Sip, dine and indulge in the many food and wine events that celebrate the beautiful Southwest Coast.
The 6th Annual Food & Wine Weekend at The Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande will be held January 13-15. Gourmands and wine enthusiasts will experience wine from the world’s most famous regions, fine cuisine and learn the cooking techniques of leading chefs. The inn offers an overnight package (from $540 for two, per night) which includes deluxe accommodations; a special welcome reception and dinner at The Beach Club; participation in culinary demonstrations and wine tasting events; two breakfasts; a turndown amenity; final night reception and the Master Chef’s Dinner in the Banyan Room; the-gasparilla-inn.com.
The 7th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival, held January 14 at Bayview Park, showcases the great local seafood harvested by the commercial fishermen of the Keys and provides scholarships to their college-bound children (www. kcfa.org). This event features live music and children’s activities. The fresh catches of the day are caught, cooked and served by the local fishermen. Dinner plates range from $12 to daily market value. Beer, wine, water, soda and desserts available for purchase. Free admission; $5 parking; fkcfa.org/events.aspx.
The largest all-chocolate event in the southeastern states is the Festival of Chocolate, held January 14-16 at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) in Tampa. Highlights include tastes and treats from the region’s best chocolatiers and confection companies; demonstrations and competitions; chocolate and wine pairings; a chocolate-themed museum; a chocolate workshop for kids; interactive chocolate classes and much more. Daily entrance is complimentary with paid admission to MOSI. Advance adult tickets (age 13-59) are $20.95; $18.95 senior; $16.95 children (age 2-12); tampa.festivalofchocolate.com
On Saturday, January 21, stop into Venice Wine & Coffee for a free wine tasting from 1-4 p.m. Selections from South American vineyards will be served. On any Friday throughout the year, join local Venetians at their evening social (a tradition for 20 years). Several wine selections are available for purchase by the glass, or buy a bottle to share with new friends ($5 cork fee); venicewineandcoffeecompany.com.
The 30th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Fest, February 18-19, will serve up a taste of Old Florida with the freshest seafood with a backdrop of live music, arts and museum displays and family fun. The festival benefits non-profit FISH Cortez, dedicated to the preservation of shorelines along Sarasota Bay and the heritage of traditional Gulf Coast maritime communities. Admission $2; free under age 12; cortezvillage.org/FishingFestival.aspx.
Every Saturday afternoon in January, Lakeridge Winery in Clermont (west of Orlando) hosts its famous and free Music Series with high-talent bands on the outdoor stage. Lakeridge wine, beer, soft drinks and a variety of food is available for purchase. Visit February 17-19 for Winefest XXII to partake in last year’s harvest and enjoy live entertainment throughout the day ($2 donation). Over 80 crafters and artists display their wares; lakeridgewinery.com.
The Palate-Pleasing Tampa Bay Food and Wine Experience will showcase the talents and products of local chefs, talented vintners, spirits products, culinary celebrities and more. Partake in tasting sessions, seminars, dinners, parties, music and fun on February 17 and 18. The event will be held waterfront at downtown Tampa’s newest Curtis Hixon Park. Highlights include a Friday evening ‘Mini Treats’ soiree ($45); a Saturday afternoon ‘Grande Experience Tasting’ ($75) and an evening ‘After Glow Chill’ event to rub shoulders with the best winemakers and chefs ($15); unleashyourpalate.com.
Entertain visiting friends at the 22nd Annual Florida Winefest in Sarasota on April 12-15. Mingle with over 50 winemakers, winery owners and world-renowned chefs. Settings for the five distinct events (including a charity auction) range from a private home, Lakewood Ranch, and St. Armands Circle to the beachfront Longboat Key Club & Resort. Event tickets are from $20-$250 per person. Winefest has awarded $7.5 million in charitable grants to disadvantaged children’s programs in Sarasota and Manatee Counties; floridawinefest.org.