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My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories Hardcover – November 16, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“My Key West Kitchen is a brilliant tour of one of the most special places in America, the intersection of the South and the Islands. The cuisine of Key West is a delicious conflation of cultures that only Norman Van Aken, the king of the island, could adequatelyteach.” ―Mario Batali

“Norman is one of the most gifted chefs I know and a dear friend. It's pretty incredible to get to see Key West through the eyes of Norman and his son Justin. This book gives you a greatunderstanding of the charm, culture and food of Key West that they fell in love with and thankfully share with all of us.”―Emeril Lagasse

“My Key West Kitchen is a wonderful collection of recipes that perfectly demonstrates howone place can influence, create and shape an authentic chef.” ―Marcus Samuelsson

“Simply put, this cookbook makes me want to take a trip to Key West! The Van Akens' inspiring dishes give a true sense of place and their passion about their roots shines through in every chapter.”―John Besh (John Besh, Award-winning chef and author)

"A culinary Valentine to the land of spectacular sunsets, conch fritters, and key lime pie.... The sweet and nostalgic stories behind the recipes make My Key West Kitchen essential reading both in and out of the beach house." (Paula Disbrowe, Hot Off the Skillet Southern Living, November 2012)

I've been to Florida once. The Miami/South Beach scene is quite memorable, but ultimately, it's not really for me. The one part of Florida that does fascinate me (other than the Everglades) is the Florida Keys, in particular Key West. Maybe it has to do with its literary heritage (Papa Hemingway, Tennessee Williams), although it's hard to deny the allure of white sand beaches and a tropical climate. But thanks to Norman Van Aken and Justin Van Aken's My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories (Kyle), I can now add to that list, the island's food.Take a look at a map and you'll see just how close Key West is to its Caribbean and Latin American neighbors. So it's really no surprise, then, that so many of the food and recipes the senior Van Aken writes about reflect the geography. Mollete Sandwiches, Chuletas Empanizadas, and Bahamian Conch Chowder are just a few examples. But perhaps the most endearing aspect of the book are the loving tributes to Key West personalities and locales done in a way that the Van Akens know best--through food. Woven throughout it all is Norman Van Aken's own story of how he became a chef and how the Illinois-native ended up in Florida. The energy and feel to Key West seems unlike any place else; don't be surprised if you have the urge to book a flight down after reading this book. But in case you can't, you'll be glad you have the recipes in hand to enjoy a little taste of the Conch Republic. (Esther Sung, The Best Cookbooks of 2012 epicurious, 12/7/2012)

Few cookbooks have ever done such an enticing job of putting forth the charms of a town as this tribute to the place where Norman began a culinary career built around the fusion of New World flavors he discovered there. Touring Key West by neighborhood, he and his son show off a delightful diversity of flavor: caramelized plantain soup with smoked ham and sour cream; conch and grits with salsa rosa; seared beef salad with soy-lime-chile dressing and soba noodles. Fun! (Kitchen Arts & Letters, 12/11/12)

"My Key West Kitchen" is Van Aken's love letter to Key West, where he first found the passion to cook, and where the unique cultural makeup of the island influenced his cuisine. The colorful stories behind the recipes make "My Key West Kitchen" essential reading both in and out of the kitchen. (Key West Keynoter, 12/27/13)

About the Author

Norman Van Aken is the Director of Restaurants of Miami Culinary Institute/"TUYO" and NORMAN'S at The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando. Justin Van Aken, a culinary consultant and a chef as well, specializes in food preservation techniques and sustainability. Together they have formed Van Aken Consulting, Inc. Both authors split their time between Miami and Key West.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Kyle Books (November 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906868751
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906868758
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.7 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being a devoted Parrothead, i had to pick up this Key West cookbook as I wanted to believe that there was more to the mythical mecca of margaritas, that there was more to it than cheeseburgers and margaritas, not that I am complaining about these Parrothead staples, but this entertaining cookbook delivers with a treasure chest of great recipes and stories about one of my favorite places on the planet, Key West. While I cant get down there as often as I like, i can now at least eat like I am there! This book brought back boatloads of memories and revealed some things about the Keys that I will be sure to check out on my next trip. Norman and Justin Van Aken are as adept in the kitchen telling tales as Jimmy Buffett is in singing about this island paradise! Right now I am wishing for a Full Moon Saloon fish sandwich and some conch salad with a mango margarita!
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Format: Hardcover
Norman Van Aken and his son have put together a cookbook of Key West memories and stories about the Conch Republic from their life living there.

I was fortunate to hear Norman and Justin discuss this book at the Miami International Fair.

Beautifully photographed, each recipe tells a tale. The book is organized by Key West neighborhoods as well as including recipes from Van Aken family creations.

Inside the front and back cover is a map of the island city where major landmarks and attractions are notated.

A recipe index lists the categories: Appetizers & Snacks, Soups & Stews, Sandwiches, Salads & Vegetarian Mains, Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Sides, Desserts, Breakfast & Brunch and Beverages.

The book is an interesting and partially nostalgic look at Key West via food and the Van Aken kitchen, the recipes are some of the basic staples of well known dishes ie conch fritters, Bloody Mary.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I live here in Florida and am a NVA fan. I bought three copies of this book for my sisters expecting the very best!! I had family in town and we did a Key West Dinner in Fort Lauderdale - two of the recipes we choose did not include oven temp in the recipe and although we can make an educated guess and let one slide, it made us wonder about the "vetting" of the recipes. Also, for the key lime pie, the pie recipe was great but that meringue??? what is that about? did not work, was runny, and how many households really have a blow torch available - ( and I am a foodie!)

Anyway, good effort, Norman although much can be learned from Amanda Hesser on how to do a "storytelling" cookbook correctly.....The Cook and the Gardener : A Year of Recipes and Writings for the French Countryside

So, three stars so far...we'll see after more experimentation if that should move up or down....
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I used to live in Key West and I knew Norman. He complied a book of recipes of many of my friends i.e. Capt. Tony. Many times since I moved away in 1996 I have wanted this person recipe for a great Cuban or Conch, what they call people born there, and Norman provided me with some of the things I miss the most from KW.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some of the ingredients are hard to find but the stories are great. If you get stuck finding ingredients, use Google to help find a substitute or order what you need from Amazon. There is a lot more to Amazon than just books these days.
While some of the restaurants may not be there any longer, the memories thereof will all come back to you when you read this as you walk Old Town in your mind.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I live in South Florida now and growing up spent far too many weekends in the Keys. Fishing and sailing with family as a child and partying like a wild thing as a teenager up to today. I have eaten at most of the places mentioned in this book. Honestly if you can't get to the Keys buy this book and bring a taste of Key West into your kitchen and mouth. The food is amazing!
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this volume which is so much more than a cookbook. Reading it brings you into the "flavor" of Key West through the chef's personal experiences. Great photos and stories. Oh, and some of the recipes look delicious! I have not yet cooked form this book so I cannot comment on the recipes, but I have made dishes from other of Chef van Akin's books and they worked well. I highly recommend this book to both foodies and Key West lovers.
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This is not only just a great cookbook, it's a giant love letter to the incomparable city that is Key West. I've had the good fortune to have met Mr. Van Aken and his lovely wife, Janet. He generously autographed my copy of this cookbook...........and both he and Janet shared their trove of photos of their new baby grandaughter from their I-Phones. This cookbook is a must for ANYONE who loves to cook and loves Key West!!!!!!! It should be the OFFICIAL cookbook of the "Conch Republic"...
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