A Four Day Food Free-For-All at the Key West Food and Wine Festival
23.01.2013 - 28.01.2013
Day Three: Coming Uncorked
I woke up for the second day in a row with a hangover. Wow. This might be a record. Or an all time low. I wasn't sure which category to place it in.
I was going to have to get myself in order. Today was Duval Uncorked....a mile long extravaganza of wine and food tastings. I did the only thing I could: I popped some Advil, drank some water, and powered on. There was food to eat! There was wine to drink! I might need a liver transplant at the end of this trip, but I would not be stopped.
A freakishly early riser, even after staying out all night drinking champagne, I was wide awake while the rest of my gang tried to sleep off the last of their bubbles. It was another gorgeous morning, so I grabbed my bike and took a ride.
Drawn by the smell of freshly baking bread, I found myself at the Old Town Bakery.
As long as I was there, I figured I may as well start carb loading for the day. I grabbed a bag full of pastries and some hot coffee and pedaled them back to the house to see if anyone else was awake, secretly hoping no one was so that I could eat all of it by myself.
Since Duval Uncorked started at 3:30, we opted to do an early brunch at Louie's. Hangovers are for sissies, so we started off with Bloody Marys and house made Sangria.
That was followed by the crab cake Caesar salad for me and the jerk grilled shrimp and plantains for Matt.
While my salad was phenomenal, I have to admit I was a little jealous when I saw John's hangover burger.
I received a text from TraceyG inviting us to do Duval Uncorked with her group because 1) they had a couple of locals with them who knew the best stops and 2) she thought it might be nice for us to meet when we were not in ridiculous costumes chugging champagne from the bottle.
We met up with them at the Southernmost Cafe where the Duval Uncorked check-in tables were set up.
While Tracey and her group slipped up to the VIP line, we stood in the regular line with the common folk. I might have to get me one of those VIP passes next year! Although, I will admit, the line wasn't that bad and the KWFWF staff kept it moving along nicely.
It was a gorgeous day for a drunken stumble classy wine stroll down Duval Street.
Upon check-in, we were each given a sipping glass on a lanyard that we could wear around our necks. Like a little wino necklace. How cute was that?
Then it was time to let the tastings begin!
Duval Uncorked starts on one end of Duval Street. You are given a map of stops, with each stop representing a participating business that is offering wine, food, or in many cases, both. There were about 40 stops in all and we had 4 hours. Sounds very do-able, doesn't it? You try herding a group of semi-inebriated adults through a maze of food, people, and wine.
Our fearless leader seemed up to the task. The Captain, husband of Key West blogger, Prissy in Paradise (aka the beautiful Donna), did his best to keep us moving and get us to the best stops of the tour.
Have you ever heard the phrase, "herding chickens?" Poor man never had a chance.
I'll do my best to recall where we were and what we had, but as we neared the Mallory Square end...things got less clear.
We started off at Pearl's Patio, a ladies-only hotel that offered us bacon wrapped dates. Coming from Tennessee, these were what I would call gussied-up pigs in a blanket. Tasty nonetheless. There was also music by the pool.
Our next stop was the Cork & Stogie, a cigar and wine bar in case the name didn't make that obvious. I believe we had some type of brie and raspberry puffs. We enjoyed them on the breezy patio.
Next up was the Alan S. Maltz gallery, not only filled with beautiful photography, but they also had a cupcake tower from Key West Cakes. Next door we sampled wine at Archeo Gallery, a gallery of expensive rugs. I had to wonder about the person who decided to serve red wine to strangers in the back of a densely packed showroom filled with beautiful rugs....
We then returned to the scene of our current hangovers...the Lush Bar and the Green Pineapple. They treated us to smoked fish dip and crab bisque from the Stoned Crab. They also had a sweet orange wine...Orange Columbo apertif wine.
After stuffing ourselves with delicately sampling that amazing fish dip, we wandered over to the Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn. Can you believe they were giving away painkillers? Because we certainly needed some hard liquor to put on top of all that wine.
