KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Fans of fine food and vintages can indulge their appetites for both at the 2018 Key West Food and Wine Festival. Scheduled Wednesday through Sunday, Jan. 24-28, the edible extravaganza bears the lighthearted slogan “Flip Flops Required” in salute to its subtropical island setting.
The annual festival is to feature gourmet galas and tastings, cuisine seminars and only–in–Key West experiences that spotlight the region’s lively culinary scene, talented chefs, indigenous ingredients and multifaceted flavors.
The event’s enticing “first course” is Henry Flagler’s Welcome Party planned for 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, on the Atlantic Ocean beach of the Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, at 1500 Reynolds St. The gala is to feature domestic and international wines, hors d’oeuvres and live entertainment against a backdrop of the luxurious hotel conceived by early 20th-century railroad tycoon Henry Flagler.
Thursday’s events include escorted Neighborhood Strolls through the Bahama Village and Mallory Square areas, both featuring stops at appealing local emporiums for samples of cuisine and wines.
The festival’s centerpiece event, the Sunset Grand Tasting, is set for 5-7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, located at 1435 Simonton St. The beachfront soiree blends unique wines and spirits, the vivid Key West sunset and casual yet elegant “light bites” characteristic of the property’s Spencer’s by the Sea.
Also that evening, adult attendees can don circus-themed costumes and enjoy the 7-10 p.m. Cirque du Champagne at The Perry Hotel, 7001 Shrimp Road. The sexy and sophisticated showcase features aerialists, stilt walkers, jugglers and other entertainers as well as luscious hors d’oeuvres and champagne opened with a saber in a technique called sabrage.
Saturday’s anticipated highlights include Old Town “Uncorked” Unhinged, a wine-focused stroll in Key West’s Old Town slated for 2-5 p.m.; and a paella cook-off staged at and benefiting the Truman Little White House, 111 Front St., where former President Harry Truman spent nearly six months while in office.
Among other festival standouts are immersive Italian cooking workshops, a tasting and tour aboard the cruise ship Celebrity Equinox, the Bad Ass Brunch Series and a traditional Key West shrimp boil close to the working shrimp docks.
Exclusive VIP passes are available covering admission to multiple festival events, as are tickets for individual events.
Festival information and ticketing: keywestfoodandwinefestival.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY