Wednesday, October 7, 2015


I can think of a few good reasons NOT to go to Florida (large bugs, heat/humidity, and drivers, like me, who can't see over the dash). But the BEST reason I've had in a long time was to attend the first annual Bloody Mary Festival in Mirimar Beach with my good friend Peaches.

Saturday, September 19 from noon to 3:00. Happy three hours.
This inaugural event, benefiting Sinfonia Gulf Coast, allowed attendees unlimited tastes from 15 of the best bars and restaurants on the Florida panhandle. With dozens of sponsors and close to 600 revelers (all there primarily for the good cause, I'm sure), this outdoor party was fun and classy and sweaty, all in a good way. Zena, Goddess of Fire, actually hates the heat, but she loves blood and a good icy cold Bloody Mary. THE CHALLENGE: Could she take on 15 cold ones in just three hours??? Who would she vote for to win the People's Choice award?  Let's find out!!!

Four down, 11 to go. Good thing most drinks came with a bit of a snack on sticks.
There was only one rule: all the drinks had to be made with Cathead Vodka, which was actually not bad for hooch from Mississippi.

We started at one end at Bud & Alley's - the cups were rimmed with a salty/not too sticky spice rub, with a stick loaded with olives, lime, pickled okra, pickled asparagus, green beans, a large shrimp and a strip of thick, crispy smokey bacon inside the glass. This one became a standard for us: hot, salty, spicy, with a cooling edge of sweet tomato and citrus and ice. Delicious.

The first one is always good, get through the second, then from there it's easy
The Craft Bar had one of the spiciest offerings, with a stick holding another large shrimp and andouille sausage. Sunset Bay went healthy on us and stuck a carrot in there, but something was a bit bitter, so we moved on. Brutolu's Seafood House & Steamer made a pretty amazing Bloody Mary - a surf & turf idea - with beef jerky on the stick, and a cracked snowcrab leg in the glass. A good idea, except it was hard to eat with one hand (remember, we were walking around trying to drink them all and hadn't yet sat down in the shade, which would have been smart, but I digress).

These were not small drinks. There was a lot of emphasis on the presentation. 
So we went and sat down for a spell and enjoyed a Jalapeno Bloody Mary from Bijoux, which to this point was now my #2 with caperberry, boursin stuffed cherry peppers, and a nice bite of pork belly. Wow.

Pork belly is sinfully delicious.
From here I wasn't sure if it was the drinks or the heat or both or the forces of evil having followed me from up north, but the next few were pretty awful. Dig made one with kale and cilantro, which I don't like anyway, and it was green, but I liked their crab-stuffed peppers on the stick. The Island Wing Company did a Tiki Fire Bloody Mary that was bacon infused and garnished and topped with so much bacon it was actually greasy and gooky. The Flamin' Ugly Bloody from Louis Louis was just OK, and the one from Stinky's just seemed salty and pickly, which is about how I was feeling too.

Dig: Dig 6 feet deeper. The bacon overload in the Tiki Fire Bloody Mary was gooky. Louis Louis did a good job but didn't do anything memorable, although I WAS drinking. The offerings from Stinky's left little room for the beverage. 
I was happily surprised to visit the Beach House booth - wow! The tomato was creamy and dreamy, thick, rich, sweet, complex and delicious with just the right amount of heat. I asked about their secrets, and they (like everyone there, I think) made their own tomato juice with some roasted veg in there. I was impressed. These folks were happy and proud of their work!!!

I forgot to take a picture of the drink.
We wrapped up with few more but nothing from this point really stood out. We visited Great Southern Cafe (my notes only said "yuk"), The Perfect Pig (no notes), The Bowery on 30A (more bacon), and the NOLA Boiling Company (shellfish infused vodka with cilantro - that one I trashed).

Praise the Lard and drinks and bacon. I was doing pretty good until that seafood infused cilantro thing from NOLA. 
We listed 14 - thought we had them all - might have missed one - but we were done, and so was pretty much everyone by about 230 or so. We cast our votes, me for Beach House, which won third for People's Choice Award (yeah!), and Peaches voted for Bud and Alley's, which won the Judges (a.k.a., sponsors) Choice, and People's Choice Award second place (woo hoo!). Bijoux (remember the guys with the pork belly?) won People's Choice Award first place (yippee!).

It was a fun afternoon with lots of amazing drinks, good music from Sound Advice, a friendly well-heeled reeling crowd that was actually not overly snockered, excitement in the air, restaurants and bars proud of their offerings, which was by all accounts extremely generous, and, of course, food on a stick. Advance admission was $25 - a deal!!!

The music was good but it was too hot to dance. The grounds were lovely, not jammed, which has turned me off of events like this in the past. Those southerners sher do know how to throw a good party (for a good cause, of course). 

Zena, Goddess of Fire

No comments: