By: Mary Jo Almeida-Shore
The annual Bacchanal/gorge-fest otherwise known as the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) blew into town last weekend for a four day eating/drinking marathon, leaving our scale shaking its head and asking, “What have you done?” come Monday morning. SOBEWFF kicked off with Moët Hennessy’s barbecue bash named The Q on Thursday night hosted by larger-than-life personalities: Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri. Other festival highlights included Party Impossible, the Chefs’ After-party at the Dream Hotel, Diamond Dishes at the yet-to-be opened Marlins Park, Best Thing I Ever Ate Late Night Bites & Sweets and the festival’s closing party, Trucks on the Beach. So now we fast and purge, after acting like Ms. Pac-Man with a tape worm for four straight days; and apologize to the liver, if we can find it- we are guessing it may have left the building.
Hosted by Guy Fieri and Emeril Lagasse, The Q started the weekend revelry on Thursday night, a fitting replacement to the beloved, marquee event Bubble Q which was retired last year. Just as much fun as Bubble Q, this party was our first SOBEWFF experience of 2012 and served as a reunion of local and national foodies and chefs, who imbibed in champagne and cocktails and filled up on enough barbecued meats to stumble out of the enormous tent with Gout. We hobnobbed and sampled offerings from Al Roker, Michelle Bernstein, Robert Fernandez-Blay, David Ochs, and Masaharu Morimoto but our favorite, hands-down, was Heat Seeker host, Aaron Sanchez’ Churrasco- so hot in every way!
If humongous, bossy, charismatic British chefs dangling upside down from chandeliers, doing crunches and making a 6-foot sandwich in five minutes are your thing, then Party Impossible would have been your favorite event of SOBEWFF. Restaurant Impossible host, Robert Irvine, whose muscles have muscles, hosted one of the most animated events during SOBEWFF on the top floor of the Herzog & de Meuron parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road on Friday night. In addition to Irvine’s “impossible” feats, which included making ceviche, while shirtless, from ingredients hidden in ball pool, and the chandelier stunt- actually getting into the party was fairly impossible- as the lines to get up the elevator were a few hundred deep and the Fire Marshall kept many a late-arriving guest waiting outside. Those of us with the foresight to arrive early got to witness Irvine’s theatrical, upside down sandwich-making prowess, as he was baited by Emmy-winning Food Network personality and cookbook author, Michael Chiarello, a front-runner on Iron Chef. Once the sandwich was complete, the most ubiquitous new Food Network star, the charming, Jeff Maouro, aka, the Sandwich King, took a bite of Irvine’s hoagie and gave it an “8 out of 10.” Other impossibilities at the party included eating more than two of the “shrimp as big as your head” provided by Epicure Market along with hundreds of other delicacies served on a wrap-around 60 foot table. Come to think of it, the “ginormous” shrimp were appropriately sized to match the Hulk-like host of the party.
Chefs’ Party at the Dream Hotel
In our numerous close encounters with the dozens of personalities from the Food Network (the foodies’ answer to the Spice channel for food porn) – we learned a couple of things about chefs:
- Chefs are awesome.
- Chefs are awesome.
They are modern day rock-stars and party accordingly. Nowhere was this more evident than at the chefs-only after-party on the roof deck of South Beach’s Dream Hotel, home to Iron Chef, Geoffrey Zakarian’s Tudor House– which hosted the greatest number of celeb chefs-having the most fun-on one rooftop. The handsome and meticulously well-groomed Zakarian, along with his petite, gorgeous wife Margaret, (looking radiant in an emerald dress cut down to “there!”) presided over the party atop a platform over the pool where the DJ was stationed- occasionally taking over to spin old-school favorites. “Cheflebrities” partied with VIP guests, dancing to the great music and laughing it up until way past 3 a.m.
