Uncorked 2012: Reports from the 2012 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Welcome to Miami.com’s reports from the 2012 South Beach Wine & Food Festival. We’re eating, drinking, photographing, Tweeting, Facebooking and blogging to keep you up up-to-the-minute on all the gossip, best bites and sinful sips. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @Miamicom for live updates and images from events this weekend.

Paula Deen’s Sunday Brunch

The event may have been called Paula Deen’s Sunday Brunch but it was more like Paula shares the love. Deen hardly had time to eat Sunday as she was so busy meeting her adoring fans. A walk around the ballroom at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel to check out all the brunch stations and meet the chefs, took more than 15 minutes. The challenge: Deen was mobbed like a rock star as fans clamored for hugs, photos and autographs. Festival founder Lee Schrager literally had to drag Deen away from the adoring public, at least for a minute.

While many stars may grow tired of the overwhelming attention from fans, Deen seems to relish in it. “You get back what you give,” she said. Just a month after Deen announced she has Type 2 diabetes, the menu included a mix of Southern favorites and some lighter offerings than have been served at the event in year’s past. Every guest sat down to a bubble parfait of fresh fruit with a Greek style yogurt. Chef Cindy Hutson of Ortanique on the Mile dished out a decadent shredded short ribs topped with a quail egg on bacon cheddar bread pudding, while Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station offered a lighter smoked trout rillettes with pickled radish salad.

Traditional Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles got a makeover, as the waffles were made with whole wheat, flax seed, millet flour and egg whites then served with organic syrup. “They look a little different,” Deen told the crowd. “They’re healthy waffles.” The waffles were the creation of  Jason Prevatt, chef de cuisine at the Loews Hotel. “I’m a healthy eater and I like to create a balance,” he said. “I don’t think you have to sacrifice taste and flavor for health.”

When she did find time to sneak in a few bites, Deen enjoyed the fresh fruit, shellfish chowder and her waffles with chicken and sugar free syrup. Deen says it’s all about following her new lifestyle of everything in moderation.



Grilled Cheese with Laura Werlin, The Kindergarten Classic All Grown Up

Sundays are designated brunch days for foodies, but this past Sunday it was all The Grilled Cheese Queen, Laura Werlin. The author and culinary expert held a seminar on how to whip up the quintessential sandwich at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. The hour long presentation took place inside the convention center where a sold out crowd sat at tables pairing wines, cheeses and grilled cheese sandwiches together.

Werlin, who emphasized using the spit bucket in the beginning (which of course no one bothered to), made quite a few jaws drop when she called her “Chips and Guacaomole Grilled Cheese” her version of stoner food. It was then that things got a little bit more fun and less fancy. “Okay, I’m not going to use the spit bucket either,” said Werlin which attendees applauded. Four different types of grilled cheese sandwiches were presented, but the crowd’s favorite seemed to be a toss up between the Camembert and Comtè with Mushrooms and the Double Cheddar With Tomato Jam.


Talking with My Mouth Full with Gail Simmons and Josh Wesson

Gail Simmons of the television show “Top Chef” and Josh Wesson, sommelier, hosted this event to promote Simmons’ newly released book, Talking with my Mouth Full. The event consisted of several special dishes from Simmons’ past that Wesson then paired with the perfect glass of wine.

The first was a pork belly with pickled radishes, a dish that had been unsuccessfully attempted by “Top Chef” contestant, Richard Blais. Simmons enjoys taking dishes that have flopped on the show and making them better and that’s precisely what she did with the pork belly. Then came a Vietnamese pancake inspired by Simmons’ honeymoon in Vietnam. The fishy taste of the pancake was surprising until Simmons explained that “there is fish sauce in most dishes in Vietnam.”

For dessert a vanilla and plum tart was served, a childhood recipe that Simmons’ learned from her mother. The dessert wine, the Emilio Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez NV Sherry, was extremely sweet and thick. The Sherry was unlike any wine I’ve ever had and Wesson claimed it was rather new and not many people had tried it, yet. I found this to be a great example of the exclusive experience the SoBe Wine and Food Festival provides.



