When it comes to eating and drinking, two weekends of the year in Miami stand out. One is the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The other is Veritage Miami, which is celebrating its 20th year next week, April 15 through 18. In other words, it's time to nosh on food from Miami's top eateries and sip seemingly infinite amounts of craft beer and vino.
Formerly known as the United Way Miami Wine & Food Festival, the four-day culinary gathering has raised more than $11 million for United Way of Miami-Dade, which has funded and supported programs within the community to improve education, financial stability, and health.
Kicking off the festivities is the craft-beer tasting at Wynwood Walls next Wednesday, April 15. If you're a beer snob, this event is for you. Craft-brew enthusiasts will be able to tap into and sample more than 120 varieties of their favorite beverage, from stouts to pilsners to pale ales. An emphasis is put on the local, so expect to see lots of Wynwood's residents and neighbors such as Gravity Brewlab, Wynwood Brewing Company, Michael's Genuine Home Brew, and others.
"One of the cool things about Veritage is that we talk about all these different breweries and restaurants, who when you look at it are competing in some way, coming together to support United Way," says executive board member Dustin Symes. "The vision is to have a caring community strengthened by its diversity and compassion, and Veritage helps United Way be seen as a catalyst by bringing community, mind, hearts, and resources together."
Symes, along with a group of other community volunteers, takes time out (his day job is senior vice president at City National Bank) to give back. Along with Evelyn Torres and Matthew Bittel, he has made the craft-beer tasting happen. "We work together and reach out to centers of influence or connections we have, whether it’s companies that can be sponsors or local breweries, and pairing that with food suppliers and restaurants that will help make this a great night."
As for the restaurants that will make next Wednesday a great night, Quality Meats, Shake Shack, Edge Steak & Bar, and Wynwood Kitchen & Bar are just some of the eateries that will be provide bites and compete for the People's Choice Award Restaurant of the evening. Last year's title went to R House, which is back this year to defend its honor.
"Another cool thing we've done this year is, through resources and contacts, we were able to reach out to one of our great clients and secure an afterparty." The bash will take place after the tasting wraps up at 9 p.m at the MAPS backlot, which is walking distance from Wynwood. It's sponsored by Jose Cuervo and Wynwood Brewery, so you'll be able to see just how many tequila shots you need to kill ya and play life-size beer pong while DJ Ethics mans the decks. "Those who are in good shape and don't want the fun to stop can continue the evening." Tickets to the craft-beer tasting cost $55 a person ($75 for VIP tasting beginning an hour earlier, at 6 p.m.). The event goes from 7 to 9 p.m.
Thursday, move your taste buds from suds to wine with the fine-wine tasting at the ritzy Merrick Park. It's pretty much the same premise but in a fitting location and with restaurants that pair well with any of the 75 wine producers and importers that'll pour more than 300 labels from around the globe. Think bites from Uvaggio Wine Bar, Swine, Cibo Wine Bar, J&G Grill, Toro Toro, Moye, BLT Prime, and Merrick Park newcomer Piripi. A People's Choice Award will again be awarded. Last year's went to Uvaggio for its pork rillettes terrine.
Admission for the winetasting costs $75 and goes from 7 to 9 p.m. VIP gets you in one hour earlier for a little extra vino drinking and costs $150.
Perhaps the pinnacle of Veritage, however, is the interactive chef's dinner on Friday, April 17 at the Intercontinental. Last year's feast was rumored to be a hoot and brought about some of the city's top toques such as Giorgio Rapicavoli, Jose Mendin, Cesar Zapata, Todd Erickson, and Alberto Cabrera for a night of hands on cooking fun. And although this year's first all woman lineup is already sold out, it deserves a mention because of the girl power it's bringing together. Eileen Andrade, Paula DaSilva, Dena Marino, Adrianne Calvo, and Cindy Hutson will show 600 attendees how to artfully prepare a five-course meal, all while dancing, drinking, and overall being merry. If you just have to get into this event, word on the street is there's a waiting list and sponsorship packages available, although you're looking at the thousands. But remember, it's for a good cause.
Tickets for Veritage Miami tastings are available via veritagemiami.com