South Beach Wine & Food Festival

SBWFF 2010: First Taste of the Grand Tasting Village Tent

There's something to be said of that old cliché, "The early bird gets the worm," as was evidenced by the line stretching from the peach lifeguard stand to the red, white, and blue one even 20 minutes before the Wine Spectator Trade Tent/Grand Tasting Village officially opened Friday afternoon. Hundreds of hungry mouths stood in the sand eagerly awaiting their chance to fight for sips of wine, liquor, and bottled water and bites of beef, seafood, and snacks of all types.

Thankfully, once they passed the ticket scanner, guests were treated to a goody bag with a Kashi trail mix bar, a box of Carr's water crackers, and a small baggie of Ice Cream Parlor-flavored Jelly Bellys. (a bottle of water would've been nice, but...), and an issue of Wine Spectator to read while they waited yet again to enter the tents.

Slowly peeling off sweaters and scarves, the crowd descended on table after table of samples, especially pooling around the built-out French food area, Whole Foods display, and Barilla section, while lines at the Chipotle and Absolut/Kahlúa booth seemed to keep a steady audience. The ones who got there first were served healthy portions from smiling reps. But as the afternoon wore on, sample sizes shrunk and cries of "Is it 4 o'clock yet?" could be heard from tired exhibitors.

Companies hawked everything from knives to raw food diets, alligator meat to espresso-flavored sea salt, and cocktails to caviar (bless you, Marky's, for generously doling out samples in two locations).

Though most celebrity chefs would be making appearances on Saturday and Sunday, Chef Daniel Boulud unofficially welcomed the first entrants into the tent, while Fabio Viviani from Top Chef Season 5 whipped up some Italian eats at the Bertolli station.

By 3 p.m., scalpers were selling tickets for $40, though the chances of anyone even getting past the stanchions in 60 minutes seemed a fruitless endeavor.

With that, here are a few bits of advice for those of you tackling the tent this weekend:

  1. Duh, get there early.
  2. Suspend all belief that food combining is a bad idea. You'll be amazed how you can easily chase down a citrus-marinated shrimp with a hunk of organic chocolate.
  3. Though it may be tempting to head straight for the booze, get a few bites of food in between sips (you can down more alcohol that way and you'll lessen your chances of absentmindedly trying to dry hump Paula Deen).
  4. Be adventurous. Though kale salad may not be top on your list of dietary faves, you might as well give it a go. After all, you did spend top dollar for your tickets and you'll probably stand in line longer than you'd ever dreamed. Might as well make it worth your while.
  5. Pig out and enjoy!