Swine and Wine

A slight breeze carried the smell of freshly roasting pork across the ground of the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables. South Beach Wine and Food Festival organized the first ever Swine and Wine on Sunday evening as one of the last events of the four day festival. Presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats and hosted by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, stars of the TV show Extra Virgin, the event saw a packed venue, happy smiles and lots and lots of pig.
For those not used to having their food stare back at them, Swine and Wine was definitely a new experience. Roasted pigs lined the booths, some lying spread-eagle on the chopping board as expert chefs carefully cut away succulent parts. From Linton Hopkins’ Chopped Smoked Pig to Marcela Valladolid’s Cochinita Pibil, Swine and Wine attendees had the opportunity to sample a variety of ways pork could be prepared. Even Mayor Carlos Gimenez made an appearance at event as a participating chef; serving up Pan Con Lechon which he said was “made from a secret family recipe.”
Amidst the buzz of food and wine aficionados crowding around the venue for their taste of freshly roasted pork, TV cameras dotted various corners of the Biltmore courtyard. A sign at the entrance explained TV show Real Housewives of Miami was recording at the Wine and Food Festival.
All went smoothly at the event, Although hosts Mazar and Corcos ran into a slight hitch when their roasted pig was late in arriving. However, judging by the line that was waiting at their booth, none of the attendees minded the delay. Mazar and Corcos complimented the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Mazar expressed her love for the Cuban culture in Miami and enthusiastically declared herself as a “Cuban wannabe.”
Swine and Wine also incorporated other cuisines. Paulina’s Pops was there with spicy popsicles made from a family recipe blending pineapple juice with three types of spice. The event ended with an award ceremony for Best Pig. First place went to Miami restaurant owner and Simply Delicioso host Ingrid Hoffmann for her Mini Pulled Pork Taco Bowl.

Mexican Foods & Tequila with Marcela Valladolid & Mark Oldman

I arrived at this event towards the end as I had just left an event that was running late. When I arrived there was an array of different tequilas sitting in front of me, including the “Rolls Royce of tequilas” titled Casa Dragones, along with small samples of Mexican dishes. I could overhear members of the audience saying that at this po
int they were “too drunk to taste the food.”

Chef Marcela Valladolid could not make it to the event and was replaced by a corporate chef from Rosa Mexicano, but a giggly Mark Oldman was able to entertain the crowd on his own. He told a story of being pulled over in New York while in possession of an empty bottle of Bordeaux and had to go to criminal court. The “People of the State of New York vs. Mark Oldman” court transcripts are available on his website.


The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Late Night Bites and Sweets

In a giant party tent behind the Ritz-Carlton, the beach was transformed to resemble a 50’s-style diner, and the night owls gathered for a night of good food, flowing drinks, and carefree dancing.  In an event that didn’t start until long after the sun went down, some of TVs favorite celebrity chefs presented an assortment of their favorite late night dishes from restaurants around the country. 

Celebrity hosts included Sunny Anderson, Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli, Aaron, Sanchez, Geoffrey Zakarian, who got the night off from cooking to mingle with fans.  With over thirty booths to choose from, there was a dish to fit everyone’s palette—from baked crab cakes at The Rusty Pelican to a down and dirty hot dog at the Sonic booth—and a tasty libation to wash it down.  Event sponsor Godiva Chocolatier rounded off the food offerings, satisfying sweet teeth with a number of tasty confections.  And when guests decided they just couldn’t eat another bite there was a black-and-white checkered dance floor welcoming them to dance the night away to funky renditions of both old and new hits.


Diamond Dishes

Baseball lovers & foodies got their first taste of the new Marlins Park at last night’s Diamond Dishes. The slightly-older, well-heeled crowd (lots of diamonds in this diamond) began the evening with cocktails, passed appetizers and an aerial view of the sparkling new field. Co-host Julie Loria welcomed guests to the first function at the Park, while Festival founder Lee Schrager said it was the second-most buzzed about event at the 2012 Festival (after Burger Bash).

After munching on pulled pork sliders, beef empanadas and other athlete recipes from the Diamond Dishes cookbook (authored by Loria), diners made a dramatic descent onto the field to feast with Michelle Bernstein (first base), Scott Conant (second base), Laurent Tourondel (third base) and Hedy Goldsmith (home plate). Bernstein drew a crowd with her oxtail stew & jamon and manchego croquetas and Goldsmith’s junk in the trunk cookies (think a hunk of chocolate covered in cookie) were a crowd favorite, but Tourondel drew the longest lines with his Kobe pigs in a blanket (pictured), prime rib and veal meatballs.

Celebs include Martha Stewart and athletes Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Dawson. Overall, big points for a sparkling new setting, controlled crowd size (minimal lines are always a Festival plus), easy chef mingling (Goldsmith, Bernstein & Conant were all out & about while Tourondel was cooking behind the line) and tasty eats.


Swine & Wine

The only thing better than a room full of roasted pigs is a Biltmore Hotel courtyard full of the highest quality roasted pigs each prepared by its own celebrity chef.  The fine people at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival made this knowledge overwhelmingly clear at Sunday’s Swine and Wine event sponsored by LaFrieda Meats. 

The pork showcase, hosted by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, brought together the likes of Isiah Thomas and Mayor Carlos Gimenez, along with the contest’s 1st prize winner Ingrid Hoffmann of the Food Network, and runner-up and owner of Padron Cigars, Jorge Padron.  Everyone’s favorite Real Housewives of Miami even decided to stop by.

