For more on the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, check out New Times' Taste guide, hitting newsstands Thursday, February 21.
A look at the full events lineup of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival can be dizzying. There are more celebrity chefs than you can shake a ladle at and more soigné food and drink than anyone should consume in a lifetime.
Despite the gauntlet of events, there are a handful of parties that stand out. They're the ones locals and people in the know want to attend. For chefs, events such as the Q, Diamond Dishes, and Best of the Best can be a step on the road to culinary stardom.
Who knows what fortunes defeating three-time Burger Bash winner and Iron Chef Michael Symon would bring. Patience, young grasshopper, patience.
Paula Deen, mother to millions and festival royalty, says moderation is key. She has dropped more than 40 pounds since news broke of her health issues, including diabetes. Sure, the festival is a time to indulge, but carefully, she says. You want to be at the parties where you can rub shoulders with celebs and top chefs, the ones everyone comes back for year after year.
Moët Hennessy's the Q, hosted by Paula Deen and Sons, presented by Omaha Steaks, sponsored by Miami Magazine
7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, February 21
Beachside at the Delano Hotel
1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
This is a Deen family operation. Paula and her two sons, Jamie and Bobby, will host 40, yes 40, of the nation's top barbecue chefs. It'll be held right on the beach, same as its predecessor, the BubbleQ. If head-to-tail enthusiast Ben Ford's pig-face poutine with chicharrones peanut butter cups don't woo you, the soft lapping of the waves on the shore will. Barbecue's popularity around the world has created countless obsessive pit masters, each with his or her own rules and secret tricks. Barbecue is also a communal dish, something meant to be savored and shared. Sometimes the best part is seeing who ends the meal with the most sauce on their face and hands. "I love having the family over on Sunday for a grand barbecue," matriarch Paula says. These days, she says, she and the family are also cutting back on the heavy stuff. "Lots of chicken and fish... lots more veggies -- those get grilled as well." Don't fret, though. The Q will more than sate your cravings for saucy, sweet, smoky, and fried.
Fontainebleau Miami Beach presents Wine Spectator's Best of the Best, sponsored by Bank of America
7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, February 22
4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Even the most seasoned amateur sommeliers spend weeks preparing their palates for Best of the Best. Dozens of wineries and winemakers from around the world converge on the iconic Fontainebleau hotel for swirling, tasting, and bouquet-guessing competitions. If all else fails, simply furrow your brow, appear to think deeply, and quietly inquire as to what kind of wood the wine was aged in. For chefs, the task is even more difficult. Trying to create a dish that can pair well with dozens of wines seems an impossible task. The lineup offers a rich menu: plenty of slow-cooked beef, foie gras, and pork belly. Many vendors attempt to separate themselves by adding luxe items. Michael Mina, whose Mina Group operates 18 restaurants including Bourbon Steak in Aventura, will serve short ribs, celery root, and winter truffles.
Amstel Light Burger Bash, presented by Pat Lafrieda Meats, hosted by Rachael Ray
7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, February 22
1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach
Food trends come and go, but "burgers are never a trend," Iron Chef and Burger Bash winner Michael Symon says. "They are something you ate your whole life, something that you remember from childhood." About that gourmet burger trend? Sounds like it's an offshoot of a nationwide obsession with a simple ground beef patty on a split bun. Yet the bites at Burger Bash are anything but simple. Sure, it's a friendly competition, but there must be some tirades behind closed kitchen doors about ending Symon's three-year reign. Maybe it's the people at Shake Shack or Iron Chef's Masaharu Morimoto. We don't know, we're not accusing anyone, but we know it's a coveted crown. Symon's latest win came courtesy of a pork-and-bacon patty topped with pulled pork and a side of pork cracklings. It was tough competition for any beef burger, even so-called Kobe beef burgers with genetic ties to the famous Japanese cows.
Creekstone Farms presents Delta Diamond Dishes: A League of Their Own
7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, February 23
On the field at Marlins Park
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It's a strange world. Though women have prepared most of the food for centuries, they are poorly represented in the restaurant world's upper echelons. "I would rather be known as a good chef rather than a good female chef," says Stephanie Izard, winner of Top Chef's fourth season and owner of Chicago eateries Girl & the Goat and Little Goat. "The problem will always be the physical demand and just being able to be in an environment where some offensive thing might go on. Those things are never going to change." Diamond Dishes: A League of Their Own celebrates women at the peak of the food industry with a roster that includes Michy's Michelle Bernstein, the Spotted Pig's April Bloomfield, and Beast's Naomi Pomeroy. It'll all take place on the infield at Marlins Park. Feel free to run the bases to burn a few calories between bites. Andrea Robinson, one of the world's 18 female master sommeliers, will handle the libations. Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward Hurricane Sandy victims through the Mayor's Fund for New York City Hurricane Relief and the Food Bank for New York City.