A Travellerspoint blog

Let Them Eat Cake Part I

A Four Day Food Free-For-All at the Key West Food and Wine Festival

Arrival Day: Just in Time for Sunset

It was cold in Tennessee. It had been snowing. Things were icing over. My car door was frozen shut when I tried to go to work. It was definitely time to head somewhere warm.

When we arrived in Key West, it was in the 70s and the sun was just beginning to set. I think the Key West sunset I saw from our plane might be the most beautiful Key West sunset I have seen yet.

8441872889_51b2b9b5e3_b.jpg

8441870047_7897829ec9.jpg

It was late and we were famished, so we headed to the closest place where we knew Matt would be able to find some ice cold oysters, Half Shell Raw Bar.

8442958812_a7dd387a16.jpg

Despite having been here on multiple trips, this was actually the first time we had ever really eaten here, our previous visits being relegated to the bar while Matt mercilessly sucked down platters of 50 cent Happy Hour oysters. The first thing he noticed was that the HH oysters were off the menu. Looks like we'd have to look elsewhere for cheap oysters.

Feeling sorry for Matt's loss, I consoled myself by eating a whole lobster with crab stuffing, an order of Key West pinks, and a slice of key lime pie.

8442959710_a870eee395.jpg8441869131_29a8fd846a.jpg8441868843_05ee849854.jpg

I'm not sure if Matt felt better, but I certainly did.

Day One: Let the Eating Begin.

8442958306_075974de61.jpg

I hadn't properly conditioned myself before the trip by eating ridiculous amounts of food and consuming absurd volumes of wine, and I was worried that my stomach and liver were not ready for the assault that was at hand. So, much like the fool who has never run before and decides to start her first marathon at a full on sprint, I thought I'd start things off with a giant boozy breakfast at Pepe's.

8442954168_d270b2dfc4.jpg8442953348_00551fc91a.jpg

8442952036_b2ef4f984d.jpg

Worried that the mimosas, 2 eggs, and giant slab of banana bread wouldn't be enough to start the much needed stomach stretching, I also opted for the fried mashed potato patty special.

8441862539_5a2f63513e.jpg

It was a good call.

After sufficient carb-loading, we got our bikes at Eaton's and spent the morning shopping and looking at all the wonderful little houses that Key West seems to have hidden in every nook and cranny. I can literally spend all day in Key West doing nothing more than riding my bike and gawking at stuff.

8441866789_3b702626ec.jpg8442951400_20c1ef495c.jpg
8442950686_94af324675.jpg

8441859701_799c57973f.jpg

8441858789_8f281a4761.jpg

8441856087_4d38759855.jpg

8441853847_5003ee536e.jpg 8441855161_840340a578.jpg

8441851993_89ff2d65f6.jpg

8442940932_345aaacbf8.jpg

My original lunch plans got shot to hell when we found ourselves on the opposite end of town from our original destination and RAVENOUS (the stomach stretching and carb loading were apparently starting to work).

I surprised everyone by not throwing a tantrum and launching myself onto the sidewalk in a fit of hysterics, which is what I typically do when things don't go exactly according to my plans, and walked into a restaurant I had never heard of and knew nothing about (apparently the early a.m. alcohol consumption was also working - if nothing else, it made me significantly more accommodating).

8442936702_0fc61dba79.jpg

Besides, this restaurant had parrots.

8442938782_1f1126c655.jpg8441847535_d62de18e00.jpg

8442933738_579ec82aac.jpg8442931250_e8633dcd4a.jpg

8441844283_fdfb024222.jpg

And glasses of wine that were bigger than my head for $7.

8441845515_9d65a69932.jpg8441842939_9332771657.jpg

That is not just an illusion of perspective. That was a seriously huge glass of wine.

They also had gargantuan sandwiches. Apparently, the New York Pasta Garden is the Texas of Key West - everything is bigger.

