In its 13th year, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival is bigger than ever. Even the most fit fan will likely get exhausted just reading the roster of 70 seminars, parties, and dinners -- up from last year's 50 or so offerings.
How does one choose from the extended list of parties hosted by luminaries such as Anthony Bourdain, Rachael Ray, José Andrés, and Eric Ripert? The same way one creates a beautiful dish -- by mixing several key elements together to make one harmonious creation.
Of course you'll want to go to the Grand Tasting Village to swirl hundreds of fine wines, sample fine food, and watch Food Network celebs such as Paula Deen, Martha Stewart, and Emeril Lagasse conduct cooking demos (which usually have nothing to do with cooking and more to do with a rollicking good time). You can even take in a morning yoga class (complete with après-workout bellinis) at the Raleigh Hotel (1775 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). It will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, February 23 and 24 ($30 each class). But the events that showcase the festival best are held in the evening. That's when the stars shine brightest, serving up a mix of music, food, and drink for your enjoyment. From burgers on the beach to a black-tie dinner on a virtual ocean liner, here are the premier events at the fest.
The annual event that features bubbles and barbecue takes on an entirely new dimension this year when celebrity chef Michael Symon pairs up with the 2014 Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. Some people will flock to the event to sample ribs, pulled-pork sammies, and other grilled delights served by 40 top chefs including Myron Mixon, Marc Murphy, and Geoffrey Zakarian. Others will go for the champagne and cocktails provided by Moët Hennessy. But let's face it: The main attraction is the chance to meet some of the most stunning models in the world.
You can bet cameras will be trained on these gorgeous women as they chow down on burgers or gnaw on bones, sauce dripping down well-toned arms. Which models will appear at the event? Even the festival promoters aren't privy to that highly confidential information, because the names of the women who make the cut for SI's 50th-anniversary Swimsuit Edition won't be announced until right before the festival. For now, we'll just look forward to an evening with The Chew's most affable cohost, honest food, and the promise of a few pictures with a model.
Moët Hennessy's The Q presented by Creekstone Farms sponsored by MIAMI magazine hosted by Michael Symon featuring the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models: Thursday, February 20, from 7 to 10 p.m. beachside at the Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $300.
For the eighth time, Food Network spitfire Rachael Ray takes on duties as the meatiest hostess in America. Burger Bash is not just about stuffing your face with patties made by the hands of celebrities. It's a fierce competition among chefs, with many of them politicking the crowd for a much-coveted token that will determine the people's choice award for best burger.
In the past, we've seen Spike Mendelsohn disguise himself as the Hamburglar to "steal" a few votes and witnessed Michael Symon resort to exchanging (chaste) kisses for wooden coins. The work has paid off, because Symon won the popular vote three times in a row, only to be knocked off his perch by Bobby Flay last year. But the real stars of the evening are the burgers, grilled to perfection and topped with everything from eggs to donkey sauce. After all is said and done, people still crave a good burger, with or without foie gras and oyster foam. As Michael Symon says: "The hamburger is an American classic, and you can eat it on the go."
Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats hosted by Rachael Ray: Friday, February 21, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. beachside at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $225.
Ocean Liner Dinner
For those of us who watched the movie Titanic dozens of times, secretly wishing we could have dined in first class with Jack and Rose on that classic ocean liner (forgetting for a moment the tragic fate of the ship once deemed unsinkable), the Ocean Liner Dinner is as close as we might ever get to the romantic sea voyages of days gone by. Anthony Bourdain (in a tuxedo) is your captain for an evening on the "S.S. Wolfsonian" for a unique culinary voyage of the senses. Chefs Daniel Boulud, Andrew Carmellini, Frédéric Morin, François Payard, and Eric Ripert will prepare the courses for this black-tie, seated dinner, with dishes inspired by the Wolfsonian's collection of more than 400 ocean liner menus. Offerings such as deviled quail eggs, lobster bisque, halibut bonne femme, and pithivier of pheasant will guarantee a first-class virtual voyage far removed from the buffet line.
Ocean Liner Dinner hosted by Anthony Bourdain, Frédéric Morin, David McMillan, Andrew Carmellini, Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud & François Payard: Friday, February 21, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $1,500.
Rockin' Beach Party
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Take one part rock 'n' roll legend and one part celebrity chef, add a dash of one of Miami's most iconic restaurants, and shake. The result is the recipe for the Rockin' Beach Party. Restaurant royalty Emeril Lagasse will hold court as Sammy Hagar rocks out on the guitar on the sands of Miami Beach for a wild late-night party. Unlimited cocktails featuring Hagar's own Cabo Wabo tequila and Sammy's Beach Bar rum will be served, possibly by Emeril himself (at last year's festival, the veteran chef proved to be a formidable mixologist). Those hungry for a late-night bite will be treated to classic Cuban dishes from famed local restaurant Versailles, courtesy of Ana Quincoces, author of the Versailles cookbook and former star of The Real Housewives of Miami. After a few Cabo Wabo cocktails, you'll find yourself dancing the night away under the white tents.
Sammy's Beach Bar Rum and Cabo Wabo Tequila present Emeril Lagasse and Sammy Hagar's Rockin' Beach Party sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce: Saturday, February 22, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. beachside at Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $95.