Instead of making New Year’s resolutions to eat less or indulge yourself less (pledges that are usually broken within a few days or weeks), why not make a resolution to enjoy more? In other words, replace January’s too-typical caloric austerity and “good for you” activities with quality experiences and flavors to savor.
For the best of both, start the year with a fantastic food festival in the continental United States’ southernmost city — an extravaganza rich in creative cuisine, soul-warming subtropical sun and foodie fun. It’s the 13th annual Key West Food and Wine Festival and it’s coming up Jan. 26-30, with many events held outdoors to take advantage of Key West’s typically balmy winter weather (FYI, the average January daytime temps are in the mid-70s).
Attendees can expect gourmet galas and tastings, art and wine experiences, wine dinners, seminars and activities that spotlight the Florida Keys’ culinary scene and super-talented chefs. Equally appealing are the glimpses the festival offers into the island chain’s unique heritage, intriguing culture and laid-back, warmly welcoming vibe.
The enticing “first course” is a “rooster style” welcome reception planned for 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, at Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty. Celebrating Key West’s colorful free-range rooster population, the reception previews upcoming events while presenting gourmet cheeses, wine and music.
Thursday’s attractions include a “food truck” lunch experience that pairs brews and local seafood (how perfect is that?), food and wine tours of elegant Key West homes, and the Fiesta on Fitzpatrick — which combines Latin cuisine, a rum tasting, music, and demonstration tours of the legendary Rodriguez Cigar Factory.
On Friday, foodies can savor the “Bubbles & Bites” art and artisan showcase at Key West Collective (a great place displaying creations by local talents), an afternoon with vintner Ian Devereux White, and a self-guided tour of the wonderful locally owned emporiums along the 500 block of Fleming Street.
The day is capped by “A Night in Tuscany” spotlighting Tuscan wines and a multicourse dinner of artfully prepared regional specialties. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Hyatt Centric Resort & Spa, the waterfront Tuscan gala will feature Italian wine specialist and storyteller Francesca DeFranchis and the culinary mastery of Executive Chef Pietro Consorti.
The festival’s eagerly anticipated highlight, the Rooster Grand Tasting, is set for 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Sunset Green Event Lawn on North Roosevelt Boulevard. The open-air soiree blends unique wines and spirits, the vivid Key West sunset, casually elegant “light bites” and music and dancing.
As if that’s not enough, the Grand Tasting is followed by a VIP tasting — featuring smoked cocktails, absinthe fountains (yes, really!) and much more in the lobby bar of the 24 North Hotel beside the Event Lawn.
Festivities conclude Sunday with a “mad rooster” Viva Argentinian brunch and a food and wine edition of the always-terrific Key West Artisan Market, held overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at 1801 White St.
By the way, event organizer Mark Certonio advises that coronavirus health protocols are to be followed during the festival, including social distancing and the requested wearing of facial coverings.
Even if you can’t be in Key West for January’s culinary celebration, you can still resolve to indulge your appetite for Florida Keys food and enjoyable experiences — and immerse yourself in both whenever you visit the island chain. Because unlike austerity pledges, that’s one New Year’s resolution you’ll be happy to keep.