Roasted Turkey, Red Peppers, Tapenade Mayo on a Crusty Roll
A small sandwich shop sat adjoined to the large whitewashed resort whose locale hosted a beach, a grey-ish combined mixture of pebbles intertwined with softer sand that faced onto the sun sparkled rippled water calmed by a barrier of coral reefs.
Serving assorted ingredient combinations on varying crusty breads, the shop offered a variety of creative combinations for the time, a bit of European style twist, some Southwestern offerings and a peek into some newer colorful ingredients, namely of cuisines, Latin, African, Caribbean.
Among the higher end evening dining establishments on the island barrier of coral reefs, not too far a walk from the small sandwich shop adjoined to the resort, a well acclaimed chef in town and long from wasting away in Margaritaville looking for his lost shaker of salt, Chef Norman Van Aken, in Key West, Florida was sprinkling it all about learning , immersing, writing, and inspiring the islands restaurant reputation where he would later be largely credited among those in the food world as the creator of New World Cuisine: Fusion.
In his newest restaurant, MIRA, Chef Norman Van Aken was furthering new culinary beginnings, the emergence of fusion food. Combining bright cultural influences between food styles among varied ethnic cuisines, Van Aken cooked using European technique, while respecting and embracing new cultural flavors, introducing them, showcasing, and sharing these each between the other.
Back to the tasty Roasted Turkey, Red Peppers, Tapenade Mayo on a Crusty Roll from the sandwich shop. The place happened as an immediate favorite with our vacationing group for the long weekend trip and caused a sort of a luncheon fervor for revisits off the beach each day.
In the relaxed flow of things, the first two evening’s dining excursions casually transpired wandering about town, basic good fare with fresh catches of the day, lobsters, fresh artichokes with lemon dipping butter sauce enhanced with wine, beer, or island cocktails the joys of a laid back vacation.
That is, until the third morning, the alarm went off. Panic. There still remained the only two ‘must visit’ restaurants on this trips destination, both associated with one Chef Norman Van Aken.
Early next day one of two reservations secured was later set by little white lights and the backdrop of the sensational ocean front setting , Louie’s Backyard. The establishment brought mainstream attention under its former chef, Norman Van Aken, yes, the very chef who would shortly be recognized as the founder of New World Cuisine: ‘Fusion’ foods.
Forgoing breakfast the next morning the group set out for a brief beach day of activity before departing while I worried on being sure to get the prized reservation for our final evening at my top dining destination, MIRA.
Delayed again, having been talked into just one last Roasted Turkey, Red Peppers, Tapenade Mayo on a Crusty Roll from the small sandwich shop adjoined to the large whitewashed resort before seeing the others off to the airport, a whirlwind walk was immediate upon departure.
Four full courses, including dessert at MIRA proved a memorable experience, each dish offering its own creative, inspired flavors.
Afterward, I even got to chat with Chef Norman Van Aken, where we also talked about the Philadelphia Book and the Cook of the time, and his newest cookbook: “Feast of Sunlight.”
But there was yet another key memorable part of this Four full course meal, including dessert that is, the single reservation time available for my top dining destination on the final evening of the long weekend in Key West, Florida, 5:00 pm. Yes, that’s right, making this meal the first and only time in my life to ever sit down and eat Four Full Courses, including dessert less than three hours before having been talked into joining friends from the then departed vacation group to eating a whole, just one last Roasted Turkey, Red Peppers, Tapenade Mayo on a Crusty Roll.