Category Archives: Food, Fashion & Wine

Unofficial Start to Summer

May 31st is Jolyse Barnett’s Margarita Moments Blogiversary. In appreciation of YOU, my readers, I’m giving away prizes to random commenters** each week this month. (To learn if you won for commenting last week, scroll to the bottom of this post.) So, if you haven’t yet left a comment, now’s the time to dip your toes into the blog waters. Your email isn’t made public and you can use a nickname for privacy. Winners from today’s post will be announced Monday, May 28th. Be sure to also stop by on Wednesday, May 31st for an extra-special Margarita Moment and giveaway. Enjoy, and good luck!

Memorial Day Weekend 2012

The lawn is mown, the pool open, and the grill fired up. It’s time for a backyard barbeque to celebrate the return of outdoor living. If you like the blue margarita, these light cocktails may hit the sweet spot :

Malibu Twisted Pink – 1 part Malibu, 1 part cranberry juice, 1 part fresh grapefruit juice. Pour all ingredients over cubed ice into glass. Stir to mix and chill. Garnish with a twist and wedge of grapefruit.

Raspberry Martini – 2 oz. raspberry vodka, 1/2 DeKuyper Razzmatazz liquer, 1 oz. Sprite soda. Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake well, strain into cocktail/martini glass, and serve.

Shrimp on the barbie, anyone?

Grilled burgers, sausage, chicken, and steak are tasty, but seafood is quick and delicious, too. Here’s a 30-minute grilled shrimp recipe, courtesy of


  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 8 bamboo or metal skewers
  • 1 pound extra large shrimp (21-25), peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (about half of a bunch)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Assemble marinade ingredients in a large ziplock storage bag, seal, and toss to mix. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Marinate the shrimp for 30 minutes.
  2. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water while the shrimp is marinating to prevent them from burning on the grill. When the shrimp are finished marinating, spear three shrimp per skewer. Discard remaining marinade.
  3. Grill shrimp on the outer edges of the grill heated to approximately 400°F for 2-3 minutes on the first side and 1-2 minutes on the second side. Serve on the skewer or remove shrimp from skewer and serve on a platter.

This next summer staple simple to prepare is grilled vegetables. Select whatever combination of veggies you find in the fridge. Carrots, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and zucchini are especially good. Cut veggies into medium-sized chunks. Add whole garlic cloves. Place all in the center of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Sprinkle with olive oil, thyme, black pepper, and salt. Close the foil around the veggies and grill over medium heat until cooked to your liking.

Simple, healthy, and delicious

Still have room for dessert? Of course! Margarita Moments’ top pick for this holiday weekend is barbequed pineapple topped with vanilla ice cream.

For my readers celebrating the holiday weekend, please enjoy responsibly and remember the brave people who gave their lives for America and freedom.

And now for blogiversary news…Last week’s Margarita Moments prize winner is Muffintop Mommy!!!! Thanks for participating and congratulations! Email me at with your address. A beach towel and $15 Amazon card will soon be on their way.

This week’s prize is an insulated personal cooler tote bag (perfect for by the pool or at the beach) and a $20 Amazon card so you can purchase that summer read!

What are your favorite summer drinks and dishes?

**Commenters must provide a continental USA address if selected as prize winner. I apologize to my out-of-country readers. I love you too, and will have to figure out a cost-effective way to include you in future giveaways. Thanks for reading!

A Dinner and Romance, Key West Style

You’ve booked your flight and rooms and are on your way to Key West with your sweetheart. Now for those little details, like choosing just the right restaurant for romance-filled evenings. With dining options galore in the Conch Republic, confusion may ensue. Relax. Let Margarita Moments narrow the choices for you.

