Welcome to my backyard--the Florida Keys! I'm a travel writer, blogger and photographer with a passion for all things Florida, especially the Florida Keys. These islands are so much more than Duval Street and Jimmy Buffet. They are rich in history, culture, cuisine, nature and events--all surrounded by pristine waters teeming with wildlife. Whether you're a local or a visitor, the Conch Republic has many surprises in store. Let me be your guide.
Bring your appetite and get ready for plenty of tastings when the third annual Key West Food & Wine Festivalkicks off this Thursday, Jan. 26, running through Sunday, Jan. 29. I got the inside scoop from festival director, Mark Certonio. Expect more than 44 stops at the festival's signature event, Duval Uncorked, a mile-long, food-and-wine tasting down Duval Street, Key West's main drag. Stations are set up in boutiques, art galleries, restaurant and inns. New this year are some goodies for Uncorked ticket-holders with smart phones: a phone app with a map of the route and a contest using QR codes. The first two people who check in with a festival staff member with all 44 QR codes scanned on their phone from each stop will win a VIP pass for next year.
When I was young, my mother often told me that I had champagne taste on a beer budget. Turns out she was spot-on about my affinity for the bubbly. With forecasts calling for balmy temps, I'm looking forward to sampling island cuisine and Barbancourt rum cake bites with my toes in the sand at the Kick off Your Flip Flops Barefoot Beach Party Thursday night. Then, I'm off on the Old Town Trolley to a Neighborhood Stroll along the Key West Bight Marina in the historic seaport. I'll enjoy fresh local seafood at restaurants like Conch Republic Seafood Company, Commodore and A&B Lobster House.
The rest of my weekend is equally packed with Turtles and Sharks and Mermaids, OH MY on Friday night and Coconut Bowling at Blue Heaven on Saturday afternoon. Later Saturday evening with my tasting glass dangling from a lanyard around my neck, I'll hit Duval Uncorked. Sunday, the festival wraps up at The Wine Market and Seafood Shakedown, where last year I stumbled upon an excellent Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone.
Many of the events have already sold out, but tickets are still available for the Barefoot Beach Party, Duval Uncorked and the Seafood Shakedown at the Wine Market. Watch for my next blog, as I recount my festival adventures.