8441842411_7ba253ce6d.jpg

With it being our first KWFWF, we had not opted for the VIP passes that included almost all events, we had only chosen one event per day. Since our daily event wasn't until later that evening, we made it a leisurely trip back to the house, doing plenty of gawking along the way.

8441852687_3e4ee42516.jpg8442928892_f28e42a266.jpg
8441839701_80b595afc1.jpg
8442927970_07c6810fb8.jpg8441840413_9072945db2.jpg

So a dog walks into a bar...........(by the way, that guy was drinking tequila).

Having realized there were no 50 cent oysters to be had on this trip at Half Shell, Matt had spent the previous night tossing and turning, in a restless fit of desperation. He was soothed at breakfast, however, when he saw that Pepe's had 60 cent oysters during happy hour. I was happy because I saw that Pepe's had happy hour margaritas made with their house squeezed juice. We headed that way.

8441834411_12fb15e530.jpg8441836387_fa128642b1.jpg
8441835759_f887a4d5c4.jpg8441835111_7d23dea3d3.jpg
8442927108_82bf64d05e.jpg

After we did the happy hour thing at Pepe's, we realized we had time to make it to Mallory Square for sunset, something I never get tired of seeing.

8441833121_7d37703503.jpg8441832223_cb802de770.jpg

8442917960_81270b1840_b.jpg

8441826873_0f15322e02.jpg8442916692_151d4401b1.jpg

I guess when you have a boat this big, you don't care if you are being an asshole by parking it in the one EXACT SPOT where it will block the view that hundreds of people have been waiting an hour to see. I guess if I had a yacht with a helicopter on it, I might not care either.

8442919994_4f7aa203eb.jpg

It was finally time for our first official KWFWF event. We had tickets to one of the neighborhood strolls. We had chosen the Petronia Street stroll because the event guide just made it sound like the one I didn't want to miss: "On Thursday evening you can board the Old Town Trolley and ride through Key West's Historic old town to take a stroll to some of Key West’s most famous and unique neighborhoods and sample food & wine from our one-of-a-kind restaurants. Petronia Street is the historic entrance to Bahama Village. Stops include can't-miss Santiago's Bodega's selection of Spanish-style tapas, world famous and perennial favorite Blue Heaven, sweet and savory crepe favorites fron Brittany, France at La Creperie Key West and Sugaree Shack, the most recent addition to a fabulous restaurant row."

It might have been overzealous to have 2 of Pepe's margaritas before heading out on a wine stroll that included 5 glasses of wine....but that thought didn't cross my mind until the next morning.

We boarded the trolley that would take us to our first stop - Santiago's Bodega. We were each given an etched wine glass that was ours to refill along the way and to keep once the night was over. Each glass was filled with a New Age White White Cocktail, one of Argentina's hottest wines, often served on the rocks with a slice of lime, referred to as a "Tincho," named after the boyhood nickname of the cocktail's creator, Valentin Eduardo Bianchi, third-generation owner of the winery. Despite the exotic nature of our first wine, the trolley ride was quiet and uneventful. Our group wasn't (yet) a rowdy one and everyone was simply looking forward to seeing what the night had to offer.

8442915248_337a6dcb99.jpg

We were dropped off at Santiago's Bodega, an intimate tapas restaurant that I had been itching to try on each trip to Key West due to its consistently high marks from diners. I felt sorry for the patrons who were dining there that night, possibly unaware that this rambling horde of people was about to descend upon their quiet dinner, glasses in hand, ready to line up and see what bite Santiago's had prepared for us.

8441824269_166c73437b.jpg8441823269_98278d7538.jpg

We were given a Crostini topped with manchego cheese, roasted sweet peppers, and prosciutto and finished with a white balsamic reduction. Small, but tasty. It was paired with a glass of 2010 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Chardonnay.

8441822287_8b3d6ba3bf.jpg8441821255_af928ed38f.jpg

As we all stood around, glasses in hand, one small crostini to two glasses of wine, everyone started to get more colorful. Or maybe it was just me.

We "strolled" toward Blue Heaven, the next stop on our tour. We were shown back into the courtyard where we found pork tenderloin medallions with a curry butter sauce and mango chutney. It was quite delicious. It was paired with a glass of 2010 Shooting Star Pinot Noir.

8441817625_74678f9ec1.jpg8441818429_38dd0be5d3.jpg

For those of you who have not been keeping up, I had now had 2 Pepe's margaritas, 3 glasses of wine, and 3 bites of food.

That's probably what made me think I could hula hoop. And ride a stationary carousel horse.

8442905022_ba59767903.jpg8442904140_8bd9110506.jpg
8442905900_2f06f3c6a9.jpg8441813377_e219f8761d.jpg

At this point, I was fuzzy. The wine to food ratio had been extremely disproportionate and I was in need of some food with substance.

God bless La Creperie. When we walked in, they had an assembly line of crepes going that made my head spin. Or was that the wine? Whatever. It was OUTSTANDING. They were cheerful, they were fast, and they were churning out fresh, hot delicious crepes that were not only delicious but were BIG.

Oh thank you dear sweet lord.

8441812451_7ea1b2052d.jpg8442901552_b0cacd518b.jpg8442900932_ce2bf8cae4.jpg
8441810189_9e9d5d8e8d.jpg8442899224_e0c7ce1e39.jpg

We even had a choice: red velvet, key lime, or Nutella. I promptly got into the red velvet line and patiently waited my turn. I received my crepe and a glass of Pillar Box Red Blend from Australia. I really can't tell you about the wine....I was devouring that crepe like a woman who had just gotten out of prison.

We had come to the last stop on our tour: the Sugaree Shack who loaded us down with cupcakes and a glass of Cigar Box Reserve Malbec.

8441808567_00080e7540.jpg

There is nothing that makes a drunk girl happier than a cupcake.

8441806585_79b42f04aa.jpg8441805617_81cae7d093.jpg

Unless it's two cupcakes.

Day Two: Take Two Aspirin and Call Me In the Morning

It could have been worse. Yes, I had a bit of a headache and I was moving a little slowly, but all things considered, I was doing pretty good considering that I had been clutching my wine glass with two hands by the end of the night, licking frosting off my fingers.

I was in search of strong coffee and I found it a short stroll from the house at 5 Brothers.

8442893678_40480f920e.jpg8441803073_466d7446eb.jpg

We had the girls with us and 5 Brothers seemed to be the doggie place to go. These guys told us so:

8442891978_f2554de2d0_b.jpg

Seriously, is there anything cuter than a giant pack of Corgis?

One cafe con leche with sugar and one egg sandwich on Cuban bread later, I was feeling pretty okay. The girls gave 5 Brothers two paws up.

8441802517_6cc53a33a3.jpg

Our KWFWF events for the day weren't until late that evening. I had opted for special dinner being offered at Southernmost Cafe followed by the much anticipated "Let Them Eat Cake" party.

I was tempted by the Grand Tasting, but at $130 a ticket, I just couldn't convince my group to go. Besides, with my unsophisticated palate, if I paid $130 for a wine tasting I'd be like the fat kid at the buffet, trying to get my money's worth by consuming in bulk, no doubt ending up like an unwanted poor relation that shows up at a country club wedding, gets drunk on boxed wine, and winds up on stage singing "Love Stinks" while everyone pretends not to watch.

Looking for a new Key West experience, I had booked us a charter boat for half a day. We weren't looking for a day at the beach. We wanted to do something new, see things from the water, and get the girls out for the day. "Take Me There Charters" advertised itself as "dog friendly," so that sealed the deal.

We were going on a boat day!

8442888164_0328550c98.jpg8441797557_5c50670981.jpg

Cpt. Tommy was incredibly easy going. We just told him that we simply wanted to ride and see some sights...maybe a dolphin, maybe a cool beach, whatever he recommended. We weren't looking to swim or snorkel, we were just out for some air.

Although it was beautiful, it was windy. Despite the challenges, Cpt. Tommy gave us a great day.

