The South Beach Wine & Food Festival will enter its 13th year when it kicks off this Thursday, February 20. Termed "spring break for chefs" by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, the event attracts culinary A-listers and some 60,000 fans to Miami Beach for a weekend of parties, dinners, and drinking in the sun. But all of this play requires a year of planning and attention to detail. It takes a team of experts and scores of workers, all led by festival founder and organizer Lee Brian Schrager. It is Schrager who dreams up each new dinner and seminar.
This year's fest, which runs through Sunday, February 23, boasts more than 70 seminars, parties, and dinners -- up from about 50 events last year. Considering the fact that many events overlap, it would take someone with a Star Trek-style teleportation device to attend all of them. So which to choose? Here, Schrager describes the not-to-be missed events:
Botran's Medianoches & Mixology presented by Smithfield at Wynwood Walls hosted by Anne Burrell and Emilio Estefan. Friday, February 21, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Wynwood Walls, 2520 NW Second Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $95.
"Automatically, what comes to mind is Medianoches & Mixology. It's a walk-around event held at Wynwood Walls, which is a gorgeous setting off the beach in midtown Miami. The night will feature takes on Miami's classic Cuban sandwich, featuring some of our best local chefs. And, of course, nothing goes better with a Cuban sandwich than rum. Botran's three different rums will be featured in a number of specialty cocktails. Anne Burrell and Emilio Estefan, who is Miami royalty, will host the event and announce the chef who made the best sandwich, while a live Afro-beat band sets the mood. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Sammy's Beach Bar Rum and Cabo Wabo Tequila pre-sent Emeril Lagasse and Sammy Hagar's Rockin' Beach Party sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce. Saturday, February 22, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. beachside at the Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., -Miami Beach. Tickets cost $95.
"Sammy Hagar is the classic rocker, and we're really excited he'll be performing at this late-night party. Emeril Lagasse will be there to get the crowd going, and if he needs help, Sammy's great rum and tequila will be flowing freely. Versailles, which is one of Miami's most iconic restaurants, is celebrating 50 years in business and the release of a new cookbook by Ana Quincoces, so they'll be serving some of their best bites. Again, it's an event that really shows off Miami's cultural and party sides."
Best of The Munchies: People's Choice Food Awards presented by PepsiCo hosted by Andrew Zimmern. Sunday, February 23, from 6 to 9 p.m. beachside at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $85.
"The Best of the Munchies is a very special event. Andrew Zimmern is the lead panel expert for the Munchie Awards, which allow people to vote for their favorite foods and restaurants, and he's very passionate about this project. This event allows you to try out past award winners from every category, like best pizza and best Cuban sandwich. So you're literally eating the finest food in America."
Moët Hennessy's The Q presented by Creekstone Farms sponsored by MIAMI magazine hosted by Michael Symon featuring the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models. Thursday, February 20, from 7 to 10 p.m. beachside at the Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $300.
"This is the event that put us on the map. This year, it's being hosted by Michael Symon and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models. It's going to be really exciting, because even we won't know which models will be appearing until the week of the festival. But it's also the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the SI Swimsuit Edition, so we also know heritage models from past years will be making a surprise appearance."
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Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar: Fried & True: A Fried Chicken Seminar hosted by Lee Brian Schrager, Adeena Sussman, and Mark Oldman. Sunday, February 23, from 11 a.m. to noon at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $85.
"This is the first seminar I'm actually participating in. It's a celebration of my book Fried and True, which comes out in the spring. I'll be making five of my favorite fried chicken recipes alongside Adeena Sussman and Mark Oldman. I'm really excited about this one. Fried chicken for breakfast on a Sunday morning. What could be better?"