The start of a new year is a good time for resolving to break bad habits and begin positive new ones. One of my favorite resolutions, and the one that we made together some years ago, was to devote more of our travel time to seeing our own back yard – Florida.
We have stayed true to our resolution and continue to seek out new experiences within our state. We will share many of our adventures here, both past and future. Our Florida excursions are typically laid back, casual, bikes on the rack kind of trips. But, once in a while we stumble onto something really special. The Food and Wine Weekend at Boca Grande has become one of those treats. Malcolm and I are passionate about many things, but food and wine top the list. To have this weekend right in our “back yard” is incredible.
This is an annual event that brings guest Chefs and wine Vintners together for a weekend of incredible food, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and a seven course Master Chefs dinner that is incomparable. The weekend begins on Friday night with a “taste around the world” dinner party at the beach-side pavilion across the street from the Gasparilla Inn, which hosts the entire weekend. Saturday is filled with wine tastings and cooking demonstrations from renowned Chefs. The really neat thing is that the Chefs liberally share cooking techniques, restaurant “shortcuts” and recipes with participants. I love that no question is ever too basic. One big take-away from the weekend is always the recipes!
Time is allowed for lunch on your own, but we rarely make it to one of the Inn’s suggested restaurants since we tend to fill up on the Chef’s delicious samples. Saturday night kicks off with a cocktail party at the Inn, followed by a formal diner prepared by all of the Master Chefs. Caution, this night should only be experienced by those who love, I mean really LOVE food that is inventive, expertly prepared and masterfully presented.
One of the featured Chefs at the 2016 Food and Wine Weekend was renowned Chef John Folse of New Orleans. We attended a demonstration in which he prepared Osso Buco with stone ground grits. The grits were rich with heavy cream and butter and the Osso Buco was generously seasoned and fall off the bone delicious. Forget counting calories this weekend and simply enjoy.
Our favorite wine sampling was a Newton unfiltered Chardonay that was served at the around the world reception on Friday night. There was also a lovely assortment of Greek wines that were represented by the Vintner himself. All of the Vintners and Chefs were accessible throughout the weekend to answer questions and provide expert instruction.
A Few of the Many Tasting Samples
The Gasparilla Inn is the most gracious Inn of it’s era still in operation. The hotel offers rooms, suites and cottages, and sits within walking distance of the Gulf. Amenities include golf, tennis, croquet, boating, spa services and beach side dining to name a few. You can check out their website here to plan your special experience.
The 2017 Food and Wine weekend is scheduled for January 13 – 15.