Key West Food and Wine Festival 2014, Part I

Yummy wines kick off the festival.
Yummy wines kick off the festival.

One of my favorite events of the entire year happens each January, the Key West Food and Wine Festival, and this year was no exception. I spent a good deal of time at the Hospitality Suite selling tickets, meeting the festival goers, and of course, drinking wine. (It’s a rough job, I know.)

The festival started with three neighborhood strolls on Wednesday evening. The strolls were not part of the VIP pass this year, yet all sold out and a

Floyd, pouring wine at the kick off party.
Floyd, pouring wine at the kick off party.

wonderful time was had by all the attendees. But the official kickoff was Thursday night at the “kick off your flip flops beach party” held on the beach. It was a little chilly to actually take off my shoes, but not so cold that I had to wear something other than flip flops. Cold for us is only mid-60s, so the visitors from the north were still enjoying their shorts and t-shirts, while I was bundled in a sweater, jacket and jeans.

The beach party was a good time, as usual. Tables of wine included sparkling, red, white and even a key lime option (it wasn’t bad if you don’t think if it as “wine” and rather a refreshing alcoholic beverage.) Food selections were huge platters of cheese, vegetables and a truly delicious artichoke and spinach dip (which is really hard to eat and not enjoy the bread that goes with it).

Tasty treats abound.
Tasty treats abound.

Friday brought seminars, a kitchen tour and the Grand Tasting. My parents made their way to the “Legal Rum” seminar at Key West’s newly opened rum distillery, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Meanwhile, I was camped out at home waiting for three trolleys full of guests. The Kitchen Tour takes guests through four different private homes in Key West, each with really lovely kitchens (hence the “kitchen tour“), and ends at Truman’s Little White House for dessert. At each stop guests sample food and wine, and the entire event is a fundraiser for Truman’s Little White House kitchen. I welcomed about 90 guests over the course of the afternoon into our house, and managed to keep everyone comfortable at the same time. Food and wine were provided by Great Events catering, and judging from the lack of leftovers,

My fabulous volunteers for the Kitchen Tour.
My fabulous volunteers for the Kitchen Tour.

they seemed to have done an excellent job!

By 5 o’clock Friday evening I had eaten a hand full of nuts and called it brunch, had a glass of wine with the kitchen tours, once again donned my Fantasy Fest Champagne costume and headed for the Grand Tasting on the pier next to Turtle Kraals. There are so many great things about this event. First of all, high quality wines including small production pinot noirs (like Riverbench), Champagne, and too many more to count. One of the tables even had a blind tasting.

One of our tiniest VIPs came to visit the Hospitality Suite early in the week.
One of our tiniest VIPs came to visit the Hospitality Suite early in the week.

I said “hmmm… California, Central Coast pinot noir” and before I could be impressed with myself, FKGuy says “Yeah, it tastes like that Gallo we had last year.” I am always trumped by his ridiculous Rain-Man-like memory.

Food at the Grand Tasting was provided by Turtle Kraals, Half Shell Raw Bar and Charlie Mac’s and included buffalo shrimp, amazingly yummy fried balls of macaroni and cheese, bahn mi sandwiches, oysters and an even more magnificent cheese display than the night before. Overall, it seemed that everyone was having a great time. The weather was perfect, if a tad chilly by South Florida standards, the atmosphere festive and the food good. I don’t trust people that can’t manage to have a good time under those circumstances.

Next up: a recap of the the Santa Barbara Pinot Noir seminar and Duval Uncorked. Much to nobody’s surprise, both were

And then this happened.
And then this happened.

fantastic events. More on that on Wednesday.

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