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 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 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. 

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 this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with the CEO/ Co-Owner George Fernandez.

We talk about the more than 60 different species of butterflies and rubbing elbows (more like beaks), with Rhett and Scarlett at the Flamingle (a meeting with 2 local flamingos).

George explains how they delight all or your senses with sounds, colors, aromatherapy smells, and of course, wonder!

Learn about how the Conservatory started, and how it was just named one of the best Butterfly Conservatories in the US.

More on Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

Walk Among Hundreds of Living Butterflies and Colorful Birds!

Feel your stress fade away as you enter our magical world of butterflies. Relax and be amazed as you stroll through our tropical paradise. Walk through a magical and inviting environment filled with hundreds of the most beautiful winged creatures in nature. During your breathtaking journey, you will experience an impressive collection of flowering plants, colorful birds, cascading waterfalls and trees that set the stage for the “flowers of the sky.” Witness a variety of some 50 to 60 butterfly species from around the world, along with over 20 exotic bird species, all under a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat.

In The Learning Center, explore the butterfly anatomy, physiology, life cycle, feeding and the migratory world of the Monarch. Also, get a rare close-up view of a variety of live caterpillars feeding and developing on their host plants. Browse through our unique Gift Shop offering a wide assortment of butterfly and nature-related items. Wings of Imagination, the Butterfly Gallery, offers original artwork by artist Sam Trophia. The acrylic shadow boxes depict the butterfly’s beauty preserved and suspended in an art form in a spectrum of colors, shapes and sizes – your perfect piece of art from your vacation in Key West

View Their Live WebCam!

Website: https://www.keywestbutterfly.com

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

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

Hours: Conservatory 9am-5pm

Gift Shop & Gallery 9am-5:30pm

Location: 1316 Duval Street Key West, Florida 33040

Email Us: [email protected]

​Call Us: (305) 296-2988

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