  • Michaels – Known for its steak and seafood, this restaurant is a sure bet when it comes to quality cuisine and impeccable service. You may want to dine outdoors in their garden oasis. Michaels’ drink selection is impressive, including a variety of wines and martinis. I suggest the White Chocolate Martini made with Stoli Vanil Vodka & White Creme de Cacao, served in a Belgian chocolate rimmed glass. If you’re interested in one of their delicious fondue appetizers, be sure to order your selection immediately, as it takes 20-25 minutes to prepare. Entree servings are a healthy size, but leave room for dessert. I’d recommend sharing a warm chocolate volcano. Mmm.
  • The Flaming Buoy – A twilight dinner for two on this up-and-coming restaurant’s cozy side porch may set the mood for romance. The waitstaff is friendly yet unobtrusive. You won’t feel rushed as you may at some eateries, and the food is all about taste and comfort. I highly recommend the lobster mac and cheese. Click on the restaurant name above for my unabridged review.
  • Latitudes – This restaurant isn’t in Old Town like the others listed here, but is easily accessible via a complimentary ten-minute ferry ride to Sunset Key. I haven’t eaten here yet. There are so many wonderful choices in Key West, and this Westin Resort restaurant is a bit on the pricey side. Many reviewers say eating alfresco on Latitude’s quiet beach at sunset is worth every penny, though, and I imagine it is.
  • Hot Tin Roof – This restaurant is part of the sophisticated Ocean Key Resort overlooking Key West Harbor, the perfect backdrop for a romantic dinner. You may select small plates or opt for a heartier entree. Click here to see the menu. We’ve never been disappointed with its service or ambiance.
  • nine one five – Located at, you guessed it, 915 Duval Street, this is a tapis restaurant. Request a table for two on the building’s front porch, and you’ll be able to people watch while whispering sweet nothings to your love between servings. If you like chocolate, you may wish to make Life by Chocolate your meal’s final act.
  • Cafe Sole – Boasting French cuisine and intimate indoor or alfresco seating, this award-winning establishment is recommended by Key West aficionados and foodies across the internet. I haven’t eaten here before, but now it’s on my list!
  • Cafe Marquesa – This historied restaurant is affiliated with Marquesa Hotel, lodging designed for the discerning traveler. We’ve biked and strolled past it many times, and look forward to one day sitting inside as patrons. We hear the food is as incredible as the hotel’s reputation.
  • Charter boat — For the ultimate in intimate, rent a private yacht for a dinner sunset sail around Key West harbor. What a beautiful ending to a romantic getaway!

Wherever you decide to dine, may you eat and drink in good health and happiness. Bon appetit!

What’s the most romantic restaurant you’ve enjoyed or wish to experience?

Holiday Traditions

Happy December, all!

This is the month most anticipated by many children, and for those adults in touch with their inner child. It’s a time of faith and magic. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also add stress to an already busy schedule. To relieve the pressure to get everything done, I find it helps to focus on family traditions. Some of our friends attend cookie exchange or ginberbread house decorating parties, and they sound wonderful. Our traditions are simpler and quieter, usually involving only our immediate family, due to my son’s autism.

After the holiday cards have been mailed and a bulk of the presents purchased, the joyous part of the season begins. My son and I make dozens of sugar cookies. Here’s a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine:

For cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For frosting

  • 9 cups (or more) powdered sugar (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons Just Whites (pasteurized powdered egg whites)*
  • 12 tablespoons (or more) water

Read More

I mix, cut out, and bake them while he ices and adds colorful sprinkles to the santa, star, and stocking shapes, although we both agree our favorite part is eating a few–still warm out of the oven.

Christmas Tree in Germany at EPCOT, WDW

When our daughter arrives home from college, we seek out a Christmas tree and bring it home to share in the happiness of the season. My husband wraps it with lights, and the kids and I decorate it. They love to hear each ornament’s story as we place it on a branch, especially the ones they made long ago in preschool or were given as gifts.

Once the Christmas tree is decorated, it’s time for our family’s favorite activity. The four of us eat a leisurely dinner one evening–usually pizza or another meal easy to clean up–and then we pile into the family car with contented bellies. My husband tunes into a local radio station known for it’s holiday songs. As we pull away from the driveway, singing along with Jingle Bell Rock or Frosty the Snowman, we happily anticipate our neighborhood’s celebration of the season.

We are never disappointed. Each year, our village outdoes itself. Christmas lights cover homes and greenery. Nativity scenes and other seasonal lawn decorations are proudly displayed. Apparently, we aren’t alone in our fascination with our neighborhood displays. HGTV’s “Light Up the Holidays” features what it deems the most amazing front yards across America. Check out their great website and photos here. I also like to peek at other beautifully decorated homes on YouTube, like the ones from Melbourne, Australia:

Others are even more inventive, their lights synchronized to music. If you watched the video above, click on the “Holdman Christmas Lights” video next. These homes remind me of the music/water show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Good times!

After trolling around town for festive displays, we head home. We end our family evening in front of the fireplace with hot cocoa and sugar cookies.  After the kids go to bed, my husband and I cuddle on the couch. We each sip a margarita or another favorite adult beverage and enjoy watching It’s A Wonderful Life late into the night.

What family traditions are a relaxing part of your winter holiday?

Woman’s Survival List–Comfort Food

Appetizer Trio – Lobster Mac n Cheese on left

On October 20th, a black cat crossed my car’s path on my way to work. I’m not particularly superstitious, but a slight shiver trickled down my spine just the same. I’d long forgotten the cat later that day as I prepared to attend a meeting across town. I slipped and fell on my way to exit the building. Hard. Hard enough to require doctor visits, an arm sling, a knee wrap, x-rays of four joints, an orthopedist specialist, and PT three times a week for the foreseeable future. I’m also likely looking at MRIs in a few weeks for my shoulder and knee. My doctors say I was lucky. I agree. It could’ve happened before my Key West getaway. I could have hit my head.

A few days ago, I bumped into a colleague at work as I limped down the hall. I asked after his wife, who was injured back in September. He said she continues to heal. Then he laughed and added, “She tells me if she has any one of the following, the hurt isn’t so bad. But the more, the better.” He ticked off her items with a smile. “Chocolate, wine, sex, and sleep.” I smiled too, and in my mind, I’d already dubbed her items as belonging to a universal Woman’s Survival List. You know, for every day when the going gets tough.

The air has turned downright frigid chilly here in the northeast, so here’s another item I’d add to the list. Comfort food.

Soup soothes the soul

My husband and I ate a soul-filling dinner at a new Key West restaurant, The Flaming Buoy, on our recent getaway. The top photo includes their famous lobster mac and cheese. When we inquired about the ingredients, the hostess was kind enough to divulge all but their “secret” sauce. She said it was fine to share as we wish. I wish:

Flaming Buoy Lobster Mac n Cheese:  Florida lobster tail, cut into small chunks; Aged, sharp white cheddar, shaved; Thin slices of fresh parmesan; Swiss cheese, melted in a “signature” heavy cream sauce; All mixed with penne pasta.

We look forward to replicating the magic of this delectable dish. I’ll let you know if we succeed. In the meantime, here’s another comfort food, one our family enjoys on a weekly basis during colder weather:

CHICKEN CHEESE CASSEROLE: (Prep time: 5 minutes Total time: 50 – 65 minutes)

6 x 9 casserole dish, aluminum foil, oven

Ingredients: 1 inch thick boneless chicken breasts, deli-sliced Yarlsberg swiss cheese, herb stuffing mix, 1 stick butter, milk, cream of celery soup, salt, pepper

1. Place chicken breasts in casserole dish

2. Cover each breast with a slice of swiss

3. Sprinkle stuffing mix on top and around chicken breasts

4. Mix soup with milk until soup is thin; spoon onto stuffing

5. Slice butter into thin pads and place all over top of mixture

6. Salt and pepper entire dish

7. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 mins. – 1 hour, depending on your oven.

The Flaming Buoy at corner of Packer and Virginia- KW

Feel free to share your favorite comfort food or add another item to the Woman’s Survival List. Men, you’re welcome to join in the fun. The above recipe is actually my husband’s concoction. And please, take care to avoid those black cats, broken mirrors, ladders, and umbrellas opened indoors.

I’m off to pour a glass of merlot and cuddle on my couch next to the fireplace. My leftover chicken cheese casserole is ready. Mmm. Maybe it’s good I was forced to slow down for awhile. I’m enjoying the simple things. May you, too.

Better Than Sex

Better Than Sex, a dessert-and-wine-only restaurant owned by Len Johnson, is located within a short walk off Duval Street’s upper end in Key West. The idea of an eatery dedicated to consumption of sweets and wine in a romantic atmosphere piques my interest, and I convince my husband to try it on a recent Florida Keys getaway. We doubt it can live up to its name, but we’re eager to give it a chance.

