Grand Tasting Village: How to Navigate the SoBeWFF Big Event

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For more on the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, check out New Times' Taste guide, hitting newsstands Thursday, February 21.

The Whole Foods Grand Tasting Village is like the open bar at a wedding reception. It's where everyone wants to be. And when 70,000 foodies gather en masse, you can bet your monthly food budget there'll be plenty of action.

One previous year, for example, we saw Paula Deen ride Robert Irvine like a bucking bronco. And there have been plenty of other unforgettable, Instagram-worthy, LOL-inducing moments over the years. Plus, the food is unforgettable.

To help you navigate the sea of eats, drinks, and slightly inebriated celebrity chefs, New Times has compiled a list of tips. Additional wisdom was provided by Devonie Nicholas, the festival's marketing and public relations director.

Drink water. There will be lots and lots and lots of booze on hand. Wine, beer, spirits -- and not the cheap stuff. So hydrate like hell to keep up. One drink, one bottle of water. Repeat all day. You don't want to crash and burn too early, or you'll be kicking yourself about everything you missed. And if the rest of this mild winter is any indication, it's likely to be steamy out there.

Skip the heels. Stilettos on sand are not an option. And besides, who wants to teeter around while downing cocktails all day? Not smart, ladies. In this scenario, comfort wins over fashion. Or at the very least, pack some foldable flats.

Bring a backpack. Be sure to carry a large empty bag. Backpacks are best (despite their general lack of fashion appeal). Trust us, you'll need your hands free to snag the massive quantities of swag -- and to eat and drink yourself into a stupor, natch. It's not easy to balance a glass of wine, a plate of snacks, an iPhone, and a handful of gratis goodies.

Plan ahead. If there's a certain chef demonstration you're hell-bent on seeing, stake out a seat early. There's nothing worse than the painful regret of missing Robert Irvine strip off his shirt or Anthony Bourdain curse out a do-gooder.

Eat everything. Put on your adventuresome-eater hat for a day or two, and skip the gluten-free/no-dairy/low-sodium-detox jazz. It's not every day you get to dive mouth-first into such a smorgasbord.

Be celeb-ready. Stock a Sharpie (for autographs), a camera (or at least a phone charger so your smartphone doesn't die at the worst possible moment), and a list of conversation starters in case you get a chance to banter with your favorite chef. You don't want to sound like an ignorant ass when face-to-face with Martha Stewart.

Know your hashtags. In the age of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, half the fun of #SoBeWFF is posting pictures of epic edibles to the jealous, hungry hordes on social media. If you're ready with assorted hashtags, you won't have to waste time fumbling with your smartphone when you could be procuring another cocktail.

Oh, and this year, New Times' food blog, Short Order, is making the Grand Tasting Village even more interactive. Attendees will able to vote for their favorite dishes via text. The winner will receive the first annual "Short Order's Best Bite on the Beach" award. So don't forget to remember which ones you liked best.

Enjoy your epic eating adventures. We'll see you out there, brave soldiers.

The Grand Tasting Village takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. February 23 and 24 at 13th Street and Ocean Drive. Tickets cost $225 per person.

Follow Short Order on Facebook, on Twitter @Short_Order, and Instagram @ShortOrder.

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