Attendees traversed the hungry crowd, searching for advice from expert chefs, enjoying the music and, of course, testing the strengths of their belt buckles.  When the roasting smoke cleared, Ingrid Hoffmann’s pulled pork tacos with guava salsa negra and mustard seeds won the affection, and the votes, of the crowd.

The man behind the meat, Pat LaFrieda was conscious of the event’s message.  “We are lucky enough to sponsor these meals so that less-fortunate others can afford many more.” What’s better than the best pork meal of your life?  A Swine and Wine meal for charity.


Diamond Dishes

Diamond Dishes was a special night because guests got the first inside look at the new Marlins stadium, even rounding the bases before the players’ first official at bat.

This time playing first base was Chef Michelle Bernstein serving up a jamon and manchego croqueta with fig marmalade, fried quail sandwich and more. At second base Scott Conant of Scarpetta’s offerings included creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms, while BLT Steak’s Laurent Tourondel at third base had the biggest selection ranging from mustard and horseradish crusted rib roast to Kobe beef pigs in a blanket.

And you couldn’t miss home plate with Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. She literally hit it out of the park with a lineup that included peanut butter s’mores and lemon meringue pie in a jar.

Martha Stewart headed the celebrity list for the evening. The Marlins were well-represented with players Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, former player Andre Dawson, plus owner Jeffrey Loria and his wife Julie, the evening’s host. The event started with a selection of appetizers from Julie Loria’s book Diamond Dishes, recipes from the kitchens of some of baseball’s stars Hanley Ramirez’s tostones and empanadas.

The breezy night was perfect for enjoying the stadium’s open roof and a view of the Miami skyline, but it did work against the chefs as it cooled food off way too quickly. The ballpark is beautiful and includes some only in Miami touches like the aquarium behind home plate and the tropical sculpture in the outfield, complete  with pink flamingos, palm trees and a Marlin.



Grand Tasting Village

Paula Deen’s eldest son Jamie got on stage and concocted a margarita recipe he picked up from Austin’s grill master Skeeter Miller (which, to the cheers of the crowd, he passed along to his younger brother Bobby in the packed tent). Emeril Lagasse mixed his own margarita recipe – without shouting BAM! And creating one of her Skinnygirl cocktails, a bawdy Bethenny Frankel told her fans she likes to keep things “cheap and easy, like me!”

The Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village at the 11th South Beach Wine & Food Festival was an especially spirited event Saturday, with the day’s lineup of culinary rock stars contributing cocktail recipes along with their usual cooking demonstration and gossipy banter, which is what the crowds really want anyway.

If there’s any doubt about that, Frankel, who came to fame on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City,”  asked the audience what they wanted her to do first: Gossip? Drink? Cook?  Was there ever any doubt?  Frankel dishing, not preparing  a dish, won the vote and Frankel, who announced she’s doing a talk show for Fox starting this summer, didn’t disappoint, turning in the most X-rated dialogue of the day (just think of where a discussion of a portable electric blender might take her).

Rachel Ray added some spice to her demonstration when her pal Guy Fieri and Emeril Lagasse joined her for a best buns contest. The winner? Lagasse can add “Best Booty” to his list of accolades.

Judging by the long lines and long waits in the Grand Tasting tents
, this year’s event was its usual success, keeping pace with the 2011 festival, which  drew more than 57,000 guests, generated $4.6 million in ticket sales and raised about $2.2 million for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University.

“We’re having a fabulous time,” said Beverly Johnson , of Miami, who was attending Saturday and Sunday’s  Grand Tasting. “It’s well worth the money.” Festival goers, who forked over $225 to enjoy all the food and wine they could possibly consume in  seven hours,  said they thought this year’s festival was “more organized” and choices “more varied.”

Foodie Shelly Kinder of Coral Springs, whose Food Network T-shirt was scribbled with chef   autographs, was still savoring memories of her favorite samples, rabbit confit and duck breast. The festival also draws thousands of  out-of-towners like Jeff Hicks, of New Baltimore Michigan, who made cruise plans to coincide with the SobeFest. “We make it a yearly thing.”

For most of the day, the weather was sunny and bright, folks dabbing away sweat with the icy towels distributed at the Vegas Cosmopolitan table. Then the clouds came, the sand blew and the grit caked  teeth and hair,  but foodies are a determined bunch. While the skies darkened, spirits truly remained high as the slightly (maybe an understatement) inebriated crowd stood when Guy Fieri took the stage, music blaring. Jan Marks, who drove down from Jacksonville, had no intenion of leaving. “He’s the best,” she gushed.  As for driving six hours to attend the event? “No question, I’d do it again.”


Interactive Dinner hosted by the Neely’s

The Food Network’s favorite married couple, the Neelys, got up close and personal with fans at their interactive dinner for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival and gave a lesson in southern-style cooking. Pat and Gina operate three restaurants: two in their home state of Tennessee, and their newest location in New York. For dinner the couple put their love for rich barbecue sauces on the backburner to share the dishes they love while relaxing at home in Memphis.

