Behind closed doors, local chefs complain a little about the lack of exposure during the festival, which brings a slew of Food Network celebrities who do tend to overshadow in the overall scheme of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Now, they also acknowledge that the festival attracts much needed attention every year to the Miami food scene, and brings well-known names into their restaurants (equaling ever valuable press). And we all know how many tourism dollars in general it drives into local pockets, so even though citizens say that many of the events are geared only to those visiting, we all love to hate a success story (or hate to love? You decide).
Although many big events do focus on national culinary talent, there are opportunities to support your local team by claiming ownership of events that do specifically promote local chefs. "Best of the Best" showcases the top tier of local restaurants alongside big named nationals, as does "BBQ & The Blues," but sadly, you'll have to pay up and buy those tickets from a broker (they are both sold out). So what are the events still available for purchase that highlight Miami's own?
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The Grand Tasting Village curates the most obvious representation of Miami's chefs, and you can still buy tickets for the Sunday show (Saturday is already sold out). Everyone from Taverna Opa to Chowdown will be peddling little plates in the tents; look for recent newcomers like Lolita Cocina and Villa Mayfair, as well as Chef Dean James Max's 3030 Ocean, and Sakaya Kitchen.
"The Best Thing I Ever Ate" is offering "Late Night Bites & Sweets" from a diverse range of local restaurants. Hy Vong, Prime One Twelve, Red Light, STK, The Local, Tropical Chinese, both George's and Joe's Stone Crab (we can only presume that means key lime pie will be on the consumption agenda); it's a mash up of completely different local chefs doing midnight desserts. Godiva is sponsoring, so don't forget to check out their chocolate "lounge," on Saturday, February 25, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets are $110 per person.
The "Official Festival Closing Party" hosted by Andrew Zimmern is still open, which gathers our city's food trucks on the beach at The Ritz. Everyone from The Fish Box, to Ms. Cheezious, to Latin Burger & Taco, will be setting up on the sand for the last event of the festival on Sunday, February 26, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $95 per person.