If you felt slightly overwhelmed walking into last evening's Best of The Best at the Fontainebleau Hotel, you weren't alone.
After receiving your complimentary Riedel glass, you were accosted by nearly 50 of the world's best chefs serving the most decadent dishes you could wrap your head and your lips around.
Of course, there must be wine to go with the food. And that wine must be of high quality. So about 80 of the best vineyards around the globe were invited to pour their very best vintages.
With all that food and drink, how could you possibly navigate the event?
For starters, latecomers would have been disappointed by both restaurants and wineries running out of plates, wine, and food. The first to go? Champagne, which poured freely for the first hour, was scarce toward the middle of the evening and some chefs, like Catch's Hung Huynh, running out of his own offerings, left to find a snack elsewhere -- like at Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak table where the chef and restaurateur was hand shaving black truffles over steak "croutons" in plastic cups (Mina had run out of plates and improvised by making truffle "cocktails").
Not that anyone seemed to care because with so many fine restaurants represented, one could always make due with aged certified Angus from Red the Steakhouse or homemade bacon hand seared by Alex Guarnaschelli.
Here are our picks for the best of Best of the Best:
Best Successful Gimmick
Cotton candy with cobia sashimi served with compressed watermelon and sake sour -- served on a popsicle stick. (Joe's Stone Crab, Miami Beach)
Best Use of Luxury Ingredients
Michael Mina shaved generous amounts of black truffle onto his Certified Angus short rib croutons with celery root. (Bourbon Steak, Miami)
Alex Guarnascheiil didn't play fair with her hand seared house made bacon with violet mustard with pea and shaved radish salad because the scent alone had people clamoring for a piece of that divine meat.
Todd Erickson's five-spice pork belly gyoza with chestnut miso butter, crispy herbs, and pomegranate vinegar was one big bite of flavor. (Haven, Miami Beach)
Hedy Goldsmith's panna cotta was served with dried fruits and pomegranate seeds. Refreshing and light, it was the perfect sweet treat after downing so much rich food. (Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami)
In a room filled with steak, Jeff O'Neil's vodka-cured salmon with mustard caviar and frozen dill pearls stood out as a colorful and flavorful dish. (Villa by Barton G, Miami Beach)
You know you're going to eat well when the chef tastes the food and makes an "O" face. That's exactly what chef Tory McPhail did before serving his crawfish boil gnocci with brandy and black truffle. (Commander's Palace, New Orleans)
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SHOW ME HOW
Pastry legend Francois Payard brought a plethora of macarons to the event in flavors like pistachio, coffee, and passion fruit. The most creative (and delicious) were the white truffle and black truffle varieties. When people started to put a few in a napkin to nibble on the ride home or in their hotel rooms, Payard himself gave away trays and encouraged guests to take as many as they liked. (Payard Bakery and Bistro, Las Vegas)