The annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival took place this year from February 19-22 in Miami.
As usual and even in tough economic times, this glitzy, pricey, never-dull four-day event sponsored by, among others, the Food Network and Food & Wine magazine, was sold out.
Attended by more than 30,000 people and founded by a fellow called Lee Schrager in 2001, it is the biggest culinary celebration of its kind in North America.
Watch this space for news on my interview with Martha Stewart at this annual fest – an event I’ve attended for the past five years.
She and famous New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who are friends and business partners, were front and centre this year.
Martha hosted a tribute dinner honouring Emeril who has been on hiatus for a while. My theory is that his health hasn’t been too good. I say this judging by his bloated appearance. However, he was in fine form at a lively cooking demo during which he wow’d the crowd with his clever antics.
Here are a few spots you should definitely try for specialties I’ve sleuthed when in South Beach:
Devito, 150 Ocean Drive: Yes, you guessed, this is Danny Devito’s restaurant and one of the newer spots on the Ocean Drive strip. I recommend lunch – it’s extremely reasonable – and trying the lobster bisque and/or one of their amazing main-course salads. They serve you delicious, free antipasti and portions are large. The comfortable armchairs on the on the covered patio are a plus.
Joe’s Stone Crab Take-Away, 11 Washington Ave., is a casual cafe and take-out emporium adjacent to the veteran and always-packed restaurant of the same name. This is the perfect place to sample a slice of the best Key Lime Pie I’ve found in the Miami area.
Martinez, 4000 NE 2nd Ave. Located in the Design District – about 20 minutes from by car from South Beach – this is the newer of two Miami restaurants owned by talented chef Michelle Bernstein. I found the welcome warm and ambience extremely pleasant. The tapas dishes featured here were uneven but I would definitely return for the beans with duck sausage and divinely creamy flan (the Latino version of creme caramel) made from her mother’s recipe.
News Cafe, 800 Ocean Dr., is a 24-hour landmark on the South Beach restaurant strip known for its hearty breakfasts, excellent Churrasco Steak and delicious bread pudding. It’s the best place I know to people-watch from a sidewalk or patio table as the friendly staff wait on you. This is where Gianni Versace had his last morning coffee on the day he was murdered – a rather grim claim to fame.
Puerto Sagua, 700 Collins Ave. A couple of blocks from the News Cafe is this cheap-and-cheerful, bustling Cuban eatery. Always busy, it’s a great place for grilled fish, a sandwich or – my favourite – the roast chicken special ($7.95 as I write). This filling meal is a large piece of succulent chicken accompanied by a large mound of white rice, sticky fried plantains and a bowl of black beans. The staff are friendly and efficient.