The menu for the night, down to Gina’s “Love and Happiness” cocktail, was full of fresh ingredients and wine sponsored by Creekstone Farms and Entwine. A flavorful rice salad got guests motivated to turn up the heat to prepare a delicious New York strip and garlic mashed potato dinner smothered in a mushroom, red wine sauce under the instruction of the Neelys.
However, the night wasn’t just about a tasty meal. The couple brought along their house band for each chef to enjoy down-home Memphis music with their meal. The two shared fun stories about themselves and their home life with their two daughters. It was an evening that left guests holding their bellies from laughter and a full stomach.


Interactive Lunch with Anne Burrell

There is an Italian saying that translates to this – No matter where you go or turn you will always end up at home. That’s exactly what the Interactive Lunch with Anne Burrell felt like. The event that was sponsored by Barilla, started off by mentioning the two most important things to them, food and family. This is was this event was all about. Even though I went alone, my table of 9 immediately took me in and it was like we were just picking up from last time. 

Food Networks Anne Burrell, host of Worst Cooks of America and Secrets of Restaurant Chef, guided us as a chef in cooking our three-course meal led us. It was so much fun watching people cook for the first time (while completely hammered in some respects). Regardless, the pasta with it’s crushed Mediterranean Sea bass and fresh squeezed tomato sauce, and the pork Milanese with its pickled onion salad, was a treat for the taste buds. For dessert they had Anne Burrell taking pictures and signing her cookbook (and a beautifully crafted Hazelnut Curst White Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake). All in all, the definition of this event was ‘la dolce vita’.


Godiva Chocolate Bar

“Patience is important for enjoying chocolate,” states Godiva chef David Funaro as the Godiva Chocolate Bar: Exclusive Pairing of Chocolates and Cocktails event begins, instructing us to let the chocolate rest on our tongues for at least ten seconds. Where chocolate is involved, that is a tough order.
The high-end chocolatier hosted the seminar as part of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to introduce the public to their chocolate-infused vodka line. As we waited in line, servers offered sweating glasses of what everyone figured was chilled water, but after the first sip discovered to be the Godiva Midnight Martini, the first stop on our tour of Godiva cocktails.
Seated at the tables we sampled the Godiva dark chocolate truffle and raspberry chocolate truffle followed by the vodkas infused with each flavor. Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, author of The Modern Mixologist, assured us the salivary drip we were experiencing on the inside of our cheeks was indicative of the premium quality of the base vodka Godiva uses. Perhaps.  Or it could have been the silky chocolate truffles taunting us.
Abou-Ganim demonstrated how to mix one of his own personal creations, the Godiva Chocolate Tiramisu. The drink was inspired by flavors in Godiva’s Tiramisu, Crème Brule, Molten Lava Cake, and dark chocolate caramel truffles. Before wrapping up, the pair announced that there would be a Godiva chocolate bar outside for seminar participants to take chocolates home. More than a few bolted to the door once the workshop concluded to be first in line for the goodies.  Some people didn’t learn the lesson about patience.
DIY: TAG’s Godiva Chocolate Tiramisu

  • 1 tablespoon of Mascarpone cheese at room tempt
  • 1 oz. espresso
  • 1 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • A splash of simple sugar
  • Pinch of brown cinnamon
  • 1 oz. Godiva liqueur caramel
  • 1oz and a smidge of Godiva chocolate vodka

Wisk around ingredients till mascarpone gets broken up. Put into Boston shaker with ice; pour thru Hawthorne strainer into a cold glass. Grate a little Godiva chocolate shavings on top.



Flavors of Flay

Bobby Flay and his wife, actress Stephanie March attended his “Flavors of Flay” party presented by Certified Angus Beef at The Raleigh Saturday night. March is best known for her work as Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot for several seasons on Law & Order: SVU. Culinary celebrities in attendance included rising star Craig Deihl of Charleston-based Cypress, Ariel Ayala and Steve Wilson of J. Mark’s Restaurants and Certified Angus Beef Corporate Chef Scott Popovic.

Flay oversaw Mesa Grill, Bobby’s Burger Palace and Bar Americain stations. One of the best dishes served wasn’t exactly a dish, but rather a vanilla, caramel bourbon milkshake. Lines continued to form at Bobby’s Burger Palace for the milkshakes until the event concluded. Another sweet station featured a truly addictive sticky toffee pudding with cajeta and vanilla bean ice cream. A hint of salt sent the caramel into blissful overdrive. The crushed blueberry lime pie with graham cracker was good, but after savoring the toffee pudding there was no going back.

New Mexican spice rubbed pork tenderloin had a bourbon an
cho-chile sauce while chicken bites were prepared with a purple slaw. Certified Angus Beef rib-eye was prepared with a duo of roasted red and green chile sauces. Other standouts included creamy Gulf shrimp and grits, crab with coconut and lobster avocado salad. Flay paired his Mesa Grill grouper with seasoned rice and black-eyed peas.

