Welcome to Uncorked, our daily guide to the best nibbles, bits and bites from the 2011 South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Looking for chef gossip? Insider tips? Instant reviews? We’ve got you covered…
Guy Fieri's BBQ Closing Party
Monday, Feb 28, 9:15am
By Aurora Rodriguez
A line snaked behind the Gansevoort onto 24th street and Collins Avenue at about 5:45 p.m., as guests eagerly awaited to get into the Guy Fieri hosted closing party. A couple standing behind us even admitted to driving from West Broward to this, their first-ever Wine and Food Festival Event. "We hope it's great," they said with a smile, as my husband and I entertained ourselves happily chatting with the couple about the busy weekend.
While I admit my feet ached from waiting in line and walking a long way after meeting with friends that afternoon, my eyes lit up and I cheered up at around 6:30 p.m. when volunteers started handing out purple, gold and green Mardi Gras beads to those on the line. The fun was about to begin and the doors for the beachside BBQ were about to open.
The first thing I noticed was that not many people seem to have realized the BBQ was going to be on the beach and on the sand. I caught women wearing short skirts and sky-high heels, their feet digging into the sand, complaining about their choice of dress for the evening. Thankfully, the Gansevoort Hotel had provided little pouches with bright-white flip-flops that people could easily change into. Once they changed into them and walked inside, they were transported into a party paradise. Sponsors lined the sand, offering everything from seafood, to burgers from STK to chicken skewers from Sushi Samba and delicious stand-out peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes from Misha's. Women and men coupled up and danced in front of a high rise stage, to 80's and 90's tunes from Journey and Bon Jovi. "Wines that Rock" served up their chardonnay and reds, and Amstel Light kept the beer cold. One unique spirit - the agave-based Zignum - mixed great in frozen margaritas and had people partying by their gold and black decorated booth, while girls and guys handed out tiny mustache tattoos that people used to pose for a variety of pictures. People milled about the area and stayed warm in the cool perfect Miami night in front of small-fire pits, perfectly placed in front of comfortable couches in front of the stage for those awaiting that night's rock star.
Guy Fieri, the night's host, was absent towards the start. But once he appeared at around 7:30, he got up onstage to cheers from the crowd and started mixing a huge drink while pouring bottles of liquor into a mixer. Cameras and video-cameras followed his every move as he stood from the safety of the stage, and the crowd gladly sang along to "You Shook Me All Night Long", as Fieri led the crowd in a dancing and singing frenzy.
Unlike other stars which we saw milling about, such as Andrew Zimmern from "Bizarre Foods", Fieri stayed on the VIP high rise stage for most of the night. But it was understandable since the crowd was in quite a frenzy after a weekend of festivities and would've easily caused a mob scene, as they pushed towards the front of the stage just to get a peek of him and flashed their cameras at him just trying to get a picture.
Highlights from the night included bumping into "Drinking Made Easy" and "Three Sheets" star Zane Lamprey and his lovely company for the night, Mel, both who greeted us with a hug and led my husband and I towards the back of the party to try a vodka which they truly enjoy. We toasted to the night and end of the weekend with Tito's Vodka from Texas, with a little soda water and lime, as we jammed to the night's beats and watched the show until it was time for them to leave and take the stage to accompany Fieri. Another highlight included the fun Bing photo booth, were partiers could capture a moment of the night with classic print-out instant pictures. While lines were long for food, and the bar was packed most of the night, spirits were high on an evening that proved the Wine and Food Festival of 2011 was a definite success.
By the time my husband and I decided to leave around 9:05, Fieri had taken the stage once more and promised the crowd some pizza, pizza that was being prepped from a booth by the stage. The crowd cheered in excitement, while others slowly started trickling out, commenting that they were "tired" after spending all day in the Grand Tasting tents. A long day spent on South Beach being a part of the Wine and Food Festival? It's all part of being a foodie and spirit-loving, wine-loving, rock star. For us, who got home with achey feet from walking in the sand all night yet big smiles in our faces from an evening well-spent, it was worth the time. Here's to hoping that next year is just as fun. There's definitely no party like a closing party, especially when everyone's spirits are high and the environment is one of grillin', chillin' and sippin'.
Wine Spectator Wine Seminar C
Monday, Feb 28, 9:15am
By Dinkinish O'Connor
Where: Gansevoort Miami Beach
Before: I’m ten minutes late to the Krug tasting (parking drama). Ooo--another goodie bag. Now, I have two rabbits to play with (not the Sex-in-the-City rabbits, but the ones that aerate wine). Uh, oh. They’re serving leftovers from yesterday’s wine marathon. Yuck.
During: A lush, French accent swirls around the white wine glasses glimmering with a gold potion. Hmmm? White wine glasses to serve Champagne. Interesting. I fidget ‘cuz it’s Krug. It’s Krug, Man. The room is a balanced mix of young and old but not as many couples as yesterday. Champagne Krug’s President and CEO—Margareth Henriquez explains that serving Champagne too cold is like wearing too many coats. I’m fascinated by this passionate Latin woman with such a rich French accent.
The Diddy-Budget Wines: We taste the 1998 Krug Clos du Mesnil, 1998 Krug , 1995 Krug, Krug Grand Cuvée, and the Krug Rosé. My body is on fire with bubbles, high minerality, lime rind and white grapefruit flavors in the first wine. It retails between $900 -$1300. I had the 1998 Krug last year at Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best, and it was super sexy with Madagascar vanilla characteristics, but this year, you get more apple crisp. It’s still yummy.
Pièce de résistance: There is a surprise pour of the 1989 Krug Collection ($900). The color is a stunning gold reminiscent of south Indian gold stitching. It is, hands down, the most Michael Nyman-wine I have ever had (Michael Nyman produced the score for the movie --“The Piano”). The caramel, cola, jackfruit and sweet sop aromas glide into butter, almond and cashew flavors. Damn, this is some deep stuff.
The Washington Wine Experience: Ah, man. It is really mean to place Chateau Ste. Michelle after Krug. That’s like placing Justin Bieber after Led Zepplin. Are you serious? Vineyard Manager Mimi Nye reminds me of Mrs. Garret from the “Facts of Life” as she refers to the grapes as her babies. I totally feel her passion. I recently had the 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot and loved it. The ’03 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot has some old world finesse. However, the ’07 is hollow and very disappointing. I want to fall in love with more of their wines, but I don’t.
The Croatian Hands That Make California Wine: This is my first time truly tasting Grgich Hills Estate wines. Co-Proprietor Violet Grgich talks about her daddy in true daddy’s girl fashion, reminding us that he made the chardonnay that won the “Judgement at Paris” in 1976. The reds are cool, but what I really enjoy are the whites—the 2008 Grgich Hills Estate Fumè Blanc Napa Valley. The aromas are reminiscent of a Gewürztraminer, but there’s also sweet basil. I love it. I also love the 2008 Grgich Hills Estate Violetta Late Harvest Napa Valley. It’s a gooey, sweet wine that reminds me of Colombian fruit candies. There are honey and apricot flavors, but there’s subtle acidity and a gingersnap finish for balance. This is a Jamaican oxtail stew wine.
The Verdict: I loved the fluid pace of the Wine Spectator tastings. Just when you feel a yawn coming on, the tasting is done. I love the contrast of exposed booty cheeks wreathing a building bursting with $1300 Champagne tastings. It’s so damn Miami.
Sunday's Grand Tasting Village
Monday, Feb 28, 9am
By Rochelle Koff
At twilight, Sunday’s Grand Tasting Village was getting ready to shut down. Partyers were trying to soak up the last bit of sunshine and suds before calling it a day. An overflow crowd was listening to Anthony Bourdain, who in rapid fire answers to questions said mac-and-cheese was his favorite stoner food. Then later, when asked about the tattoo he got in Miami Saturday, his Italian wife, Ottavia Busia, came out on stage. She turned her back to the crowd and lifted her shirt, and to cheers from the audience, revealed her bra strap and a tattoo – a matching snake design, like Bourdain’s.
Whether it was their first or 10th visit, festivalgoers were keen on coming back. “Oh my gosh, the food!” Carla Faxel said during her trip to the Grand Tasting. “I loved it.” Luz Borges, of Plantation, said she liked the “variety of the food” while her mom, who was visiting from Puerto Rico, added, “the drinks are awesome.” Another mother-daughter team, Chris Maksimak and Julie Thomas, come to the festival from Pennsylvania and said they enjoyed getting to know more about some of the chefs who aren’t huge names, like Tim Love. “Our focus is on chefs.”
Many festivalgoers were just grateful to be in the South Florida sun and out of cold weather. “I’m from Michigan, and here I am in South Beach in February on the beach,” said Linda Kerns. “What’s wrong with that picture?”
Paula Deen's Gospel Brunch
Monday, Feb 28, 9am
By Rochelle Koff
Paula Deen, who has a gift for folksy banter and “hi y’all drawl”, said she was “speechless” after her Sunday Gospel Brunch at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival when Simply Delicioso host Ingrid Hoffman told her some interesting news. She’d been picked as “one of five people the Hispanic world can relate to.”
Deen looked stunned, but said that maybe it wasn’t so suprising afterall. A common denominator, she said, is that Latins, like Southerners, “show love through our food. The first thing we want to do when you walk in is feed you.” Hoffman gave Deen the microphone and addressing Hispanic fans, the Georgia native said “I was so blown away when Ingrid told me that y’all were such big followers of my cooking, and I just want to thank y’all. That’s a compliment. “I think ya’ll are much like families from the South. You love to eat, you love your family, you eat large, you get loud. I’m touched by the fact that you're followers. I wish I could talk Spanish to you. I took Spanish in high school and I failed first semester…. So I don’t know how to say it” ... and then Deen added mischeviously: “ Chimichanga.”
Earlier Deen’s Gospel brunch was like a lovefest with her fans. Miami’s gospel great Maryel Epps warmed up the crowd with Happy Days, but when Deen came out, fans swarmed the stage. “She’s so real,” I heard someone say. "What you see is what you get,” Deen says post brunch. “I’m not an actress.”
No, but she was like a rock star at the brunch, which festival creator Lee Shrager said sold out in three hours. The food seemed secondary as fans clamored to get close to Deen, get her picture or an autograph, tell her about a favorite recipe. Her staff looked a little concerned as people swarmed – afterall there were 566 people in the Loews lavish ballroom. “It’s insane, but in a good way,” said Deen devotee Judith Shaw. “She’s fun,” said brunch goer Bonnie Schneider, of Hollywood. “She’s full of life.”
A Southern-style comfort food queen, Deen did take a break to savor some dishes from 10 stations, featuring dishes like chef Cat Cora’s blueberry orange granola pancakes with warm maple syrup, which drew the longest line, to Elizabeth Karmel’s fantastic fried chicken with pimento cheese biscuits. Constantine S. Dimas, vice president of food and beverage for Loews, said he thought the “standout dish” was the chicken and malted waffle dumplings with a poached egg. There was of course Smithfield ham – the event was Smithfield Presents Paula’s Down Home Cookin’ Gospel Brunch – as well as Louisiana seafood. But Deen was definitely the big attraction.
Back in her hotel room, overlooking the beach, Deen said she still can’t “get her head wrapped around” her success. “There are a lot of cooks who can make fried chicken,” she said. She attributes it to timing – that she reminds people of their mother or an aunt and of the explosion of interest in all things culinary. She considers herself a cook, not a chef. "A chef goes to school and leaves with a piece of paper," she says. "I graduated summa cum laude from my grandma's kitchen."
As for her favorite spots in South Florida, she was headed to Joe’s Stone Crab Sunday night. On Friday night, she and husband Michael went to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where they ate steak at the casino’s Council Oak and did a little gambling. “I’m a slot slut,” Deen says.
