South Beach Wine & Food Festival

SBWFF 2011: Grand Tasting Village Was a Satisfying Feeding Frenzy

​With the white sand, clear skies, and heat, SBWFF's Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village would have resembled the Sahara if it were not for the sparkling backdrop of the Atlantic.

After receiving a Waterford glass, but no neck lanyard cup-holder to keep our eager paws free (they were deemed defective), we hungry early birds wandered inside. Confused about what was to happen next, we overate in the "Experience Italy" pavilion and Whole Foods tent (which had surprisingly scrumptious guava pastries). At about one, two gigantic tents opened to reveal endless cooking and booze stations, and we braced ourselves for a day of intense consumption.

Best schwag: New York Times towels, making you the coolest nerd on the playa.

Strangest thing: While not an obviously opulent event, rather, noticeably casual, people were cleaning their wine glasses out with Evian and Fiji.

Spotted: Food Network favs Emeril Lagasse, Sunny Anderson, Robert Irvine, Ming Tsai, Fabio Viviani, and Guy Fieri.

Best idea: Plugra's Mashed Potato Bar. Who doesn't love mashed potatoes with a variety of butters? Sick people, that's who.

Florida International University students proved the $200 plus ticket price was worth handing over to them with tender and tasty chicken sandwiches made with freshly baked bread and their home brewed beer. Professor Barry Gump and his students brought nine kegs and three cases of bottles of delectable brews.

Ming Tsai's demonstration showed a delighted crowd the Simply Ming chef's irreverent humor. He started his demo telling the audience to yell out questions, but asked us to "keep it P.C." and specifically not to mention abortion or gay rights. No problemo! At one point, Guy Fieri walked onstage with a bottle of pinot noir, an Amstel Light and a gallon of milk in his hands, and no explanation.

After feasting on a variety of meats and sea creatures, we headed to Nordstrom Cafe Bistro for a creamy, buttery crab bisque. STK's carrot butter, scotch puree with braised beef short ribs was pretty much the winner of the day. Absolut's Wild Tea flavored vodka cocktail Wild Cucumber Tea was peculiar and quite intoxicating, or rather, addictive, or just yummy.

New York and Los Angeles performance duo The Bumbys were sponsored by Fiji Water to offer the crowd "a fair and honest appraisal of your appearance." We expected them to say, "Lord, you're unattractive." Instead they started their assessment with, no lie, "You look like you're here for work."

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