Conch Chowder and a Beachwarming Party

February 28th, 2010

We have just returned from a quick vacation in Key West. But one of my blogging buddies, Dave of My Year on the Grill, along with his wife Jackie, are having an extended six month vacation in the Virgin Islands. Jackie works for The Government and she has pulled this unfortunate duty, so Dave being a dutiful husband has moved his grill from snowy Kansas and has set up shop in paradise.

Dave is also a weekly contributer to another blog, Our Krazy Kitchen and Min and the girls wanted to throw a beachwarming party for Dave and Jackie. We were all invited to bring something to the party and my contribution is this wonderful Conch Chowder. Surely Dave can get conchs in the Virgin Islands so I hope he will try this recipe. Enjoy your virtual party Dave!
Conchs are readily available in Key West and they are served in chowders, salads, gumbos, and fritters. They are a member of the sea snail family and are second in popularity only to the more sophisticated escargot. We encountered them in almost every restaurant we went to in Key West and our trip was way too short to sample all of the possibilities. The idea of taking this brief trip to the Keys was an effort to find someplace warm to thaw our winter weary bones. Unfortunately it was even cold in the Keys. We wore our jackets every day. We stayed at the Hollinsed House which is composed of the Main House and a Carriage House containing several studio apartments.

The above picture is the carriage house. Our apartment is located in the lower rooms with the double patio doors.

This is the pool area right outside of our door. Even though the pool was heated, it was too cold to take a dip.

The grounds were lush with vegetation and I did manage to find a ray of sun to sit by the pool in the above lounge chairs.
The Hollinsed House is located in the historic section of Key West and just blocks from the famous Duval Street and Mallory Square where sunset is celebrated each evening.

Crowds of people are drawn to the square next to the sea by street perfomers like this unicyclist, juggling fellow.

As the crowd watched, a four-masted schooner passed by in the harbor.

Cruise ships anchor here and this one almost blocked the nightly spectacle of the sunset.
No trip to Key West would be complete without a visit to The Hemingway House. Ernest Hemingway settled in Key West in the late 1920’s. He was drawn to the area by the abundant fishing possibilties.

The house reflects a Spanish Colonial style. The walls were constructed from coral rocks found in the area. Ceiling to floor windows were used as doors to access the patio and upper porches.

The first room I headed to was the kitchen. It is small but bright. The appliances and counters were raised to accomodate Hemingway’s tall frame.

A picture of Hemingway in the dining room shows him as he appeared when he and his wife Pauline bought the house. He was a young thiry year old.

Hemingway loved cats and there are still forty or more cats roaming the grounds descended from the original six-toed cat. This cat has found a comfortable spot on the buffet in the dining room.

Here are two more cats resting comfortably in Hemingway’s king size bed. The headboard is an old Spanish gate.

This is a view of one of the upper porches with it’s exterior shutters.

Hemingway’s office was located in a carriage building behind the main house. He wrote “To Have and Have Not” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in this room.

Cats are not the only creatures to have freedom to wander in Key West. Chickens and roosters are on every street corner; talk about free range chickens!

One of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hangouts was Sloppy Joe’s Bar. This is not the original location, but it has become the place that everyone associates with Hemingway.

We could not go without sampling the original sloppy joe. It was delicious. I will see if I can get the recipe. But in the meantime, here is a recipe for Conch Chowder for Dave and any of you who want to participate in his Beachwarming Party. Enjoy your stay in The Virgin Islands Dave!
1/4 cup diced bacon
1 garlic clove
1/2 thyme sprig
2 celery stalks, sliced finely
1/4 cup tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
2 finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon paprika
2 medium green pepper, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1 pound conch meat
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 cup water to thin broth
In a Dutch oven, fry bacon until golden brown. Drain. Add peppers, celery, onions, thyme, and garlic. Cook until soft. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, conch, and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Add enough more water to cover mixture. Simmer for 25 minutes. Return bacon to pot. Make sure there is always sufficient water in pot. Serves 4 -6.

We had the conch chowder with a plate of conch fritters.

Printable recipe

18 responses to “Conch Chowder and a Beachwarming Party”

  1. Kat says:

    Jacket weather in Key West? WOW. It really is the winter to remember! (but some of us would rather forget)
    Very nice to throw a House warming party for Dave and Jackie!
    Thanks for the photos of Hemingway’s home. I enjoyed it.

  2. Penny, thanks for taking us along to Key West with your wonderful photos. The Keys are truly a bit of paradise shared by all the friendly natives and vacationers. I would be like you and head to Hemingway’s kitchen (which I do at most historic homes I have visited) ~ because as a follow foodie, I want to see how things were done back then.

    It looks like y’all chose a beautiful inn to stay at. I’ll have to put that on my list to check out.

    Your Conch Chowder sounds really tasty and the fritters look amazing. Thanks for the chowder recipe…

  3. Linda says:

    WOW! great post… thanks! I truly enjoyed it!

    Thanks for the little tour… it looks beautiful… and I am envious! I’m in south Georgia (I have a house in upstate NY… and glad I’m not there at the moment!)

    I can see why Dave is a blogger friend … I’m one of his other blogger friends… glad to have met you…

    I will put you on my blog list… thanks again for a great post!

    Linda from Cooking Tip of the Day

  4. I so enjoyed the pictures of the Hemingway House. I was in Key West a few years ago and never made it to the tour. We did go in July and believe it or not, the weather was just perfect! In spite of the cooler weather, at least you got to sample the local fare. The recipe sounds lovely and your virtual party is a fabulous idea!


  5. What a wonderful post! I absolutely love the pictures of Hemingway House. Great recipe, and the idea of a virtual island party is so fun! Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Susan says:

    Great informative post. I loved the pictures and the conch chowder a favorite as are the conch fritters. Happy memories of the islands. Thanks.

  7. Penny, Dave will love this! I adored the photos of the cats curled up on the bed and seeing chickens roaming the area. Beautiful!

  8. Wow I’d never heard of this soup, but it sounds awesome. I can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks so much for coming to the party.
    Tamy ~ OKK

  9. katiez says:

    What a gorgeous place. It’s been years since we’ve been in the Keys…. I need some beach time, I think – even if it’s cold beach time.

  10. Kristen says:

    Your vacation looks/sounds wonderful. I have never tried conch and seeings that I am living in Arizona, I am not likely to encounter any soon, but I’d love to. Sounds delightful. Thanks for coming to Dave’s party.
    Kristen – Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker

  11. I love this post…. and will try the chowder for sure. Conch is available quite a few places around here, so will give it a go.

    Thank you so much for the kind words, it was such a surprise and treat to see everyone go to such effort.

    And what is it about islands and free range chickens… the roosters are everywhere here too

  12. Katy ~ says:

    Conch…hmmmm…I would try it if you didn’t tell me what was in it, grins…

    Loved the photo tour!

  13. Loing ur pics…walked doem the lane for a hol with u….we live tropical too and yeah u’ll find those free range hens all over here too…we had ’em too but as pets….(love ur free range comparism)
    and infact i had white roosters as pets who lived in my room and i knew by name-they responded too and i even carried one of ’em along in a basket when i went on a hol…the naughty guy even ventured to the lift n had to be rescued by the room assitants…lol
    Loved what u brought along for the party…

  14. Mary says:

    I’m sorry the weather did not cooperate but it looks like you had charming accommodations. I know Dave will love that stew. Have a great day, Penny.

  15. I could hear your voice narrating… and I love it. I truly enjoyed the tour Penny. We lived in Melbourne, Florida for more than 5 years and we regret not going to the Key West at all. I’m glad you took me with you this time! Thank you for tagging me along!

  16. Thanks for the tour! I haven’t tried conch yet, but read great things about it in The Spice Necklace.

  17. Robin Sue says:

    Hi Penny,
    First of all I loved my first time in Key West. I did eat that wonderful Sloppy Joe’s Sloppy Joe, it was the best I have ever had. I wish I could live in the Virgin Islands for 6 months like your friends too. WOW!I must go to Hemmingways house next time I go, you made it all sound so interesting. Thanks for sharing your vacation!

  18. The chowder looks wonderful! Just seeing Sloppy Joe’s makes me want to go a nice little road trip to the Keys!

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