We first went to an area he called the mud keys, about 15 miles northeast of Key West. These were small mangrove islands that were highly dissected by navigable creeks. As we approached the area, the colors of the water were striking.

8441793637_88c7987aa7.jpg

8441796181_0622d710f5.jpg

What was usually clear blue water was sort of a cloudy greenish, due to the time of year and the wind, but wow, it was still beautiful.

8442882526_3bd3159643.jpg

8441788693_b61fe561fd_b.jpg

8441787553_151975d0e0.jpg8442875940_54372c660f.jpg

8442872796_1d999d085b.jpg8441785251_5f65278bd4.jpg

8442873550_cb71e776fa.jpg

Then we went looking for dolphins. We knew we were in the right place when we saw this boat. It had a very sophisticated dolphin tracker.

8442871642_1fef83c6a5.jpg

Laugh, but that dog spots dolphins. It would bark and point when it saw one. Apparently, as a puppy, it got so excited the first time it saw dolphins that it jumped in the water in the middle of a pod. No one knew what to do....or what would happen. Apparently, the dolphins checked the puppy out and then moved on their way, leaving it alone. The dog grew up and learned not to jump in the water, but it never lost its love for the little creatures and now spends its days on a boat, happily watching for them in the waves.

The boat dog looked. We looked.

And what do you know....we found dolphins!

8441781293_df42a08abb.jpg8441780423_83346c2301.jpg

8442870076_41bb5f4194.jpg8442870762_c74735329b.jpg

Cpt. Tommy pointed out a mother and baby. I truly don't think I have ever seen anything cuter than a baby dolphin.

Unless maybe it was that pack of Corgis. Or that pug drinking tequila at the bar.

8441781063_90ef82df88.jpg

When we'd had our fill of frolicking sea creatures, Cpt. Tommy asked if we'd like to go to a deserted island called Boca Grande and let the pups get out to stretch their legs.

8441777529_227659872f.jpg

We pulled up to a long stretch of white sand. I made a mental note, "MUST COME BACK IN SUMMER."

8442868020_ba7018afa6.jpg

8442866036_9a268c611a.jpg

8442865340_b83153f016.jpg

Not only was it peaceful and gorgeous, it sure made for some happy dogs!

8442857372_631d60eae8.jpg

8441766875_65cfe32b61.jpg

8441773703_8c5510970e.jpg8442862778_f3992445d9.jpg

8441773163_d281a248ce.jpg

8442862266_6d66326aa6.jpg

Cpt. Tommy brought out some chairs and we just took a load off for a while. We could have stayed longer, he had already kept us out past our charter time and made it clear we could stay out as long as we wanted, but we hadn't packed a lunch, not anticipating more than a half day, and stomachs were starting to growl.

We packed up the pups and headed back to the marina.

When we got back we were STARVING. We passed by Paseo on our way back to the house and I knew in an instant what I wanted.

8441765697_72ff7170a4.jpg

Paseo bills itself as "Caribbean" fare and serves it up in a simple shop with a counter and a few outdoor tables.

I wanted to try their famous fire roasted corn: a perfectly charred corn on the cob slathered in butter, salt, lime, cheese, and cilantro.

8441764181_bbc75ee5c1.jpg

I also got the Caribbean bowl: jasmine rice smothered in black beans, warm salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, jalepenos, and one unbelievably divine chicken thigh....all served with love, peace, and a handful of tortilla chips.

Oh. My. Goodness.

8442854980_408f56a5f8.jpg

I practically needed to smoke a cigarette after eating that meal.

Our dinner plans were at 7:00, so we took it easy for the rest of the day.

8442891284_4d8e66e869.jpg

8442889764_01985e4932.jpg8442888806_2c91537a39.jpg

I had made reservations that night at Southernmost Cafe when I saw they had a special KWFWF dinner featuring lobster.

8441761355_f4244caa82.jpg

Southernmost Cafe has a great location right on the ocean, so we had been several times for lunch, but we had never been for dinner. I couldn't imagine a better setting.

8442852588_77f5a9800c_b.jpg

The dinner started off with a lobster bisque, which I expected to be heavy on the bisque and light on the lobster. I was pleasantly surprised to find it filled with huge chunks of tender Maine lobster. This was paired with a glass of Round Hill Chardonnay. Next up was a grilled half tail on served on top of lobster mac & cheese topped with a chili lime buerre blanc paired with a glass of Mark West Pinot Noir. When I thought it couldn't get any better, I was brought a key lime mousse with a glass of Zenin Winemakers Moscato.

Heaven.

8442849966_c36189ab76.jpg8442849582_780cd77033.jpg
8442849322_664bc2824a.jpg8441760443_8d156ca6ce.jpg

It was time for "Let Them Eat Cake" at the Lush Bar in the Green Pineapple.

TraceyG had not originally planned to attend the KWFWF due to some trip conflicts. Disappointed, because I thought it would be great to meet her, imagine how excited I was when she told me she and her husband were going to make the trip down after all. We agreed to meet up at the Lush party (no pun intended...but wow...what a perfect name for a place to have this party....).

My group was leery of any party that I dragged them to that involved costumes. They have been that way ever since New Year's Eve 2010 when I saw that a local bar was having an "All 80's New Year's Eve" and convinced them all to go in costume. It wasn't my fault. The ad said, "Costumes Encouraged." Well....we walked into a bar filled with wall-to-wall people and.....we were the only ones in costume.

And our costumes were not such that we could blend. We had not been subtle.

5313927685_7fbd43fae8.jpg5313927301_1ee54b0df2.jpg

Okay, John and Teresa might have been able to blend, but Matt looked like a gay biker and I looked like some Madonna/Cyndi Lauper reject with giant hair.

They never forgave me.

So....when I knew there was a potential costume opportunity, I checked with the girl in the know, TraceyG.

"Is this a 'wear a mask' event or is this a full-on costume event?" I asked.

"I have heard from my inside sources that costumes are a GO," she replied. "It may just be me and you, but I'm going all the way."

So I pulled out my inner Marie Antoinette and let her freak flag fly.

8441993681_5eae861842.jpg8441994537_81119cc6dc.jpg

I was in girlie girl heaven. There was cake. There was champagne. There was a DJ pumping out dance tunes. We munched on cupcakes with glittery sprinkles and the champagne flowed. Everyone looked fantastic.

8441755917_d89a3bd7c1.jpg

8441757897_6023509dd9.jpg8442847032_9fbf0fb1c1.jpg
8442846646_7fae7827a2.jpg8441755145_bfd00d07f5.jpg

I was finally able to meet TraceyG and she was every bit as funny in person as she is in her blog, but she really stole my heart when she started drinking out of the champagne bottle. I thought no one did that but me!

And yes, that is my real hair. I decided to forego the wig and instead employed a foolproof tactic from my 80's high school days involving a giant can of superfreeze hair spray and a hair dryer. Those of you ladies who were teens in the 80's know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

8442844378_8d5afdc3e8.jpg8442845964_e710bb4a75.jpg

8457588049_8a1398c412.jpg
(Photo courtesy of borrowed shamlessly hijacked from the KWFWF and Sheelman Photography)

8458690126_0f8469b9ef.jpg
(Photo courtesy of borrowed shamlessly hijacked from the KWFWF and Sheelman Photography)

Yes.....there was too much champagne consumed....but who cares. It was a great night!

8457588357_46bb2466ab_b.jpg
(Photo courtesy of borrowed shamlessly hijacked from the KWFWF and Sheelman Photography)

Posted by vicki_h 11.02.2013 15:23 Archived in USA Tagged food island tropical wine key_west kwfwf

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUponRedditDel.icio.usIloho

Table of contents

Comments

I could stare at that photo of the grilled mashies at Pepe's all day! :)

17.02.2013 by TTG

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint