The South Beach Wine & Food Festival arrives today, February 19, through the 22nd with more than 75 events, tastings, parties, seminars, and dinners. The bash, which benefits Florida International University's dining and tourism programs, brings thousands of fans and celebrity chefs to Miami.
With all the dinners, parties, and seminars that make up the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, no event is more famous than the Grand Tasting Village. A small gourmet city pops up on Miami Beach's white sands each year, housing hundreds of wineries, restaurants, and spirits companies eager to give you a taste of their wares. Add to that nonstop entertainment and culinary demonstrations by celebrity chefs like Andrew Zimmern, Carla Hall, and the Deen Family and you've got yourself a culinary theme park for the weekend.
This year's Village promises to be bigger than ever, with free park-and-ride shuttle service and the introduction of culinary captains, eight chefs each representing a specific South Florida dining neighborhood.
As with any full-day outing, a plan helps you make the most of your day. We enlisted Michelle Bernstein to give us tips for the best day ever. The Miami chef confides she's been to every single South Beach Wine & Food Festival since its inception in 1997 -- a perfect-attendance record. The James Beard Award winner -- who will cohost the A League of Their Own brunch with Gabrielle Hamilton and Elizabeth Falkner on Saturday, February 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Thompson Miami Beach -- shares tips for surviving the Grand Tasting Village in style.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
An afternoon at the Grand Tasting Village means unlimited wine and spirits in the warm, Miami Beach sun. That means constant hydration. Bernstein says to "carry water with you everywhere you go." The festival makes it easy to stay hydrated by giving away water at designated areas throughout the event.
Kick your heels to the curb.
Those Manolo Blahniks might go perfectly with your outfit, but there's nothing sexy about teetering about on the sand in shoes that hurt. "Don't bother with high heels," Bernstein says. "You'll be regretting it the whole night." Instead, opt for ballet flats or bejeweled flat sandals for women, casual sneakers or sandals for men. And if you're a chef working the event, it's even more important to stay comfortable. Bernstein suggests, "If you're doing an event on the beach, either wear thick socks in your shoes or no shoes at all."
Dress for success.
Think twice before heading out in a bodycon ensemble to show off months of hard work at Crossfit. Your day is likely going to be spent exploring delicious bites from South Florida's best restaurants and sipping on good wine. Bernstein, who always manages to look chic, has this advice: "Wear loose-fitting clothes. You'll want to eat a lot and drink freely, and you don't want to feel like you're poured into a sausage casing."
Our favorite chef also has advice for cooks working the event. "Wear something that you'd want to jump in the ocean in underneath your chefs clothes; it's a great way to refresh after a long day of cooking."
Use the complimentary park-and-ride service.
With thousands of people heading to South Beach for the festival, parking's going to be next-to-impossible. Instead of driving across the causeway only to find all the municipal parking lots full, take advantage of SoBeWFF's new park-and-ride service. Complimentary shuttles will run continuously from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for GTV ticket holders from parking lots near downtown Miami, where you can park your car -- also for free. That also means you can use the shuttle service as your designated driver if you live in downtown Miami and Brickell. Visit sobefest.com for an updated list of participating free parking lots for ticket holders.
Pack a bag.
Bring a bag filled with essentials to make your day more pleasurable. First and foremost, don't forget to pack sunscreen. You should also bring a camera or a portable second battery for your phone -- you don't want to run out of power the nanosecond Guy Fieri stops to take a picture with you. Bernstein also suggests mints and wet naps or moist wipes. "Trust me on this," she adds.
Eat something beforehand.
Though at first, this tip might sound counterintuitive, Bernstein explains her rationale. "Eat something, not too much, but a little bit before you get there. This way the lines won't make you angry. The wait is worth it."
While you're at the Grand Tasting Village don't forget to vote for your favorite restaurant in the Miami New Times' Best Bites on the Beach competition. To vote, visit bitesonthebeach.com. The restaurant with the most votes on Saturday and on Sunday will win the title of Best Bites on the Beach and the results will be posted on Miami New Times blog.
Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village featuring MasterCard Grand Tasting Tents & KitchenAid Culinary Demonstrations: Saturday, February 21, and Sunday, February 22, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Grand Tasting Village, 13th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $225 to $275.