Although the winter has just started in NYC, I already feel the need to migrate to warmer weather. Working on building a culinary and travel career is exciting but also very confusing and challenging, and I need the sun and the ocean to better focus.
I recently attended the Food and Wine Festival 2017 in Key West. A vibrant place, with the colors and flavors of a land rich in history, where the sun strongly shines on stone beaches, and where on warm nights souls share moments of joy on Duval Street. Duval Street is a long road of business life, spiced with Cuban influences. Facing the sidewalk, open bars offer the sound of different beats and a lot of happy faces!
What a magical experience.
The perfect environment is very inspiring and creative. Every year the Food and Wine Festival offers a selection of fun events designed for attendees to meet new people, to taste, and to learn about food and wine. Being a guest for these functions was a significant achievement, and the company of Luciano C., a master of wines from Castello Banfi, and Mark Certonio, the events director of Key West Food and Wine Festival, made it possible.
The Food and Wine Festival kickoff was at two Waldorf Astoria resorts: The Reach and the Casa Marina.
These resorts are amazing destinations with a selection of excellent wines and dining. On Friday afternoon at the Reach, I felt like dancing on the notes of wines while tasting live cooked appetizers.
When sunset arrived, we moved into one of the resort’s private areas for a five-course dinner created by Chef Jose Gomez, and majestically paired with Castello Banfi wines.
On Saturday the event was a lunch at Casa Marina, which blew me away.
The table presentation was delightful – right on the beach where the sun was shining through the palm trees, and the Caribbean breeze was keeping the temperature refreshing. “Spaghetti on the beach” was the theme, so we had a selection of Italian dishes served family-style, from appetizers to pasta with meatballs, and of course the Italian wine was flowing like from a fountain. The setup was perfect, and two long tables full of interesting people from all over the USA made this spaghetti-and-meatball lunch an event that I won’t forget quickly.
I have to admit that I fell in love with Casa Marina Resort, and I feel sharing with you the history of this place.
Back in 1918, an American railroad magnate called Henry Flagler conceived this old establishment, and the construction of Casa Marina was designed to accommodate the wealthy customers of Flagler’s Overseas Railroad.
Florida East Coast Railway was a Henry Flagler project intended to reach the remote and isolated island of Key West, over 130 miles away from the coast of Miami. Furthermore, his vision was to control a shorter and more profitable sea route stretching to Havana and even further in Cuba and the Panama Gulf.
Driving on this long road and crossing the keys while listening to the story of this land was for me a striking experience; an ocean pathway facing the sun with the old highway and the railroad along your way simply shaped it all into an amazing panoramic picture.
The first train journey from Miami to the Keys was in 1912, and I can only imagine all the excitement that this train created. Riding to these untouched destinations was feasible only for an elite class of people. Unfortunately, this dream came to an end: Flagler was driven from his passion, and as much as he had created an innovative project, he couldn’t predict the power of nature. It was Labor Day of 1935 and a Category 5 hurricane changed the future of this railway and many families. It swept over a train, tossing cars off the track, and hundreds of people were washed away by the swell of water.
I believe that passion is something that is hard to teach, but I like to try. When I travel, I need to jump without strings into the place I am visiting. I need to feel home, and be part of the surroundings, building trust with the locals, listening to their stories while tasting their family food to reach the ultimate experience.
This is what I consider passion, and what I am hoping to share with you in my blogs, and with my culinary adventures.