By Shana Overhulser, www.CoastalLocals.com
Approaching the beautiful sun-kissed waters of Clearwater Beach, I spotted the large white tents making their home in the sand, and felt the euphoria of the long awaited Fifth Anniversary of Clearwater Beach Uncorked. A coastal Florida city rolling out the red carpet and welcoming food fanatics, staunch wine lovers and devoted craft beer enthusiasts – like myself – to its Gulf home.
I was biting! Traveling with a fellow epicure to this two-day affair, we first entered the VIP tent showcasing desserts, pastries, munchies, reserve wines, bubbly and a comfy place to lounge. We made a bee line to the Chandon sparkling wine station offering an option of tasting the Chandon Classic Brut, Rosé and Delice. A choice of accompaniments came with the Delice; mint, cucumber and slices of grapefruit, that elevated the palate with its natural nectarine, pear, golden apple and ruby grapefruit flavors. We immediately paired them with the tasty array of pastries and Rum Chata white chocolate desserts. There was a darling display of cuisine and art made from empty wine bottles at The Harringtons’ table. Unique cutting boards, knives, and displays among the Swedish meatballs, mozzarella sticks and nachos. Our next pairing was at the Windjammers Restaurant booth, serving up delicious Lobster Mac and Cheese, next to the Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits booth offering Barone Fini Italian Pinot Grigio and Josh Cellars wine containing 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 2% Petite Verdot. The Josh Cab had a clove-like finish which uniquely fused with the seafood and cream sauce in the dish.
After some much needed selfies, we stepped into the Grand Tasting tent that held the Bay area’s most delectable restaurants, boutique hot spots, hotels and popular Publix Super Markets’ food brands. We fell head first into a real brew fest starting with Dog Fishhead Beers tasting the Midas Touch, 90 Minute Imperial IPA and Namaste – a Belgian-Style White Beer. Nibbled on Pulled Pork Sliders at Watercolour Grill House and found our new love, Kentucky Honey Barrel Brown Ale®, aged for up to six weeks in freshly decanted bourbon barrels from some of Kentucky’s finest distilleries. The supernal flavors of vanilla and oak are imparted – delivering a smooth and robust drinking pleasure. The stout was yielding hints of carmel and roasted coffee and IPA was golden hoppy and crisp as they come.
Open the gate – I’ve arrived in fizzy heaven. The Keybilly, made with real Key Lime, and Green Man Brewery, had us at fermentation. It’s a good thing that Tom and Chee were dispensing cheese sandwiches. It was worth the battle of a wait with an uniquely sandwiched Grilled Cheese Donut! Back on the ‘Brew Bus’ we got – announcing its four stops (and flavors to taste) with cute names such as; Double Decker English-Style Stout and Rollin’ Dirty Irish-Style Red Ale. Chobani Yogurt pulled out all the stops with it’s innovative appetizers and dessert options. I absolutely LOVED the original Chobani layered with corn salsa, spices and blue chip nachos! A cup of original Chobani, fresh pineapple, shaved almonds and a drizzle of Florida honey was refreshing and jump-started my taste buds for some intense local wines that followed; Whiplash, Lake Ridge, and St. Augustine Lighthouse. Some with a fruity finish and others rich in tannins.
I bumped into some old friends from the Florida Beef Council serving up some spectacular beef tips which went rather well with The Other Bean Hummus at the next booth over. Grilled shrimp, crisps and crackers (oh, my!). A feast of the senses going on and I didn’t even get to the best part yet! The live culinary demos on Apron’s Publix Cooking Stage with sought-after area chefs. I got to watch a friend of mine, Emily Ellyn, who is best known as the Retro Rad Chef from Food Network; appearing on “Food Network Star,” “Cupcake Wars” and most recently as the winner of “Cutthroat Kitchen.” She’s also a culinary educator and food writer, who writes for “edible” and “BAR” magazines and lectures at the University of Central Florida. Mixing it up was Chef DiPaolo, Principal Chef. He and his team have full research and development responsibility for some of America’s most loved grocery brands including Duncan Hines cake mixes and frostings, Comstock-Wilderness fruit and pie fillings, Vlasic pickles and Mrs. Butterworth’s and Log Cabin syrups. I applaud these experienced chefs that prepare and cook favorite dishes for an audience on a sandy beach – it is no short order. The Publix Cooking Stage was interactive, tasty and educational and had run throughout the two-day affair.
The Shor Restaurant, http://www.shorgrill.com/hpr/shor/en.html found inside the Hyatt Regency, had topped off our day with a hearty creole-type dish containing mussels, clams, shrimp and scallops immersed in a spicy tomato broth with a side of toast to soak it all up.
The weekend of events featured the area’s top culinary craftsmen serving up dishes that include oysters, fine cheeses and savory hors d’oeuvres as well as wineries from around the world pouring glasses of over a hundred different wines and craft breweries sharing the sudsy fruits of their labors. I can not wait to go back for the Sixth Anniversary of Clearwater Beach Uncorked in February 2017. Be sure to reserve a ticket on the web site and view all the special cooking demos, vendors, chefs and restaurants that will be ready and waiting for you: https://www.everfest.com/e/clearwater-beach-uncorked-clearwater-beach-fl
Cheers to Clearwater Beach, celebrating its 100th birthday this year and offering tourists and locals a seemingly endless supply of entertainment, natural beauty, and outdoor activities both on land and at sea throughout the year in West Florida. #Uncorked #Clearwaterbeach #BocaLocals #CoastalLocals