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Croquetapalooza Is A Doozy

M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom, photo by lee kleinJudges Hedy Goldsmith, Todd Erickson, & Roger BorgesPincho Factory's croqueta, photo by lee kleinBarley & Swine: The Winner, photo by lee klein

“Some of my events have been doubles and triples,” Sef Gonzalez remarked to me while we surveyed the large, exuberant crowd at Croquetapalooza. “But this one’s a home run.”

Very timely reference with the MLB Championship Series under way, but that’s not the first thing the Burger Beast said to me when I went up to him to say hello. The first thing he told me was to hurry up to the VIP room before they ran out of Sakaya Kitchen's pork croquetas with spicy ginger sauce (originally thought they were from Black Brick, as that's what the table was promoting). Great advice: It was the best croqueta I had all day -- even if it was square. And tasted Asian.

Black Brick croquetas

The first annual Croquetapalooza was held yesterday afternoon in a sprawling convention room at the Magic City Casino. Good thing the space was large, as some 450-plus guests filled the rafters. And it was a terrific crowd -- lively, lacking pretension, and representing a wide cross-section of ages and ethnicities (though largely Hispanic).

Sef is best known for his Burger Beast blog, and has also become something of an events promoter; Croquetapalooza follows Burger Brawl and Frita Showdown (nobody beats the Beast when it comes to branding). But he’s a down-to-earth guy who doesn’t charge as much as other organizers: This event was $35 for all the food, flan, and beverages you wanted (Jupiña, Materva, batidos from El Rey De las Fritas and more), plus live music and a Catalina Foods Croqueta Eating Contest with guest judge blogger Fatgirl Hedonist

Talk about bang for the buck.

Ms. Cheezious croqueta sandwich, photo by lee klein

Participants included the Pincho Factory (lamb and feta croqueta with jalapeño hummus); Ms. Cheezious (grilled Manchego cheese, ham and croqueta sandwiches); Sergio’s (chorizo and mushroom croqueta); and other croqueta entries too, including one from M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom of Boca Raton filled with jamon Serrano, chorizo, Manchego cheese and yucca, served over scallion chimichurri -- my favorite among the competing restaurants. But the winning “People’s Choice” award for Best Croqueta went to Barley & Swine (or B&S Gastropub) for its jamon Serrano-Manchego croqueta draped with guava sauce. I would have dubbed this my second favorite (third if you include Sakaya).

M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom, photo by lee klein

“Best Flan In Miami” was judged by Hedy Goldsmith (Genuine Hospitality Group), Todd Erickson (Haven/HuaHua’s), and Roger Borges (Univision Entertainment Reporter). The winner was Fireman Derek’s World Famous Pies, and you’ll get no argument from me: smooth texture, fresh vanilla flavor and a golden caramel topping. See you all at Croquetapalooza II next year.

Derek The Fireman's Winning Flan, photo by lee klein