One of the hottest things right now, according to Lee Schrager, is mixology -- the skill of blending cocktails with a focus on quality ingredients and innovative flavor combinations. "There's so much emphasis on cocktails right now," he says.
To reflect what he calls the "big explosion of mixology," the South Beach Wine & Food Festival will stage a cocktail event at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden featuring My Ceviche -- Sam Gorenstein's small joint for fresh local seafood -- and Bar Lab, a beverage-consulting service founded by bar chefs Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, who catapulted into Miami mixology stardom with their popular pop-up bar the Broken Shaker. This fall, the bar will resurface permanently at the Freehand Miami Beach with an adjacent full-service restaurant.
The festival isn't solely focused on the latest trends, though. In fact, the tribute dinner is dedicated to honoring some of the most respected figures in the industry. For 2013, the annual event will honor celebrity chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa. Previous honorees have included Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse.
As for the possibility of a second volume of the festival's cookbook, which was released in 2010, Schrager says, "Once was enough. It was an incredible amount of work and incredibly rewarding, but maybe again in the 20th year."
Still, he has favorites among the 100 recipes: Pierre Hermé's chocolate coconut cake and Martha Stewart's lobster roll.
But Schrager doesn't do much cooking at home in Miami. Instead, he typically grills and bakes during his summers on Long Island -- where he gets a kick out of visiting farm stands for local produce.
When in Miami, the festival's director enjoys celebrating the area he has called home for more than 18 years, the Design District. "I love what's happening here," he says. He then follows with a list of his top picks in the area: Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Michy's, Red Light Little River, and Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. A list like that shows he has much more than vision. Schrager has taste too.