SOUTH BEACH, Fla. – Lee Schrager, the energetic fellow who founded the annual South Beach Wine and Food festival seven years ago, is one smart cookie.
After all, who, in his/her right mind would not move heaven and earth to attend North America’s biggest food event of its kind in February – a month when most of this continent is experiencing the worst of winter. I should know; I live in Stratford in the heart of Ontario’s snow-belt – one of the reasons I’ve headed south to Miami for this mammoth gastro-fest for the past three years.
What started out as a one-day event is now four action-packed days. On three of them, two giant tents set up in the heart of South Beach from 11th to 14th Streets are home to hundreds of food and wine purveyors who dish out samples from morning to night. In a third equally huge tent, there are back-to-back demos on two stages by top celebrity chefs. After all, this fest is sponsored by the U.S. Food Network, Food & Wine magazine plus a host of high-end kitchenware, food and wine companies. We’re talking over-the-top, Miami-style glitz, glamour and gourmandise.
On each of the four nights there’s a lavish party for which guests dish out from $150 to $500 a pop. Even with these prices, tickets are sold out long before the party begins.
At a Burger Bash – in a huge tent on the beach located behind the Ritz-Carlton hotel – about 20 eateries from Manhattan’s trendy Shake Shack to South Beach’s hottest restaurant Prime 112 served up their version of this all-American food. Best eats here were sides: Prime 112’s 5-Cheese Truffled “Mac” – a stunning deep-fried mini-cheese ball and 7-Year Aged Cheddar Cheese Fries from Johnny V in Ft. Lauderdale.
At the fancier champagne soiree called BubbleQ – this tent was on the beach behind the star-studded Delano hotel – the noise was deafening while Iron Chef regular Cat Cora strutted her stuff and The Forge (the Miami steakhouse that was home to Frank Sinatra and the Rat pack in its heyday) served up the best mini-dish of the night: al dente multi-coloured lentils and beans layered in a dixie cup with an orange vinaigrette.Please watch this blog for more on the sensational 7th annual SOBE food fest.