The South Beach Wine & Food Festival: The Dishes and the Dish
EATS hit the South Beach Wine & Food Festival strong this past week.
We met chefs, tasted vino, drank drinks and ate a lot. From Paula Deen to Emeril Lagasse, the fest played out like a day's programming lineup on the Food Network, but no one was complaining with the delicious food and beverages galore. But beyond all the gastronomic gluttony, the festival campaigned a decidedly different cause: children's nutrition. Alice Waters, Rachael Ray, Jamie Oliver and Giada de Laurentiis were just some of the chefs hosting family-oriented seminars and cooking classes for children.
On the distinctly grownup side of things, drinks at the festival flaunted the newest cocktail trend...or oldest Martinis de jour are out, swarthy drinks featuring potent potables are in, harking back to a simpler, albeit equally inebriated, era. "Bourbon Mixology on the Beach" and "Grand Marnier: The Spirit of Luxury Cocktails" were just two examples of no-nonsense booze tutorials enlightening the crowd.
The Golden Clog Awards unofficially began the fest, much to the chagrin of the organizers. Conjured up by chefs Tony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman, these unconventional marks of merit (gold-painted crocs in honor of the fluorescent clog king himself) sought to appreciate those aspects of the culinary scene not otherwise noted by the public at large. Award categories ran the gamut from "The Douchebag" (going to Alan Richman and his always let-me-down-gently food critiques) to "The Fergus" named after the famous offal-loving Fat Duck chef, in recognition David Chang's precocity with pork.
The Burger Bash also drew crowds. New York standby Shake Shack was going for its third award in as many years, but it was routed by Boston's Radius which took home the top honors. Consensus was that the Shack just didn't give it their all; on the other hand, their milkshakes, thick and frosty even during the heat of battle, were unanimously appreciated. Being the independent entity that we are, EATS discovered our own favorite amongst the carnivorous hordes and purveyors. The Hitching Post, a vineyard and restaurant direct from sunny California, proffered some of the best food and drink around including thick oak-wood grilled burgers and twice-fried fries, all accompanying the winery's newly-released Merlot.
The Bubble Q party was hosted this year by a very pregnant Giada de Laurentiis at the Delano and was once again a rousing success. Invited chefs included Al Roker, Cat Cora, Tyler Florence and Zac Pelaccio, and some of them even bothered to man the stoves for a meal or two. Of course, the Moet & Chandon Rose didn't hurt either.
The final evening included dinner honoring the prolific Jean-Georges Vongerichten. A plethora of after-parties followed the event, including a Batali-and-Oliver dinner at Danny Devito's SoBe restaurant, and two private chefs-only fetes at 212 Access House and the Versace Mansion. All culinary egos were basically kept in check--Cat Cora got a little feline with Bourdain over her Golden Clog for "most fame based on least culinary achievement"--but no permanent injuries were reported.
New restaurant openings we found out about:
-Marcus Samuelsson of New York's acclaimed Aquavit, as well as newly opened pan-African restaurant Merkato 55, plans to open a spot in Miami. We're pining for reservations already.
-Tao is also hitting the scene bringing its Kobe beef to Lincoln Road. Word is the restaurant will seat over 800, but it will inevitably be too small to sate Tao's fervent fans.
-Laurent Tourondel is expanding his vast BLT enterprise to our neck of the woods and we can't wait. Though he may seem stretched a little thin, his food is never lacking. Make sure to hit this spot when it touches down.
Word is a South Beach Wine & Food Festival may be on its way to New York, or "north" at the very least. They will probably change the name, just as long as they don't touch the party.