The 2011 South Beach Wine & Food Festival didn't officially start until this morning, but Food Network magazine snuck in a star-studded soiree last night at Scarpetta that really wowed fans. Appearances by Scott Conant, Sunny Anderson, Anne Burrell, and Melissa D'Arabian were scheduled, but Wylie Dufresne and Geoffrey Zakarian were also spotted shuffling their way through the crowd.
We asked a few of the celebs what they were looking forward to most this week (aside from their headlining gigs) and these were their responses:
Melissa D'Arabian: "I'm excited about the Burger Bash. I can eat a quantity of burgers that's insane. And I'm really curious to see if Michael Symon holds his title. Michael Symon and Scott Conant--and Bobby Flay--I have the 'safe mom' version of a crush on all three of them."
Scott Conant: "Best of the Best Friday night. It's a lot of fun."
Anne Burrell: "Every year what I look forward to most is the camaraderie of the chefs that are here."
Maile Carpenter: "Best of the Best. My husband is participating in it." [Editor's note: After putting the pieces together, we discovered her hubby is none other than Dufresne, molecular gastronomy god and chef/owner of Manhattan's wd-50.]
Director of the Miami Culinary Institute, John Richards, chatted with Dufresne who, sadly, said he has no immediate plans to set up shop in Miami. However, he is planning to tease fans with his interpretation of a crab roll at Best of the Best.
Geoffrey Zakarian and his wife, Margaret, mingled with Food Network fans and chatted up the chefs.
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The theme of the night was Italian, coinciding with the magazine's current issue.
Co-sponsors included Sierra Mist, a main ingredient in the official cocktail of the night: Everglades. This sweet sipper also featured mint, DonQ rum, and apple puree.
Barilla pasta starred in three dishes: fettuccine with peas and proscuitto, fusilli with tomato and basil, and rigatoni with mixed seafood. Sadly, the offerings weren't dynamic. However the steak tartare crostini, yellowtail with marinated onions, and polenta with truffled mushroom hors d'oeuvres were undeniable crowd-pleasers.