A Travellerspoint blog

Key West: A Major Award at the Conch Fritter-Eating Contest

You know it's not going to be a normal trip to Key West when you text a friend who lives in Old Town in order to make plans and he casually mentions, "By the way, you're busy on Sunday . . . because I entered you in a conch fritter-eating contest."

Then again, when is any trip to Key West a normal one???

2016_KW_Oct_Dogstool__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_ABN__-_2.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_Cocobra__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_ABN__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_ABN__-_4.jpg

We arrived on a gorgeous October morning and were quickly whisked away to the Paradise Inn on Simonton Street, a secluded oasis of calm amid the cacophony on Duval Street of noisy bars, drunken boors, and the kind of people who participate in competitive eating contests.

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_17.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_18.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_19.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_20.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_21.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI2__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI2__-_2.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_25.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_24.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_26.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_27.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_11.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_10.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_12.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_15.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_BWlob__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_3.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_2.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_9.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_8.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_14.jpg

But peaceful as Paradise Inn may be, this is still Key West.

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_22.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_23.jpg

Our "usual" suite on the second floor overlooking the pool was unavailable, so we took the one next door instead.

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_4.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_5.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_6.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_PI__-_7.jpg

After a quick change of clothes, we headed over to Lagerheads, a cheery Caribbean-style spot on the water near the Key West Bight.

large_2016_KW_Oc..heads__-_12.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_9.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oc..heads__-_15.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..heads__-_11.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..heads__-_10.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_5.jpg

We snagged two seats at the bar, then ordered up crab cakes, fish tacos, some smoked fish dip, and a couple of frozen drinks to get ourselves into island mode.

2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_4.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_8.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oc..heads__-_16.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_7.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..heads__-_17.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oc..heads__-_14.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_2.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oc..rheads__-_3.jpg

Afterwards we biked around for a bit, then headed back to Paradise Inn to laze around the pool.

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_2.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_3.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..eride__-_11.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_4.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_6.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_5.jpg

2016_KW_Oc..eride__-_10.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_9.jpg

2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_8.jpg

large_2016_KW_Oct_bikeride__-_7.jpg

Later, we stopped by Louie's to usher in the sunset.

2016_KW_Louies__-_11.jpg

2016_KW_Louies__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Louies__-_2.jpg

large_2016_KW_Louies__-_5.jpg

2016_KW_Louies__-_3.jpg

large_2016_KW_Louies__-_6.jpg

large_2016_KW_Louies__-_8.jpg

2016_KW_Louies__-_9.jpg

large_2016_KW_Louies__-_10.jpg

We checked out some of the island's Halloween decorations on our way back to the hotel.

2016_KW_Halloween__-_4.jpg

large_2016_KW_Halloween__-_5.jpg

2016_KW_Halloween__-_6.jpg

2016_KW_Halloween__-_7.jpg

large_2016_KW_Halloween__-_8.jpg

2016_KW_Halloween__-_3.jpg

2016_KW_Halloween__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Halloween__-_2.jpg

Back at the hotel, we devoured the pizza we'd picked up along the way, then called it a night.

large_2016_KW_PInight__-_2.jpg

large_2016_KW_PInight__-_4.jpg

large_2016_KW_PInight__-_5.jpg

large_2016_KW_PInight__-_3.jpg

The next day we met up with friends Stephanie and Ari at Hot Tin Roof for brunch.

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_3.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_4.jpg

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_2.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_24.jpg

It's always nice when they're expecting you.

2016_KW_HTR__-_25.jpg

Hot Tin Roof has a great brunch deal: For a set price, you can order anything on the menu -- in any order, and as much as you want -- and they'll serve it up with unlimited bottles of Prosecco and OJ, or unlimited Bloody Marys if that's your thing. And so what is billed as "brunch" is really an all-you-drink vodka-and-Prosecco party with everything from chicken and waffles with cayenne maple butter to compressed watermelon salad with tequila and feta to sesame tuna with crispy pork belly. Oh, and pancakes.

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_27.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_5.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_6.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_7.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_8.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_9.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_10.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_20.jpg

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_11.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_12.jpg

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_13.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_14.jpg

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_15.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_16.jpg

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_17.jpg

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_18.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_19.jpg

large_2016_KW_HTR__-_21.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_22.jpg

2016_KW_HTR__-_23.jpg

That afternoon, our friend Mark invited us to stop by for a slice (or three) of the homemade key lime pie he'd made for me.

large_2016_KW_keylimepie__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_keylimepie__-_3.jpg

2016_KW_keylimepie__-_2.jpg

Which was one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me, especially after I've shamelessly accosted them on social media every time they post a photo of anything even resembling a pie.

2016_KW_keylimepie__-_5.jpg

He even saved the limes as proof that he really made the pie from scratch, since he knows I am suspicious of anyone who claims to use their oven for anything other than shoe storage.

2016_KW_keylimepie__-_4.jpg

That evening it was time to start preparing for the conch fritter-eating contest, so I did what any competitive athlete would do: I headed over to Abbondanza for some carbo-loading.

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_9.jpg

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_7.jpg

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_8.jpg

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_4.jpg

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_3.jpg

I love pasta, but I was even more excited about the meatballs.

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_10.jpg

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_2.jpg

That cheesy chicken parm was no slouch, either.

2016_KW_Abbondan__-_5.jpg

large_2016_KW_Abbondan__-_6.jpg

The next morning we made a beeline for Agave 308 for some last-minute preparations for the conch-fritter eating contest: Tequila for courage and tacos for...ever.