Grand Tasting Village - Sunday
Sunday, Feb 27, 10pm
By Elaine Walker
Day two of the Grand Tasting was another day of Chamber of Commerce weather, as thousands came to enjoy a day of food and wine on the sands of South Beach. It was definitely one giant party. The most noticeable difference this year is that the lines and the craziness in the tents didn’t seem as bad as years past. Not sure if it was fewer people or the logistics were better organized to maximize space and manage the traffic flow. Either way it was a signicant improvement.
Another plus: not as many booths running out of food and wine early. After 10 years, it seems that everyone has learned how to better anticipate demand. Only negative: no sponsor giving out lanyards to hold your wine glass. It’s a key accessory for the event and we were kicking ourselves for forgetting them at home. Some of our favorites: stone crabs from Truluck’s restaurant, brisket sliders from Bulldog Barbecue, ceviche from La Cofradia, amazing selection of flavored breads from JC’s Daily Bread and great desserts from Susie’s Scrumptious Sweets.
As always the stars of the show at the Grand Tasting were some of the Food Network personalities. Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen both drew standing room only crowds and had everyone doubled over in laughter. Bourdain’s humor was more on the R rated side. He used his version of a Wheel of Fortune wheel that he called the “Wonder Wheel of Horror,” allowing audience members to pose questions in various categories. Vowing that after this year he was going to clean up his act.
While drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Bourdain offered the following insights:
Never one to embarrass easily, Paula Deen this year licked butter off Robert Irvine’s stomach. She also joked about her idea of multi-tasking is laughing and peeing at the same time.
BBQ & The Blues with Tyler Florence
Sunday. Feb 27, 12pm
By Fred Gonzalez
Behind the pool at The Raleigh Hotel, it was all about barbecue and blues for Thrillist's party. But while the barbecue delivered, we were still looking for the blues music by the time we left. Of the six areas dishing out the bbq, our favorites were the short ribs from Sugarcane in Midtown, served with a spicy slaw, and Tyler Florence's beef production served over black eye peas. Both had great flavors and a nice bite.
Florence was like a mad scientist at his food station, carefully prepping and creating each of his plates, so focused he didn't have much time to speak with guests. But by the end of the night, he was greeting eaters and taking photos with them. Just as impressive were the Rum Zacapa cocktails and the student brews by FIU (amber ale). However, to get the food you had to wait in long lines that seemed to criss-cross with other lines for other food tables. And at times the lines never seemed to move.
It was also hard to see your food, as in the back of the event there were no extra lights (or strings of lights) to help you see what you were eating. The music was provided by a one-man band (with guitar, harmonica and bass drum), but it sounded more like folk music and less like blues. We heard later that the original 4-piece blues band canceled at the last minute, leaving limited musical options.
At least the barbecue didn't leave us blue.
Grand Tasting Village - Saturday
Sunday, Feb 27, 12pm
By Fred Gonzalez
Under picture perfect weather conditions on Miami Beach (sunny, 80 and not a cloud in the sky), the Grand Tasting tents opened to 1,000s of wine and food enthusiats. There was plenty of wine and spirits to go around, but for some reason the lines were shorter at the food tables. No typical lines that creeped in length to the middle of the tents. The food was good, but nothing spectacular on this day. The crowds were also not as overwhelming as past years, so there was room to maneuver from vendor to vendor.
Outside the tasting tents the most impressive station was from the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas hotel. Walk inside and register for a free night as you see an example of one of the hotel rooms. Wait in line, grab some sangria, and head upstairs to the lounge deck that gives you some impressive views of South Beach and the throngs of people at the Grand Tasting. In between the tasting tents, Cruzan Rum created an island experience, complete with a steel drum singer and plenty of mojitos. Revelers danced the afternoon away to the carribean melodies.
Chefs Jamie Oliver and Rick Bayless had excellent demonstrations, along with Rachel Ray and Emeril, but it was Guy Fieri who again stole the show wth the closing demo. After joining Emeril earlier to auction off a KitchenAid mixer with their signatures for $3,200, Fieri raised over $30,000 for auction items during his demo. He opened his segment with chefs Sunny Anderson, Emeril and Robert Irvine coming out donning dark sunglasses to the tune of George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" before walking on stage. And then it was a mix of rock n roll classics as he created an oversized "South Beach Slur-icane" cocktail for the audience. He then showed how to make pizza pies on the grill.
Wine Spectator Wine Seminar Series B
Sunday, Feb 27, 11:20am
By Dinkinish O'Connor
Where: Gansevoort Miami Beach
While Waiting: If you think weed heads have the munchies, try watching a swarm of fine wine-soaked groupies descend upon a table of peanut chicken and Argentinean grilled steak skewers, cheesy tempura shrimp poppers and blue cheese bread. Mouths chomp. Fingers are licked. Emily Post rattles.
Before: You know what it's like when you go to your favorite rock band's concert. You wade through all the opening acts, anticipating that moment when it's just you and Jay-Z or U2. Well, that's how I felt about this tasting.
The French Wine Experience: The three-part experience opened with a vertical tasting of Palmes d'Or Champagne. Wine Spectator's Executive Editor Thomas Matthews and Palmes d'Or's Chief Winemaker Assistant--David Henault host the tasting. Henault is fresh off the boat from Champagne, France, where he says it's negative five degrees. It's his first time in Miami, and he's already feeling the young-sexy-girl vibe as he references them in his presentation, analogizing the 1996 vintage with "young girls." His accent is unctuously French, so Matthews does a lot of clarification. We taste 1985, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 1999. Generally, I enjoy the aromas of the wines that range from Fiji apples to honeysuckle, but I'm not crazy about the high mineral flavors.
The Aussie Wine Experience: By now, many tasters are red faced and happy. Young girls are giggly, stumbling about and the dramatically tatted photographer is sneaking sips from the table. We switch to a neighboring room for the Penfolds Retrospective RWT Shiraz Seminar. The tasting is hosted by Matthew Lane--a dude with a very long title and some other dudes. We taste the 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and the 2008. We taste the wines from oldest to youngest, which didn't work for me (save the best for last). Generally, the wines are dense and gripping, and I feel like my palate is arm wrestling a big, brawny, Australian crocodile hunter. Someone in the panel mentions that Australian wines are "blood and flesh." Prices are also bloody--$135 to $275. Really?
