A Little Island Eats

November 6, 2012 by Kari Karch

You know when they say you need to take a vacation after you get back from vacation? Well, whoever said that was telling the truth. I just returned from 10 days in beautiful Key West, Florida and am having withdrawals of going from 85 degree weather to 35 degree weather. Yes, it’s time to hang up my flip flops after having such a wonderful time, but all I can think about is the fantastic time I had while enjoying the beautiful ocean air, every seafood delight imaginable, and great times with amazing friends.

For the past couple years, I head down there to visit friends, get away from the hustle and bustle of city living, and overall enjoy some fun times in the sand. The food culture down in Key West is comprised mainly of grouper, stone crab (which lucky for me were just in season), yellowtail, hogfish, and spiny lobster. I’m usually on a quest for the best seafood shacks around, and this year I was introduced to some knowledgeable foodies/locals who gave me a food tour I would never forget.

Fried grouper sandwiches at BO’s that make your mouth water, Bloody Mary’s with cocktail sauce and fresh gulf shrimp, lobster in a beer batter drizzled with tupelo honey, I could go on but I’m making myself hungry by the second. After a full day of eating frenzy, I wanted to wake up and do the whole thing again, this time more oysters on the half shell, 1 full pound of stone crab for myself, and the yellowtail and mango quesadillas that are ridiculously fantastic at Garbo’s Grill. This place was a tiny little shack on the side of the road that offered fresh fish grilled up into your choice of tacos or quesadillas filled with creamy brie cheese, fresh mango slices, and cilantro. The simplicity of food proves once again to be the best. The sauce they serve is called a “Caribbean Special Sauce” and luckily, the owner was gracious enough to pass on the secret to me.

I love talking to locals and finding out what their favorites are and especially love that I had my own foodie tour (big thanks to Ryan!) so it’s only fair that I share one of the recipes I will make with a Key West smile every time…happy eating everyone and try this recipe! It’s so easy and will have all of your friends raving.

Grilled Mahi Quesadilla’s with Brie and Mango

  • 6 oz fresh mahi mahi
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large burrito-sized flour tortilla
  • ½ cup brie cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • ½ mango, sliced
  • ¼ tsp sriracha

In a large non stick skillet, heat the oil and season the fish. Place the fish in the skillet and cook 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Lay out flour tortilla and place brie to one side. Top with cooked mahi, mango, and cilantro, sriracha, and season with sea salt and pepper. Fold top over and place in heated skillet. Cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, then flip and cook for 1 more minute. Serve with mango puree or any mayo-based sauce with a little kick in it. (Sorry folks, but I promised to keep the sauce a secret). Enjoy with a nice cold beer or island rum drinks!

Kari Karch

Kari Karch is a 19-year veteran of the culinary industry, creator of Kiss the Cook, and the head chef and spokesperson for the Kenmore brand. She has made many notable appearances on ABC Morning News, on WGN, on the Cooking Channel and as a judge for the World Food Championships.