Sweet nectar of the Gods. They were delicious.
The next samplings were mini key lime pies (either standard or chocolate covered) from Key West Key Lime Pie and a wine laden sorbet from Flamingo Crossing. Sorry...there are no photos of that sorbet. I sucked it down so fast I got a brain freeze.
There was more wine at Grand Vin, champagne ....somewhere.....(things were starting to become fuzzy at this point....thank God we had the Captain or I'd probably still be sitting in an alley somewhere trying to figure out where the hell I was....)
Blackfin Bistro offered more wine and a nice cheese platter.
Then it was on to La Petit Paris. I was not thrilled to find out they were offering calamari....and it wasn't even fried. Not a fan of the squid, I can typically choke it down if it's deep fried and slathered in marinara sauce. No, this was sauteed. All nice and squishy chewy.
I gave it a go. Why not? When in Paris, right? Or was that Rome? Besides, I was in Key West, so it really didn't apply....whatever. The wine haze was settling in.
This is the face of someone not very keen on squid sucking a nice mouthful out of a plastic cup and attempting to swallow it without chewing:
I was proud of myself for trying something new. I ate about half of it, to give it a fair shake. The flavor was actually quite nice, but I simply couldn't make it past the texture. Like boiled worms. And I definitely couldn't eat this guy. Even after 19.5 glasses of wine, that was simply asking too much...where I come from, we call that bait.
With the Captain leading our motley crew, we powered on. The next stop was Croissants de France, who had a little mini-buffet of curried chicken salad puffs, bruschetta, and fruit set up in their lovely garden patio. Then it was on to Vino's on Duval for an exceptional wine tasting.
We were having a ball. It only became more fun when we were ushered into 801 Bourbon by a drag queen offering jello shots. Donna was surprised when she got more than a jello shot.
Sometimes you get a jello shot. Sometimes you get licked across the chest by a drag queen. 801 Bourbon is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're going to get.
Despite the HUGE line outside DJ's Clam Shack, we piled in because everyone was coming out with little cups of chowder saying it was worth the line. Besides, we got to wait with this little guy:
The chowder was exceptional. And yes, it was worth the line.
After that...there were more galleries....more wine....my brain growing fuzzier by the minute....
We arrived at what had to be the most interesting stop of the day....Leather Master of Key West. They had things in there I didn't even understand....but they definitely got my vote for best server. Of course I meant the lady in the green shirt. What did you think I meant? I barely even noticed the guy with the chiseled abs and bare ass.
Then there were lobster pizzettes at Island Style, chocolate covered pineapple at Kilwin's, more wine at Wet Paint Gallery, a unique coconut wine at the Key West Cigar Club, and chocolate mousse at the Hard Rock Cafe.
We finished strong with conch fritters at Caroline's Cafe.
Duval Uncorked was definitely a fun time. I had seen a lot of shops and galleries I might not have gone into otherwise, and the food and wine were sampling heaven.
In need of some substance, someone suggested we head over to Mangia Mangia. It wasn't far away, they could accommodate our giant group, and a giant plate of carbohydrates might just keep me from having a third hangover, so we headed that way.
I could smell the garlic from the sidewalk. I had visions of a platter of perfect al dente pasta with a savory sauce loaded with meatballs, and maybe a handful of shredded parmesan tossed in for good measure. I couldn't have been more disappointed when there were no meatballs on the menu.
So what did I do? I went in an entirely different direction.
Note: it's not a good idea to do some creative ordering when you have had 37 glasses of wine, no matter how small the glass is.
I am not sure WHAT I was thinking when I ordered THIS.
Actually, I'm not even sure what Mangia Mangia was thinking when they came up with that dish. What...was the chef just sitting there one day and said, "Hmmm....I think I'll take some huge rigatoni and throw in a little shrimp. Well...that doesn't look very good...maybe if I toss some half cooked tomatoes on it, that will liven things up. Nope. Still needs something. I know, I'll dump a salad on top."
