When most people think of South Beach, food probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But from Feb. 21 to 24, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival will cook up a party that folks in Miami may never forget. In its 12th year, South Beach Wine & Food will bring the culinary elite, foodies and oenophiles together for an epicurean extravaganza. This year’s event menu is quite plentiful, but our insider tips should help you eat and drink your way through the celebration.
What to Know
The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival began as the one-day Florida Extravaganza at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus. Between 1997 and 2001, the culinary festival featured wines from all over the world paired with local cuisine from area restaurants and professional chefs who worked with students of FIU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
In 2007, five years after moving to South Beach and assuming its current title, the festival found a partner in the Food Network and expanded its focus to include global wine and spirit brands, plus top-tier celebrity chefs and personalities. All of the food and drink revelry benefits FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and the Southern Wine Spirits Beverage Management Center. To date, the fest has raised around $17 million.
Last year’s festival boasted more than 150 chefs and 250 wineries, spirit brands and beverage providers. And more than 60,000 people came out to the nearly 50 different culinary events. This year’s four-day roster features 61 seminars, dinners, tastings and parties at a number of spots across South Beach—hotels like The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach and The St. Regis Bal Harbour; restaurants such as Nobu; and the Grand Tasting Village, a series of food tents between 10th and 13th streets off of Ocean Drive. And the 2013 lineup reads like a who’s who of the culinary industry with Emeril Lagasse, Rachael Ray, Alex Guarnaschelli, Anthony Bourdain, Marcus Samuelsson and Todd English, to name a few. Martha Stewart presides as mistress of ceremonies.
While there is a wide range of foodie events, they sell out fast, so be sure to lock in your top picks now. Specialty packages such as the Director’s Weekend Pass ($1,280) and Sunday Funday ($290) are also available and include tickets to multiple festival events.
What to Do
With four full days dedicated to food and drink, expect tons of opportunities to satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst. But there are other must-attend events. The ambassador of tapas, chef José Andrés, hosts a celebrity chef golf tournament for those interested in testing out the fairways of Turnberry Isle Miami’s picturesque course. Though the culinary aspect isn’t left out of the game entirely; each foursome (individual players will be assigned to a group) gets paired with a chef, winemaker or spirit producer who will no doubt help you relish the food and drinks along the course. $2,000 per foursome, $650 for singles, Feb. 23, 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Turnberry Isle Resort, 19999 W. Country Club Dr., Aventura.
Wine lovers should hit Fontainebleau Miami Beach Presents Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best on Friday. The classic elegance of the hotel sets the stage for some of the festival’s most-lauded wines, each scoring 90 points or more on Wine Spectator ’s 100-point scale. And with winemakers and proprietors pouring at their own stations, you can have all of those burning questions about bouquet and notes answered by the pros. $350, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m., Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave.
If you want to dine out for a good cause, check out the Creekstone Farms presents Delta Diamond Dishes: A League of Their Own event. Food Network’s Anne Burrell hosts some of the country’s top female chefs—including James Beard Award winners Michelle Bernstein and Jeni Britton Bauer, Chicago’s Stephanie Izard of Top Chef fame and New York’s April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig—and master sommelier Andrea Robinson for this star-studded dinner at The Clevelander at Marlins Park. Julie Loria, author of Diamond Dishes cookbook and wife of Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey H. Loria, helps kick off the night, which includes a silent auction at each plate on the field. Proceeds from ticket sales and the auction will go to the Mayor’s Fund for NYC Hurricane Relief and the Food Bank For New York City to help residents affected by Hurricane Sandy. $225, Feb. 23, 7-10 p.m., Marlins Park, 501 Marlins Way.
Where to Party
Parties are in the DNA of any great festival, and South Beach Wine & Food is certainly no different. Don’t miss Moët Hennessy’s The Q After Dark, a beachside party at the swanky Delano Hotel. You’ll sip flutes of Moët & Chandon, as well as cocktails featuring Belvedere Vodka, Hennessy cognac, Grand Marnier and 10 Cane rum. Australian chef Curtis Stone (host of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and Around the World in 80 Plates) oversees the evening of music, food and drinks, as a live performance of Mansion Nightclub’s Cirque du Mansion wows the crowd. $100, Feb. 21, 10 p.m.-midnight, Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., entrance at 1 Lincoln Road.
On Saturday, check out A Red Hot Night: Presented by Target. Chef Ingrid Hoffmann of Food Network’s Simply Delicioso hosts the 1950s Havana-inspired evening. Taste samples of her traditional Latino dishes, and dance to live music from the Celia Cruz All Stars and the Soulfrito DJ Collective. $110, Feb. 23, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, 1 Lincoln Road.
End the festival on Sunday by celebrating the Miami food truck culture at Trucks on Midtown’s Tracks, hosted by Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern. More than 20 food trucks (including queen of the grilled cheese Ms. Cheezious) will roll into the Wynwood neighborhood to serve everything from gourmet Cuban cuisine to lamb-fennel sausage sliders. $160, Feb. 24, 3-6 p.m., 3101 NE First Ave.
In addition to the open parties, there are more exclusive shindigs. Forbes Travel Guide is sponsoring Tony Abou-Ganim’s invite-only pool party at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach to celebrate his new book, Vodka Distilled: The Modern Mixologist on Vodka and Vodka Cocktails. Abou-Ganim will sign copies of his book, which hits shelves on Feb. 12 and primes to be a go-to guidebook for the often-overlooked spirit. The celebrated mixologist also will serve up Moscow Mules and other vodka cocktails poolside. Invite only, Feb. 21, 2-5 p.m., The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, 1 Lincoln Road.
Where to Stay
Thanks to South Beach’s Eden-esque atmosphere, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Miami hotel that’s not decked out in high-end amenities, and because of the festival’s popularity, many area hotels are offering special rates during Feb. 21-24. Book a room at The Betsy – South Beach and you’ll be in the heart of the famous Art Deco District and within walking distance of the weekend’s events. The South Beach hotel is designated as a historical landmark, but is far from outdated; the lacquered furniture and hardwood floors are modern yet add to the overall Art Deco aura. While you’re a quick hop away from all the parties, you’re on the quiet part of Ocean Drive when you’re looking to escape the masses.
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Loews Miami Beach Hotel is an official sponsor of this year’s culinary extravaganza, as well as the host of several events during the weekend. The rooms are decked out with high-tech amenities—like sensors that adjust the lights and temperature when you go out for the day—yet you don’t lose the feeling that you’re staying in a beachfront hotel, with every room offering a view of the ocean or the lights of South Beach.
The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach will also play host to a plethora of activities during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, including the official festival closing party with Food Network’s Guy Fieri and reggae legend Ziggy Marley on Sunday. The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel boasts a gorgeous pool surrounded by plush lounge chairs to soak up that irresistible Florida sun.
Photos Courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency