The 13th annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival induced plenty of food comas and adult-beverage hangovers from its 70-some events spread over four days.
It also raised about $2 million for Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Chefs from South Florida and across the globe prepared literal tons of food for about 60,000 attendees, and some plates stood out from the rest.
Here are the 10 best dishes I tasted at this year’s festival (no order):
1. Stephanie Izard’s skate wing croquettes with avocado and grapefruit were a perfect bite at Best of the Best on Friday night: hot, cold, crispy, soft, salty, sweet, acidic. They’re on the menu at her restaurant Girl and the Goat in Chicago.
2. Trevor Kunk from New York’s Blue Hill served green-wheat soup with crunchy bits of bacon, hazlenuts and fresh herbs. It was a cool, refreshing change of pace at Best of the Best.
3. Barbecue master Hugh Mangum from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ in New York wowed me with his smoked beef cheeks with preserved lemon and chile sauce at the Q on Thursday night. Crazy-tender with a little heat that the lemon cut right through.
4. Fried chicken and waffles took a flavor journey to India in the hands of Asha Gomez, who runs Cardamom restaurant in Atlanta. She coated boneless thighs in herb-laden buttermilk, spiked the waffles with cardamom and garnished the plate with crispy curry leaves for the Fried and True seminar on Sunday.
5. The aroma of black winter truffles on a filet of red mullet jumped up and punched me in the nose at the Tribute Dinner on Saturday night at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Loews chef Frederic Delaire amped up the dish’s savory factor with leeks cooked in French butter.
6. Sweet beets, sour orange segments and earthy fennel and pine nuts rounded out the flavors of roasted lobster from Miami’s Allen Susser at an inaugural dinner Wednesday at FIU’s new Restaurant Management Lab.
7. Leave it to Hedy Goldsmith, pastry chef for Michael Schwartz’s Genuine Hospitality Group, to make the one dessert I’m still thinking about from the fest. Her lemon cremeaux with olive oil cake, grapefruit, strawberries and edible flowers was a showstopper at Wednesday’s FIU dinner.
8. Jason Pringle of db Bistro in Miami nailed the preparation of a Lyonnaise salad from the cookbook of his boss, über chef Daniel Boulud, for a Saturday lunch Boulud hosted at his restaurant. A perfectly poached egg highlighted a mix of frisee lettuce, leeks and chicken livers.
9. Chicago’s Signature Room at the 95th dished up impressive food under the Grand Tasting tents: foie gras on Thursday, wagyu beef on Friday and hamachi on Sunday. The beef — chopped raw, dressed with a light miso-truffle sauce and garnished with grated egg-yolk “snow” — was tops.
10. Jason Wang from New York’s Xi’an Famous Foods brought heat to the Best of the Best with his spicy cumin lamb “burger” (really, it’s a sandwich). He stuffed sliced lamb sautéed with jalapeños and onions into pockets of warm flatbread.
Evan Benn covers the economy and reviews restaurants and craft beer for the Miami Herald. Follow him on Twitter: @EvanBenn.