Another concoction that stole the show and wasn’t edible was a massive sandcastle created by the Certified Angus Beef folks. The torch-lit sandcastle attracted everyone to gather around it as the evening drew to a close.



Momofuku Milk Bar Desserts with Christina Tosi & Andrea Robinson

Up and coming pastry chef Christina Tosi showcased her dessert making skills on Saturday as part of the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. Andrea Robinson was there as well to show the audience which wines worked.

Tosi said that she liked to change things up and add ingredients to certain items that seem a bit off. One such example is her black pepper shortcake with grapefruit. Most were skeptical at first but after tasting the delightful dessert, most doubts were removed. The spicy pepper with the sweet grapefruit gave a nice contrast of flavors. When I paired this with Robinson’s suggestion of the Marenco Brachetto wine, it was fantastic!

Another interesting combo was Tosi’s celery root ganache, which included strawberries and Ritz  crackers. This was excellent, as the sweet and salty mixed together with the strawberries and Ritz. The one that took the cake for me though was the chocolate malt truffle. The best way to describe it would be a brownie with a sugar, milky-like crust on the outside. In one word, amazing.

Lastly, one very cool thing that Tosi did was give everyone at the seminar a copy of her recipe book, “Momofuku Milkbar” which retails for $35.


Sugarcane with Timon Baloo & Andrea Robinson

Timon Balloo (executive chef at Sugarcane Raw Bar in Miami) and master sommelier Andrea Robinson showcased their talents Saturday afternoon at the Miami Beach Convention Center as part of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

Balloo had plenty of great items on the menu that gave everyone a taste of his culinary talent. The goat cheese with fresh strawberry marmalade (made from local Homestead strawberries) was excellent. Pair that with Robinson’s suggestion of some Cloudy Bay Tekoko wine and you had yourself a winner.

Balloo’s shrimp cocktail which included avocado and sesame oil was a crowd favorite due to its bursting of flavors. A very good mixture from the seminar was Balloo’s lentil de puy with duck meat and banyuls reduction paired with Carneros Cuvee wine.

When Andrea Robinson asked for people to vote on their favorite wine/food combos, people voted more than once. This prompted her to say, “People are voting multiple times, it is Florida after all.” Needless to say the crowd was loving it.


Fun & Fit as a Family

The crowds & the heat came to play at Saturday’s Fun & Fit as a Family at Jungle Island. It was a slow start for some families, who were denied parking at Jungle Island and forced to park downtown and take a shuttle bus (Jungle Island was at max capacity with the Festival, a wedding and two birthday parties).

Once inside a hungry, hands-on crowd as festivalgoers demoed face painting, DJ-led dace parties, temporary tattoos and pint-sized portions from Barillla (pasta marinara), Dominos Pizza (pizza), and Goya (a bean salsa). Frozen yogurt was a top draw, as were fresh-pressed juices and shaded coloring areas.

Kids five and up got creative in the Food Lab with Rocco DiSpirito, Melissa d’Arabian and Jeff Mauro while Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri & Robert Irvine took the stage in the Kidz Kitchen.

Highbar at Dream Hotel hosts chefs
Tudor House restauranteur Geoffrey Zakarian had a few of his friends pop by the rooftop of the Dream Hotel for a private, invite-only party featuring Tito’s Vodka and Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel rose wine. Among those spotted were Bobby Flay, Jonathan Waxman, Andrew Zimmern, Aaron Sanchez, Angelo Sosa, Wylie Dufresne, Gail Simmons, Guy Fieri, Dana Cowin, and Alexandra Guarnaschelli.

The party went from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. and provided the chefs a place to mingle, catch up and relax without the crush of media and fans. That couldn’t have been more personified when Zakarian exited, enjoying a cigar, with Flay and friends – probably off to another party.



The Best of the Best

The Fontainebleau was the site for perhaps the poshest Wine and Food Fest event, Friday night’s Best of the Best. Pairing 90 purveyors of the grape with wines of 90-point ratings or better with succulent bites from 44 of the top new restaurants in the country, the event brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of revelers — Martha Stewart, radiant in a salmon-colored jacket, among them. The setup might have seemed backwards — dessert wines and tasty confections at the entrance, savory foods and reds and whites and roses in the main room in the back, but Fontainebleau-savvy diners knew to start from the back wall and work their way up front, souvenir Riedel champagne flutes and Chardonnay glasses in hand.

Out-of-towners put out some excellent and fascinating foods. Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia paired lush lamb tartare with babaghanouj made with the hot vegetable of the decade, brussels sprouts. Sea urchin was a common bite, with variations from star chefs including New York’s David Burke. Hugh Acheson of Five and Ten in Athens, Ga., worked magic with beef hearts. But local chefs held their own. Slow food darling Alejandro Pinero of Sustain in Midtown featured braised oxtail.  And 1500 degrees’ Paula Da Silva and Meat Market’s Sean Brasel put out ultra-tender short ribs.

