Martha Stewart Talks SoBeWFF, Love of Florida, and Vegetarian Meals

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

Martha Stewart is the woman who does it all. Just reading her list of accomplishments -- author of 77 books, host of an Emmy-winning television show, and founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia -- is enough to exhaust the average person. The "domestic diva" shows no signs of slowing down.

She's just released Meatless, a cookbook filled with 200 vegetarian recipes from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living, and is serving double duty at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

On Saturday, February 23, at 11:15 a.m., Stewart will be conducting a demo at the Grand Tasting Village, showcasing a vegetarian meal from her new book. Later that day, Stewart will trade in her apron for evening attire when she serves as mistress of ceremonies at the annual Tribute Dinner honoring Nobu Matsuhisa and Christophe Navarre at the Loews Hotel on Miami Beach. In addition to her "official" role at the festival, look for Stewart at the various other SoBe Fest events during the weekend. In past years, she's been spotted at Burger Bash and Diamond Dishes, enjoying the food and chatting with fellow chefs.

We spoke with Stewart about her part in the festival and her plans for the weekend.

New Times: Your demo at this year's Grand Tasting Village will feature a vegetarian dish from your new book, Meatless. Some chefs say a meatless meal is not worth cooking -- or eating. Do you agree?
Martha Stewart: I disagree with chefs who say you can't have a full vegetarian meal, because there are so many recipes that offer a balanced dish despite the fact that there's no meat. I'm not 100 percent vegetarian, but there are many, many days I don't eat meat. I have a vegetarian daughter and there's no meat at all in her household of five. They're all thriving. I have many friends who are vegetarian; some are vegan. I'm very happy with eating sushi one night a week and eating a lot of vegetables. I usually eat fish rather than meat.

Do you think that the average American would benefit from cutting back on meat intake and eating a few vegetarian meals per week?
I really think it has to do with the environment, having a more sustainable lifestyle, a longer life. It has to do with what we shouldn't be eating as much as what we do.

You're also the mistress of ceremonies at this year's Tribute Dinner, which is quite an honor. Speaking of honor, you're a past honoree. How does it feel to honor Nobu Matsuhisa and Christophe Navarre this year?
I'm so excited. Nobu asked for me. We've been friends for a very, very long time. I even traveled to Japan with him once and we toured the fish markets together and spent some good times in Tokyo. Wherever there's a Nobu, I go. I really feel that Nobu has changed the way Americans consume Japanese food. I think he did that single-handedly and opened the way for all other Japanese chefs and restaurants all over the world, actually.

How do you plan to honor him?
I'm writing my talk right now. I have a lot to say about Nobu and his phenomenal career. And I requested that we have a lot of Japanese chefs preparing food for Nobu and I think that's working out, in addition to a few of the other top, top chefs that are friends of his.
I was honored several years ago, and I try to support the festival because it really brings together good chefs, good food, and great talk in one place. Everyone is so brilliant and happy and up at this festival, so I try to see as many people as possible. We're just trying to figure out my schedule, so I don't know where I'll be yet.

Besides the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, you travel to South Florida quite frequently. What are some of your favorite places?
I love Florida. I think I've eaten in most restaurants in Miami, and the food was very good in almost every one. I've also been to Palm Beach quite a bit, and I was really happy in the Keys. One outstanding restaurant was called Chef Michael's in Islamorada, which was really tasty. You could bring your own fresh catch and you could sit at the bar. It was very pleasant.

In Miami, I love the Soho House and the Fontainebleau. I usually stay at one or the other. I also stay at the Setai. The restaurants are quite spectacular. I go everywhere from the Cuban coffee shop to the newest restaurant.

You're an accomplished author, television personality, and businesswoman. You wear many, many hats, but which one is your love, the one closest to your heart?
I think that writing is my favorite thing. It's authorship. I also love coming up with new entrepreneurial ideas.

Are you really a major do-it-yourselfer? When you blog or tweet about cooking for a party or gardening at the house -- do you really still do all that yourself?
Oh yeah. And I take many, many of the pictures myself.

So you run an extremely large enterprise and still cook and craft -- yet most people can't even heat up a can of soup at the end of the day. How do you do it?
You just have to be awfully organized. I also have help. For instance, Tuesday and Wednesday I'm going to be at my house in Maine for a photo shoot. There's not very much open in Maine right now, so I ordered the makings for a fabulous Bolognese sauce, some great pastas, and some great Parmesan cheese. So I'll make it for everyone who's staying at the house for the shoot. I don't care what time I stay up until. But I didn't have to go to the store. That helps. If you're an organized shopper, you can do most of your shopping by the week instead of by the day. That saves a lot of time.

You've been a familiar face on television, we've read your books, we listen to you on the radio. We feel as though we know you, but tell us one thing we probably never would have guessed about you.
One of my favorite things to do is work in the greenhouse at night, grooming and trimming my plants. That's the only time I can do that. But it's a very relaxing and soothing thing to do. To get into those greenhouses and pay attention to each and every one of the hundreds of plants that are in there, and I sort of know them all by plant. I don't know their names, but I know them.

Names? Like plant names, or do you name them -- like Sally and Joe?
No, no, no, no, no, no... I name my apples.

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