***NOTE*** This episode was recorded months ago before the Coronavirus began.

If you like this episode, even the tiniest bit, please reach out to Rodriguez Cigars and order from him online to help support: https://rodriguezcigarskeywest.com

Use promo code:  FAMILIA to get 20% off.

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with a third generational owner of Rodriguez Cigars, Danny Difabio.

We talked about a number of origin stories, like how Danny’s Grandfather coming over from Cuba, how the business made it down to Key West, and how it was Danny’s destiny to take over the family business.

More on Rodriguez Cigars

In 1947, the Rodriguez Family began the masterful art of cultivating tobacco on their private plantation in the town of Siguaney. The tobacco plantation was called, La Finca de Carmencita. Located in the Las Villas province of Cuba, La Finca de Carmencita specialized in growing, aging, and curing filler tobacco leaves for numerous manufacturers throughout Cuba.

By 1952, La Finca Carmencita employed over 20 workers and grew over 120,000 pounds of tobacco annually.

Eight years later, the Cuban government nationalized the private plantation and the Rodriguez family was forced to immigrate to the United States.

In 1971, the Rodriguez family found a new beginning on the beautiful island of Key West and established the Rodriguez Cigar Factory.

Founded in 1984, we stand as the oldest cigar manufacturer in the Florida Keys preserving the historical cigar manufacturing industry that began in Key West in 1831. As the years passed new generation of family members have expanded manufacturing operations to Nicaragua and we are proud to be working with some of the finest tobacco in the world. Rodriguez Cigars are exclusively constructed with vintage leaves that have been hand-selected, aged and constructed through the traditional Cuban manufacturing process.

Website: https://rodriguezcigarskeywest.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rodriguezcigars/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rodriguez.cigars

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rodriguezcigars

Address: 113 Fitzpatrick St, Key West, FL 33040

Phone: (305) 296-0167

Normal Hours: 9:30AM – 4:30PM (Monday – Sunday)

Hi everyone! This episode was recorded months before all this Coronavirus-mania all started, but gives a little insight into things to come when we get back to normal 🙂

***PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RESTAURANT***

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Courtney Wilson and Jenny Robinson of Mellow Cafe and Gastropub.

More on Mellow Cafe

You’re looking for something new. Well, this is not-your-usual coastal fare – in a good way. That means uncommonly healthy, flavorful preparations, with a generous dose of inspiration.

Check back for specials and seasonal updates.

This menu never goes stale.

Website: https://www.mellowkw.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mellowventureskeywest/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MellowVenturesKeyWest

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Alex Risius (Assistant Program Director) and Mill McCleary (Executive Program Director) to talk about the data behind what’s happening to our coral reefs.

We talk about how Reef Relief® is making a difference on a global scale, and how tiny changes you make, can make a big difference to our oceans.

Reef Relief® is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to improving and protecting our coral reef ecosystem.

Reef Relief® Goals

  • Focus on rigorous science to educate the public & advocacy toward policymakers to achieve conservation, protection, and restoration of coral reefs
  • Increase public awareness of the importance and value of living coral reef ecosystems
  •  Increase scientific understanding and knowledge of living coral reef ecosystems
  •  Strengthen grassroots community-based efforts to protect coral reef ecosystems
  • Design, develop, support, and implement strategies for marine protected areas associated with coral reef ecosystems
  • Encourage and support eco-tourism as part of sustainable community development that protects and preserves coral reef ecosystems
  • Strengthen our organizational capacity to carry out our mission

Reef Relief is a registered 501(c)3 organization.

Website: https://www.reefrelief.org

Instagram: https://instagram.com/reefrelief/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reefrelief

Twitter: https://twitter.com/reefrelief

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thereefrelief

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/reefrelief/

Email: [email protected]

Our Work

Discover Coral Reefs School Program

This program provides ocean education to over 6,000 K-12th grade students from public and private schools throughout the Florida Keys. The Discover Coral Reefs School Program, teaches K- 12th grade students from Key West to Miami the importance of ocean and coastal ecosystems through activities in the classroom and on the water. The program supplements the current science curriculum of these schools by focusing on marine science lessons that are of particular importance to students and families residing in Florida.

Coral Camp

The Coral Camp Summer Program uses interactive activities and field trips to teach children 6- 14 years of age about ocean ecology, coral reefs, marine life and sustainability. Camp activities include lessons on the identification of common corals, fish, and invertebrates, oceanography, tides, symbiosis, snorkel etiquette and leave no trace principles. Each year Reef Relief offers scholarships sponsored by local businesses and community members so that children regardless of income have a chance to participate in this unique program. Over the summer, 260 local and vacationing youth will take part in the program.

Community & Environmental Stewardship

In partnership with community groups and government agencies, Reef Relief coordinates volunteer programs that cultivate an attitude of stewardship within the community. Since 2010, Reef Relief’s coastal clean-up program has removed over 150,000 lbs of marine debris from the shores and waters of the Florida Keys.

Reef Relief has partnered with the City of Key West to educate residents and visitors about stormwater and local water quality through the Stormwater Education and Outreach Project. The Key West High School Reef Relief Club and alternative spring break volunteers each year have stenciled storm drains throughout the City of Key West with no dumping messages. Other Stormwater Education Programs we run include our “Skip the Straw” Campaign, “Protect your Skin, Protect our Reef” sunscreen campaign, and our storm drain stenciling project.

Reef Education

The distribution of nearly 100,000 brochures to Florida Keys locations including resorts, hotels and guesthouses, Chambers of Commerce, educational facilities, visitor centers and more are an important way to educate the public about our fragile ecosystem. Information found in the “Don’t Teach Your Trash to Swim” poster, “Coral Reef Guide for Kids of All Ages” brochure, “Coral Reefs” brochure and the “Florida Keys is a No Discharge Zone for Boater Sewage” brochure are all important resources to inform the general public. Join in our efforts to improve and protect our coral reef ecosystem.

Policy Guidance

For 32 years, Reef Relief has made, considerable progress to improve water quality and protect, fish and wildlife of Florida’s coral reef ecosystems by working with environmental, scientific and governmental leaders in Florida. Reef Relief’s State Program Director Dr. Jeff Sharkey and his staff at the Capitol Alliance Group are a driving force for improved water quality. In support of this effort, Reef Relief become a member of the Everglades Coalition in 2012. The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 57 local, state and national environmental organizations. It is dedicated to the full restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem encompassing the lakes that connect to Lake Okeechobee, the River of Grass, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. Reef Relief will continue to monitor Federal and State activities on water quality, ocean policy, fisheries, and marine species.

Key West Marine Park

In 2012, Reef Relief took over management of the Key West Marine Park through a partnership with the City of Key West. This swim park will become a focal point for Reef Relief’s marine education and scientific programs. These will include the design and implementation of a snorkel trail by Reef Relief staff, partners, and volunteers within the Key West Marine Park. This will be the first interpretive snorkel trail in North America. The park provides an interactive outdoor learning site for students of all ages. The three buoyed areas are for swimming and snorkeling and are closed to motorized vessels. For boaters, there are two access lanes to the shoreline. Key West Marine Park brochure

The public can access the Key West Marine Park from four locations: South Beach at the southern end of Duval St., Dog Beach at the end of Vernon Street, the Mary and John Spottswood Waterfront Park at the foot of Seminole Street, and Higgs Beach from Reynolds Street to White Street.

The Marine Park is located off of Higgs Beach at Atlantic Boulevard, 525 Angela Street. Free to the public

Reef Relief Environmental Center

The Reef Relief Environmental Center introduces visitors, school groups, and community members to the coral reef ecosystem, its threats and what can be done to protect our marine world. A theater shows free daily films related to marine resource issues. A variety of brochures and other printed materials are available to learn more coral reefs and the issues affecting them. The center is located in the historic Old Town of Key West.

The Reef Relief Environmental Center is located at

631 Greene Street in Key West, FL 33040

Open Monday – Friday

Hours 10am-4pm. Free admission.

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Len Johnson, the co-owner of Better Than Sex – A Dessert Restaurant, to talk about where Len’s wife Dani gets her inspiration as head baker, and how she “tested” her recipes on all their dinner guests.

We talk about the genius behind the restaurant’s name (it was all Dani’s idea), how they had the “guts” to even start this business after the recession, and how changing their client focus catapulted the brand.

Be on the lookout for the Better Than Sex podcast, and don’t forget to visit any one of their many locations to try, “Cookie Nookie Pie,” Between My Red Velvet Sheets Cheesecake,” “Peanut Butter Perversion,” “The Morning After,” just to name a few.

More on Better Than Sex – A Dessert Restaurant

Our dream began in 2003. As newlyweds, I was eager to make my husbands every desire a reality, so when he exclaimed to me “I want dessert!”, I wanted to impress! 

Four hours later after patiently waiting, a fully decorated two-layer Oreo Cookie Cake appeared. Len was a happy hubby.  He proclaimed it ‘amazingly delicious’ and said: “wow if you can do this, what else can you do?”   I am not one for letting go of a challenge and really wanted to “show him” what I could do! Then began the odyssey that leads us to today.

My love of baking stemmed from fond memories in my Italian family’s kitchen alongside my mom. So, I continued and began teaching myself how to bake.  I collected all of my recipes, saved receipts, and took photos of everything I made. Something guided me to do this without reason for several years.  Our concept for BTS had not formed yet. I would bring my creations to work and test them out on friends and co-workers.  They would often exclaim “you should do this for a living.”  Len and I secretly agreed.

When Len said to me ‘write a menu’ and “I’ll write the business plan,” challenge #2 was accepted.  We knew we wanted to create an after-dinner experience, an extension of an evening in a romantic and sophisticated sexy atmosphere.  And so, it begins….

In 2006 we threw a Valentine’s Day Dessert party at our house and invited a few unsuspecting friends. Some of the dessert items we have on the menu today were tested on them. Our idea to open a dessert-only restaurant was officially validated that night. 

We put our twisted minds together and had an incredibly fun time creating what is now Better Than Sex – A Dessert Restaurant. 

On May 20, 2008, we officially opened at our original location, 411 Petronia Street to a full house!

We always believed in our idea and ourselves, however, the road after was a bit more challenging. The first reviews were less than positive and at one point we only had a few thousand dollars to our names. We Never Quit!

Then in 2010 Better Than Sex was featured on the Travel Channel and the rest is history. By 2012 the little location on Petronia Street was standing room only.  We needed a bigger restaurant. It was decided to pick up and move to the current Key West location. Our last night at the Petronia location featured our team and guests picking up their tables and chairs and walking them down the block and setting them up in the new space.

On December 26th, 2015 we opened our Orlando location.  Len and I met over 20 years ago waiting tables in Orlando and it seemed like a perfect fit for our second spot. Orlando opened its doors to a packed house and has been successful since.

Coming full circle, on Valentines’ Day of 2016 we were blessed to have been featured on CBS Sunday Morning. As you can see, Valentine’s Day is significant to BTS.  “We valentine, all the time.”

We are passionate about what we do and now want to share that opportunity with other like-minded people. We are currently offering our concept to franchise nationwide.  

And to think, this was all born from an Oreo Cookie Layer Cake.

Back in 2003, as husband and wife, we made a promise to ourselves….“Lists do work, agreements work, if you believe it, have a partner that can hold you accountable, you can and will make it happen.”  We always will!

With Passion, Dani Johnson – Co-Founder

Website: https://www.betterthansexdesserts.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/betterthansexdesserts/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/betterthansexkw

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/better-than-sex-a-dessert-restaurant-orlando-5

Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34345-d1068339-Reviews-Better_Than_Sex_A_Dessert_Restaurant-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Franchise Inquiries: https://www.betterthansexdesserts.com/franchise/

Music Playlist: https://players.customchannels.net/betterthansex/index.html

Artwork provided by: https://www.loversart.net

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with local brand creator and artist Cristina Velardi.

We talk about where the vision of the brand came from, how she ended up at the Art Shack, how she got started in screen printing, and how patience has been her biggest strength.

More on Cocky Key West

Basic is for the (other) birds. Cocky Key West is for the weird and proud. CockyKW is a Key West based apparel company paying homage to our island’s frisky feathered friends and proudly sharing the joys of humble living.

For the artistic and eclectic keeping our island beautifully weird, the lifelong locals continuing to preserve the unique culture, all the confident bastards that chose to forfeit the norm, and our cocky little feathered mascots strutting through our streets.

Humble living. Island pride.

Anyone that has taken a trip to Key West knows that there is no shortage of strange on this tiny island.  A haunted doll, six-toed cats, and Fantasy Fest (the annual week-long celebration of individual fantasy and fetish) are just a few examples why Key West is endearingly referred to as “Key Weird.”  There are so many characteristics of this place that make it so strangely unique…all of which are perpetuated, preserved and celebrated by the creative and colorful souls that inhabit our home.

Website: http://www.cockykw.com

Screen Printing Services: http://www.cockykw.com/screen-printing

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cockykeywest

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CockyKeyWest

Located at The Art Shack: https://backyardsofkeywest.com/the-art-shack-key-west

Address: 6404 Front St, Stock Island, FL

Contact: [email protected]

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with yogi, chef, and all-around awesome person, Sofia Artola.

We talk about the transition going from student to teacher to business owner, moving locations (5 times), and incorporating the cafe into the space, creating a full organic experience.

More on Shakti Yoga

Shakti Yoga is committed to offering you sound, wise instruction in a context that honors the ancient traditions of Hatha Yoga. Our classes are nurturing, safe and non-competitive, with an emphasis on lightness and laughter when appropriate.

Shakti Yoga’s current class schedule focuses on Flow. Flow is an evolving form of traditional hatha yoga that focuses on integrating intention, breath and movement, awareness and alignment, strength and flexibility, and “your practice with daily life.” Instructors weave together teachings that can inspire physical, energetic, mental, and pure bliss states of consciousness.

Sofia Artola has been teaching yoga for 18 years. She is a graduate of the Sai Ayurvedic College and Wellness Center & has an Associate Degree in Vedic Studies. A native of Nicaragua, Sofia has been an island resident of Key West, Florida for over 30 years.

In 2005 Sofia started Shakti Yoga & five years later she moved Shakti to the current location at 1114 White St. In 2015 she expanded the space & launched Mayanjali Cafe & Boutique. Mayanjali has recently grown to include nourishing meals, specialty dinners & cooking classes.

Website: http://shaktikeywest.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shaktiyogakeywest

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shaktiyogakeywest

Location: 1114 White St, Key West, FL

Phone: (305) 587-4285

More on Mayanjali

IT ALL STARTED WITH A DREAM…

I am a traveler.

On a yoga sabbatical in 2003 I learned the power of food. While trying to live the true yogic life, I found my way to an Ashram in India and lived with a family who taught me the ritual of making the morning meal. The preparation taught me how to make simple traditional meals.

Food is seen as communal and rich in custom; the rite of practice. A time to slow down and be conscious of what we consume; recognizing the energy we create.

A whole new universe opened up to me of how important food was.

My practice had been getting on a mat in order to reawaken the body and energy. With this experience, I began to awaken to the energy of food.

This was the dream… to share that awakening with the community in Key West and beyond.

In the progression of this yogic life, I have found my Dharma. My life’s purpose. Transforming simple ingredients into foods that heal your body, mind and nourish the soul.

I am extremely blessed to share this with others.

Website: https://mayanjali.com

Location: 1114 White St, Key West, FL

Phone: (305) 587-4285

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with celebrity chef Graham Dailey of the famed Cafe Marquesa.

We talk about his early beginnings at the Peninsula Grill as the Executive Chef, to professional kitchens in New York City, where he worked under well-known Chef Anthony Bourdain.

Later on, Chef Graham moved to Paris and became the first American to apprentice at the Michelin star-rated Hotel Lutetia, one of France’s most prestigious hotels; to now find his new home in Key West at Cafe Marquesa.

More on Cafe Marquesa

One of Zagat’s highest-rated restaurants in Key West.

No visit to Key West is complete without a trip to Café Marquesa, a local and tourist favorite Key West restaurant. For a memorable dining experience, Café Marquesa’s “Contemporary American Cuisine” does not disappoint. Specialties include grilled meats and fresh, local seafood, complemented by inventive appetizers and salads as well as fresh baked bread and desserts made daily.

Diners at the 50-seat restaurant catch glimpses of kitchen theatre behind a hand-painted trompe l’oeil wall. Large mahogany-framed mirrors give diners a view of the entire restaurant. Specialties include locally caught fresh local seafood, complemented by inventive appetizers and house-made desserts.

Based on seasonal availability, our chef selects the finest seafood, meats and produce to design the menu. Our team of talented chefs presents innovative interpretations of classic dishes nightly. Our award-winning Cafe Marquesa will delight your tastebuds with many delectable entrees that you won’t be able to decide which one to choose. But save room for dessert!

A cozy bar is available for drinks, light bites, dessert, and coffee or full meals. Friends and hotel guests meet at the bar prior to dinner and before or after the theatre. It is a great place to begin or end an evening!

Website: http://marquesa.com/cafe-marquesa/

Cozy, high-end hotel eatery celebrated for its genteel ambiance & inventive New American cooking.

Located in: Marquesa Hotel

Address: 600 Fleming St, Key West, FL 33040

Reservations: opentable.com

Phone: (800) 869-4631

Hours: Monday – Sunday: 5:30PM–10PM

More on Chef Graham Dailey

Drawn to culinary arts at an early age, Peninsula Grill Executive Chef Graham Dailey transitioned from teenage summers working on fishing and shrimping boats in the Gulf of Mexico to professional kitchens in New York City, where he worked under well-known Chef Anthony Bourdain. The high-energy, two-year opportunity inspired Dailey to become a professional chef. Dailey moved to Paris, enrolled in the famed Le Cordon Bleu, and became the first American to apprentice at the Michelin star-rated Hotel Lutetia, one of France’s most prestigious hotels. Chef Dailey returned to the United States in 1997 and joined Peninsula Grill as a member of the restaurant’s opening culinary team. After serving as Chef du Cuisine, he assumed the role of Peninsula Grill Executive Chef. 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/grahamdailey/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/graham.dailey.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrahamDailey

Best Chefs of America: https://www.bestchefsamerica.com/graham-dailey

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with the family (almost the entire family) behind Tropical Vibes Cones & Bowls.

We talked about family values, how the business got started, and how their love for the community is the driving force for the business.

More on Tropical Vibes

A one of a kind, eco-friendly company, family and 🇺🇸 veteran-owned Ice cream shop. Happily serving Brazilian Açaí Bowls, Hawaiian Shaved Ice & Thai Rolled Ice Cream.

YouTube: youtu.be/PqE3_0QQMl8

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tropicalvibes.keywest/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tropicalvibes.keywest

Address: 411 Greene St, Key West, FL 33040

Hours: Monday – Sunday 11AM–10PM

Phone: (305) 906-1100

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Michael Halpern to talk about life at the famed Southernmost House, his wife’s beautiful foundation (Michelle’s Foundation), and the wonderful things the B&B is doing for the community.

We share some NYC stories, revel in how kindness and old school morals matter, and how Michael pulled off the cleanup of the “quiet end” of Duval Street.

More on The Southernmost House

Relax, Unwind, & Escape

Surround yourself in upscale elegance at the magnificent Southernmost House.

When you take a dip in the zero-entry heated pool that is perched directly on the oceanfront, it feels like the crystal-clear waters ebb and flow into the horizon. Find out why our famous bed and breakfast has been the Key West, Florida boutique hotel of choice for Presidents, royalty, and famous figures like Ernest Hemingway.

Relax, unwind, and escape from everyday life on the quieter end of Duval Street in a gorgeous setting that stretches out around our charming, restored Victorian house.

Website: https://www.southernmosthouse.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Southernmosthouse

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesouthernmosthouse

Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34345-d600878-Reviews-The_Southernmost_House-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

The Southernmost House

1400 Duval Street
Key West FL, 33040

Phone: 305-296-3141
Email: [email protected]

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Raymond Vazquez of the famed real estate brokerage firm, Truman & Co.

We talk about oil spills, fly fishing, and of course Real Estate 🙂

More on Raymond:

Raymond has been assisting buyers & sellers since 2005. His diverse background means he is one of the few real estate agents who truly understands their role as a Broker/Associate. His market knowledge & understanding of every client’s needs leads to a well-managed, exciting real estate experience.

Website: https://keywesthometeam.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/raymondjvazquez

CONTACT RAYMOND:

[email protected]

(305) 395-1777

1205 Truman Ave / Key West, FL 33040

THE COMPANY

Truman & Co. specializes in Key West real estate and real estate in the Lower Keys. We have some of the most respected Realtors in the Key West area. Our agents together with their individual teams of real estate professionals have joined together to form Truman & Co. Real Estate Services.

Truman & Co. has since its inception consistently been the top-producing real estate firm in Key West and the Lower Keys.