As for wines, the exotic whites from Trimbach and the array of wines in the Wagner group — Belle Glos and Meomi pinot noir, Conundrum and Caymus — drew big crowds, as did the lush cabernets and rich chardonnay by Far Niente.



Matador! An Introduction to Anta Banderas Winery with Antonio Banderas

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival continued Friday night at the Perry Hotel with ‘Matador! An Introduction to Anta Banderas Winery with Antonio Banderas’. Anticipation to see the heartthrob known as ‘Zorro’ stirred among a predominantly female audience who waited an extra twenty minutes for Antonio Banderas. Although wife Melanie Griffith was scheduled to appear, she was nowhere in sight. A casually dressed and jovial Banderas drank wine and bantered with the audience as he discussed Anta Wine. “It feels weird to talk after drinking” he joked.  When it comes to Puss in Boots, Banderas admitted “I hate that cat!”  The intimate event began with Banderas and Mel Dick (President of Wine Division and Senior Vice President of Southern Wine & Spirit of America, Inc.) introducing seven wines and concluded with a Q & A session. Following the Q & A, Banderas was rushed out, but not before taking the one photo with this delighted Miami.com reporter.




Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Allen Brothers hosted by Rachael Ray

Live music and bright lights drew hundreds to the Amstel Light Burger Bash on Friday February 24th.  Just outside of the South Beach Ritz Carlton, a large white tent hosting chefs from Rachel Ray to Michael Symon, and cuisine from chocolate to burgers, was the perfect atmosphere for one of the most anticipated events of the 2012 South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Competition grew fierce as more than 32 chefs competed for the coveted Amstel Light’s People Choice Award.  Among crowd favorites were Chef Andrea-Curto Randazzo’s ‘Sweet potato cupcakes’ and Guy Fieri’s ‘Straight-Up with a Pig Patty’.  Those who attended the Burger Bash had the opportunity to not only vote for their favorite burgers and sides, but to meet the chefs themselves.  Chef stations that included the longest lines included Rachel Ray, Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and Masaharu Morimoto.  Voting closed at ten o’clock and announcements of the winners began just half an hour later.  Guy Fieri claimed the Winner of the ‘Best Dressed Burger’, while winner of the Judge’s Choice Award or the Golden Grill Award belonged to Whisk Gourmet.  For the third time in a row, the Amstel Light’s People Choice Award was given to Chef Michael Symon.



Party Impossible hosted by Robert Irvine
Party Impossible lived up to its name last night, as it was practically impossible to get into the party. Thanks to the Miami Beach Fire Marshall, slow elevators and an overflow of people, party-goers had to wait 30-40 minutes to get to the seventh floor of the 1111 Lincoln Road Garage. Some tried walking up the stairs but were detoured at the 6th floor. Others decided to walk up the parking garage ramps in order to get to the party. Even former STK and current Gulfstream Chef Ralph Pagano was being detoured and nearly didn’t get in.

But once on the seventh floor it was a Willy Wonka sweet dream of desserts, all provided by the Epicure market. From coconut cake squares to mini chocolate cakes, a cake dress and Bottega prosecco, complete with a server hanging upside down from a support beam. There was also a buffet of jumbo shrimp, crab claws, and plenty of cheeses.

And the night’s host – chef Robert Irvine from television’s Restaurant Impossible – was ready to handle challenges thrown his way. Some of those included serving the Bottega prosecco while hanging upside down. Another was making fresh ceviche in five minutes (he had to dive into a ball pit to find all the ingredients and then race back to the table to make the ceviche). He even had to make a large sandwich while suspended upside down. By the looks of things, there was no challenge he couldn’t meet.


Amstel Light Burger Bash – Michael Symon wins third consecutive title

Chef Michael Symon reigns supreme as the undisputed king of Burger Bash at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Symon’s porky burger earned him top honors once again, marking his third year in a row of stealing the show. The burger included browned bacon in the meat, topped with smoked pork butt and slaw then served with a side of pork cracklin’. “It’s pork on pork,” said hostess Rachel Ray. “You’ve got to bring the pork baby.”

This year’s event was bigger than ever with 32 contestants, including South Miami’s Whisk Gourmet Food + Catering, which walked away with the judge’s award for their crispy shallot, bacon and Swiss burger. Other locals who made a strong showing included Ortanique on the Mile, Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill and Burger Bar by Chef Allen.

But in the end it’s all about the Iron Chefs. Symon’s domination of the contest has touched off a rivalry with fellow Iron Chef Bobby Flay. Festival founder Lee Schrager jokes that Flay has become the contest’s Susan Lucci because of his perennial status as the runner up.

