Magic Brunch

So Mr. Foodie and I finally got around to booking brunch reservations at Little Palm Island Resort – otherwise known as Magic Brunch. Not long ago it was our birthdays and my wonderful parents gave us $$ specifically to go have fun here. The first thing you should know is that this brunch is pricey (around $100/person not including tip – was closer to $75/person during the recession). The second thing you should know is that it is worth. every. penny. I am no amateur when it comes to brunch. My former urban home region has a very active brunch scene, and thanks to my amazing friends, I have sampled many fine brunches on many a Sunday. I’ve even had brunch at the noteworthy Wynn hotel (years ago now) in Las Vegas which, if I remember correctly, was similarly priced at the time to this brunch. And yet the experience at Little Palm blows all of these brunches out of the water. While at the Wynn you get an amazing spread, you are packed in a hotel restaurant with bajillions of other people, spending half your time trying to get another drink out of the waiter, and tripping over folks along the buffet (at least that is how it felt years ago). At most brunches you might have an extended buffet with delicious eats or a hot menu to choose from. You might get bottomless mimosas or have to order specialty brunch cocktails. The brunch at the Kennedy Center in D.C. is a great example of a luxurious brunch in a unique setting. But it still isn’t as great as Little Palm.

I’ve already described how a trip to the island begins – in one of their gorgeous wood boats which leaves from their gift shop on Little Torch Key. Typically you arrive at the main dock and are escorted to your table by a host. This time we landed on the back dock near the overnight resort part of the island due to the wind which was roaring on the other side from a passing storm. This was fun because we got to walk through more of the island on the way to the dining room. We spied a life-size chess set and the gorgeous pool as well as a bocce court.

We were seated on the front patio near the piano with a lovely view of the ocean. All tables will have a view of the ocean, but our was extra lovely as we were the only people in our part of the dining room. There are a few tables inside with A/C, but most are out on the porches with fans running. You can start right away or order something from the wonderful wait staff there. Everything, the buffet, the hot menu items, the drink bars is included in the flat rate. You can gorge yourself on the buffet and never order from the menu, but that would be a mistake. The menu has small plate portions and you can order as many as you like or the same ones over and over for as long as you want. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We usually head for the bar and get either a Bloody Mary or mimosa – they have DIY bars set up for both drink types. Mr. Foodie tried his first Bloody Mary, but he is not a fan of tomato juice, so I ended up finishing that one. I made a delicious mimosa with cassis and raspberries. Then we hit the buffet and specifically the seafood – all the delicious shrimp and oysters your heart could desire. In season they have crab legs also. We dabbled in the other items too – cheese, bread, cold salads and veggies, but we went back for the seafood.

Off the hot menu we ordered their famous french toast. While the items on the menu are switched out regularly, this item is always there. I will admit that this was the only small disappointment I had while brunching. The french toast used to be one of the highlights of my trips there, but the past couple visits, it tastes tired. It used to be smaller, taller, and piping hot when it reached the table – with a little butter/cream melting on top and an almond berry flavor in every bite. Now it is still good, but it tastes more like a pastry one has with coffee instead of the decadent thing it once was.

The other menu items were wonderful. My favorite by far was the pork belly ravioli which was actually fried so it was crunchy on the outside. The crunch was great next to the soft and delicious pork belly meat. We also had Jerk Shrimp which was lovely and the pork tenderloin dish was melt in your mouth wonderful. We had seconds of some things. And Mr. Foodie went back in to the buffet later to continue eating shrimp because he loves it so much.

