If you can't get enough of the fried goodness that is a croqueta, you'll be glad to know that this coming Sunday you can find about 10,000 of them. Dubbed Croquetapalooza, the event is the brainchild of local blogger Sef Gonzalez, better known as Burger Beast.
BB is at it again, and this time it's not burgers or fritas, but one of Miami's quintessential finger foods. A dozen local restaurants will gather at Magic City Casino, where they will fry up the Cuban delights. Croqueta preparada, anyone?
Asked to describe a croqueta for a Miami neophyte, Gonzalez is at a loss for words. "I really wouldn't know," he says. "I think it might just be better left unsaid."
Gonzalez's love for croquetas stems from his childhood. "This is one of the things I remember making me different as a kid. My mom would pack my lunch, and everyone had PB&J, which I never eat, and my mom would make me croqueta sandwiches that smelled horrible from how long they'd been cooped up in a lunchbox."
Gonzalez wanted to do something that was close to his heart and in line with his other events, such as Burger Brawl and Frita Showdown. The croqueta was a natural fit. Croquetapalooza will take place, like many of Gonzalez's other events, at Magic City Casino. The only difference is this one will be held in the concert auditorium, which means no insane Miami heat. For attendees anyway.
"The thing I'm happiest about is that we were able to get local mom-and-pop shops involved and that they were interested. That's something we've been trying to do with all our events, to get the mainland part of Miami, and luckily we were able to accomplish it." For $35, you'll get a golden ticket to croqueta samplings from B&S Gastropub, Chico's, Gilbert's Bakery, Latin American Bakery & Café, Los Bobos, MEAT Eatery & Taproom, Munchies Café 2, Sergio's, Vicky Bakery, and Islas Canarias, which Burger Beast declared his top contender in a blog post.
Putting an unexpected twist on the classic, Daddy's Grill Café, the Empanada Truck, Latin House, Ms. Cheezious, and Pincho Factory will serve croqueta dishes.
For dessert (if you can handle it), a flan-tastic competition will crown the best flan in Miami -- or at least the best from Cuban Guys, El Brazo Fuerte, Fireman Derek's, Gilbert's, Latin American Bakery, Los Bobos, Marlie's Delights, Rio Cristal, Sweetness Bake Shop, and Vicky Bakery. To judge the sweet battle, Michael's Genuine pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith will be joined by Univision reporter Roger Borges and Haven and HuaHua's executive chef Todd Erickson.
Another competition will feature three members of the audience wagering on how many croquetas they can eat. Local blogger Fatgirl Hedonist will referee, and the victor will receive a special croqueta medal plus bragging rights for winning the first Croquetapalooza eating contest. "We have some surprises in store for this that we don't want to give away, but it's going to be fun," Gonzalez says. To participate, contestants must fill out a form upon arrival. Maybe hold off on eating too much until you know if you've been chosen for the feat.
Speaking of eating too much, Gonzalez says the entire time he was planning the event he kept asking himself: "How many croquetas are really enough?" While he originally thought ten was the magic number, he recently changed his mind after going on a croqueta crawl a few weeks ago where he and a group of invitees visited many of the places participating in Croquetapalooza. "Most people won't get past five." Think you can prove him wrong? Sunday is your chance.
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Croquetapalooza takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. General-admission tickets cost $35, and VIP Lounge tickets, which cost $75, include Sakaya Kitchen and Eating House croquetas, flan from El Mago de las Fritas, Tito's vodka, and beer from Sam Adams and Miami Brewing Company. You must be at least 21 to attend.
As for Gonzalez, you won't catch him eating a single fritter. "I don't ever eat at any of the events I do. It's a combination of nerves and stress. Plus over the last few weeks we frequented the restaurants participating and just did the croqueta crawl, so I wouldn't say I'm all croqueta-ed out, but I could be close."
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha