3501 S Roosevelt Blvd
Key West, FL 33040
Key West Art & Historical Society and Isle Cook Key West are celebrating the new year with another Conch Revival Picnic— a heritage dinner featuring a cornucopia of classic Key West/Conch recipes— set for Wednesday, January 11, 2017 @ 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Fort East Martello in Key West. In addition to the dinner, attendees can enjoy classic conch games like bocce and dominoes along with music by singer songwriter Ben Harrison.
“This event allows Conch Cuisine to have its voice,” says Martha Hubbard, Culinary Curator of Isle Cook Key West.
Last summer’s picnic was a sold-out success, despite the bad weather and quick change of venue from the Fort to the Armory to accommodate everyone comfortably. Hubbard will again join forces with other acclaimed chefs to help increase awareness of Key West and Conch culture by preserving and promoting historic recipes created and consumed by Conch families for generations but that are now disappearing from memory and tables. She and Dave Furman (Executive Chef and Owner, Great Events Catering), Paul Menta (Chef/distiller), Mike Mosi and Drew Wenzle (Azure), and John Ingelsby (The Thirsty Mermaid) will prepare a variety of classics, including alligator pear (avocado salad), chilao, conch chowder and salad, whole pig and fish roast, with traditional Conch sides and sauces. Some of the recipes 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.
New to the Conch Revival Picnic is Key West Food Tours operator Analise Smith. Raised in a household with a strong emphasis on evening family meals, Smith’s grandmother’s Key West/Cuban roots provided a daily dose of traditional meals which merged Cuban cuisine with Conch-inspired recipes.
“My mother’s insistence on highly flavorful foods added an extra touch to my grandmother’s dishes,” she says. “And my father’s American background let me know the bountiful variations of foods that existed outside of the Conch and Cuban cuisines.”
Smith and her mother Teresa Menendez, who collects local recipes, shares Conch dishes on the internet, and meets weekly with a variety of Conch women to discuss food dishes, will coordinate the Picnic’s first rendition of “The Queen of All Conch Cook-offs,” a cooking competition for Conchs with a newly selected recipe at its center. This picnic’s focus?— the Queen of All Puddings.
“In preparing for this second Conch Revival Picnic, personal interviews yielded a particular pride that locals had for their dessert dishes,” says Smith. “Of these popular dessert dishes, the Queen of All Puddings was seen as a much-revered recipe that few continue to prepare because it was so labor-intensive. And because life has become so hectic and has left so little time for cooking and much less baking, the dish’s absence has everyone yearning to eat it.”
Five entrants—Hank Kokenzie, Margaret Romero, Colleen Mellies, Judy Bobick, and one other yet to be announced—were recommended by the Key West Conch community as the ones that make the best Queen of All Puddings, 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 Menendez, and any Conch Revival attendee willing to pay a small token fee towards the kitty.
And just to make sure the evening’s dishes stay true to flavor, Smith’s grandmother Martha Menendez and her friend Maya Villa, former owner of 7 Days restaurant (where Kennedy Café now is), will guide the Revival Chefs on particular “touches,” says Smith.
“A generation ago, there was concern that these local dishes would be lost, particularly with life getting more and more time consuming,” says Smith. “Recipes were being hand-written and lost, and cookbooks were not quite yielding the desired flavor. Some children videotaped their mothers’ cooking but then they themselves never practiced the recipes.
“The Conch Revival is an attempt to reacquaint locals to recipes long lost, the flavors that must be accomplished, and hopefully, the desire to make these dishes once again.”
The picnic is sponsored in part by Pali Wine Co. Visit KWAHS.ORG to purchase your ticket—$40 for Members and $50 for Non-members. Free parking is available at the Fort. For more information, contact Operations Manager Shawn Cowles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305.295.6616 x111. Your Museums. Your Community. It takes an Island.