And finally, public lewdness, assault, and some open container violations . . . or, you know, just another Saturday night in Key West.
Count 18: Public Lewdness
You don't really need to go anywhere special in Key West to encounter public lewdness, but it can't hurt. And so we set off for Better Than Sex, a dessert-only restaurant where you can have a satisfying one-night stand without worrying about how to get rid of the guy in the morning.
The space is bordello-chic, with lipstick-red walls, dimly-lit crystal chandeliers, and secluded banquettes made for cozying up to your loved one, distracting him with your feminine wiles, and stealing his heart dessert.
After perusing the extensive menu, I knew I had to try the Fork-You Fondue, which was described as "liquid vanilla cheesecake fondue." If those aren't the four sexiest words you've ever heard, then you need to get some new porn.
The others had the "Between My Red Velvet Sheets" cheesecake (which sounds hot but not sexy), the Twist and Stout (which I guess can be sexy if you're into those kind of guys), and the Jungle Fever (which I can assure you is plenty sexy. Ahem.)
Count 19: Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Angel and I last visited Latitudes on Sunset Key in 1999, where we rang in the new Millennium with Champagne, fireworks over Key West, and a midnight kiss. Well, two out of three, anyway.
You see, I grew up in Pittsburgh, a city with obsessed with everything from the Stillers and chipped ham to classic rock and mullets. Lesser-known, however, is the city's obsession with fireworks. Although most people like fireworks, a 'Burgher will drop everything -- and I mean everything -- for some fireworks. When I was growing up, it was taken for granted that no matter what you were right in the middle of -- driving a car, giving birth, performing brain surgery -- the minute you heard fireworks, the aforementioned task was immediately abandoned because OOH! LOOK!! FIREWORKS!!! Thus, a typical telephone conversation might go something like, "So I told that jagoff to kiss my OOH! LOOK!! FIREWORKS!!!" CLICK.
And so, as couples everywhere counted down the last seconds of 1999 and prepared to greet the new Millennium, I heard the sound of fireworks down at the beach . . . and promptly jumped out of my seat and ran like a bat out of hell, leaving poor Angel in the dust. I think he might have kissed a waitress in my absence.
Which explains why we haven't returned to Latitudes in 15 years. But at Ellen and Brian's urging we relented, and hopped aboard Lil Princess for the short boat ride over to Sunset Key.
In the years since our last visit, we'd almost forgotten how lovely the place is.
Soon we were settled in at a table in the sand, drinking in the idyllic surroundings . . . and some mango martinis.
I kicked things off with the rich, creamy lobster bisque, followed by the tuna tartare with sweet chili, soy pearls, seaweed salad, and miso-yuzu aioli.
Ellen, Brian, and Angel all ordered the same entrée, the cumin and coriander crusted snapper. This, I noticed, happened at almost every meal -- the three of them ordered the exact same thing, presumably as part of some pact to spread the pain around a bit: I'd beg a few bites from each of them, instead of just commandeering Angel's entire plate.
But on this night, I was happy to be the odd man out. That's because we'd just dug into our meals when Angel pulled an inch-long fish bone out of his mouth. A few minutes later, Ellen did the same. (Brian claimed not to have found any, but I did hear a strange crunching noise coming from his end of the table.) Within 15 minutes, each of them had enough tiny fish bones lined up on their plate to make a decent-looking fossil.
Though we hate to complain, especially on vacation, nobody wanted to get stabbed in the gums with a fish bone, so we mentioned it to our waiter, who summoned the manager, who removed all three entrees from our bill. It was a generous and gracious thing to do, and as a result we will definitely return.
Though Angel is still banned from kissing any more waitresses.
Count 20: Stalking
Our friend Randi is an adorable little blonde lady with a fantastic sense of adventure, a wicked sense of humor, and just enough sense to disable the GPS on her phone when she knows I'm in town.
I guess she wasn't expecting that I'd just stalk her on Facebook.
So when I saw that Randi was at La Te Da one fine afternoon enjoying a strawberry-lemon mimosa with fresh basil, I knew what I had to do. I jumped on my bike, mowed down a few mailboxes, and skidded into La Te Da just in time for happy hour.
One mimosa turned into two, which turned into key lime pie martinis with a sidecar.
Which inevitably turned into pizza.
But as soon as Angel started trying to teach Randi how to change the privacy settings on her phone, I knew it was time to go.
Plus, I'd only had two cocktails and half a pizza, and I didn't want to risk being late for dinner.
Count 21: Solicitation
The vampire cave/house we rented for this trip was conveniently located next door to the Rum Bar, whose cat typically hangs out at the bar there.
But because I enjoy having a pet around when I'm on vacay, I naturally decided that the cat should live with me while I was in town. It didn't take long to lure her over.
And it took even less time for her to make herself right at home.
Soon she was even making herself useful, chasing chickens off the property for us.
Of course, she wasn't too happy when I wouldn't let her eat the entire bag of treats as a reward.
By the way, are you wondering how I'm so sure it's a girl? Because after I spent a week feeding her treats, this happened.
Story of my life.
Count 22: Escape in the Third Degree
Every once in a while, you find a restaurant that's comfortable, comforting, and feels like "your" place. In Key West, we are lucky enough to have a few such escapes, one of which is Café Sole.
Then again, it's not hard to feel at home when they are serving bowls of crack masquerading as mushroom soup.
Plus an addictive chickpea spread that I guess is supposed to be spread onto bread, but is more easily spooned directly into your mouth.
On this evening, as on most others, we ordered our "usual" dishes: the hogfish for Angel, and the shrimp risotto for me.
For dessert, Angel had the key lime pie. That sounded good to me . . . but not as good as a bowl of gazpacho.
Our other "go-to" restaurant is Seven Fish, a cozy spot with just 40 seats tucked away (at least for now) in a residential neighborhood on Olivia Street.
People often complain that Seven Fish is noisy and the tables are too close together, but we're New Yorkers: Half the fun of going out to dinner is eavesdropping on the couple next to us.
On this particular night, we started with the wild mushroom quesadilla for Angel, and the Caesar salad with tangy goat cheese and a hunk of Seven Fish's deliciously salty, squishy rosemary focaccia for me.
That was followed by two orders of the coconut-curry snapper over rice.
And just a tiny bit more of that fabulous focaccia.
Count 23: Open Container Violations
You might remember that two years ago, we spent New Year's Eve in Key West as hostages, forced to eat cheesecake and watch strippers and cheer for a lime wedge. This year, we were determined to make things more interesting.
Way more interesting.
We'd purchased VIP tickets for the shoe drop at Bourbon Street Pub on Duval, which entitled us to an open bar, a buffet of everything from crab cakes and cocktail weenies to key lime tarts decorated with chocolate palm trees . . . and, of course, a bird's-eye view of the craziness on Duval from Bourbon Street's balcony.
The crowd was filled with folks in wigs, tutus, and all sorts of other get-ups, but nobody looked better than the guy with the disco-ball drink holder.
Sushi made her grand entrance about an hour before midnight, signing autographs and posing for photos before climbing into her shoemobile.
Soon it was time for the countdown to midnight.
We stuck around for a while after midnight, watching a seven-foot-tall drag queen get down with a bunch of male strippers. Which is a sentence I write all the time.
There was no way I was leaving without getting in that shoe, even if Bourbon Street hadn't given us permission. I figured I'd be long gone before the cops could make it through the mob.
But 15 long years later, did Angel finally get his midnight kiss?
I'll never tell.
Up next, pot pies in New York City, pig parts in Charleston, and pastries aplenty in Paris. Click here to subscribe and you'll be notified when a new post goes up!