Florida means different things to different people. Popularized characteristics include Disney, sunshine, Gators, the Everglades, and miles of wide open beaches. And then there's Florida's Gulf Coast, endless stretches of powder white sand that were remarkably resilient to the ravages of the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill several years ago. Right in the middle is Clearwater Beach studded with a wide variety of beachfront lodgings ranging from Mom & Pop motels to grand hotels. The Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach is the area's latest 5-star addition making it the perfect spot for reveling in Clearwater Beach's annual Uncorked festivities.
Wine Tastings & Chef Cooking Demonstrations
With Publix Supermarkets as a main sponsor, you can be sure Clearwater Beach Uncorked appeals just as much to everyday sensibilities as to gustatory indulgence. Your weekly slog to the grocery store can get pretty mundane unless you spice up the menu repertoire with new ingredients and preparation methods. It also helps to pair these spurts of culinary creativity with top wines and craft liquors.
Clearwater Beach Uncorked not only gives you an excuse to party but a chance to get inspired by new recipes and ways of preparing dishes that fit into your everyday routine. Instead of watching top tier celebrity chefs preparing mostly inaccessible dishes like souffles or those requiring exotic ingredients, Clearwater Beach Uncorked gives hope to those of us stuck in a cookbook-centric rut.
A lineup of chefs from Publix Apron's Cooking School lead numerous demonstrations providing actionable ways to improve the quality of your diet by exploring new flavor combinations and utilizing fresh local ingredients. One demonstration challenged preconceived notions about what pairs best with chocolate by giving the audience a chance to taste how kumquats, sweet potato chips, and beef tips dipped in melted Lindt chocolate differ in flavor profile.
Wine is of course a major part of Uncorked but to be honest, I didn't spend much time examining wine labels here. A regional standout was Florida Orange Groves Winery offering a wide array of tropical fruit wines like key lime, mango, and guava. Jamieson Ranch and Dreaming Tree Vineyards were also offering some impressive flights. Navigating the tasting tent required developing a strategy for when and where to score samples as crowds ebbed and flowed alongside many of the tables. Grabbing small plates of the seemingly endless seafood paella and Bird's Eye stir fry paired up with available reds or whites worked for me.
Small Batch Liquors
This section of the festivities was a hidden gem in an outdoor alcove underneath the Hyatt. Imagine a college party getting started without Bud Light kegs and Jello shots. There were plenty of opportunities for sampling small batch liquor producers like Deep Eddy, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Fish Hawk Spirits, Templeton Rye and the biggest palate tempter for me, Midnight Moon's Apple Pie moonshine. I'm thinking an apropos cocktail recipe for this one would be a Baked Apple: cinnamon and raisin liquors mixed with this specialty moonshine topped with a spritz of caramel syrup.
Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach
Do yourself a favor and reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency when attending Clearwater Beach Uncorked. You'll be right on site so you can saunter down onto the beach just as the line is forming at the entrance. And when you need a break, you're a quick walk up to your room outfitted with a kitchen complete with dishwasher, full size refrigerator and countertop range.
Right on the city's Beach Walk which recently underwent $30 million in renovations, you're also an easy walk to shops and the town pier. Did I mention you are right across the street from Clearwater Marina and a 15 min. walk away from Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter?
When it's time for meals other than festival food samples, Executive Chef Richard Preston deftly oversees on-property dining like SHOR American Seafood Grill where plentiful local seafood is creatively prepared in a dramatic show kitchen while poolside Pan-Latin fusion dishes are served up at Swim Bar & Grill.
For the ultimate experience, head up to the 7th floor's Sandava Spa where serenity rules. A full menu of organic treatments combined with spectacular views of Clearwater Harbor put your body on a sustainable path toward healing and rejuvenation.