Taste of Key West 2015

Crowds gather at the Truman Waterfront for the annual Taste of Key West.
Crowds gather at the Truman Waterfront for the annual Taste of Key West.

This year marks the first that we were able to go to the annual Taste of Key West, held every April at the Truman Waterfront. Taste of Key West is a benefit to raise money for AIDS Help, and is a food and wine fair. Admission is free, but in order to eat or drink, you need to purchase tickets. 

We had been warned about the crowds, and frankly, were not expecting much. After all, FKGuy detests large crowds,

Alex drove down from Miami just to pour wine at this event!
Alex drove down from Miami just to pour wine at this event!

and waiting in line is not one of my skills. Going in, I was looking at this as a social opportunity. If the lines weren’t too bad and we could eat, that would be a big plus. In order to alleviate some of the crowding, they sold VIP packages, which included a plate, glass, t-shirt and $25 worth of tickets for $75. It also allowed VIPs to get in an hour early, at 5PM, before the crowds. We opted to not go that route, and take our chances with the masses.

We arrived just after 5:30, expecting long lines to buy tickets. We waited patiently behind one person. We then had about twenty minutes to kill, and managed quite easily by chatting with friends, and seeking out a cool, shady spot to stand. Once inside the gates, lines began to form at each table, but only a couple were so long I didn’t bother trying the food.

The folks from Santiago's were dishing up loads of paella.
The folks from Santiago’s were dishing up loads of paella.

A word about the food: There were about 25 restaurants serving food. Usually it was one dish, for 3-5 tickets. There were an inordinate number of places serving tuna tartare. Yes, I know it is easy an there is no cooking involved, and it is easy to serve onsite, but I saw tuna tartare from Blackfin Bistro (delicious), Joe’s Place (also yummy, and they will be opening soon), Southernmost Beach Cafe (no, thank you), Bagatelle (did not get to try it), I think Grand Cafe has a tartare as well, and possibly one or two others that I am forgetting. A little creativity would help, people. It felt like a tuna tartare tasting rather than a sampling of different foods. At least Joe’s Place also had deviled eggs (one topped with bacon and one topped with pulled pork).

Other standouts included Santaigo’s Bodega, serving paella. They had a huge paella pan, lines moved quickly and

We're looking forward to the opening of Joe's Place.
We’re looking forward to the opening of Joe’s Place.

everyone was happy. Roostica had both meatball sliders and their delicious limoncello chicken wings. Geiger Key Marina was serving a hogfish cake sandwich that looked delicious. Alas, I did not get to try it as I was not willing to wait in the 20-person line. I also did not try the tacos from Taco Express (a new food truck on N. Roosevelt Blvd.) for the same reason.

Another surprise was Keyviche, which will be opening soon on Caroline Street, which formerly housed Braza Lena. They had two types of ceviche, an we tried, and loved, the one with the yellow pepper sauce. Fantastic. I am looking forward to trying the restaurant when it opens. Café Solé was there serving their famous portabello soup which we avoided because it was about 90 degrees out, and soup in a paper bowl is a recipe for disaster if you are as clumsy as I am.

This event was supposed to last from 6 -9PM. When we left around 8:15, most of the food stations had run out of food and were closed and the wine stations were out of wine. It seemed like they were not really prepared for the crowd, yet this was the 20th year of the event.

...and the opening of Keyviche.
…and the opening of Keyviche.

While there were plenty of places that we did not try, we did enjoy our time eating, drinking and schmoozing with a bunch of friends. It also whet my appetite for our upcoming trip to Vancouver, where we will be attending the Canadian Flavours Gala, featuring top Canadian chefs and a bunch of wines from British Colombia. I. Cannot. Wait.

As for Taste of Key West, will I go back next year? Sure thing, as long as it doesn’t conflict with Passover, as it has for several years.