Kiwanis Best South Cape Martini Competition a sell-out

Update with winners:

January 29, 2012
By VALARIE HARRING (vharring@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Wine and Roses Restaurant won first place for both Best All-Around Martini and Best Appetizer in the Best South Cape Martini Competition held Saturday night. Its drink offering was the “Strawberry Cheesecake” martini. Its appetizer offering was its “Amazing Appetizer Buffet.”

Ralph’s Place won second place for best martini with its “Berrily Legal” martini.

Chicago Pizza was awarded third place for its “Key Lime Pie” martini.

Saturday story:

The line stretched to the door, but the martini competition revelers queued up at Ralph’s Place in search of the best beverage the South Cape had to offer Saturday night were having a rollicking good time.

The shot-sized samples of vodka combined with fruit flavors at Ralph’s proved to be a big hit

“We paid $20 for a tray of Berrily Legal Martinis – it’s so good!” said Marie Jackson, one of five friends from Naples who came up to partake in the popular fundraiser that pairs martini offerings with mouth-watering appetizers.

“Absolutely,” she added when asked if the group was having a good time.

The Best South Cape Martini Competition, held by the Cape Coral Kiwanis, is a fund raiser. Each year, a dozen of so venues participate, with some partnering up with a local restaurant in hope of earning top honors for Best Martini or Best Appetizer. The Kiwanis sell up to 1,000 tickets to the event, which includes mini-martinis and food samples at each venue, as well as transportation among the various stops. Attendees visit at least six of the participating bars and restaurants and then vote for their favorite offerings.

For the sixth year running, the event was a sellout.

“It’s a good thing to do this time of the year and meet people,” said John Allen, a Cape resident who has attended for the last four or five years.

This year, he especially enjoyed the offerings at Wine and Roses Restaurant, which provided samples of a Strawberry Cheesecake Martini, and an elaborate buffet.

“I thought they had the best martini and real good food, and Royal Key had good food,” he said as he waited in line to try the martinis at Ralph’s Place.

Sweet drinks dominated the martini mixtures Saturday night but there was a good range, including a cucumber-pomegranate concoction dubbed the Dixie Doozy at The Dixie Roadhouse, and a jalapeno, juices and ginger enhanced mix at La Terraza 47.

“The crowd is really friendly and nice, good spirited,” said manager Greg Wampler at La Terraza, which also served up Pasta Valencia as an appetizer.

The venues were happy with the attendance.

“So far it’s been steady; we’ve had about 400 people and it’s just about half time,” said Denise Wood at Cruiser’s Lounge where people queued up for a mini-martini dubbed Sultan’s Plum Amazing – a near pure shot of Sultanoff Red with a dab of vodka-soaked plum. “It’s a good start.”

At the nearby Royal Key Bar & Grill, confidence was running high as martini fest goers raved over the Peanut Butter Cup Martini, a lux mixture whose secret ingredient was Reese’s Pieces.

“Excellent,” said manager Mike Stori of the reaction they were receiving. “They just said it was absolutely the best. They wanted to vote before they went anywhere else. I think we’re going to walk away with it.”

He added attendance was very good.

“Absolutely tremendous, lined up out the door,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it – they actually started a little early and they’ve been lined up since. I’m real happy with the results.”

Owner Kurt Earlywine shared that enthusiasm.

“What a night,” he said, as the trolley dropped off a fresh load of festival goers in search of the best martini. “It was crazy, a lot more than we expected – and it’s all for the kids.”

The money raised through ticket sales benefits a Cape Coral Kiwanis Club initiative that sends food home with children on the weekend.

“This is for the Backpack Program,” said Earlywine, a Kiwanian.

The civic organization was pleased with both the turnout and the amount of money raised.

“Tonight was a wonderful night,” said Sam Huber, Kiwanis president.

“When it’s all said and done, we expect around $20,000 this year; that is going to feed a lot of hungry kids.”

The Cape Coral Kiwanis Backpack Programs costs the club about $2,000 a week, mostly in food expenses – they send food home with an estimated 500 children.

“This is a huge boon for us – it will get us through 10-11 weeks, at least to the end of the school year,” he said. “Plus it raises a lot of awareness.”

The event is made possible through the efforts of Kiwanis volunteers; the participating businesses, which provide the venues, food and music; and sponsors.

This year’s major sponsor was Sultanoff Vodka, which provided the alcohol to the participating venues. Each bar received 24 bottles of the vodka imported from Germany, said Frank Mensonides, sales manager for Last Call Distribution, Inc. of Fort Myers, the local distributor.

“We are a local company supporting local activities,” he said as he watched the crowds at Royal Key. “It worked out very nicely – we’re supporting local people, local bars and we thought it was great for the community.

“We’d be happy to do this again, that’s for sure.”

Organizers expect to have the ballots counted by Monday. This year, the Kiwanis Club will award recognition for first, second and third place for Best All-Around Martini. One recognition will be made for Best Appetizer.

The results will be posted at cape-coral-daily-breeze.com when available.

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