Lest you thought the economic crisis meant it was time to start stocking up on dried legumes, here is a reason to cash in that jar of pennies. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival returns this Thursday through Sunday, and if anything, the spread has grown more lavish. As luck would have it, tickets are still available for some of the fests most feted events. "The festival has an amazing reputation; we couldn't be happier that it's become one of the country's premier yearly events. Our ticket revenue is about 10 percent higher than last year, but we held back more tickets for the re-release in January and are thrilled to still have some available for people to attend," says festival founder and director Lee Schrager. If you hurry, you can score not only tix to the BubbleQ beachside at the Delano but also seats to some of the edgier events. That means you could enjoy an up-close-and-personal evening with a rising Food Network star while sampling some of the nations most luscious cuisine. Advantage: consumer. If youre in the mood to be overwhelmed, theres the Grand Tasting Village, open this weekend on the sand at 13th Street and Ocean Drive. For super-affordable fun, bring the kiddies to Fun and Fit as a Family at Jungle Island (1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami). Twenty bucks plus tax gets you a whole day to nosh and mingle with folks such as Rachael Ray and Tyler Florence. To contrast that, this Thursday night theres ¡Viva España!: a $1,000 dinner in the Country Club Ballroom at the Biltmore (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables). Sounds too stuffy for your taste? For $60, you can enjoy Sundays Pick-Me-Up's, Eye Openers or a Little Hair of the Dog, a $60 lesson led by master mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, at the Poinciana Ballroom (Room 2, Loews Miami Beach Hotel, 1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach).
Feb. 19-22, 2009