Warned by the manager at our guesthouse that this new restaurant is very popular and often packed after 7:30, we arrive at opening on Sunday and hope for the best. We are fine. Only three other couples are there. It’s private, and, in my opinion, very relaxing.

Luxurious red satin curtains separate the dining area into cozy halves and champagne-colored satin with nostalgic wedding photos line the walls. Our friendly hostess leads us through the dark, candlelit room to a table for two. She introduces the menu and explains that the self-taught chef, Dani, creates all items daily with the exception of ice cream–which is shipped from France.

Our dining area–darker than this in real-life

She then hands me a mini-flashlight to help read the wine menu. Since it’s early yet and we’re next to a window, the flashlight is a cute touch but unnecessary. My husband inquires about the chocolate-dipped wine glasses he’s heard me raving about, and we learn the glass can be rimmed with milk chocolate, white chocolate, or dark chocolate. They all sound delicious to me, but she suggests we order milk chocolate since we’re both having red wine.

As we wait for our drinks, we giggle as we explore the Suggested Sex Games book at our table. It’s there, why not? Quirky pre-WWII era music filters through hidden speakers. I had imagined jazz or classical tunes playing in the background when I’d envisioned this restaurant, so this selection is a surprise. But the book is fun and I’m getting a kick out of talking with my husband about something other than dentist bills, our kids, or the need for a new refrigerator. You know what I mean. We get consumed by the daily concerns and forget to focus on each other.

Chocolate and Merlot Heavenly

I find myself more playful with him, and everything becomes a double entendre, encouraged by the dessert names on our menu. He decides on “Cookie Nookie Pie” while I consider “Between My Red Velvet Sheets” cheesecake and “Tongue Bath Truffle.”

Cookie Nookie Pie

Our wine arrives and I have to admit, that first lick of sweet milk chocolate with a smooth Merlot chaser almost undoes me. It may not be better than sex, but that first taste rivals it. I enjoy watching my husband consume his drink, both of us flirting with each other as we haven’t done in years–and certainly not in public. The hostess breezes by to check on us and makes a suggestive remark about our finesse with the chocolate. It all adds to the sexy ambiance. Soon, we’ve licked and sipped our way to the bottom of our glasses.

Truffle & Sorbet Dessert

My truffle and sorbet dessert is delicious. We share with each other, adding to our intimacy. His selection tastes even more decadent than mine. Leisurely, we nibble away at our plates until our sweet-tooth is satiated.

The sugar rush ensues as we stroll hand-in-hand down Duval Street a while later, wide awake and ready to enjoy the rest of our evening. I joke about one of the suggested games we’d discovered between the pages of the well-worn book at the restaurant. My husband’s eyes light up. I think Better Than Sex Restaurant is onto something.

What foods and environments do you find romantic?

Blue Heaven

Welcome to Blue Heaven!

Food can be a mini-escape of its own. Combine that pleasure with an exotic atmosphere, and the result can be out-of-this-world. Like many tourist destinations, there are a plethora of restaurants to chose from when staying in Key West. According to Trip Advisor, Old Town has close to two hundred. Each year, my honey and I enjoy different eateries in addition to our regular haunt, El Siboney, a locals’ hotspot around the corner from our Bed & Breakfast. (We crave El Siboney’s Cuban sandwich!)

During our 2009 getaway to the Conch Republic, we were eager to try out Blue Heaven, rated as one of the island’s top ten restaurants. We wanted to visit it not only for the food, but for its colorful history. This site is where Ernest Hemingway once refereed and sparred in Friday night boxing matches during the 1930’s. The restaurant building a bordello back then, and hosted cock fights and gambling at other times.

Biking here is the way to go!

Blue Heaven is located at the corner of Thomas and Petronia in Bahama Village. We biked there, happy to find plenty of bike-friendly parking. In fact, the restaurant’s blogsite recommends their customers “walk, bike, or taxi” since car parking is at a premium in this section of town.