The Scandalous American Wine Experience (drum roll): We switch rooms again. It's the moment I'm waiting for--Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet. These are the first American cats to beat the French in a blind tasting in Paris back in 1976. I've had their Cabernets, and I've loved them. Chateau Montelena Master Winemaker Bo Barret jumps unto the stage in a Mama-said-knock-you-out sort of way. He's energetic and passionate. But is he high? We zigzag through the tasting based on the wine's style. We taste the wines from 2000 through 2007. We started with the odds, then the evens. My tasting neighbor and I glance at each other as Garrett gesticulates and slurs on occasion. The wines are good, but I'm distracted. Then, a taster puts Matthews (Wine Spectator's Executive Editor) on the spot, asking why the magazine's reviewers had given Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet less than glamorous ratings. The room goes wild with "Ooooos" and "Aaaaahhhs," but Matthews handles himself with Obama-grace, explaining that wines are blind tasted and that it is up to the drinkers to decide what they like. Tensions flair. I forget all about the wine.
Vertical Tasting of Joseph Phelps Insignia
Sunday, Feb 27, 11:20am
By Dinkinish O'Connor
Where: Gansevoort Miami Beach
While Waiting: For many, Joseph Phelps is the god of Cabernet Sauvignon. Outside the main tasting room, loyal followers and fine wine-squatters nibble delicious peanut butter and jelly-tasting crostinis, smoke salmon tapas and other she-she-boo-boo treats.
Before: Suddenly, the double doors flail open, and we enter the Christmas light-lit space, tables spread with tasting sheets and the Cabernet elixir--Joseph Phelps Insignia. I had it once (can't remember the vintage)--a $20, two ounce from an Enoteca machine. I remember loving it and wishing I could own a bottle someday (these are 100-something, 200-something dollar wines). I take my place at the edge of the table closest to the exit. I have a perfect view of the room. I'm looking at the mixed crowd of about 100 or so. It's an interesting mix of ornate fossils, fossils-to-be, Pam Andersons and Joplin-Hendrix, wild hair-types. Oh, there's a black couple.
During: Joseph Phelps' President --Bill Phelps and Wine Spectator's Tasting Director and Senior Editor--Bruce Sanderson guide us through the tasting. It's academic, clinical and a little ho-hum.
The Wine: We tasted vintages 2002 through 2007. The more time the '02 kissed the open air, the sexier it got. This wine is not for the impatient, hump-my-palate-with-fruit-and-spice-right-now types (No lie, I am like that sometimes). I also liked the '05 and '07. Wines like the '02 require decanting and sipping. It took me the full hour to get the cult following, though I don't see myself joining it. If you like restrained, slightly astringent Bordeaux, go for Insignia.
After: If you don't spit the wine, you're going to get high, VERY HIGH, and by the end of the tasting, many tasters were 90s-Hip Hop high lol
Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach
Sunday, Feb 27, 9:30am
By Valerie Schimel
Youth was the name of the game at last night’s Best Thing I Ever Ate. The event, new to the Festival this year, featured a young crowd (likely attracted to the $150 price point), “new” celebs/talent (think Bethenny Frankel) and an upstart vibe in the Burger Bash/BubbleQ tent.
Modeled after the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” show, the event paired 20 local & national personalities (Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat), Romero Britto, Frankel & Dana Cowin) with 20 of their favorite beach eats. Sunny Anderson brought us Nathan’s bacon cheese dogs; Lee Schrager rolled out Epicure’s matzoh ball shooters, onion boards & hummus and mini brisket sandwiches; and Wade introduced crowds to “greatness wings” prepared by a private chef.
The crowd was noticeably thinner than Burger Bash and BubbleQ and the DJ was a poor man’s Burger Bash band, but the mood was light as lines were relatively short & wine, champagne & spirits flowed plentifully. KC and the Sunshine Band was a highlight of the night, playing all their greatest hits as people danced at the front of the stage and all around the tent. Guy Fieri came on stage and played bongos with the band. Casey, a 60-year-old Miami native, told the crowd "For you young people, I was your mom's 'N Sync. Justin Timberlake will look like me in 30 years."
Among the night's culinary highlights
Wine + Dine + Design
Sunday. Feb 27, 9am
By Elaine Walker
Wine + Dine + Design brought a more intimate experience to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. In its second year, the event divided diners into three color-coded groups (red, blue and green) on a progressive dining tour of Miami’s Design District hitting Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Fratelli Lyon and Sra. Martinez. Joining host chefs Michael Schwartz, Ken Lyon and Michelle Bernstein were Michael Symon, Andrew Carmellini and John Besh.
Each group received a completely different three course menu paired with wines. The restaurant you visited first was asked to prepare a seafood dish, second course a fowl with a starch and finally a meat with vegetables. The small groups are nice because it allowed diners to make new friends or travel with your own group.
For the red group our favorite of the evening was the third course at Michael’s Genuine. The service was the smoothest and the wine sommelier fully explained the pairings. The food featured a unique combination of ingredients: braised beef cheeks, served with whipped carrot, local vegetable giardinere and salsa verde. The tangy flavors of the vegetables were a perfect complement to the rich meat.
The runner up was Besh’s redfish courtboullion at Sra. Martinez flown in from his native New Orleans. The fish was topped with tapioca, blue crab and daikon micro greens with a seafood reduction sauce and surrounded by a shrimp mousse. Among the wines our favorites were the Guado al Tasso il Bruciato, an Italian blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, and the Chateau Ste. Michelle Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon.
The disappointment of the evening was the logistics, which had them rushing us through our first course at Sra. Martinez, only to leave us standing around waiting before we could head down the street to Fratelli Lyon. Turned out the first group ran over because they spent too much time listening to a speech by the Italian winemaker. While we enjoyed our food, we were a little envious of the green group menu. It sounded the best of the three with selections of seafood stew, rabbit loin and baolo-braised beef.
