South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Lee Schrager on SOBEWFF 2015: Meatopia, Tiki Cocktails, and the Cronut King

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival returns to the sands of South Beach February 19 through 22, 2015, and this time, expect to choose from more then 75 dinners, tastings, seminars, and parties over the four-day span.

The official SOBEWFF website goes live today, featuring the entire celebrity-filled and wine-soaked roster of events.

Since the sheer magnitude of it all is mind-boggling, we enlisted the help of festival founder and director Lee Brian Schrager, who gave us the intel on the best new events, the celebrities appearing, and what changes have been made for 2015.

See also: SOBEWFF: The Top Ten Unforgettable Moments From the Festival

According to Schrager, the festival kicks off with a completely new event Thursday, February 19. Ronzoni Pasta's 100th Anniversary Seaside Spaghetti Soiree, sponsored by Miami magazine, will feature wife-and-husband duo Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos. "We created the event for the sponsor. It's a celebration of Italian-American cuisine. And who doesn't love Italian food?"

Schrager said there will be more intimate dinner experiences than ever before, as celebrity chefs pair with South Florida's best toques at some of the most exciting restaurants and venues around town. "The lineup is spectacular for these small, boutique dinners," Schrager says.

Some of the soirees include Anita Lo and Morimoto teaming up; Ben Ford hosting a dinner at the Traymore; Debi Mazar and Scott Conant joining forces at Scarpetta; and, for the first time, Michael Voltaggio heading to Miami to host a dinner at MC Kitchen.

Other not-to-be-missed events include a poolside paella party hosted by José Andrés, a rooftop ice-cream-and-chocolate party with Candace Nelson of the Beverly Hills-based Sprinkles Cupcakes, and Bobby Flay's Caribbean jerk party.

Oh, and did we mention Emeril Lagasse will host a celebration of tiki culture cocktails? Or that cronut inventor Dominique Ansel will take his insanely inventive creations to South Beach for a dessert-themed party?

This year's festival will also see some big changes. The first is the total revamp of the Q. The barbecue-centric party is now called "Meatopia: The Q Revolution," presented by Creekstone Farms, hosted by Guy Fieri, and curated by Josh Ozersky. According to the Meatopia website, the event, to be held Saturday, February 21, features the "majesty and magic of slow-roasted whole animals." Whole hogs, lamb, and an entire steer will be cooked by some of the best chefs in the business. Spirits from the Jim Beam portfolio will be served, so expect plenty of bourbon to go with your 1,000-pound hunk of beef. The SOBEWFF boss says, "Ultimately, it's a barbecue event, but taking it to the next level. I love the event, and I'm excited that Guy is hosting." In keeping with the past few years' successes at incorporating a major musical act into the festival, Schrager promises a "big-name band" at Meatopia to be announced at a later date.

The Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village, featuring MasterCard Grand Tasting Tents and kitchen culinary demonstrations, will also get an update. The festival director says improving the Grand Tasting Village is his "big focus this year."

Schrager admits that in the past few years, "we've lost the grandness in the Grand Tasting Village, and I want to reclaim that. We're retooling it this year and bringing the 'grand' back into Grand Tasting. We're freshening it up but not losing the spirit of the event."

This year's additions to the giant village of food and drink include live music, extended hours for the tasting tents to reflect the same hours as the demonstration village, and more places to take a break from the action, including lounge areas and shaded seating.

In addition, the GTV will feature more local chefs from across South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale. The food at the tasting tents will be broken up into "neighborhoods," with each area represented by a culinary captain. Schrager also promises the best lineup of big-name chefs ever to appear at the tents.

Of course, tried-and-true favorite parties and celebrities will return. Rachael Ray will be the queen of the burger at the Amstel Light Burger Bash, Trisha Yearwood will host another brunch, and Best of the Best will serve upscale bites at the Fontainebleau. Celebrities slated to appear include Martha Stewart, Michael Symon, Carla Hall, and Paula Deen.

As always, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival benefits the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University. Check out the entire lineup at Tickets go on sale to the general public Monday, October 20, but MasterCard cardholders can snag the best events during the special presale beginning Monday, October 6, at 9 a.m.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss

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