Yesterday, hundreds of croqueta lovers gathered to celebrate Miami's quintessential finger food -- 10,000 of them. The brainchild of Sef Gonzalez (Burger Beast), the inaugural Croquetapalooza brought together the city's best fried cylinders under one roof to vie for the title of best croqueta.
To counteract the savory bites, a flan fight invited judges Todd Erickson (executive chef of Haven and Huahua's), Michael's Genuine pastry goddess Hedy Goldsmith, and Univision reporter Jorge Borges to choose the sweetest of the bunch.
It was a day of savory, sweet, and good times.
No stranger to Magic City Casino, Burger Beast's events like Burger Brawl and the food truck roundups usually go down outdoors. Croquetapalooza was held inside Stage 305, which meant a couple of things: For one, there was air conditioning (important). Also, because Stage 305 is technically inside the casino, the event was 21-and-older, which meant no kiddies running amok.
There was also a croqueta-eating competition. Three contestants were invited to the stage for a three-minute battle of stuffing their faces. In the end, Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia won the croqueta medal bearing a lucky number seven.
Vicky's ham croqueta was in my top five and is always a good choice.
Sergio's didn't offer the typical ham croquetas, but instead served its newest creation: a chorizo variety. Pro tip: Squirt lemon on the croqueta to bring out the flavor.
In what was probably the most luxurious croqueta display of the day, Gilbert's two-tiered creation proffered ten croqueta varieties -- the same flavors made in the store daily. Think romesco, spinach, asparagus, bacalao, and jalapeño.
All eyes were on the new dessert croqueta, though, which is a hybrid of a churro and a croqueta drizzled with a choice of chocolate or salted caramel.
Leave it to Ms. Cheezious to blow our minds. The popular food truck turned out a "croqueta monsieur," plunking a tavern ham croquette with béchamel sauce and Swiss cheese between sourdough slices.
VIP ticketholders were granted access to a special area that boasted El Mago de las Fritas flan, Tito's Vodka cocktails, and Samuel Adams beer. In addition, two extra croqueta varieties from Eating House and Sakaya Kitchen were offered here. Sakaya Kitchen's pork-infused rendition with ginger-soy dipping sauce was phenomenal.
But my favorite was hands down Islas Canarias' croqueta de jamón, which shared the spotlight with Finka's chicken croqueta.
It was my runnerup, however, that took home the people's choice for best croqueta. Barley & Swine, which recently faced some disappointing news with the closing of the popular Kendall gastropub, won Croquetapalooza with its variety, packing jamón serrano, Manchego cheese, and guava. Let's hope the opening of Barley & Wich, which will replace B&S, is incentive for a croqueta-inspired sandwich.
Hip Hop really outdid itself with a mix of Fireman Derek's flan and custard gelato dipped in semisweet chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream.
Rio Cristal had the classic and delicious caramel flan on deck.
Sweetness Bakery's vanilla flan with 47 percent chocolate ganache, vanilla bourbon, marshmallow, and pretzel streusel completely changed up the flan game.
Amid all the flan, Fantastic Pastelito's Nutella pastelito distinguished itself and was a welcome addition.
Judges Roger Borges, Todd Erickson, and Hedy Goldsmith smile before choosing the best flan.
That title went to Fireman Derek's vanilla flan. You can get it at his Wynwood café and bakery, which opened a couple of months ago. While you're there, check out the key lime and crack pies.
Fireman Derek takes the title for best flan.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha