Tuesday, February 24, 2009

South Beach Wine and Food Festival

It was a stroke of good fortune that my birthday vacation to Miami just so happened to coincide with the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. Tickets to the events were exorbitant (hello, organizers, did you know there's a recession on out there?), so I was thrilled to score a couple of freebie tickets to the Whole Foods Tasting Village and Seminars on Sunday.
This event included two tents of restaurateurs and wine distributors offering tastings, several stages where Food Network stars gave demos, a Wines of Spain tent and lest I forget, even Danny Devtio's limoncello company was pouring. It was a gorgeous and super hot day, so we made a beeline for the Wines of Spain tent for a few glasses of blissfully cold white wine. I love rioja reds, but on steamy days, I just can't bare to drink much red. Fortunately there were more than a few white riojas and albarinos to go around.
Feeling a bit tipsy with all that sun and wine, we headed to the food tents. I was bummed to see that the lineup from Friday was a wee bit more glamorous than Sunday's line up (Marcus Samuelsson, Rick Bayliss, Al Roker oh my!)
That said, tasty free food is a great deal in my book, even if I haven't heard of your restaurant. Highlights for me were the Morton's steak sandwich, empanada's from Maggie's, huge trays of sushi from Ra Sushi Bar and strawberry mojitos from the guys at Morgan's Hotel Group.
We caught the tale end of Paula Deen's presentation, which didn't actually involve any cooking, and then the front end of Rocco Dispirito's presentation, which also didn't include much cooking. F&W's Gail Simmons popped in to introduce him. I digress, but is it just me or does Gail Simmons have a pretty sweet gig? Eat good food, travel around, be on TV, and from what I can tell, write very little.
Back to Rocco...he has always struck me as a bit of a publicity glutton, given his restaurant failed, and he mostly shows up on reality shows and schills for frozen Italian food. In person, though, he is awfully cute and charming, and his flirtatious banter with the audience makes it clear why he stays on the public radar even when he isn't cooking. He spent more time talking about the ubiquitous giant fake boobs on one audience member than actually teaching us anything, but who am I to judge?!
I only wish we'd had more time to check out other chef talks, but we went straight from this event to the airport (and I slept the whole taxi ride!) I still think the prices were ridiculous ($212.50 for a ticket to the event I attended), but it was still a pretty cool event. If ever I am extravagantly wealthy, I'll make events like this a regular excuse for a beach vacation.

Full lineup is here.

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