Flay’s Buffalo style Burger Crunchified featured red hot sauce, blue cheese dressing and Flay’s signature potato chips inside. “It’s always neck and neck between them,” Ray said. “Michael brings the pork and Bobby brings the crunch.” Flay says next year he’s got the plan to eliminate Symon. “We’re going to kidnap him for 24 hours and hold him in a truck,” said Flay, who had earlier in the evening threatened to jump off the stage if Symon won again. Symon has another solution for Flay: “I’m going to retire and help him next year.”

Food Network’s Guy Fieri also made a strong showing with his Straight-Up with a Pig Patty and a killer salted whiskey caramel shake. He earned the Heinz award for the Best Dressed Burger. Fieri was promoting his new Guy’s Burger Joint that debuted on the Carnival Cruise Lines Liberty last year and is rolling out to several other ships.



Ultimate Beginnings Wine and Cheese Party hosted by Josh Wesson and Laura Werlin

Interested in hosting your very own fancy schmancy wine and cheese soiree? Last night’s Ultimate Beginnings Wine and Cheese Party hosted by Josh Wesson and Laura Werlin provided foodies and newbies alike with some definite food for thought. Too cheezy? That’s the way James Beard award winning author Laura Werlin prefers it.

Werlin received the coveted award for “The Ultimate Wine and Cheese Book” published in 2003. She’s also authored other cheese-themed books like “The New American Cheese,” “Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials,” and “The Great Grilled Cheese.”

According to Werlin the key to hosting the perfect pairing party is variety. For a smaller bash, Werlin suggests finding a light sparkling wine that pairs nicely with a variety of cheeses like Cheddar, Goat and Manchego. Sticking to one particular type of wine will also help to keep costs low. At Werlin’s swanky rooftop bash however price was neither an issue nor concern. One table boasted a bloomy rind cheese called Mt. Tam that retails for $40 per pound.

Here’s to trying her advice next weekend!


The ultimate beginning to the ultimate foodie evening.  Tonight, at the Betsy Hotel, wine sommelier Josh Wesson and cheese expert Laura Werlin (who was kind enough to grant us an interview), joined us in the coupling of many wonderful cheeses with exceptional wines chosen specifically to complement one another.  From the Lois Grüner Veltliner to the Punto Final Reserva Malbec, none of the many seasoned wine drinkers in attendance were left without a bottle to praise.  As for the cheese, variety was in abundance as runny, sharp, creamy, sweet and goat were all well represented – one in particular to the tune of $40 per pound!

The overall feel of the event was calm and even reserved at times, with a decidedly more mature crowd utilizing the plush couches arranged for lounging while partaking.  In hopes of introducing some frivolity, we decided to quiz other attendees and test their command of gourmand terminology.  In deference to our subjects’ sophistication, we slightly altered earlier plans for a racier trivial pursuit and instead played a rousing rendition of Cheese or Harry Potter?  While we were hoping for intoxication to make for some interesting answers, our contestants went six for six, correctly recognizing the names of characters from the magical wizarding world and cheeses many of them were eating at that moment.  Alas, there was no confusing Bellatrix and Brie
or Hufflepuff and Havarti and the only magic present tonight was ether on a plate or in a glass.


Paula Deen visits Miami Children’s Hospital

When Matilde Arango got the chance Friday to meet Food Network’s Paula Deen at Miami Children’s Hospital, one of the first things she asked was about her idol’s health.

Since the star who made her name from Southern Comfort cooking announced last month that she has Type 2 diabetes, Arango is one of many fans that have been concerned about Deen. But others in the culinary and health worlds have criticized Deen for waiting nearly three years go public with her diagnosis.

Arango couldn’t believe her good fortune when she had the chance to meet Deen up close at Miami Children’s Hospital. Deen, who is in town for the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, came to tour the hospital Friday along with her husband Michael Groover and son Bobby Deen.

“I don’t want her cooking with a lot of butter,” said Arango, whose granddaughter Laura Berry was at Miami Children’s for appendicitis. “I want her to focus on taking care of herself. We all love her. Look at how well she looks.”

Deen, who acknowledges she has lost weight, said she has made changes in her lifestyle including walking a half hour a day on a treadmill, cutting sweet tea out of her diet and adjusting her portions. But she’s not giving up the Southern food she loves or cooking brunch for her family on Sundays.

“Will I stop eating Fried Chicken? No,” said Deen, who enjoyed a tuna tartare dinner Thursday night. “I will choose the time when I eat it and how much. My goal is to get better at moderation. Type 2 diabetes is not a death sentence. You do have to make small changes. Small changes can bring about big results.”

To that end, Deen is working on lightening up her famous recipes, known for their abundance of butter and fat. She’s already come up with new versions of fried chicken, lasagna and gooey butter cake.

And she thinks it’s unfair that she has been criticized for waiting to disclose her illness, along with her role as paid pitch person for drug maker Novo Nordisk’s new online program, Diabetes in a New Light, and its drug, Victoza.

