (I’m happy to report I met my deadline and the book is headed into the production phase — stay tuned!) and the last week, which coincided with our eighth wedding anniversary, was spent celebrating on vacation down in Key West. We fully believe in working hard and playing harder. It was my first time to visit the Keys, and we drove, spending the night in Miami on the way down to break up the trip.
On our way, we stopped over for lunch in Titusville, home of the Space Coast, at a historic restaurant known as Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant. It was there I discovered their famous rock shrimp.
Sourced off the deep waters of Port Canaveral, they taste like a cross between a lobster and a shrimp. The shell, a light pink hue, is even lobster-like, and they are served split down the middle for easy peeling. I got them seasoned with Old Bay, and just as lobster does, the shrimp came with clarified butter, an easy process that refers to removing the water and milk solids from whole butter, creating a more concentrated, rich flavor and higher smoke point.
It was the most intriguing and interesting shrimp I’d ever eaten, full of Some Kinda Good flavor. As the story goes, shrimpers would throw the rock shrimp back, but one day, there was a lady who decided to try the shrimp. She discovered their delicious sweet flavor and invented a patented machine, developed for the specific purpose of splitting their shells, so she could easily serve them in the restaurant.
As it turns out, that may have been the best decision she ever made. If you visit Titusville, Florida, be sure to eat at Dixie Crossroads and try the rock shrimp. I’m still thinking about them!
The water in Key West was absolutely beautiful, various shades of aqua and teal as far as the eye could see. The part of vacation I enjoyed most was sitting on my balcony overlooking the ocean. Each morning I sipped my coffee out there and in the early afternoons I enjoyed reading my book, listening to the lapping ocean waves and feeling the sea breeze.
I caught a few cat naps in the chaise lounge too. There was a tall palm tree right next to our balcony, and one morning, my husband, Kurt, caught a glimpse of something in the tree. Upon a closer look, we couldn’t believe our eyes — there was a 3-foot iguana with a black and green striped tail camouflaged in the branches of the palm tree. He was straddling a long palm branch, feet dangling off the edges, as if to sunbathe. It was the coolest and cutest thing. He hung out with us for at least two days, and I was sad to see him go. Between the iguanas and the roosters, the wildlife in Key West gave the city so much personality.
We discovered many great places to eat while on vacation. When it came to the town’s most famous dessert, key lime pie, I loved seeing the creativity of so many of the restaurants. There were mile high meringue and chocolate dipped versions, slices served with fruit and thicker vs. thinner graham cracker crusts.
My favorite ended up being the classic, simple version with a buttery graham cracker crust. The most memorable meal for me though, had to be the lobster pizza at this fabulous little seaside cafe. I will dream of that lunch for a longtime.
Now, I’m back in culinary school completing my last semester. Classes come early, starting at 7 a.m. My internship will be my next feat. For the first time, I will be working in a professional restaurant kitchen in the back-of-house, preparing salads and plating desserts. Wish me luck.
Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a private chef and the author of the best-selling memoir “Some Kinda Good.” Featured in Forbes, on Food Network and ABC, she writes about Southern, coastal cuisine, locally sourced and in season. Connect with her on social media by liking Some Kinda Good on Facebook, or follow @SKGFoodBlog on Instagram and Twitter. To learn more, visit RebekahLingenfelser.com.