For more on the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, check out New Times' Taste guide, hitting newsstands Thursday, February 21.
Unlike the Wizard of Oz, people who know the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival pay attention to the man behind the curtain -- Lee Brian Schrager. The founder and organizer strives to surprise, entertain, and educate both fans and industry professionals.
Schrager keeps the festival, which is celebrating its 12th year, fresh and new by changing up the celebrities who host signature events like the Q, and introducing new concepts such as Garden to Glass, an evening of cocktails under the stars. He recently told New Times that a successful festival is much like a good recipe: You must choose your ingredients wisely. "The beauty is adding a twist and mixing it up, using Emeril Lagasse at a cocktail event or adding an after-party component to the Q with Curtis Stone as host. That's what keeps us relevant."
Here are Schrager's insider picks for this year's newest and best, listed in chronological order.
Moët Hennessy's The Q and the Q After Dark
The Q, Thursday, February 21, 7 to 10 p.m. ($300); Delano, Beachside, Miami Beach. The Q After Dark, Thursday, February 21, 10 p.m. ($100); Delano, Beachside, Miami Beach.
"I'm excited to see the twist that Paula Deen is going to put on the Q, and I'm looking forward to Curtis Stone hosting the Q After Dark."
Friday, February 22, 7:30 p.m. ($225); the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami Beach.
"Of course, the Burger Bash, hosted by Rachael Ray, is always one of my favorites. I'm always excited to be around all those burgers and all that grease. Michael Symon will be back to defend his historic winning streak. He's got a lot of stiff competition this year, so I'm really excited to see who wins."
Garden to Glass
Friday, February 22, 10 p.m. ($95); Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Miami Beach.
"This is an all-cocktail event that I'm very excited about. We're actually growing herbs at the garden right now to incorporate into the drinks. I'm looking forward to working with the Bar Lab guys, Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, whom we love. We've paired them up with Emeril, which is going to be amazing. This is a very Miami-centric event, with Roger Duarte from George Stone Crab and Sam Gorenstein from My Ceviche serving up some fresh seafood to pair with the incredible drinks. It gave us an opportunity to have a young late-night party in a cool setting."
Delta Diamond Dishes
Saturday, February 23, 7 p.m. ($225); Marlins Park, Miami.
"We've taken Diamond Dishes, which was a great success, and given it a League of Their Own twist. This year's lineup is all women -- and they're all heavy hitters. April Bloomfield, Michelle Bernstein, Stephanie Izard, Naomi Pomeroy, Julie Loria. After we got this incredible lineup together, I asked Anne Burrell to come and be the general manager of the team. It's a very 'girl power' event."
A Red Hot Night
Saturday, February 23, 10 p.m. ($110); the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami Beach.
"Target is producing this amazing Latin-themed night. The Celia Cruz band will be playing; there'll be salsa dancing. We'll have Latin-themed food and cocktails and it's all hosted by the lovely Ingrid Hoffman. We're turning the beach into the Copacabana for one night."
Grand Tasting Village
Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ($225 each day); Grand Tasting Village, Miami Beach.
"In my mind, the Grand Tasting Village ticket is still the best value for your money. And this year, we have some fantastic talent lined up. For the first time ever, Jose Andres is doing a demo in Spanish. Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart, Paula Deen are all appearing, with Guy Fieri closing out the weekend. For the price of one ticket you can eat and drink all day and watch your favorite Food Network celebrities come to life."
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What about the future? "I'd like to have some type of oversized, fabulous table on the beach. The table would be blocks long and it would be at the edge of the ocean. The waves would lap at our feet as we enjoyed a late-night, Asian market-themed dinner."
Guy Fieri's Reggae Jam with Ziggy Marley Live, the Official Festival Closing Party
Sunday, February 24, 6:30 p.m. ($95); the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami Beach.
"We've had musical components at the festival before. In fact, we did a concert with Willie Nelson about six years ago. But this is the first time we're really building the concert into the event. Ziggy has a line of organic products that he's launching, and he and Guy [Fieri] have a relationship already. Plus, we always wanted to do something fun and casual on the beach. We're really excited to be able to close out the festival with a Caribbean-themed event."