Do you enjoy dining out as much as you love hunting down the coolest pool parties? If you care as much about the provenance of your cocktail as you do about the designer of your bikini, you’re in luck: the South Beach Wine and Food Festival will soon be arriving in Miami, and from Thursday, 20th February to Sunday, 23rd February, the sunny city will transform into Florida’s de facto culinary capital.
Returning for its 13th year, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival has grown monumentally since it first debuted. Last year it attracted a record 65,000 visitors, and this year’s events are predicted to draw even greater numbers of foodies from across the globe.
Spanning four days, the festival will also be co-sponsored by the Food Network, which means that anyone who’s anyone in food TV will be in attendance, and visitors will have the chance to mingle in classes, tasting sessions, special dinners, and a range of other one-off events. Not to mention the fact that you may end up casually bumping into your favourite food personality over a glass of vino – just be sure to come prepared with a phone/camera that’s fully charged so you can capture the moment.
A number of special packages are available for those who need some guidance in devising their food-themed itineraries – and given the range of events (over 70 are scheduled over the course of the long weekend), it could otherwise be daunting to pick and choose.
One affordable package for budget travellers and food lovers is the Party Animal Pass 2. Geared towards those who are more interested in the “Wine” half of the proceedings, the package comprises two separate events: a mixology session hosted by celebrated chef Anne Burrell, and Emeril Lagasse and Sammy Hagar’s Rockin’ Beach Party. For the latter, come prepared in your beach best and ready to let loose – the festivities go till 1 AM.
For a package that leans more heavily toward culinary attractions, the GTV Weekend Pass is another good introductory option, as it provides visitors all-day access to the on-site Grand Tasting Village. With tasting tents open from 1-5 PM and culinary demos led by top chefs scheduled for 11-6 PM on both Saturday and Sunday, the event offers a dizzying array of activities – and no shortage of delicious bites.
Some of the names scheduled to appear on-stage include Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson, now based at restaurant Red Rooster in New York, food TV celebrity Anthony Bourdain, and award-winning chef Rick Bayless, an expert in Mexican cuisine. And for those who are looking to graze, the options are plentiful: exhibitors like ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Carbonell Olive Oil will be showing off their wares, and over two dozen restaurants – including Katsuya and Novecento – will be participating as well. The sights and smells are sure to be captivating, and the tastes? We can only assume they’ll be top-notch.
If rubbing shoulders with foodie big shots is what you’re after, there are dozens of opportunities for small-group mingling over tasty nibbles. Food Network stars such as Giada De Laurentiis, Alex Guarnaschelli, Masaharu Morimoto, and AarÃ³n SÃ¡nchez will be hand for a range of programming – while some tickets have sold quickly, star-studded events like the People’s Choice Food Awards, hosted by Andrew Zimmern, are still on offer.
Aside from all the eating, there’ll also be ample opportunity for would-be chefs to pick up some culinary tricks. The Confections of a Macaron Maker seminar, hosted by master pâtissier FranÃ§ois Payard, gives guests a look into the art of perfecting this French délice; the Fried & True session provides the same minute attention to classic fried chicken.
And let’s not forget that we’re in Miami. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival cheekily plays up its location with events like YogART presents Buddhas and Bellinis. Combining the beach city’s penchant for fitness with its love of fruit-filled cocktails, the accessibly priced class (at just $30 per session, it’s one of the most affordable events of the entire festival) is perfect for fitness-junkies eager to blend their enlightenment with their bubbles. Other scheduled festivities like FLAUNT, a poolside party to be held at South Beach’s infamous Delano Hotel, mean that guests can enjoy their food world favourites while still living it up, Miami-style.
Of course, this is only a small sampling of all that’s on offer, from late-night parties to discussion panels, cosy dinners, and even kid-friendly fare. Whether you’re opting for a package or plan to pick and choose from what’s available, just remember not to stress: this is Miami, after all. Throw a few swimsuits into your case and bring your appetite: these four days only come around once a year.
Are you going to South Beach Wine and Food Festival? Where are your favourite places to hang out in Miami? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Claire Bullen