Featuring stunning scenery, tropical climate, and a laid-back vibe, Key West, Florida, has been a go-to travel destination for more than 80 years. Those looking to indulge their taste buds will find a variety of can't miss eating establishments like Mangoes and Firefly Key West. Every visitor to the island should make their way to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which offers pristine beaches, clear water, and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The Key West Food and Wine Festival has been a go-to culinary experience for thousands of foodies since it began almost a decade ago, and it will take place January 24-28. This year’s festival will include more than 27 individual events showcasing wines, foods, beers, and spirits from across the country. More than 60 wine producers, 20 restaurants, and eight distilleries and breweries will be represented. The Cooking with Francesca event is a three-day comprehensive Italian cooking seminar with a variety of tastings curated by Francesca De Franchis. Mangoes Restaurant is the perfect setting for the Urban Vineyard, which allows patrons to taste an array of wines amongst the lush decor of the restaurant’s downtown patio. Attendees can even participate in a Neighborhood Stroll, which takes people on a tour of the Key West Historic district while stopping at great restaurants along the way. Each year the event supports excellent local causes and this year they will donate to Truman's Little White House as well as various food-related non-profits. We interviewed Event Director, Mark Dolce from Dolce Events, to learn more about this massive showcase of wines, foods, and spirits from across America.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
MD: This will be our 9th annual Key West Wine and Food Festival.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
MD: We expect more than 4,000 attendees over five days.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
MD: Most of our patrons are couples over the age of 45, from across the country.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
MD: We are in Key West, the perfect tropical island for a January getaway. This isn't like your typical food and wine event; it’s much more casual and fun.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event. What can I expect as an attendee?
MD: We have over 25 events, all of which are unique to Key West. Our Neighborhood Stroll takes patrons on a tour showcasing the beautiful local architecture while stopping at five local restaurants to sample great food and wine.
RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?
MD: Yes, we try to be different year after year. Most of our special guests are wine professionals and well-known local chefs.
RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?
MD: We have over 20 restaurants participating to some degree as well as a variety of tasting events all over town.
RAL: Tell us about the atmosphere?
MD: It’s laid back and fun. As we say “Flip Flops Required.”
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
MD: We have a variety of local boutique guesthouses, and we suggest the Curry Mansion Inn and the Tropical Inn. The resorts in Key West are world-class, our event is headquartered at the Casa Marina Key West Waldorf Astoria and the Reach Resorts.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
MD: Yes, we make sure to include everyone we can including art galleries, and other local businesses like La Grignote, our favorite French bakery.
RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?
MD: Yes, we include different local non-profits every year, this year its Truman's Little White House. We also donate to our local gardens and other food-related non-profits.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
MD: We are a small island, and our venues are small. We don't oversell our events to keep them intimate, like the larger food and wine events in other cities. We are proud of our local talent, and we recognize them as such. Our guests come back every year to have a unique and fun experience.
For more information about the Key West Wine and Food Festival, please visit the event website.