A Day in the Keys: Food, Friends and Fun

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When we normally think of the Keys, our minds gravitate to Key West. After all, it’s the most well-known of the island-cities in the Florida Keys. We’re also fans of Key Largo due to its proximity to Miami. Just an hour/hour-and-a-half drive, and you’re in a whole different world. Islamorada, just pass Key Largo, never really caught our eye — until now.

Miami Food Pug, along with several close foodie friends, was invited to the Key Largo & Islamorada Uncorked Food & Wine Festival last month, a premier foodie fest in… we’ll give you two guesses. Held at the beautiful Pelican Cove Resort, the festival showcased an array of bites and libations from local and national vendors and restaurants. We specifically attended the Grand Tasting, the culmination of 11 days of wining and dining.

There’s nothing quite like a beachside food festival, especially in the Upper Keys and especially at Pelican Cove Resort. Having driven past the resort — and Islamorada — several times en route to Key West, we’re kicking ourselves for not discovering this gem sooner. As we enjoyed small plates from local eateries like Snappers Key Largo, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Senor Frijoles, we took in the sights and sounds of the property; the cozy resort makes for a perfect couples getaway. Seriously, look at the photos:

Anyway, the selection of food and drink was impressive, and we loved the property. Because there’s no shortage of wine and liquor at this event, we recommend you do the responsible thing next year and book a room at Pelican Cove or next-door neighbor Postcard Inn, the latter of which is undergoing some cool renovations including a revamp of the ever-popular tiki bar (note to self: go back and get the rum rummer). The Postcard Inn seems like it caters to a younger crowd, while the Pelican Cove skews older. Regardless, you can’t go wrong. Fun fact: the resort fee is transferable, so if you pay it at one property, you have access to amenities at sister resorts, too, including Amara Cay Resort.

Speaking of Amara Cay, their restaurant Oltremare served up one of our favorite plates at the food festival: grilled octopus with swiss chard, kabocha puree and sun choke chips. That dish served as a nice tease for our meal to come, which took place at the actual resort later that night. Oltremare prides itself on Italian food with a tropical twist, and Chef Dario Olivera focuses on using top-quality, local ingredients, including fresh Florida Keys fish. The pictures speak for themselves.

Hotel guests and curious visitors can opt for a seat at Sparrows Bar if they’re seeking lighter fare. The bar specializes in rum cocktails and more casual bites like fresh fish tacos and jumbo shrimp.

Overall, our trek to the Upper Keys was a memorable one. Despite living just a few hours away, we’ve never really given Islamorada a second look. But now that we know some of the best places there to stay and eat, we’ll be coming back a lot more often.

For more information about the Key Largo & Islamorada Uncorked Food & Wine Festival, visit their official site. Read more about each resort at Islamorada Hotel Company.