The atmosphere at Blue Heaven is quintessentially Key West, reflecting the Florida Keys slogan, “Come As You Are.” I’d call the style rustic-casual, which suited us fine for lunch. For an informal tour of Blue Heaven, inside and out, check out this video:

Simple and Delicious

Their menu features Caribbean fare. Feeling tame, I ordered the blackened shrimp caesar salad. My honey was a little more daring, and selected their famous yellowtail snapper with black beans, veggies, brown rice, and cornbread. We didn’t eat dessert that day, but we’ve heard rumors this restaurant makes a fine key lime pie.

Happy Rooster

If you like birds, Blue Heaven is the place to be. I’d recommend eating outside unless it’s raining, and soak in the ambiance of their signature courtyard. We listened to the tweets and cock-a-doodle-doos while waiting for our meal, astonished that resident roosters not only pecked around our tables for goodies (They like cornbread, too!), but also perched in the trees above us. I’m a country girl, but I’d never seen anything like that before.

A rooster in a tree??

We didn’t have to wait to be seated for lunch, but those interested in eating breakfast at Blue Heaven are wise to plan ahead. The wait may be well over an hour, and the restaurant’s website warns they serve from the lunch menu at the scheduled time. For evening meals, diners may be entertained by live music as well as by the wildlife. I wouldn’t consider this a romantic dinner option, but a nice place for couples looking for a relaxed evening with interesting sights, Caribbean food, and great drinks.

Now it’s your turn. What’s the most interesting restaurant you’ve enjoyed?


Sunset Sail View

Today was one of those days. You know, the kind where you hit the floor running and don’t stop until your body and mind scream for relief. Prone to anxiety, I do my utmost to prevent days like this. I prioritize errands and am a faithful To-Do Lister and Completer. In spite of my best efforts, the occasional, overwhelmingly busy day still catches me by surprise. And, like today, I struggle to squeeze in a little “me” time, if only to curtail internal combustion.

My next-to-last errand today was a mani-pedi. I know, I know, this sounds more like a luxury than a chore, but when a writing deadline is looming, sitting still for two hours without a laptop propped in front of me is tantamount to torture for me. To alleviate the nerve-wrecking experience of watching a ticking clock as my nails are buffed, filed, painted, and dried, I daydream. (Yeah, we writers are good at that.)

If you’ve read earlier posts, you know I’m fond of the Florida Keys, and specifically Key West. What started as a three-night getaway years ago has turned into an annual escape. Among other things, Conch Republic is renowned for its beautiful sunsets. On previous trips, my husband and I reveled in the midst of celebratory crowds at Mallory Square and enjoyed our sunset dinner at a table for two on the Hot Tin Roof patio. For our third trip, we asked the manager of our little B&B his recommendation. Without a moment’s hesitation, he suggested taking the Wind & Wine Sunset Sail. We did, and the evening that followed was the stuff dreams are made of. Or daydreams, as the case may be.

As I sat in the nail salon this afternoon, instead of customers and chairs I saw gently flapping ivory sails above and velvet blue water beyond. Instead of the cash register’s ring and nail dryers’ hum, my mind heard waves lapping against our sailing vessel’s bow, wine glasses clinking, and seagulls calling softly as they flew overhead. I didn’t detect the slightest odor of polish remover or hand creams. No, I inhaled salt-scented sea breezes and my husband’s understated cologne as he leaned close to whisper sweet nothings in my ear.

I felt the rocking to-and-fro as we sailed through the evening waters within sight of Westin Marina and savored the taste of a merlot wine recently poured for me, its smoothly tart notes of black cherry, cinnamon, and oak swirling around on my tongue between bites of gouda cheese and spicy sausage stacked on water table crackers. Mmmm. This is the life.

And then I was asked to pay.

My nails were done, and I’d taken a break from reality. So the moral of the story is, getting a mani-pedi can be relaxing, even for someone who worries about the time-suck like me. I was rejuvenated enough upon returning home to complete my final “to-do” of the day–writing this week’s blog.

Enjoy your daydreams. (But please, for goodness sake, not during activities like cutting people’s hair, operating heavy machinery, or supervising children. That could turn your daydream into a nightmare rather quickly.)

Ahhh, time to go. I hear the whirring of a certain kind of blender and its calling my name.

Enjoy a glimpse into my daydream, if you’d like: