***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)

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 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 Key West local Nick Norman to talk about where he started, and where he is going.

We find out how he got started with music and how he is constantly working to “sharpen the sword” of his craft.

This is one of my favorite interviews so far because Nick is so easy to talk to and talks about his career as an open book. 

More on Nick Norman

Immediately recognizable, Nick is known for two distinctive gifts: his soulful voice and infectious smile. It’s hard to imagine that as a young boy he was told he would never be good enough to sing in the church’s youth ensemble in Columbia, South Carolina where he grew up. Today he is truly the man with a golden voice; a talented singer/songwriter who delights his audiences with soulful and inspirational performances. 

It was during his childhood when Nick first acquired his passion for music; his father played guitar, while his mother encouraged him to write. Attending Baptist church exposed him to the awe-inspiring power of the choir. “It was how I first learned that you can truly make people feel what you feel, by believing in what you are singing. They sang from their hearts and that is something I believe that cannot be faked.”

As a young man listening to South Carolina’s emerging musicians of the time, such as Edwin McCain and Hootie and the Blowfish, he was also drawing from the styles of legendary artists including Stevie Wonder and The Band. Inspired by an eclectic array of influences Nick created a sound all his own.

Branching out from his home state he performed on stages all over the southeast, eventually finding his way to the Southernmost City of Key West in 2006. As his solo acoustic shows were drawing crowds, Nick’s songwriting was steadily being fueled by the artistic vibe of the island blending with his native southern roots.  

In 2010,  Nick collaborated with longtime friends Jon Stone & Lee Brice resulting in the recording of his first studio album Hey Cheater. This heartfelt album gave fans a raw look into the personal hardships of Nick’s life by putting his heart on his sleeve in songs such as  “Libba Don’t Call” and “Varela St”. Quickly becoming a Key West anthem, “Good Whiskey” can be heard by local musicians throughout Key West on any given evening. 

He has performed his original music on stages across the country that include City Winery, The Filmore, Listening Room Nashville, Key West Theater, Rams Head, Vina Robles Amphitheatre, Melody Tent and Island Time Music Festival. He has opened for acts such as Lee Brice, Lee Ann Womack, Edwin McCain, The Wailers, and The Doobie Brothers and founded the highly sought after “Sunday Ramble” concert that features local Key West musicians.

Website: https://www.nicknormanmusic.com

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

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

In the episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Kyle Carter to talk about a whole lot of live music.

We talk about his involvement in the Songwriters Sessions, Songwriters Festival, and his own creation, Mile 0 Fest.

Kyle and his family were living, what most consider to be a “comfortable life,” but something was missing.

After falling in love with Key West, Kyle sold it all and took his love for music to his newly beloved island paradise.

Living a “comfortable life” may sound good on paper, but in the end, going after your dreams is what LIFE is all about.

More on Mile 0 Fest – (Jan 28 – Feb 1)

Mile 0 Fest was founded in 2017, with its first year of production being 2018. It was created on the principle of producing a festival that checked all of the boxes: 

  • Fantastic Line-Up – that has repeat and fan favorites back every year, but also brings in new faces, and fresh talent. The best in Red Dirt Americana
  • Location, Location, Location – A destination that was enjoyable for everyone! Key West has everything, beaches, fishing, water-sports, history, shopping, dining, dancing, its the perfect vacation.
  • Fan Bliss – A festival that puts the fans first. No overcrowding here, we are a boutique festival with an attendance cap.  Over a short period of time, our attendees have become family. With almost every state represented, music fans from all over the country come together once a year to celebrate the common thread that binds them. The Love of great music.
  • Flexibility – You want to come as a VIP and have all of your lodgings, passes, and extras are taken care of with a one-stop-shop? You got it! We have an incredible concierge staff that can make that happen. You want to book everything yourself and just get a pass to the festival? We can do that too! (Check out the Packages and Passes page for more detailed information) 

What is Mile 0 Fest? Mile 0 Fest is a 4 Day Red Dirt/Americana Music Festival in Paradise (aka Key West). 

When is Mile 0 Fest? The third annual Mile 0 Fest will be January 28th-February 1st. We have our Duval Street Kick-Off Party on Tuesday, January 28th, 2020. It is open to the public and is a free show for everyone. So although the festival is a four-day festival, you want to come in the day before and enjoy the kick-off party. 

Where is Mile 0 Fest? Mile 0 Fest is held in Key West, Florida. We utilize numerous stages all over the island with our biggest stage being the Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater. Local venues like The Smokin’ Tuna, Irish Kevin’s, Durty Harry’s, Viva Saloon, The Southernmost Beach Resort & Cafe, The Southernmost House, Sunset Pier, Cowboy Bill’s, Key West Theater, The San Carlos Institute, Fury Cruises and many more are also utilized throughout the week to provide ample opportunity to check out Key West while enjoying your favorite Red Dirt/Americana Artists. 

Who Plays Mile 0 Fest? Only the best in Red Dirt & Americana. Past year’s performers have included, Trampled By Turtles, Turnpike Troubadours, Stoney Larue, Shinyribs, Mike & The Moonpies, Jamie Lin Wilson, Jamie Wyatt, John Moreland, John Fullbright, American Aquarium, The Great Divide, Cody Canada & The Departed, Bonnie Bishop, Todd Snider, Paul Thorn, Pat Green, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, The Mavericks, Walt & Tina Wilkins, Jason Eady, Courtney Patton, William Clark Green and many more. 2020’s line-up is looking to be the biggest yet with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Robert Earl Keen, Randy Rogers Band & Whiskey Myers taking the headlining spots. Click HERE to see the full 2020 line-up and past year’s line-ups. 

