I started my
gastronomic marathon in true Key West-style at Thursday's intimate Barefoot
Beach kickoff party at the Southernmost Resort.
After noshing on
shrimp tacos and tuna ceviche from the Southernmost Beach
Cafe, I found myself back for seconds of the spongy Barbancourt Rhum cakes paired with a shot of their Pango Rhum,
blended with mango and pineapple.
I joined the fierce four, Greg and Donna Daniels with Angel and Tracey Gonzalez, on a Neighborhood Stroll at the Key West historic
seaport. As locals, they easily led me through the maze of boardwalks and
staircases to stop for tidbits like bacon wrapped scallops, lobster cake and
Maine lobster escargot.
(Angel Gonzalez, Greg Daniels, Tracey Gonzalez, Donna
We rambled onto the
beach at the Blue Mojito Bar at the Hyatt Resort where I ended the night with my toes
once again in the sand. We sat around the bonfire in Adirondack chairs making
s’mores and sipping a dry prosecco, Villa Sandi Il Fresco, until someone
suggested a ghost story.
At Friday's Grand
Tasting in the quaint historic Key West Aquarium, the
wineries presented their best wares in front of tanks filled with stingrays
doing back flips across the top of the water and nurse sharks swimming lazily
cheese table overflowed with generous chunks of fresh bread from Cole’s
Peace Artisan Bakery
, which I layered with decadent
St. Andre triple cream cheese and an Etude pinot noir.
was hard to choose, my fave preparation was the pan roasted Florida lobster
tail with slow braised oxtail risotto on a crisp plantain by Chef Kevin Montoya
of Tavern N Town
I couldn’t stop nibbling on the Key lime cannolis from
the Key West Key Lime Pie Company as they were passed around the
venue, and I sampled the new Francis Ford Coppola’s Sofia riesling, the soft
fruity flavors of pineapple and lime zest cementing my belief that I love
anything with the Sofia label.
Festival organizers followed through on their promise that
we would see mermaids at the Grand Tasting, and local Key West character, KP,
camped it up in style, gamely posing for photo ops throughout the night.
Photo by Donna Daniels
Saturday night brought the longest lap in our race,
literally, as I joined the rollicking street party on the mile-long tasting
down the main drag in Old Town for Duval Uncorked.
charmed with their tropical take on
southern food, a hearty lobster mac and cheese, paired with Beringer private
reserve chardonnay. Gelato on Duval plied us with
passed smoothie samples, a buffet of rich chocolate and red velvet cakes and
spoonfuls of their creamy gelato.
The camaraderie was palpable amongst the 500 festival
attendees, easily identifiable by the small tasting glasses dangling from our
necks by bright pink lanyards. The volunteers, donning chef’s toques guided us
down side streets and hidden entrances to the 44 stops.
Saturday night brought the rollicking street party on the
mile-long tasting down the main drag in Old Town for Duval Uncorked. With 44
stops in four hours, the
camaraderie was palpable amongst the 500 festival attendees with small tasting
glasses looped around their necks.
I lingered the longest by the splashing waterfall pool at
theTropical Inn B&B.
Its small doorway on Duval Street led back into a lush private garden where
Sean Sullberg of Michael Sullberg wines served up a lip-smacking chardonnay
that complemented Anna Toole-Hutchens’ SaborAM wine-infused cheesecake on a
stick called "GINY Pops.”
(Anna Toole-Hutchens pictured)
We took our victory lap on Sunday morning at the final
festival event, the outdoor Wine Market at The
Restaurant Store, a more laid-back affair where even puppies
like Callie came out to play.
(Presley Adamson, Jaimie LaCkore and Callie
My “find” at the market was the collection of Clif Family
wines, newly released in Florida by the same company that makes Clif bars. I
sampled several of the tasty Climber varietals and chatted with Phil Roberts
about their eco-friendly standards.
vendors rounded out the event like Midge Jolly of Florida Keys Sea Salt
a small family farm specializing in solar evaporated sea salt sourced from
local waters. The third year of the Key West Food & Wine Festival
was a resounding success, and I
already have the dates for next year (Jan. 24-27) on my calendar.