Seriously. What was that? It only made it worse when I looked across the table at Matt's plate. I think I had to wipe the drool off my chin. There might not be anything I hate more than a misorder.
Day Four: Last Call
I was so happy when I woke up without a hangover the next day that I celebrated by riding my bike over to Glazed Donuts while waiting for everyone else to wake up.
I expected doughnuts. I did not expect fried dough perfection. This place had the most amazing looking doughnuts I think I have ever laid eyes on. With flavors like Blood Orange Bullseye, Key Lime, Pina Colada, and Maple Glazed Bourbon Bacon, I didn't even know where to start.
I started by ordering a key lime, banana dulce de leche, chocolate lovers, and a maple glazed bourbon bacon.
If you don't think happiness can come in a cardboard box, then you have never been to Glazed Donuts.
It was an overcast morning and the guys were moving slow, so I talked Teresa into going to see some birds.
Days before, while eating lunch at the New York Pasta Garden, one of the waiters noticed my fascination with the parrots and told me I should visit Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden. Well, when I noticed that it was less than a block from our house, I was in.
I will admit that we had to go around the block twice before we figured out where the entrance was. That just gave us more time to look at all the wonderful houses. I think Key West has the best porches in the entire United States.
We put our $20 in the jar on the table and stepped through the gate. I'm glad we did. Nancy is an artist and environmental activist who has been rescuing abused and orphaned birds for 25 years. The birds were sweet, funny, and entertaining. At 10 a.m. each day, you can learn about the birds and even hold some of them.
I literally could have stayed in there all day. Teresa finally reminded me that the guys were waiting and it was getting dangerously close to lunchtime.
Apparently, they hadn't all eaten 4 doughnuts that morning.
We grabbed sandwiches at the Eaton Street Seafood Market before riding our bikes over to the KWFWF's outdoor wine market. Not a restaurant, but an actual seafood market, Eaton Street will literally take your seafood out of the cooler and cook it for you for lunch. The softshell crab sandwich was fantastic.
Then it was on to the outdoor wine market where we could sample more wine (if we hadn't managed to get enough already) and peruse a varied assortment of farm fresh goodies and handmade wares that had been crafted by local artisans.
I laughed when we arrived just as TraceyG and her husband were pulling up. I assured them we were not stalking them...and I think she believed me. Thank goodness she never found that GPS tracker I put on her bike.
After that, it was back to the house for cocktails and downtime with the girls. All this eating and drinking was exhausting!
Matt had discovered another great oyster deal, 50 cent oysters all day at the White Tarpon. I told him to count me in because I had heard that they had a mind blowing key lime martini and god knew I needed another drink!
Expecting something creamy, which was the only experience I'd had with key lime martinis, this was a pleasant surprise: not creamy at all, shaken tableside, not overly sweet, and poured so heavy that we couldn't even pick the glasses up.
John and Teresa wanted to do some shopping, so Matt and I sauntered over to Santigo's Bodega for some snacks and sangria.
I had wanted to try Santiago's on previous trips, but we just never got around to it. It was an overcast afternoon with just the perfect amount of breeze, and it just seemed like a great day to sit outside on their patio with a glass of sangria.
The food was GOOD. We tried the empanadas, shrimp and chorizo skewers, and saganaki (flaming haloumi cheese sprinkled with oregano) with warm pita bread. I also ordered the angel hair with meatballs, because the disastrous meatball denial and subsequent misorder at Mangia Mangia was still stinging my psyche.
The meatballs definitely helped.
John and Teresa didn't feel like getting back out, so Matt and I wrapped up the day with a late night trek to Taco Night at 2 Cent Gastropub. What a good idea! We loved this place. Twinkling lights, live music, great wine, and $5 tacos!
It's always the day I hate, but I think my liver and digestive system were looking forward to some down time.
I made a final pastry run to Old Town Cafe and grabbed coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen.
Before I knew it, we were wheels up and headed into the great blue yonder.
I have my calendar marked though. Looks like I have just 346 days to get myself ready for the 5th annual Key West Food and Wine Festival. Who knows, maybe I'll see you there.