Key West Food & Wine Festival
  • The 10th annual Key West Food & Wine Festival, just one of the Florida Keys' January feasts for foodies, celebrates Key West’s rich culinary culture and historic sites. (Photo courtesy of Key West Food & Wine Festival)

     

  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • January 2, 2019

Want to get 2019 off to a tasty start? Then plan to savor sunshine, fabulous food and wonderful wines at five Florida Keys celebrations of cuisine and spirits that take place in January. Each is unique, but they all spotlight local chefs’ creativity and indigenous Keys ingredients like fresh-off-the-boat fish and seafood. (Yum!)

Key Largo and Islamorada paella

‘Uncorked’ is a culinary and cocktail extravaganza spotlighting the flavors of Key Largo and Islamorada. (Photo courtesy of ‘Uncorked’)

The “menu” of mouthwatering offerings begins with “Uncorked: The Key Largo and Islamorada Food and Wine Festival,” a culinary and cocktail extravaganza set for Thursday, Jan. 10, through Sunday, Jan. 20. During the event, you’ll discover the flavors of the two Upper Keys regions during scores of tantalizing offerings.

Highlights include prix fixe wine dinners at area restaurants; a hilarious back-by-popular-demand grape stomping contest; Key Largo Fisheries’ “Lobsterfest”; a “Chocolate Meets Cabernet” event at the popular Key Largo Chocolates emporium; and the “Grand Tasting,” an oceanside extravaganza where you can sample signature dishes from numerous area restaurants — AND enjoy fine wines, live music, cooking and mixology demonstrations and cocktail tastings.

Next comes the annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival, presented by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 19-20, at Key West’s Bayview Park. The family-friendly feast stars the fresh local seafood that has “anchored” Keys cuisine for nearly two centuries, while saluting the commercial fishermen who harvest it.

You can chow down on fresh grilled Florida spiny lobster, peel-and-eat Key West pink shrimp, stone crab claws, fried fish, smoked fish dip with crackers and more — all caught, cooked and served by Keys commercial fishermen and their families. And don’t miss other regional favorites like conch chowder, conch fritters, sweet flan and Key lime pie.

Florida Keys Seafood Festival

Heaping plates of seafood, caught and prepared by local fishermen and their families, take center stage at the Florida Keys Seafood Festival.

Look for creative cuisine, premium wines and intriguing food-related adventures Wednesday through Sunday, Jan. 23-27, at the Key West Food & Wine Festival. The 10th annual flavor fest celebrates Key West’s rich culinary culture and historic sites.

Anticipated highlights include an interactive blind tasting event featuring a six-course sampling menu and nine wines; Old Town Uncorked X 10, a sipping and shopping stroll down Key West’s famed Duval Street; the “Sunset on the Ingham” Grand Tasting aboard the historic U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Samuel D. Ingham (now a military museum moored at Truman Waterfront Park); and a paella cook-off at the Truman Little White House where former President Harry Truman spent nearly six months while in office.

The fourth culinary happening is a Key West tradition for food fanciers: the Master Chefs Classic. The lavish cuisine competition, now in its 25th year, is scheduled Sunday, Jan. 27, on the harborside pier at Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina.

The gourmet gala typically draws chefs from leading Florida Keys restaurants, who vie for first-, second- and third-place honors awarded by judges in the appetizer, entree and dessert categories. But the event’s biggest winners are the attendees — because you can sample and savor the dishes being judged. As if that wasn’t enough, a new Key West Classic Cocktail Challenge will precede the foodie fun.

January ends with a unique “sea-to-table” feast staged Wednesday, Jan. 30, by Outstanding in the Field, a renowned international organization that celebrates regional cuisines via open-air “pop-up” dinners.

Shrimp dock gourmet dinner Florida Keys

Outstanding in the Field pairs with four Keys restaurants to present a “sea-to-table” feast on Stock Island’s Historic Bama Shrimp Dock. (Photo courtesy of Outstanding in the Field)

This is absolutely a don’t-miss event. The gourmet experience features an “endless table” with seats for around 200 people — outdoors on the Lower Keys’ Stock Island, in a setting that showcases the Keys’ colorful seafaring heritage.

First you’ll enjoy a reception at the Stock Island Lobster Company, featuring seventh-generation lobsterman Peter Bacle, before moving to the Historic Bama Shrimp Dock on Stock Island for the multicourse meal.

The event is hosted in collaboration with Stock Island’s popular Lost Kitchen Supper Club, Hogfish Bar & Grill, Roostica and Key West’s Thirsty Mermaid — and chefs from each establishment will create the culinary offerings, with their menu designed around fresh-caught local seafood.

Hungry yet? Then make reservations NOW for your visit to taste the flavors of the Florida Keys!

 

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