We came. We saw. We drank way too much — and ate even more at this year’s South Beach Food and Wine Festival. Here are some highlight’s from the festival’s thirteenth year.
The festival activities started well before the actual its official “kick off,” with the dedication of the FIU’s three new state-of-the-art science labs and Mel Dick Wine Tower, which was funded by the festival’s fundraising efforts. The event was emceed by Martha Stewart with some of the earliest supporters of the Festival since its inception in attendance, including Michelle Bernstein, Hedy Goldsmith, Cindy Hutson, Mark Militello, Allen Susser and Norman Van Aken.
The festival officially began on Thursday and what an intro it was. Starting off things was Moët Hennessy’s The Q, hosted by Michael Symon and a bevy of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models who were spotted eating their way through the tents. Joey Campanaro of Little Owl and Chris Santos of Beauty & Essex impressed the judges so much that they both went home the grand prize, but our favorite of the night was from Paul Kahan from Chicago’s The Publican who served up a mean lamb sausage with feta that everyone was talking about.
The festivities continued at FLAUNT, the official after party for The Q. The event took over the Delano pool with cocktails being served by some of the top mixologists in the country including Jordan Bushell and Claire Smith. The celebrating didn’t stop there, as parties galore at Pubbelly and the Clevelander kept chefs and party-goers alike out until the wee hours.
Off the beach, the new Miami hotspot Seasalt and Pepper transformed into the internationally acclaimed Buddha Bar. There were multiple “Housewives” sightings along with Debi Mazar, Art Smith and Lorena Garcia, who all left the festival tents to come over to and try the one-night-only feast.
The parities kept coming Friday night, starting with the happy hour event Oyster Bash hosted by Ming Tsai and Jeremy Sewall at the Victor Hotel. The event had more than 6,000 Island Creek Oysters on hand flown in from artisanal oyster farm in Duxbury, Mass. prepared by some of the finest chefs in town. Down the street at Burger Bash, 31 of the best burger makers from across the country competed for cash and prizes and Michael Symon’s B Spot burger took home crowd favorite for the fourth time in five years.
Ending the night on a sweet note was the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Social on the rooftop of the Gale Hotel. Jeni hosted an interactive ice cream bar while Top Chef Desserts host chef Johnny Iuzzini chatted up with the crowd.
Saturday started with the a brunch hosted by the one and only Daniel Boulud, who was celebrating the debut of his new cook book DANIEL: My French Cuisine. Boulud graciously worked the room talking to all the guests and making sure they were having a good time.
Off at the Grand Tasting Village on Saturday where celebrity chefs were presenting all day long. Martha Stewart was auctioning off autographed standing mixers, while MC Kitchen’s Dena Marino hosted a cooking competition with Miami Heat players, and legendary chefs Gaston Acurio and Jose Andres presented a panel in Spanish.
Down the street from the Village was the Big Gay Ice Cream Social that took over the pool at the James Royal Palm for its second year. Hosted by Art Smith, the event celebrated marriage equality while giving away sweets and Kelvin’s boozy slushes to those in attendance. Chefs such as Andrew Zimmern, Carla Hall and Anthony Bourdain all made appearances at the event.
The festival wouldn’t be complete without some fried chicken and this year there was plenty of it. At Saturday night’s Chicken Coupe, the W Hotel was turned into a fried chicken mecca with the dish served in various interpretations from more than 20 chefs including charming Southerners such as Nashville’s Karl Worley of The Biscuit Truck Love along with Miami favorites Clayton Miller of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar and Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House.
Sunday morning the fried chicken theme continued at Lee Schrager’s seminar celebrating the upcoming release of his new cookbook – Fried & True. During the seminar Schrager talked about some of his favorite recipes found in the book and then brought out surprise guest Paula Deen to greet the crowd with biscuits – the perfect pairing to the fried chicken.
The night ended at the Broken Shaker with their infamous annual chef’s after party. But like Vegas, what happens there stay there.