Website: https://mile0fest.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mile0festkeywest

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mile0festkeywest

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mile0Fest

Florida Weekly Article: https://keywest.floridaweekly.com/articles/mile-0-fest

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Mark Certonio, the creator of the Key West Food & Wine Festival.

We talk about when the festival was created, and what his driving force was to take on such a big undertaking. Mark also gives a great overview of what to expect as an attendee, and how you better get your festival tickets before they’re all gone (he’s not joking).

Mark also sits on the executive committee of the famed “Oldest House Museum” located on 322 Duval Street, which is where the interview took place.

**NOTE** If you want to hear a behind the scenes chatter, I kept the tape rolling as we rant about the future of Marketing,

About the Key West Food & Wine Festival (January 26 – February 2)

The Key West Food and Wine Festival is ​a series of wine and food-themed events showcasing a diverse range of wines and inventive cuisine, hosted by their passionate creators at iconic island locations.

Over 20 unique events including waterfront tastings, winemaker/chef collaborations, and local funky events that present an authentic taste of Key West, Florida

The place to be in January, the festival attracts thousands of culinary explorers from around the country who descend on the tropical island to escape the winter and delight their senses. 

Website: https://keywestfoodandwinefestival.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KWfoodwineFest

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/KWfoodwineFest

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCewWPtwbU6B–_1GIaTbBYw

About the Oldest House Museum

The Oldest House in South Florida is located at 322 Duval Street in Key West. The house and garden admission is $5.00 per person, children under 12 are free. We are open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm every day except Sunday and Wednesday. Staff and docents are available to provide historical information about the house and family, and to answer questions.

The house features family portraits and original furnishings, as well as other period pieces, ship models, and documents telling the story of old Key West. In the rear of the house is a spacious, peaceful garden, where benches invite you to sit and reflect. There, you will see the only surviving Cook House in South Florida.

Website: http://oldesthousemuseum.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OldestHouseKW

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with the owner of UVA Wine Shoppe, Mark Gambuzza.

We talk about why he made his move down to Key West and how he got started in the wine business. Mark provides some great insights on how being patient and putting his customer first has not only benefited his business but his overall way of life.

Main takeaway: Happiness is the new ROI in life.

More on UVA – A CURATED SELECTION

We offer you a selection of the best wines from around the world, as do other fine wine sellers. But what makes Uva a unique wine shop is the experience we offer: we love to share our recommendations almost as much as we enjoy sampling our wines, so we’re happy to do both while we help you make an informed choice.

You can cozy up to our tasting counter to savor a glass, attend a wine tasting or join our monthly Wine Club where everyone has a favorite. Enjoy a special Uva cheese board. Special because Uva is now offering our personal selection of artisanal cheeses and meats unique to the Keys. Plus, you can take the party home with you, or send it to a friend—we’ll be happy to put it all together, deliver to your home, hotel or boat and let you take the credit.

All your wine and gift needs

Uva is the perfect choice to plan your wine selections for any meal or event. We offer customized gift baskets for any occasion. Discounts are available on any and all mixed cases of wine. We also provide free delivery in Key West and can ship to select states. Just stop in, call or email us, for info on how we can help add the right choices for your needs and budget.

“Uva is a proud part of the Key West Community. We encourage everyone to please shop local, to preserve the uniqueness and integrity of our little island. The heart and soul of Key West lies in the special people that live and work here, and by the generous nature of those that travel from all over, to enjoy and support our endeavors and bask in our special culture”

-Mark Gambuzza

Website: https://www.uvakeywest.com

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

519 Fleming St, Key West, FL 33040
(305) 735-4871

Monday – Friday: 12 PM–10 PM
Saturday: 12 PM–5 PM
Sunday: Closed

Mark’s Band, Parrothead Massacre: https://www.facebook.com/parrotheadmassacre

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with artist Eric Anfinson. We spoke about how the first time he picked up a paintbrush he hated the result but fell in love with the process.

It was this love of “doing” that had him coming back for more, eventually creating a client base around the world.

I particularly LOVE this episode because it touches on how important the process is.  If all you care about is the outcome, you may be in for a life of sorrow, but when you love the process, you will have a life of true fulfillment. 

More on Eric Anfinson

Eric Anfinson’s painting journey began in the fall of 2001 after he moved to a 2×4 mile island where the Gulf of Mexico & the Atlantic meet. 

Anfinson is part of a well-established creative collective in Key West, Florida . . . an island known affectionately by locals as ‘the rock’.  The remote location & unique community continue to offer rich subject matter for Anfinson’s work. 

The people that call this island home, & those who pass through, live on in the faces & figures in Anfinson’s paintings.

A self-trained painter, Anfinson’s work is in collections throughout North America & Europe. 

Anfinson, a native of Minnesota, paints full-time from his home-based Mockingbird Studio in Key West, Florida. 

Art is everything & sometimes simply an essence.
It is the tool that I use & that uses me in return. 
It is my best & most critical friend.
But these words mean nothing by themselves…
the work – the active process – is what matters most
.

– Eric

Website: https://ericanfinson.com

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

STUDIO

Mockingbird Studio  –  owner:  Key West, FL  /  2007 – present

Represented by Gingerbread Square Gallery

305-296-8900
1207 Duval Street, Key West, FL

In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Chef Richard of the newly famed Lola’s Bistro.

We talked about how he got started, working with some of the top French and Italian chefs, why he chose to only have 9 tables and how he loves chatting up his customers as he cooks right in the corner of the restaurant.

More on Lola’s Bistro

A new Italian eclectic BYOB restaurant with a bohemian vibe!

Address: 728 Simonton St Key West FL 33040
Dinner House 7 nights (6pm – 11pm)
Reservation only
305-203-4457

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

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

Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/lolas-bistro-key-west

Click here to read the full transcription of the episode: https://backyardsofkeywest.com/lolas-bistro