To start the New Year off on a tasty note, Keys Voices presents a VIP preview of an upcoming culinary extravaganza written by travel blogger, cookbook author, adventurer and longtime Key West resident Donna Shields.
Donna’s own blog, Open Mind Adventure, is for those seeking the hidden gems of travel. For example, check out her 17 Best Key West Happy Hours for 2023 … but first, tempt your appetite with her insights here on one of Key West’s leading annual events.
If you’ve ever wanted to savor and sip the foods and wines of Argentina, that’s exactly what you can do at the 2023 Key West Food & Wine Festival, set for Jan. 25-29 on the subtropical island at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys.
Now in its 14th year, the festival is sponsored by Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty and has won accolades from around the U.S. Most recently, it was named the Best Wine Fest of 2022 in the USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards.
With a “Viva Argentina” theme this year, the agenda is jam-packed with events for foodies and wine enthusiasts alike — all taking place at enticing Key West hotspots and landmarks. Event tickets can be purchased individually, but hurry because this much fun won’t be available for long.
Wednesday, Jan. 25: The fun kicks off with a Malbec tasting led by a Master Sommelier, one of only 269 in the world today, and she will be available throughout the entire festival. Once you wet your whistle at the tasting, head over to the Welcome Reception and Carnival de Buenos Aires. The Gaucho Parade culminates with an extravagant party with handpicked wines from Argentina at the outdoor restaurant Viva Argentinian Steakhouse.
Thursday, Jan. 26: Master the art of making empanadas at the Empanada Making, Eating & Wine Lunch at Frita’s Garden. Now that’s a way to spend the afternoon! The evening’s star attraction is the Che Guevara Piattelli Vineyard Wine Dinner at the Banyan Tree Garden, where the theme is “From Argentine Marxism to Cuban Revolution.” A unique feature of this stunning event is that it’s produced totally by females, from the winemaker to the sommelier to the chef to the food historian.
Friday, Jan. 27: Chimichurri, the national sauce of Argentina, gets top billing at the Choripan & Chimichurri Lunch at Viva Argentinian Steakhouse. It’s a fiesta of sparkling wine and the beloved chorizo sausage. The evening event, held at the one-of-a-kind Lost Beach at Island Farm, is a traditional asado (the Argentine version of a BBQ) paying homage to Francis Mallmann, one of Argentina’s celebrity chefs.
Saturday, Jan. 28: Because the Thursday empanada-making event sold out so quickly, it’s been scheduled again for Saturday. And further demonstrating the popularity of these events, the Eva Peron Wine Lunch, held in the garden of the historic Audubon House & Tropical Gardens, is also sold out. Instead, foodies can savor the evening’s SLaM Grand Tasting at the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters, where wines from the San Juan, La Rioja and Mendoza regions will be featured alongside a curated selection of traditional foods.
(And FYI, because chimichurri will be served at multiple events throughout the festival, guests can vote on their favorite chef and version of the sauce for a chance to win a prize.)
Sunday, Jan. 29: The flavorful festival is capped by the Last Tango in Cayo Hueso Brunch, complete with tango dancers, at KAYA Island Eats’ Gran Patio Trasero. The featured beverage is at the Yerba Mate Ritual Bar, where you’ll learn how to make your own tea-like infusion from the traditional leaves. And a leisurely afternoon at the food and wine edition of the Key West Artisan Market, held directly across from the oceanfront Higgs Beach, is the perfect way to wind up your visit.
If you can’t make it to Key West this month for the Food & Wine Festival, put it on your calendar for January 2024. And in the meantime, check out the great food and drink to explore throughout the Florida Keys.