“We all have to work for a living,” said Deen, who is donating a portion of her salary to the American Diabetes Association. “I couldn’t imagine people could be so mean. Your health is something very personal. It’s something I didn’t have to share and something I wasn’t prepared to share.”

Now, Deen is also an active participant in her son Bobby Dean’s new show, “Not My Mama’s Meals,” which debuted last month on the Cooking Channel. The recipes seek to modify both the fat and sugar content.

“My mother is embracing it with me and she’s enjoying lighter faire,” said Bobby Dean, 42, who says the show was not an outgrowth of his mother’s illness, but a healthier lifestyle he adopted nearly 12 years ago. “She’s looking at what I’m doing with an open mind. I like to think that she’s learning something.”

Dr. Ricardo Restrepo, who organized Deen’s visit to Miami Children’s Hospital, hopes Deen can inspire others. “The children nowadays watch Food Network and they’re into cooking,” Restrepo said. “She can be a good example for them. People can relate to her.”

During the visit to Miami Children’s Hospital Deen took time to paint pictures of seashells with sick kids like Laura, 8, who thought it was neat to meet someone “famous and on TV.”

Deen also toured the pediatric heart center, where she was moved by meeting patients like 3-year-old Alejandro Vidal, who has spent a large portion of his life at Miami Childrens because of heart problems.

Alejandro’s mom Gretell Vidal told Deen: “We need some recipes for him to gain weight.” She also had Deen autograph a cookie recipe book for her.

The visit reminded Deen how lucky she and her family are that they have three healthy grandchildren. She promised many of the parents she would pray for their children.

“These children are amazing,” said Deen, who regularly visits children’s hospitals in her travels and grants wishes for dying children through the Make A Wish Foundation. “They have so many great lessons to teach. I always feel like I walk away with so much more than I left.”




Moët Hennessy’s The Q

The 2012 South Beach Wine & Food Festival opened up with the barbecue and champagne portion of the event with a new night (Thursday instead of Friday) and a new sponsor (Moët champagne). And for the first time, wines and cocktails were available for consumption at The Q, which presented a challenge for the organizers – what would people drink more of when given the options. Well, the choice was clear – champagne. So much so, that by 8:45 p.m. (nearly two hours after the doors opened) one of the two mammoth sized bars had run out of champagne. Would this spell doom for the opening night event? Fortunately, there was a back-up, refrigerated truck behind the tent, where more cases of Moët had been stashed. Those would go quickly as well, and towards the end of the night it was hard to find a cold glass of champagne at any drink station.

There were some other differences from the Bubble Q, the previous champagne and barbecue bacchanal, but we couldn’t decide if they were for the better. For the entire evening there was live entertainment on a stage, but at times the band’s music was too aggressive, too loud and the violin too screechy. The ear-piercing sounds didn’t help conversation. The décor was more from a lodge with wood tables, brown leather seating and light fixtures with numerous deer antlers – a far cry from the opulent white tables with candelabras and tall chairs from previous years. No massive, crystal-sparkling chandelier here, nor a woman hanging from the ceiling pouring champagne. 

But what was impressive this year was the food – overall it was much better than in year’s past. Perhaps since it was opening night, and all of the celeb chefs were in attendance, not having to choose between other events to attend. So there was Morimoto handing out surf and turf of beef brisket and yellowtail pastrami, and Scott Conant of Scarpetta was there (with a much fluffier beard and hairstyle), as were Emeril, Guy Fieri, Al Roker (NBC), Aaron Sanchez (Chopped) and chef Tim Love, who was dishing out his tacos made of bourbon and cola smoked pork and pickled chiles.

Our pick of the night went to chef Marc Forgione of New York who made a BBQ Tete de Cochon with Feather Ridge Farm Egg (or pretty much what looked like a BBQ crab cake with a fried egg atop). Simply scrumptous.

– Fred Gonzalez


Moët Hennessy’s The Q After Dark

It was a club like scene on the shore of Miami Beach last night with South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s sold out debut of Moët Hennessy’s The Q After Dark. Droves of party goers who seemed more interested in drinking and dancing than in noshing turned up – some even decked out in 5-inch platforms despite the sand. The crowd was eclectic from stylish hipsters to yuppies to grandparents and even a couple of cast members from the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Housewives’ star Kathy Wakile said she came down just for the festival. “This is a great event. I’m having an amazing time here,” said Wakile. It seemed like she wasn’t the only one having fun. As the night progressed attendees were kicking off their shoes and swaying to the blasting music from DJ Ruckus. Aside from a couple of drunken revelers falling to the floor, the real show stopping moment came when Whitney Houston’s hit song “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” blared on. The crowd clutched their hearts while others embraced their loved ones and for a few minutes just about everyone was singing in unison. 

– Annie Vazquez



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