Foodies should start packing their bags for Florida’s sunny shores — the 17th annual Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival returns to eat, drink and educate from February 21 through 25. The epic gourmet gathering, known as the “Super Bowl of chefs” to many in the culinary circle, will feature more than 90 events, star-studded soirees and an expanded Fort Lauderdale “Crave” edition.
Among this year’s hosts are Food Network celebrity chefs Andrew Zimmern, Alex Guarnaschelli and Geoffrey Zakarian, international culinary greats Norman Van Aken and Jose Garces and the who’s who of Miami’s chefs, including James Beard Award winners Michael Schwartz and Michelle Bernstein.
Come hungry and loosen your belts — there’s something for every gourmand to sip and savor.
Here is your guide to all of the deliciousness.
WHERE TO STAY
With a slew of sensational properties to choose from, Miami’s luxury hotel scene has got you covered for a sumptuous SoBe stay.
To enjoy stylish art deco surroundings that are in close proximity to South Beach’s legendary nightlife, check into Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Another elegant option is Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
If you’re looking to stay on the mainland but still want easy access to the beach, check out Four Seasons Hotel Miami, a Four-Star downtown property, and Mandarin Oriental, Miami, a Five-Star hot spot in Brickell.
Should you want to rest your head away from the boisterous festivities, you can’t go wrong with a beachfront room at Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale or the new Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Several of your favorite luxury Miami Beach properties are offering special rates (like Four-Star The Betsy — South Beach’s $499 promotion) during the food-focused event, but you’ll need to go through the festival contact to get them.
WHAT TO KNOW
Festival tickets are on sale and some fan favorites are sold out, so get cooking if you plan on being a part of the fun. The event’s website is easy to navigate by location (Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, Fort Lauderdale), type (dinners, seminars, late-night parties) and date. It even provides packages for wine lovers, beach-goers and party animals. There are also several family-friendly events on offer for those with little ones in tow.
While most gatherings will take place in Miami, the five-day food festival will kick off in Fort Lauderdale at the aforementioned Conrad’s impressive skydeck. Master griller Chris Lilly and Conrad chef Jorge Ramos team up to host a family-style dinner for an indulgent start to the gourmet event.
Parking on Miami Beach can be tricky, so if you’re staying on the mainland, opt for a Grand Tasting Village ticket to get a ride on the complimentary shuttle from downtown to the main festivities.
If, for some reason, you can’t make it to the Grand Tasting Village or the other epicurean events, you can still get in on the action during the festival’s online auction, which helps raise funds for student scholarships.
WHAT TO EAT
For burger fans: Savor mouth-watering creations washed down with beer at the Heineken Light Burger Bash (February 23) taking place at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach. Guy Fieri, a former Burger Bash winner, takes over for longtime hostess Rachael Ray to crown this year’s best meaty bite.
For Latin cuisine lovers: Dance, sip and sample the best of South Florida’s vibrant Latin culture and cuisine at Swine, Wine & Spirits (February 25). Miami toque Giorgio Rapicavoli hosts an elite group of popular local chefs, dishing out their tastiest creations at Coral Gables’ historic Four-Star The Biltmore.
For big-time brunchers: Enjoy an all-American comfort brunch (February 24) with a Southern and Caribbean twist. Get a sneak peek around James Beard Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson’s not-yet-open Overtown restaurant before noshing on ribs, fried chicken and collard greens accompanied by live music from performers in the Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival, also taking place over the weekend.
For wine aficionados: Head to Fontainebleau Miami Beach for Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best tasting event (February 23). Dine on gourmet bites from 60 of the nation’s top chefs paired with more than 100 rated wines by some of the world’s greatest vintners.
For the ultimate foodie: Stroll through an unending array of flavors from more than 50 of South Florida’s finest eateries at the Grand Tasting Village (February 24). Be sure to catch culinary demos by the likes of Giada De Laurentiis, Masaharu Morimoto and Emeril Lagasse.
For late-night munchers: Dance and dine under the stars at Midnight Eats (February 24), a stylish block party complete with indulgent bites and tequila tipples. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, of Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Miami Beach Edition’s splashy Matador Room, and epicurean rapper Action Bronson serve as hosts for the after-hours celebration along Espanola Way in South Beach’s art deco district.
WHERE TO PARTY
For tacos and tequila: Sample signature Mexican street food from an all-star cast of tastemakers at the popular poolside Tacos After Dark (February 22), hosted by James Beard Award winner Rick Bayless and taking place at Loews Miami Beach Hotel.
For epic drinks and dancing: Head to the Rum & Bass Beach Party (February 24) for endless Bacardi-powered cocktails, light bites and serious beats at the stunning Delano South Beach.
For goodies and grooves: Stop by Sweet-Moves: Late-Night Desserts and Dancing (February 24) at the Loews, hosted by dad-daughter duo Bobby and Sophie Flay. Sample more than a dozen devilish desserts before hitting the dance floor to DJ Hannah Bronfman’s high-energy set.