All three groups of diners also started the evening at Vino & Olio with a selection of canapés and finished at Ornare with a dessert party. The collection of Shake Shack frozen concrete, bowls of candy, biscotti and other home-baked desserts was a great way to tend the evening on a sweet note.
From the Garden to the Glass with Zane Lamprey
Saturday, Feb 26, 11pm
By Aurora Rodriguez
I eagerly headed over to Zane Lamprey's clinic, excited to be a part of it and excited that my husband could join me. Why, you ask? Me being the cocktail writer for Miami.com and The Miami Herald, and him being an avid restaurant person and cocktail lover, we have been fans of Zane since we caught the first ever episodes of his television show "Three Sheets" in the Mojo network. Zane's job in the show included traveling all over the world and enjoying spirits and cocktails along with the drinking customs for each city he visited, so we were excited to see what he could bring to the table in a cocktail event and clinic where we could learn to create our own sips at home.
And he brought in a lot, to many avid fans who were eagerly waiting outside to meet the television show host and "professional drinker". While the seminar started about 30 minutes late, no one seemed disappointed. In fact, they just shrugged it off and took their seats in from of Zane, who looked on with a smile and admitted to feeling "A little hungover" after hanging out with pals such as Guy Fieri the night before until about "5 in the morning". Hearing this, the crowd laughed.
Zane's event was probably one of the best ones I've ever attended at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Out was the pretentiousness, and in was the intimacy. We all became best friends as we mixed drink after drink with Zane Lamprey helping us out, teaching us to better entertain. "I want you guys to go home and throw a mixology party, make something simple and intimidate your guests," said Zane with a smile. "It's all about experimentation and making whatever tastes and feels good."
Little by little, Zane broke the ice by picking guests from the crowd to mix cocktails with him without ever missing a beat and keeping his sense of humor. My husband, Sebastian, was one of the ones selected and I have never seen a bigger smile as he joined to others in creating the perfect Strawberry Basil Martini. When in one part of the show Zane's flip-flops broke, he smiling kicked them aside and just kept on going, bringing guest after guest up to the front to mix fresh cocktails such as a delicious Avocado Daiquiri, made with white and gold rum and mixed in with fresh avocados.
After the event, Zane was nice enough to pose for pictures and sign books, even seminar pamphlets. Being as how him and I have created a professional friendship after I interviewed him a few months back while he was in town for a "Drinking Made Easy" tour - a comedy tour in support of his new television show - he was happy to sit down and chat about his experience with the festival with us after the event, which he described as "exciting".
"I love Miami, it's a great city," he told Miami.com. "Miami has a big Cuban and Latin-American influence, and there's an amazing mixology scene. It might've started with the mojito, but there are so many ways you can mix cocktails in this city and make them impressive." Some advice directly from Zane to Miami.com readers:
"Cocktails don't always have to be intimidating," said Zane to Miami.com. "Always have fun with it, and make sure to use spirits you enjoy and add fresh ingredients that can make them stand out."
Being as how we live in a city such as Miami, where we can get our own fresh fruits and herbs, I recommend you try at home the Strawberry Basil Martini Recipe that Zane shared with us, and my husband helped prepare and called "the best strawberry-flavored drink he's ever had". Cheers!
Strawberry Basil Martini
Muddle strawberries and basil in shaker, add other ingredients, shake with ice, use fine strainer, garnish with a basil leaf
Making Cocktails with Tony Abou
Saturday, Feb 26, 10pm
By Aurora Rodriguez
There's nothing quite more intimidating than mixing up cocktails at home. Why, you might ask? Maybe it's the fact that so many people would rather go to a bar out of the fear of prepping their own Cosmos and Margaritas in the comfort of their pajamas, or maybe it's just the fact that one might think that some friends are hard to impress. If I were to say one thing about the seminar "Making Great Cocktails at Home with Tony Abou-Ganim", it's that it took the fear right out of all of us and made us believe that we could prep our own cocktails in the comfort of our own home. Us, the modern mixologists? Yes please! Bring it!
As soon as I arrived to the seminar- which ran a bit late, starting at about 1:20 p.m.- I met some friendly folks who smiling told me they had saved their money and picked this intimate seminar out of an online roster in hopes of learning to entertain better. And the folks at the Wine and Food Festival made sure to entertain the eager line, by handing all of us waiting a cold margarita. As soon as we stepped inside the room at the W Hotel, we were greeted by white table-clothed tables and tall bottles of Acqua Pana water to help us better taste the mixed cocktails that Tony was ready to prep for all of us. A clean palate is better than one confused by a cold margarita sipped by waiting in line.
"It's easy to craft libations at home," said Tony with a smile as he grabbed people from the audience to help him prep a margarita, made with Patron Tequila, Patron Citronage, the juice of a whole lime and lemon sour mix, once everyone made their way inside. Tony mentioned that he felt consumers might be intimidated when it comes to creating cocktails at home, so he wanted to make them feel like they could be their own mixologists.
And that he did. If there was one thing Tony was good at, was engaging the audience and making them feel that they could learn how to craft a cocktail. From teaching the crowd what a cocktail shaker was, to finding the perfect strainer, no subject was left untouched as he taught us all how we could create better libations by simply creating a better home bar. Once we left with a handy list of recipes, we were all more ready to go buy a few things at the supermarket, ready to stock our bar and ready for entertaining.
Feel like whipping up your own fresh margarita at home, like Tony taught us? Here's the recipe. Cheers!
In a mixing glass add tequila, fresh lime juice and fresh lemon sour. Shake until well blended and strain into an ice-filled goblet.
Grilled Cheese Pairing & Shake Shake Seminars
Saturday, Feb 26, 8pm
By Hannah Sampson
American bar food (we’re talking burgers and fries, hot dogs, grilled cheese) doesn’t often get mentioned in the same breath as syrah, icewine or prosecco. Two different events Saturday at the W South Beach changed all that. Grilled cheese, meet Cotes du Rhone. Fries with cheese sauce, let us introduce chardonnay. Hot dog and chianti, consider yourselves acquainted.
Author and cheese enthusiast Laura Werlin started the Grilled Cheese Pairing Seminar with a plate of six un-grilled cheeses (including gouda, cheddar and gorgonzola) and four wines. A traditional wine-and-cheese tasting kept the crowd busy between sandwiches. The first, a gouda with caramelized onions and cumin on rye bread with caraway, was a hit paired with a 2007 Cotes du Rhone. “The Spaniard,” a manchego and fontina mix with serrano ham and smoky paprika butter outside, paired well with pinot noir but the garlic parmesan cheddar was too butter-drenched to enjoy, even with syrah.
Werlin said her final sandwich, gruyere and gorgonzola with hazelnut butter and honey, was inspired by a colleague’s childhood concotion of (prepare yourself) Colby cheese, peanut butter, bologna and pickles on wheat bread with mayo. Werlin swears she tried it and it’s not so bad. She even included the recipe in Grilled Cheese, Please!, her upcoming cookbook. The sweeter sandwich was paired with a syrupy icewine that we found more drinkable with the food than without.
Later Saturday, restaurateur Danny Meyer hosted more of a try-every-food-with-every-wine experiment at the Shake Shack Seminar. Six wines to try with six dishes (including cheese sauce) meant a lot of tasting, so Meyer started the group with some tongue exercises to warm up.
The foods: fries; cheese sauce; a bird dog (chicken sage sausage); a “Shack-Cago dog” (all-beef hot dog on poppy bun with relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper and celery salt); Shack Burger with American cheese and a Concrete (dense frozen vanilla custard mixed with key lime pie). The wines: prosecco, chardonnay, chardonnay/viognier blend, pinot noir, chianti and a moscato dessert wine.
“I guarantee you that no one else in the world is drinking a Chianti Classico with a Concrete,” he said. “I can also guarantee you that no one else in the world is eating fries with Moscato D’Oro from Robert Mondavi.” But a survey at the end showed that maybe the world would be more satisfied if they did: even though it wasn’t our favorite, the dessert wine was the most versatile, getting high marks for pairing with the most foods.
Best of the Best at Fontainebleau Miami Beach definitely lived up to its name. The selection of wines, champagnes and gourmet offerings were clearly a step above many of the other festival events. The popular ingredients of the night were truffles and foie gras, plus the come back of marrow.
You could really enjoy the complexity of the high-end red wines like Joseph Phelps Insignia and Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Estate because the wine makers had time to decant them before serving. Many of the winemakers were pouring aged vintages from around 2005 and 2006, with a few aged even longer.
Lead by Chicago’s Charlie Trotter, the event featured a mix of top chefs from around the country, John Besh (Domenic, New Orleans), Wylie Dufresne (wd~50, New York) and Michael White (Marea, New York). Plus all the chefs from the Fontainebleau and local favorites like Michelle Bernstein, Norman Van Aken and Cindy Hutson.
Some of the night’s winners:
But the major problem is that some of the chefs started running out of food just past the event’s half-way mark. By 10 pm – with an hour still to go – about half the restaurant tables were shut down. We heard raves about Hakkasan’s foie gras toast with wasabi mayo and prawns and a foie gras and banana sandwich from Little Palm Island. Unfortunately, they were gone. “They ran out of things way too early,” said Tracie McGuire of Seattle. “They know how many tickets they sold and they should have had more food. These tickets were not cheap. I don’t know if we would do it again.”
The nice thing about the setup of this event is that there was plenty of elbow room and no long lines. Also, lots of tables to sit or stand so you didn’t have to worry about spilling any of those precious drops of vino. The only downside to the huge ballroom space was that the event lacked much of a vibe and felt a bit like a cross between a corporate cocktail party and a wedding.
Friday night's 10 year celebration for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival - dubbed Let Them Eat Cake - stole the show. Better than Bubble Q. Better than Best of the Best. And if anyone knows how to throw a birthday party, it is certainly festival founder and organizer Lee Schrager. Held on the 7th floor parking deck of the award-winning 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage, the event was celeb-studded and as stylish as the venue.
First, the celebs in attendance - Heat players Chris Bosh (with fiance Adrienne Williams) and Juwan Howard, Martha Stewart and a who's who of Food Network Chefs - Guy Fieri (with three bodyguards, no less), Rachel Ray, Danny Meyer, Duff Goldman, Anne Burrell, Rick Bayless, Bobby Flay, Michelle Bernstein, and Emeril. Our favorite was visiting with cocktail guru Zane Lamprey of Three Sheets fame - he even got a chance to meet Chris Bosh, and had to drop that he had Lakers tickets, but wished Bosh and the Heat best of luck. "Now you have a great job," Lamprey told Bosh.
There were over a bakers dozen worth of dazzling birthday cakes displayed around the floor, with each chef's interpretation for 10 years of the wine and food festival. Plenty of Moet champagne bars, featuring Imperial champagne (in the white bottles). Bringing the party to life - a Brazilian dance and drum team, a pair of ice sculpters who carved a cake with an American Express card on the top, and Cirque-like gymnasts (male and female) hanging upside down while serving party guests glasses of champagne (or refilling your cup). There was great music, plenty of flow to the room, and lots of comfy couches to grab a seat. And the guest list was tight, so elbow room was good and plenty - no crushing crowds here.
At the midway point of the party, Martha Stewart and Emeril took over the microphone, thanked Lee Schrager for all he had done during a decade worth of festivals, and then a video tribute to Schrager played with many of the same chefs in attendance giving the festival's visionary great props and kudos. (It was at this time you wondered if the party should have been called Let Them Eat Lee Schrager's Cake!) As folks exited, they could pick up some Evian bottled water, coffee from Cafe Bustello and a box of Godiva chocolates. A solid party in a stylish space with a cool breeze all night and stunning views of Miami Beach.
Our picks for the Top Cakes
Dim Sum & Disco
Saturday, Feb 26, 2:32am
By Hannah Sampson
Step behind the scenes with Seth Browarnik's Dim Sum & Disco photo gallery.
