Combine two hot-weather refreshments, beer and ice cream, and you get a beer milkshake. Depending on your perspective, this beverage may sound either intriguing or alarming, but two restaurants in the Keys pull off the mash-up successfully.
One is the M.E.A.T. Eatery and Taproom, mile marker 88, Islamorada (852-3833). It's hard to resist trying something that includes Nutella. Chef George Patti crafts many of the condiments and ingredients at M.E.A.T., from bacon and caraway-beer mustard to the Nutella ice cream he uses in some of his "adult milkshakes."
The chalkboard menu at M.E.A.T. often lists two shakes: Vanilla bean ice cream with Wells Banana Bread beer or Nutella ice cream with Guinness.
However, you might just find your sweet spot by requesting Nutella with the English Banana Bread beer. It arrives in a frosty mug, topped with whipped cream. The chocolate in the Nutella dominates any hazelnut flavor and there's also a subtle banana bread tinge. It's all melded with the malty overlay of beer. After drinking this, you may want all of your milkshakes to be beer milkshakes.
During the summer, Patti whips up a seasonal shake with mango-passion-fruit ice cream and Fox Barrel Pear Cider.
The menu at M.E.A.T. includes traditional milkshakes, along with some remarkable burgers. M.E.A.T. Eatery is in a nondescript strip mall on the oceanside of U.S. 1. Don't be fooled by the plain appearance.
The other is at 2 Cents, 416 Appelrouth Lane, Key West ((305) 414-8626).
This gastro-pub is just off Duval Street in downtown Key West. The eclectic menu provides a respite from fried seafood and all manner of fritters. Chef Chris Otten uses local Flamingo Crossing Ice Cream for his shakes.
The beer milkshake skeptic or the diner who doesn't care much for beer should taste Granny's Creamy Cider, a mix of vanilla ice cream and Angry Orchard cider. Garnished with thin slices of a Granny Smith apple, it's refreshing, sweet and tangy. There's a hint of Angry Orchard cider, which is quite easy to drink on its own anyway.
The Cerveza con Leche combines Cuban coffee ice cream with Nitro Milk Stout. The sweet stout beer has its own coffee notes that build on the ice cream. The shake has a sweet -- but not cloying -- caramel tone.
The hoppiest-tasting shake is the Buttery Creamsicle, made with the slightly floral, honey-noted Orange Blossom Pilsner, butter pecan ice cream and bacon bits.
Otten hopes to brew his own beer at Two Cents soon.
The beer milkshakes are available year-round, but they are especially refreshing on days when humidity threatens to bring South Florida civilization to a crawl.
Trina Sargalski wrote this for Public Broadcasting System's WLRN in Miami. It's reprinted by permission.