Key West Art & Historical Society and Cuisine Creatives Cook up the Third Conch Revival Picnic 

The Key West Art & Historical Society and Isle Cook Key West once again join forces to present the “Conch Revival Picnic”- a picnic-style Conch heritage dinner and co-benefit for Grimal Grove prepared by acclaimed chefs Martha Hubbard and Dave Furman on Wednesday, January 24 on the grounds of the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters. This year’s Conch Revival Picnic – the third so far – begins with a wine and appetizer pairing and music by Chilean guitarist Rolando Rojas from 5:00pm-6:00pm, followed by a 6:00-8:00pm dinner of classic Key West/Conch recipes featuring produce grown at Grimal Grove, the historic two-acre Big Pine tropical fruit park dedicated to the local food movement.

“We are pleased to include Grimal Grove in this year’s picnic and hope to raise the funds necessary to help them rebuild the landscape they had worked so diligently to revitalize before Irma hit,” says Society Executive Director Michael Gieda.

Inspired by The Society’s board member the late Dianne Zolotow, the Conch Revival Picnic tradition was launched in 2016 to increase awareness of Key West/Conch culture by preserving and promoting historic recipes created and consumed by Conch families for generations, but which have, over time, been disappearing from memory and tables. Some of the recipes presented are inspired by the postwar Key West Woman’s Club Cookbook edited by original Conch and first Florida Keys woman mayor Wilhelmina Harvey, as well as recipes from other books located in the Key West Public Library collection. On January 24th, Hubbard and Furman will present a feast that highlights alligator pear salad, shrimp and grits, whole pig and fish roast, with traditional Conch sides and sauces. 

Key West Food Tours creator Analise Smith returns as coordinator of the Picnic’s Conch Cook-off – with this year’s competition for Conch cooks being focused on “mollettes,” a savory flatbread that in Key West has become synonymous with a sandwich-sized piece of battered and deep-fried Cuban bread stuffed with picadillo. 

 

 “Folklore notes that long ago, Key West locals suffered a poor economy and not even potatoes were available to make the beloved Papa Rellenas (mashed potato balls stuffed with picadillo, battered and deep fried),” says Smith, who was raised in a household with a strong emphasis on evening family meals that merged Cuban cuisine with Conch-inspired recipes. 

 

“But given that necessity is the mother of invention, the Conchs decided to slice their loaf of Cuban into 4-5 sandwich size pieces, and then prepare the sandwich like the Papa Rellena by stuffing, breading, and deep frying.” 

Five entrants—Collen Mellies, Hank Kokenzie, Stewart Andrews, and two others yet to be announced—were recommended by the Key West Conch community as Mollette masters, with recipes that have been in the family for decades. Each will receive $100 to cover ingredient expenses and event entrance, vying for the winning title and cash-prize kitty. Judges will consist of the Conch Revival chefs, Smith and her Cuban-Conch recipe aficionada mother Teresa Menendez, and any Conch Revival attendee willing to pay a small token fee towards the kitty.    

The picnic is sponsored by Great Events, Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, Fausto’s, Three Hands Fish, and Key West Food Tours.  Visit KWAHS.ORG to purchase your ticket—$35 for Society Members and $45 for Non-members.  For more information, contact Operations Manager Shawn Cowles at scowles@kwahs.org or 305.295.6616 x111. Your Museums.  Your Community.  It takes an Island. 

 

IMAGE: Key West Food Tours creator Analise Smith, center, and acclaimed chefs Dave Furman, left, and Martha Hubbard, right, along with Isle Cook Key West and Key West Art & Historical Society, are cooking up an evening of mouth-watering Conch cuisine to be presented at the 3rd Conch Revival Picnic, Wednesday, January 24 at the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters.