Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Spanish Gardens Cafe

This has been one adventure-filled year and  I thought I'd celebrate my blogaversary by returning to the place I wrote one of my first posts on:  Spanish Gardens Cafe; tucked away at Mile Marker 80.9 in Islamorada, at 80925 Overseas Highway. Just as I felt a year ago, a trip to the Florida Keys must include treating my taste buds to one of Chef Jose's healthy, expertly prepared dishes. Originally from Santander, Spain, Chef Jose Luis Palomino takes great pride in using only fresh, organic ingredients in his dishes to achieve maximum flavor - and he will be more than happy to explain each detail for you. That is how much passion he has for his craft!

With Chef Jose Luis Palomino

On a recent afternoon, we took a drive down to the charming spot for an early dinner. On the walls continue to hang beautiful paintings by a local artist and this time we also got to enjoy a colorful Christmas tree carefully decorated for the holiday season. Chef Jose greeted us, as he does with all his customers, and we sat down to embark on a culinary trip to La Madre Patria - Espana. While we looked at the menu, we munched on some warm bread and an exceptional herb/olive oil mixed with garlic.

Mediterranean Sunshine Salad

Pan Seared Yellowtail Snapper
Something that always stands out in Chef Jose's food is its freshness and quality. He purchases most of his produce from local farms and insists on getting the best for his customers. This is one of the reasons we wanted to start out with a salad: the Mediterranean Sunshine. Generous enough to share, it was a flavorful medley of feta cheese, organic tomatoes, fresh greens and a variety of olives. As usual, it was outstanding. Next we ordered a recommendation from the Chef: the most amazing Octopus I have ever had. Prepared with onions, leeks and garlic, it was drizzled with basil oil and served with a delicious black ink sauce and chopped tomatoes. The combination of warm and cold, mixed with the intense, bold flavors, caused my senses to reel. I couldn't get enough. Following that palate party, we ordered the Pan Seared Yellowtail Snapper. It was exquisitely prepared with black and green olives, tomatoes, capers and came atop a bed of arugula. The fish was tender and buttery, and each forkful became yet another flavor explosion!

Spanish Chorizo Sausage
We decided to sample one more dish and ordered the Spanish Chorizo, with fingerling potatoes and piquillo peppers. Like the other dishes, the seasoning was unbelievable and in the center of the plate sat a fried egg. It was the finishing touch to an authentic Spanish dish.

Chef Jose's desserts made the holidays
even sweeter!

Chocolate Valencia
Key Lime Pie
At this point, we were ecstatic with the meal and all the spectacular tapas we had indulged in. But I wasn't going to finish this adventure without something sweet to share with you. I bring you the Chocolate Valencia and Chef Jose's homemade Key Lime Pie. The Chocolate Valencia is an original creation made with oranges and Grand Marnier, then layered with chocolate. A fluffy cloud of handmade whipped cream topped the masterpiece. It was sweet and refreshing. The Key Lime Pie was everything a key lime pie should be: a perfect balance of sweet and tart. I especially enjoyed  the freshly baked, slightly toasted, warm meringue covering the cool pie.

I was happy that I returned to Spanish Gardens Cafe for my one year blogaversary and that it continues to be such an amazing gem in Islamorada. For more information, you can visit them online at http://www.spanishgardenscafe.com or call them at 305-664-3999.


  1. I will be going to Key Largo at the end of the monthh and will definitely stop by...thanks

  2. Going to the keys in a couple of weeks - look forward to trying this restaurant out - thanks Maria.