Now that Super Bowl is over, we can concentrate on the next big event -- the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which opens February 23.
Like the big game, the SoBeWFF offers lots of opportunities to max out your credit card on parking, food, and booze. Tickets are expensive for the various parties and events that run through February 26, topping out at $500 for entry to the Tribute Dinner, honoring Charlie Trotter and Piero Antinori. Other high-profile events, such as the Burger Bash, are already sold out, meaning unless you've snagged tickets (or are willing to buy through a ticket agency, AKA scalper), you're out of luck. But we have some alternatives to the priciest (or sold-out) events.
Tribute Dinner honoring Charlie Trotter & Piero Antinori presented by Bank of America; Part of the New York Times Dinner Series
When: Saturday, February 25
This annual event pays tribute to a great chef and a great wine maker. The evening, hosted by Anthony Bourdain, is filled with high-wattage celebs in the world of food. Think of it as part Academy Awards, part Friar's Club roast. And maybe you've heard of some of the chefs cooking -- Emeril Lagasse, Wylie Defresne, Nathan Myhrvold, and Norman Van Aken (to name a few).
Cheap Alternative: Mac's Club Deuce
Five hundred bucks can still buy a lot in South Beach. We suggest skipping the party and heading to Mac's Club Deuce. At some point, a slightly inebriated Tony Bourdain will probably stumble in after the dinner -- possibly with some of his celebrity chef buddies in tow. Buy them a round (or three) with the $500 you would have spent at the stuffy dinner. Now you're instant buddies with Trotter, Myhrvold, and Bourdain instead of getting some table in the back of the room.
Moët Hennessy's The Q presented by Allen Brothers Steaks, sponsored by MIAMI magazine, hosted by Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri
When: Thursday, February 23
Price $300 ($400 VIP)
The Bubble Q is no more, having morphed into simply The Q. The party is basically the same, though. Walk into the big tent set up on the beach and drink lots of champagne while eating BBQ delights prepared by some great chefs including Michelle Bernstein, Scott Conant, Stephanie Izard, and Dewey Losasso. Emeril and Guy will also be pulling double duty, cooking and hosting the event at the same time.
Cheap Alternative: Pubbelly, The Q After Dark
If you're into ham and bubbly, then we suggest having a dinner at Pubbelly before heading over to The Q After Dark for some champers and cocktails. This Q after party allows you to experience all the excitement of drinking champagne out of a plastic glass on the sands of SoBe for only $100. Such a bargain!
Fontainebleau Miami Beach Presents Wine Spectator's Best of the Best Sponsored by Bank of America
When: Friday, February 24th
This glitzy party pairs some of the finest chefs with some of the world's best winemakers. Stroll each station where celebrity chef and winemaker will schmooze with you as you eat and drink your way into heaven. Heavy hitters of the culinary world are in attendance including Hugh Acheson, David Burke, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Scott Conant.
Cheap Alternative: Epicure Gourmet Market Presents Party Impossible hosted by Robert Irvine
Across town at the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage, Food Network celebrity (and sometime mode of transportation for Paula Deen) Robert Irvine is hosting Party Impossible. For $95, snack on catered deli, drink cocktails, and watch as Irvine performs a series of stunts which may (or may not) include cleaning lots of fish, making ice sculptures, breaking down meat, and general all-around craziness. Since Irvine is host of shows like Worst Cooks in America and Restaurant: Impossible, expect a fun vibe with plenty of craziness.
Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village
When: Saturday, February 25th & Sunday, February 26th
The heart of the SoBeWFF, you have to experience the extravaganza of gluttony that is the GTV at least once. Pay your $225 and wait in line for pours of wines and bites of food. Then pee in mobile toilets out in the hot sun. It's actually quite fun, but it's expensive and overwhelming. Plus, Saturday is sold out, already. So -- what do you do?
Cheap Alternative: Trade Day
Little known fact - one day before the tents are open to the public, they're open to trade. We suggest filling out an application for part-time work at the local liquor store STAT! Brush up on your knowledge of wines (hint: wines sold by the jug or box generally aren't considered "fine wine"), and enjoy a day at the "tents" before the masses.
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Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Allen Brothers Steaks and Diet Pepsi hosted by Rachael Ray
When: Friday, February 24th
Price: $225 (VIP $325) - SOLD OUT
Even if you wanted to buy tickets to this party which allows you to wait in line to eat sliders made by the hands of celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, Richard Blais, and Guy Fieri -- you can't! The event is sold out (though Ticketsnow.com is selling them for $450-500 each). Too bad you can't see Rachael Ray judging the battle of the burgers, or watch Michael Symon go for another win this year....or can you?
Cheap Alternative: The DiLido Beach Club at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach
The DiLido Beach Club is staying open late for your stalking and spying enjoyment. This outdoor beach bar sits directly across from the tents on the beach and The Ritz-Carlton is offering special burgers -- and telescopes for spying. Grab a cocktail, and spy on all the action from the comfort of your own al fresco table.