2016_KW_Agave308__-_2.jpg

2016_KW_Agave308__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Agave308__-_3.jpg

large_2016_KW_Agave308__-_4.jpg

2016_KW_Agave308__-_5.jpg

The conch fritter-eating contest was the brainchild of the aforementioned Mark, he of the fabulous key lime pie and even more fabulous Key West Food and Wine Festival, an annual bacchanal of food and booze at which I have engaged in various questionable behaviors that I have heard rumors about but do not actually remember. The fritter-eating contest was just another of Mark's evil plots to make sure everyone who visits Key West leaves with an XXL pair of elastic-waist pants and plans for a juice fast.

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_43.jpg

2016_KW_ConchContest__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_ConchContest__-_6.jpg

2016_KW_ConchContest__-_3.jpg

A big crowd turned out to watch us all make fools of ourselves.

large_2016_KW_ConchContest__-_7.jpg

2016_KW_ConchContest__-_8.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_11.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_10.jpg

I checked in with our friend Deb (who was clearly skeptical that a skinny chick like me stood a chance at this thing -- especially one who doesn't particularly like conch fritters), then signed a waiver that said something about how I wouldn't sue if I ended up in a ditch with a belly full of fried dough.

2016_KW_Co..ebSkep__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_7.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_40.jpg

We'd arranged to meet up with friends Jessica and Jeff, who came to cheer me on (and, in Jeff's case, be goaded into participating himself).

2016_KW_ConchContest__-_5.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_31.jpg

Of course, I dressed appropriately for the big event.

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_14.jpg

Or at least I thought I did.

2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_8.jpg

I'd told Mark beforehand that I would be wearing a conch dress in honor of the occasion, and at the contest he sweetly presented me with an award for "Best Dressed."

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_42.jpg

However, when I tried to duck out of the contest since I'd already "won," he snatched my Major Award back, forcing me to actually participate before he'd turn it over.

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_18.jpg
2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_19.jpg
2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_20.jpg

The competitors were grouped into four heats, mine being the last. Of course, because this is Key West, it wouldn't be enough to just have a conch fritter-eating contest; there had to be a twist.

large_2016_KW_ConchContest__-_4.jpg

We couldn't use our hands.

And adding insult to injury, the day was windy. Really windy. I'd worn my hair down and didn't have anything to pull it back with. And so I suddenly realized that while I had no chance of winning a conch fritter-eating contest that day, I stood a very good chance of winning a hairball-eating contest.

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_21.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_18.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_22.jpg

Of course, that didn't stop Mark from drawing a tapeworm on my name card, or stop me from bragging that I'd already won (at least the fashion portion of the competition).

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_11.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_14.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_13.jpg

The first three heats were a tough act to follow, putting up some impressive numbers.

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_23.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_29.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_26.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_13.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_27.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_33.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_24.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_32.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_30.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_15.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_12.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_34.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest__-_22.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_2.jpg

Jared and Kevin were tied for first with 14 fritters each, but then Big Don ascended the dais . . . and quickly ascended to the top of the pack.

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_33.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_9.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_6.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_3.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_10.jpg

But not without some not-so-gentle "encouragement" from his girlfriend, who pounded on the table so violently that we figured Big Don was Dead Don if he didn't top 14.

2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_5.jpg

2016_KW_Co..ntest2__-_4.jpg

Luckily, having downed an impressive 16 fritters in three minutes flat, Big Don seemed like a shoo-in to win . . . until my heat. I'm not saying this thing was rigged, but it can't be a coincidence that The Tapeworm was seated between two guys who ended up placing in the top three.

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_24.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_21.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_27.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_26.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_16.jpg

Sadly, however, I failed miserably when it came to living up to my reputation, at least for eating food. I'd downed roughly 2.5 fritters and an entire head's worth of human hair before giving up and chugging some wine.

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_29.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_19.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_15.jpg

Which did not go unnoticed by at least one disgusted competitor.

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_30.jpg

Meantime, Big Don's record of 16 fritters was about to be shattered by the unassuming Pac-Man on my left, Loren, who was gobbling up fritters as fast as they could bring them.

large_2016_KW_Co..tLoren__-_1.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_23.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_20.jpg

In the end, Loren bested everyone, including Big Don, to take home the prize, having somehow managed to scarf down a whopping 19 conch fritters in just three minutes.

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_35.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_37.jpg

2016_KW_Co..test2__-_34.jpg

large_2016_KW_Co..test2__-_36.jpg

It's always the skinny ones you gotta watch out for.
----------------------------------------------------
2016_KW_Co..test2__-_31.jpg

Wanna stick it to Hurricane Irma and your own liver? Get your tickets for January 2018 Key West Food and Wine Festival here: https://www.keywestfoodandwinefestival.com/

Posted by TraceyG 09:01 Archived in USA Tagged key_west abbondanza conch_republic lagerheads agave_308

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

Oh no!! You didn't win!! I liked that you were blaming it on your hair and nothing to do with the rose wine - everyone else had water! I don't think you took it seriously enough but it looks like you had a large take-home consolation prize of fritters. There's always next year for a scrunchy and a half gallon of water.

Great read and pics as always.

by Jan Clydesdale

Tracey,
There was not a classier conch competitor there.
As always, great read and gorgeous pics. Cannot wait to hear more.

by Toni Peterson

Going to Key West in a couple of weeks for the first time ever, very excited by the places you talk about and I can't wait to be there!

by Emmanuelle

I love your blog, the pictures are amazing. Been to Key West many times. After looking at the pics, I decided I need to go again soon.
Thanks for posting.
Oh, and sorry you didn't win the contest. Loved your conch dress.

by Kathy Healey

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint