FLORIDA KEYS — Food and wine enthusiasts can savor sunshine, stellar culinary offerings and superior vintages at Florida Keys celebrations of cuisine and spirits scheduled in January 2019. Held in Key West and the Lower Keys, they all spotlight local chefs’ creativity and indigenous Keys ingredients such as fresh-off-the-boat fish and seafood.
The “menu” of flavorful offerings begins with 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.
Attendees 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. Other attractions include traditional regional favorites like conch chowder, conch fritters, sweet flan and Key lime pie. Nonstop live entertainment, vendors’ booths and demonstrations by local celebrity chefs add to the festive atmosphere. Visit floridakeysseafoodfestival.com.
Creative cuisine, premium wines and intriguing food-related adventures await attendees Wednesday through Sunday, Jan. 23-27, at the 2019 Key West Food & Wine Festival. The 10th annual flavor fest celebrates Key West’s rich culinary culture and historic sites.
Scheduled events showcase local chefs’ artistry and indigenous Florida Keys ingredients, as well as fine wines from around the world. 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 Duval Street; and the “Sunset on the Ingham” Grand Tasting aboard the historic U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Samuel D. Ingham, launched in 1936 and now a military museum moored at Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park.
Saturday evening, a paella cook-off is to take place at the Truman Little White House, 111 Front St., where former President Harry Truman spent nearly six months while in office. The event includes unlimited wine tasting, cigars and live music. Visit keywestfoodandwinefestival.com.
The next culinary happening is a Key West tradition for food fanciers: the Master Chefs Classic. The lavish cuisine competition, now in its 25th year, takes place Sunday, Jan. 27, on the harborside pier at Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina.
The gala event 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. While bragging rights await the winning chefs, the real winners are the attendees who sample and savor the dishes presented for judges’ consideration. A new Key West Classic Cocktail Challenge is to precede the foodie fun. Visit masterchefsclassic.com.
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. The gourmet experience features an “endless table” with seats for around 200 people — outdoors in the Lower Keys’ Stock Island, in a setting that showcases the Keys’ colorful seafaring heritage.
Guests are to 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. Chefs from each establishment will create the culinary offerings, with their menu designed around fresh-caught local seafood. Visit outstandinginthefield.com.
Florida Keys dining information: fla-keys.com/food-drink/
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS