Florida Keys News
Monday, January 28, 2013
A little taste of this, a big taste of that
Locals sample gourmet food for MARC

Island Shrimp Crab Cake with citrus beurre blanc and tomato oil with a Rockin' Rojo margarita -- Rooftop Cafe

Shrimp En Croute with roasted garlic, fresh herb hollandaise and crispy prosciutto -- Alonzo's Oyster Bar

Butter Poached Lobster Tail, creamy saffron Polenta, champagne beurre blanc and caviar -- Latitudes/Sunset Key

Seared Sea Scallop with saffron celery root puree and fire-roasted tomato chutney -- Bistro 245

Twist & Stout, moist chocolate cake with a hint of Young's Chocolate Stout Beer. A smooth jacket of bitter chocolate stout glaze and topping of tart, dark chocolate frosting with a scoop of Irish cream ice cream and a tease of salted caramel. -- Better Than Sex dessert restaurant

Key Lime Swans -- Croissants de France

Norman Vogel, owner of the Roof Top Cafe, spent Sunday afternoon in an unconventional way: he was pacing back and forth along the waterfront at Westin Key West Resort & Marina waiting for some 450 guest to taste foods created by chefs from restaurants around the island, including his own.

"This is a good cause, it's for the MARC House," Vogel said as he put the finishing touches on his table shortly before the gates opened for hungry tasters around 4 p.m.

It was the Master Chef's Classic, the 19th year for the event serving "tapas-sized, gourmet delights by the finest chefs in the Keys." It is held each January to raise much-needed money for the MARC, Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens.

"All of the proceeds raised tonight will go directly to the MARC House," said Director of Development Gordon Ross. "This year is more important than ever because of the budget cuts. We have been getting cut for the last three years."

A maximum of 450 tickets are sold to keep the crowd manageable, said Ross, who hoped to raise $40,000 by the end of the evening. By Sunday afternoon there fewer than 40 tickets available.

"Businesses and residents that support non-profits create a stronger community," he said with conviction. "We could not have done this without all of our sponsors, volunteers and restaurants. They pay for this out of their own pockets."

It was clear how both sides supported the cause. Employees of First State Bank volunteered to run the gate while 12 restaurants participated in the food part of the day. The Westin donated its patio for the event, Florida Keys Party Rentals set up the tents, tables and chairs, Fausto's Food Palace helped out and The Restaurant Store held several other events leading up to the Chef's Classic, to name a few. Dozens more volunteers donated time, everything from cleaning up tables to helping where needed.

Six judges -- Bill Becker, Jimmy Weekley, Ricky Fesslov, Rob Sharpe, Liz Love and Alice Weingarten -- were given the task of choosing first, second and third place winners in three categories: appetizers, entrees and desserts. Each restaurant was given one to five points for presentation, creativity and taste.

Becker, news director for U.S. 1 Radio, and one of the longest running judges, took his role seriously.

"It took a lot of willpower not to eat all of it," he said after the judging "We were waiting for something to knock our socks off and it happened when we ate the desserts. It was a very competitive group."

Amber Debeuec, owner of Key West's Finest, a concierge website, couldn't make up her mind which entree to try first so she carried four plates to her table.

"It's just a taste of each," she said with a laugh as she pointed to the lobster bisque served by A&B Lobster House. "There is so much here."

When asked how many calories she thought she would consume throughout the evening, she quickly answered, "Maybe 800?"

sfrederick@keysnews.com

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