From there, the party moved on to a nearby Mediterranean style mansion, known by chefs and insiders simply as “212” – New York’s Two 12 Management’s private VIP-only after, after-party (think Casa Casuarina back in the 90s meets Soho Beach House, meets the Broken Shaker (the Bar Lab guys actually set up a pop-up of the pop-up bar at the back of the villa) where chefs and their special guests play until just about dawn every night of the festival. (Who knew?) People really let loose at 212 –traipsing around, shooting pool, donning tattoo moustaches… Oh and of course, there’s EVEN more eating, as a guest chef takes over the kitchen each night to prepare delicious bites such as “millionaire’s bacon” crispy bacon covered in crystallized sugar. YUMMY!
Diamond Dishes at Marlins Park
Did we get to second base with Scott Conant? No, we didn’t just go to second base with the adorable, very beardy, Conant, we had snacks at second base with him- on the FIELD at the yet-to-be-open, shiny new Marlins Park – which is even more impressive on the inside! We then rounded third, with BLT’s Laurent Tourondel and went all the way home with Hedy Godsmith’s “Junk in the Trunk” cookies (which made our eyes roll back in their sockets). It all started at first base with Miami “IT” girl Michelle Bernstein, who was as over the moon with excitement about participating in SOBEWFF’s hottest event, Diamond Dishes, and cooking on the virgin field. And did we mention that the players haven’t actually even played on this field yet? Yep, we were there first, well worth the orange clay which remains on the heels of our stilettos, along with those worn by a stylish and wind-blown, Martha Stewart.
Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods host, Andrew Zimmern was also in attendance at this spectacular event, named after Diamond Dishes, the cookbook penned by Marlins co-owner Julie Loria, who looked stunning in a fitted, short white dress. The book features 60 favorite recipes of baseball’s biggest stars which guests got to sample at the party and will become part of the menu items Marlins’ fans will be enjoying this season at the stadium. We also got to sit in the dug-out, run the bases (over and over), enjoy the aquarium at home plate and delight in a violin tribute by Apollo legends, Black Violin. In case you missed Diamond Dishes, get the book and visit our favorite local chefs, Michelle Bernstein at Michy’s or Sra Martinez; Scott Conant at Scarpetta; Laurent Tourondel at BLT Steak and Hedy Goldsmith at Michael’s Genuine Food, and bring us a doggy bag!
Everything Came up Roses at Zakarian Lunch
Despite being up until almost daybreak at the chefs’ after party, Geoffrey and Margaret Zakarian were none the worse for wear on Saturday afternoon as they co-hosted the National Bar & Dining Rooms’ second annual Rosé lunch at the Soho Beach House. Guests including: Martha Stewart, Michael Symon, Alfred Portal, Bobby Flay, Stephanie March, Bob Tuschman, Jonathan Waxman, Mark Murphy, Drew Nieporent, and Maile Carpenter enjoyed roasted pig sandwiches (hangover helper) accompanied by Domaine Ott Rosé, and cocktails by Kanon Vodka.
Iron Chef Michael Symon won the Amstel Light People’s Choice award, at Burger Bash for the third consecutive year, with a ground pork and bacon burger topped with pulled pork and slaw, and a chicharron (fried pork rind) on the side. A close runner up in our book was Abe and Arthur’s mini burger on brioche served with delicious truffle fries and spicy mayo. Ms Cheezious won at Trucks on the Beach. Mangia Mia and Cuban Cube had our vote as our favorite local trucks.
The Fine Print
Profits from SOBEWFF go toward supporting budding chefs and restaurateurs. In its first ten years, the festival has raised more $14 million for Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. In addition, this year’s festival raised $2 million dollars and counting. Every year the SOBEWFF donates specially selected leftover food to Feeding South Florida, to feed the hungry in our community. This year, over 30, 000 pounds of food were donated.
Over 58,000 people attended this year’s festival, consuming more than 49,740 bottles of wine and spirits.
photo courtesy: BFA Images and MiamiSocialholic.com