We took breaks which is another great aspect of having brunch here. If you want to get up and walk around the beach or down the dock, you can. You can go stretch out on the beach chairs or dip your toes in the water. You can grab a paper off the piano and read for a bit. No need to rush. The table is yours until you are done and you never feel as though you are tripping over others to enjoy the space. We ended up being there for three hours, but I’ve stayed as long as four (the boat back leaves on the hour). The island itself offers up many visual delights. We’ve seen dolphins feeding off shore, there are always birds flying low, and there is always a key deer sighting. Key deer are unique to the Florida Keys – endangered and protected. They made their way down here and from island to island when the water was so low they could cross easily. Little Palm deer are the friendliest of the bunch often because they anticipate being fed. We don’t feed them, unless the staff offers us their favorite island vegetation to give them, but they come anyway. This little guy jumped up on the patio and tried to nuzzle his way into getting food. The staff eventually got him off the deck and back to his habitat. Don’t be frightened – they are harmless, curious creatures.

Just when you think you couldn’t possibly eat anything more, they bring dessert. You don’t order off a menu, but they bring a large plate with four desserts. If you have a large party, they bring multiple plates, but for us they brought just the one (thankfully). And because we told them it was a birthday present from my parents, they made our plate special. On it we had a meringue puff with berries, a dense chocolate cake, key lime pie, and cream puff with chocolate. The key lime pie was our favorite. We also had their black coffee and it was amazing. I wanted to drink the whole pot. So good.

Eventually we made it back to the boat and back to our island where we promptly took a nap and emerged later to do some yard work before slipping into the pool to cool off. All in all, a great day. If you’re interested in stopping in to Little Palm for brunch, make a reservation here – Sunday is brunch day, but I’ve heard they do Saturday brunches only “in-season” so you might ask. There is a dress code: men need to have collars (but I’d recommend no long sleeves or long pants as it can get warm on the porches). I am in no way affiliated with Little Palm, just a big fan!

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Little Palm Lunch – Review

Little Palm Island Resort is one of the reasons my family chose Summerland Key as their key for life. This little island is a quick boat ride from ours, although we would never use our own boat to make a trip there. Instead, you take one of the two resort boats out for your lunch, spa, brunch, or hotel reservations. Now this place is $$$$, so I want to make that clear. I could rarely come here if it wasn’t for the generosity of others. What I will add to that is that I’ve always found it worth every. single. penny. 
It starts with the aforementioned boat ride from their cute little office on Little Torch Key. The office has a cute little gift shop with especially fun things for children (note: children under 16 are not allowed on this resort island). The host will greet you (often by  name depending on how busy they are) and offer you a virgin or rum drink while you wait for the boat captain. The boats are gorgeous – the smaller one looks like something out of a Bond movie with wood paneling and green leather seats. The larger boat looks like a quaint tugboat from a cartoon. We usually sit in the back or the front to get the best views. Sometimes you’ll see dolphins jumping on the way out or catch a glimpse of a sea turtle. 
My new tropical pedi
Upon arrival, another host will greet you and escort you to your table, spa room, hotel, etc. In our case, we came for spa appointments and then lunch, so I was ushered to the salon for my margarita mani/pedi. The mani/pedi was basic enough, but the technician did an excellent, careful job. In the meantime, I got to sip on margaritas and chit-chat with her about her life here and her favorite things to do. As with many people in the keys, this is only her second job. She is a full-time realtor and by-appointment nail stylist.
Afterward we settled down to lunch on the patio with a 180 degree view of ocean, palm trees, and the resort’s beach. After a while, we were the only ones there (it being a late lunch). I had to try the cuban sandwich because if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a bit obsessed with them since I got here. It was wonderful. The bread was the only thing that could have been better, but the ham, cheese, and pickle blended together perfectly. The flavor was immense, and the side of sweet potato fries rivaled even my love of the ones at Square Grouper. The white wine was cold, the sandwich hot, and the view was
Cuban Sandwich w/ Sweet Potato Fries 

mesmerizing. For dessert, we tried a chocolate mousse, rum soaked french toast concoction (le Pain Perdu) that we attacked and finished before I could even get a picture of it. It was so damned good.

Mr. Foodie and I have plans to do brunch there soon, and that is the real reason you will want to come back to this place. It is so good, it merits its own post, so stay tuned. 

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