Disco was the soundtrack for food-related bottlenecks Friday night at The Setai, where crowds swarmed a cluster of chef stations to sample all manner of dumplings, pot stickers, spring rolls and more. Dim Sum & Disco, which was presented by daily deal website Groupon, featured food from seven chefs and, curiously, a mermaid wearing a “G” on her chest perched in the hotel’s pond. (We must have missed the Groupon deal for tickets to this event, by the way.)
Host Ming Tsai, of Blue Ginger near Boston, took occasional breaks from preparing his vegetarian soba noodle sushi, shitake and leek spring rolls and smashed pork dumplings to pose for pictures with admirers. “What I do like is people appreciate good food in Miami,” he said.
And judging by the early swarms, people appreciated Friday night’s offerings. A server trying to leave the Tropical Chinese Restaurant table with a platter of crispy shrimp balls didn’t make it more than two feet before a horde descended. Mini ice cream cones with mango pudding and jalapeno pearls made the rounds along with “Stayin’ Alive” mojitos, “Boogie Nights” rum and coke and “Disco Inferno” daiquiris.
Some of the most creative dishes came from The Setai’s David Werly, who presented an egg shell filled with caramelized eel and lychee and foie gras foam (called “disco egg”) and a “disco sphere,” which looked like a plastic Christmas ornament with beets, goat cheese, walnut brittle and pear inside. Several people needed help from the server to get that one open, but the bite-sized samples were worth the effort.
Seattle chef Dean Shinagawa, making his first trip to the festival, said the egg dish was his favorite of the night. "I had two of ‘em,” he said. “I’m going to go back for more.” Shinagawa found a not-too-crowded spot strategically located between one of the bars and Tsai’s table and parked there for awhile. He said: “I texted my wife and said: ‘I’m in dum sum heaven.'"
Saturday, Feb 26 1:30am
By Fred Gonzalez
Click here for pics of Martha, Bobby, Al Roker & others toasting at BubbleQ
The final Bubble Q event behind the Delano Hotel definitely felt like it was the end of an event, as the annual affair of Perrier-Jouet champagne with oodles of barbecue was missing that spicy saucy feeling of years past.
Despite 33 chefs cooking up their version of barbecue, and plenty of bars pouring out glasses of PJ, the vibe just wasn't there. The music ebbed and flowed all over the place, from DJ house music, to live music with a screeching electric violinist that made your ears shrill. Gone was the gymnast hanging from the rafters and pouring you champagne, replaced with a centerpiece of drapes and lights more fitting a glamour hotel ballroom.
For the revelers under the tent, they were as happy as could be, tasting food by the likes of Todd English, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay and Michael Symon (Thursday's Burger Bash champ), enjoying desserts by Godiva, Three2 OH ice cream, and Sweet Street Desserts, and spotting celebs like Martha Stewart, Al Roker, KC from KC and the Sunshine Band, and Alexia Echeverria from Real Housewives of Miami.
Among the tasting highlights:
But our best in show (although no one gets an award here like they do at Burger Bash) was Chris Lilly's entry from Big Bob Gibson BBQ in Decataur, Ala. (Cooked outside the tent in a large, portable smoker.) Pit-cooked mac and cheese, spicy pickle, brown beans with a kick, and a 12-hour slow cooked pork shoulder. The combination was the best, and complete when it comes to a 100 percent barbecue meal.
It's too bad the rest of the event didn't feel that authentic. Word leaked out late that this event will comeback next year but with a new name - Red, White and 'Cue. (Red and white wine replacing the champagne.) Here's hoping the ticket prices drop (from $350) and the ambiance feels more like a barbecue and less corporate.
Behind the Scenes: Paula Deen at the Food Bank
Friday, Feb 25, 3pm
By Rochelle Koff
Click here for a photo gallery of Paula Deen at Feeding South Florida
Paula Deen, the queen of down-home cooking, took time from partying at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Friday to help out a cause close to her heart. Feeding the hungry. “Unless you’ve been there it’s hard to relate,’’ Deen said. And she’s been there. Deen may now run a culinary empire, with TV shows, Southern-style restaurants, cookbooks, a bi-monthly magazine and a growing product line, but she didn’t always live high off the hog. She told a group of about 200 workers and volunteers at Feeding South Florida's food bank warehouse in Pembroke Park about a time when she was "dead broke."
Deen had two young sons, was divorced, suffered from agoraphobia and was practically penniless when she started a small catering company called The Bag Lady in Savannah. She got serious and described an occasion when her youngest son Bobby came in the house and said “Mama I’m so hungry.” She told her son she'd look through a box where she had tucked away spare change. “I went back there and I got that box and I started scraping through the change and I had hid a $50 bill at the bottom of that box,” she said and everyone cheered. “Bobby and I danced around that house like we’d won a million, honey. Bobby said ‘load up mama, we’re going to Micky D’s." For families with full pantries and safe homes, she said, “it’s hard to fathom that in this country someone is going to bed hungry.”
Deen is part of Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes Initiative, which, with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, is aiming to feed more than 25 million people nationwide over a three-year period. In 18 months, the initiative has brought food to 10 million people. In typical folksy fashion, Deen stepped into a truck and starting tossing wrapped hams into the arms of the agency workers who distribute food to the needy.Smithfield brought 30,000 pounds of hams and pork to the cavernous food bank warehouse.
Deen had her husband Michael Groover and her youngest son Bobby, who often appears with his brother Jamie on Deen's Food Network show, at her side. The scene got emotional when Bobby turned to his mom and said: “To have come as far as you have, and for us to be able to give back to the community, when we’ve been given so much in our lives is really special to me. I love you.”
Behind the Scenes: Burger Bash 2011
Friday, Feb 25, 11:30am
By Sara Liss
Think of it as the little burger that could. Amidst all the beef-laden festivities at last night’s Amstel Light Burger Bash was a petite-yet-tasty slider with humble beginnings in the kitchen of a home cook. Competing against foie gras burgers and wagyu patties from celebrity chefs like Morimoto, Bobby Flay and Ingrid Hoffman was Danielle Williams, a Veterans Administration worker from Rhode Island and her French-inspired lamb burger. Her recipe was chosen from 6,000 entries by Ohio chef Jonathan Sawyer as the official Amstel Light entry featured in the gluttonous burger face-off that is the kickoff event to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
“We narrowed the six thousand down to fifty and from there my staff voted on their favorites until we had it down to five,” explained Sawyer, who got his start in Miami, FL as a chef at The Biltmore, before going on to helm the successful Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. “Once we had five we taste-tested them and hers was the clear winner. For us it was a matter of – would we serve this at our restaurant and the answer is yes.” Williams’ recipe calls for a patty composed of eighty per cent beef and twenty per cent lamb spiked with anchovies, herbs de Provence and topped with a sautéed shallot and fennel slaw and slab of goat cheese. “And it’s on a brioche bun, which makes it a little special,” smiled Williams.
And there she was last night, having won the two-night trip to the foodie superbowl, working behind the table with Sawyer’s Greenhouse Tavern team, putting together plates of whole gilled padron peppers tossed in garlic cilantro and lemon zest – a Greenhouse signature side. “I’m having a great time. It’s been great working with Jonathan. He definitely added his own touch to the recipe which was cool.” Sawyer tweaked things a bit, adding dehydrated olives and zucchinis to the herb mix and tossing the fennel slaw with his home made rosé wine vinegar and fragrant lavender. And while they didn’t take home the grand prize last night, their burger made this writer’s night, having the right mix of salty, sweet, smoky and tangy – essentially four ounces of beefy goodness.
The servers' T-shirts said it all: “Prohibition is over.” And moonshine, on Thursday night at the W South Beach, made a splash in Miami. Shine & Swine, hosted by BBQ chef Adam Perry Lang and presented by Original Moonshine Clear Corn Whiskey, served as the Miami launch for the product from Stillhouse Distillery. Lang is co-founder of Stillhouse.
Drinks were more abundant than food at the late-night event, with creations from mixologists who work all over the country. Moonshine, it turns out, can handle ingredients both light, like lime and cucumber juice, and heavy, like bitter walnut liqueur, corn-infused milk and maple syrup.
Packed at first around the hotel’s pool, the crowd thinned out before midnight with an occasional smattering of rain and some surprise wind gusts. Lines were manageable, but food was at times elusive. We finally parked near the walkway where servers appeared with trays of Lang’s medianoches and had our fill.
Featuring roast pork and ham on Cuban egg bread with swiss cheese, mustard and dill pickles, the sandwiches were delicious if not much of a departure from traditional Cuban fare. Lang said he wanted the dish to be a nod to Miami, but turned up a notch with fresh chilies, oregano and green onions. Chefs from Solea at the W also offered a cochinillo confitado: slow cooked suckling pig terrine with beets, shallots and raspberry reduction.
But the evening was mainly about the drink. Stillhouse master distiller Chuck Miller, clad in a cowboy hat and thick Virginia accent, told the crowd they were enjoying “the real stuff,” which he’s been making legally for 25 years. “My granddaddy used to make it; he wasn’t so legal,” Miller said. “Thank God he taught me so I could keep going.”
It’s official – SoBe has crowned another Burger Bash winner. Michael Symon took the crown with his B Spot Yo! Burger. The patty was toped with fried salami, provolone, shasha sauce and pickled onion. Symon is the first chef to win back to back Burger Bash titles. Asked about the secret to a great burger, he replied: "Fried meat!" Symon won with pastrami last year and salami this year. Other awards include Heinz Best Dressed Burger: Michael Symon; Idaho Potato best side: Burger & Beer Joint for truffle baked potato salad; and Allen Brothers judge's choice: Marc Murphy from Landmarc.
As always, it was a raucous, festive night on South Beach with a sold out crowd feasting at the Rachael Ray-hosted bash at the Ritz Carlton. Crowds lined up for Morimoto, B Spot, Umami Burger and Michael's Genuine, beer flowed freely and Loire Valley rose was the wine of choice. There was sand, songs (a live band rocked the night) and plenty of buzz as the night kicked off this year's Festival.
Here’s a breakdown of Burger Bash 2011 by the numbers.
Missed the action? Here’s a snapshot of some of the crowd favorites:
Of course, Burger Bash is about more than just burgers – some of our favorite sides of the night:
Sill nursing your beef hangover? Hair of the dog starts today – burgers are already being secured for the 2012 Burger Bash.
Thursday, Feb 24 7pm
By Aurora Rodriguez
In celebration of the Wine and Food Festival, Botran Rums from Guatemala hosted a delish media luncheon and event this Thursday, February 24, to honor their participation at the Grand Tasting Village. Eagerly accepting the invite, I headed to the De Rodríguez Cuba on Ocean at the Hilton Bentley Hotel and prepared myself for what was to come. The flavors of Botran Rum, with a silky oaky smooth finish and tangible sweetness, paired well with a variety of courses. Although this journalist experienced lunch before the event, she was able to nibble on some standouts such as coconut crusted shrimp by Chef Mario Pagan and Adobo Pork Rilette.
As a cocktail writer, I was very interested to see how Botran would mix. Delicious cocktails included a tart Botran Lemongrass Ling, a mix of Botran Reserva infused with fresh peach and sake, as well as homemade lemongrass, ginger syrup and a hint of lemon. The masculine Botran Manhattan was a dark and delish mix of Botran Reserva with Spanish Sherry and Italian Sweet Vermouth. But nothing compared to tasting the rum in all its glory as it lay neatly on the rocks for dessert and paired off perfectly with a goat cheese and blackberry tart, the perfect way to end a beautiful day in South Beach and start the Wine and Food Festival activities.
Wishing to try some Botran Rum yourself this weekend? Make sure to check out booth #418 and the North Tent inside the Grand Tasting Village. You won't be disappointed and will get a chance to pick up a card which entitles you to a free Botran cocktail and appetizer at De Rodríguez Cuba on Ocean. Cheers!