Major Key: Philly’s Florida Keys Cookoff

In 2014, I saw a very long line for a photo opportunity. It was at the Southernmost Point of the continental United States. Luckily, I was able to push my way to the front by letting the line know something especially important:

Hello, everyone. In three years, I’ve got this cooking competition I’ll be doing. If I win, I get to come back. Would you mind if I snapped a quick shot?

And, just like that, the crowd parted and I nabbed this gem.

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Finally, last week, the time had come.

I, along with 23 other hungry bloggers, radio hosts, and news anchors, filled the kitchens of The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College  for tours, tastes, and tests of skill. Our assignment seemed simple enough:

  • Cook up two dishes.
  • One will be seafood.
  • One’s a Key Lime Pie.
  • You can bring ONE special ingredient for your Key Lime Pie.

Now, I’ve gotta say, this event is not WHY I got into blogging… but my WORD it was easily the most fun, and certainly the type of event that keeps me putting all these words out into the ether. (P.S. Thanks for reading. Seriously.)

The team from the Florida Keys and Key West, in hopes to encourage us chilly Philly folks to head south more often, wanted us to bring a Taste of the Keys to town.

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My very official station

We started with dessert. Because we’re grownups and we can.

My secret ingredient was a way to bring a taste of Philadelphia to the Keys: Pretzel Crust! The crust recipe was loosely based on The Gold Lining Girl’s Recipe, but I pulverized my pretzels at home and added a teensy bit of cinnamon to my crust.

We had 50 minutes. We were given all the other ingredients.

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Almost no one drank the “cooking wine”. We all tried to avoid mixing the seafood ingredients with the pie ingredients.

At times, things got a little sticky…

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Probably flexing for the camera. Definitely cramming butter sugar pretzel dust into a pie tin.

I’ve never made a Key Lime Pie. It’s SO easy. You should try the Florida Keys Key Lime Pie Recipe at home. I personally would recommend the pretzel crust but (spoiler alert) that probably won’t win you a trip to the Florida Keys.

While our pies cooled, we were able to sample some of the cocktails downstairs AND mingle. I even got to mingle with the most petite chef of the night, Emily of HerPhilly!

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And then it was onto the seafood. In this case: SNAPPER!

My dish was a blackened yellowtail snapper with a mango and lime salsa. I didn’t have an exact recipe but I’ve linked to a similar one.

Things really heated up…

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Moments later, I switched to a cast iron skillet, making this a simply useless photo

In the end, I was pretty pleased with what I produced:

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Sure, I didn’t win. But I did immediately look for flights back down to Florida ($98 RT to Miami from PHL, in case you were wondering…)

All in all: I LOVED living my TopChef dreams. In case you weren’t sure if I had fun…

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The MOST fun

Thank YOU to everyone, from Aversa PR  for the invite to the Restaurant School  for hosting us to the Florida Keys crew, for bringing the heat to West Philly!

 

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