The Grand Tasting Village at SOBEWFF is a veritable bacchanal of wine, spirits, and food. It spans three blocks of pristine beach along Ocean Drive. That's about the length of four NFL fields.
After you enter the teeming complex of tents, there's much to do. Catch Food Network celebrities such as Geoffrey Zakarian and Bobby Flay sharing cooking tips. Listen to insider chatter among the festival's heavy-hitters. Admire Snoop Dogg's DJing prowess.
And don't forget about the abundance of delicious bites from 54 featured restaurants from all over South Florida. Each of the 16 neighborhoods in this village is led by a culinary captain — a seasoned chef who champions a locale, be it Little Havana or South Beach.
To navigate the Grand Tasting Village, it's best to get tips from an insider. So New Times contacted a few of the culinary captains. They were eager to offer strategies to make the most of your day and to share their craziest memories from festivals past.
Adrianne Calvo — Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar, Miami
Craziest memory: My first experience at the festival was when I was 25 years old. It was beautifully overwhelming, the first time my food was on such a broad platform and so well received by people from all walks of life. I remember realizing that the food world was outrageous and the excitement for it was contagious.
Pro tip: Research your favorite chefs and restaurants, and hit those first. Pace yourself. And wear comfortable shoes!
Adrienne Grenier — 3030 Ocean, Fort Lauderdale
Craziest memory: I couldn't tell you the craziest thing I've ever seen at Grand Tasting Village, but it is definitely a party. It is the event to eat and drink well and cut loose.
Pro tip: Party all you want, but pace yourself. It's a long day, and there's lots to sample. But don't forget the water, or the party could end a lot sooner than you'd like.
Santiago Gomez de la Fuente — Cantina La Veinte, Miami
Craziest memory: Two years ago, we had lines of people waiting to try our soft-shell tacos. At one point, there were more than 200 people queued up. It was crazy.
Pro tip: Look around at all the amazing food options, and then go for the one you like most.
Craziest memory: It was in 2012 when we participated for the first time with Katsuya. I remember that at noon, just an hour after having opened the doors, people would not stop coming to the station for more food! That did not stop until the end.
Pro tip: Arrive early. Come very hungry and very thirsty! It is a unique event with many things to do. Be ready!
Brian Mullins — Ms. Cheezious, Miami
Craziest memory: One year, a guest got down on one knee and proposed to our grilled cheese.
Pro tip: Wear your stretchy pants — there's a lot of great food to sample.
Brian Nasajon — Beaker & Gray, Miami
Craziest memory: Moments before the festival's initial rush, my electric fryer completely shut down. The main ingredient in my dish was fried, so needless to say, I needed a fryer. I started scrambling around for a solution before all the people started to show! Finally, a close chef friend had an extra burner. I was able to find a pot, get the oil in, and get the show started right on time.
Pro tip: There is no such thing as too much food. When the craziness starts, it starts strong. Be overprepared.
Ruben Ruiz — Airport Café, Miami
Craziest memory: That has to be when Giada De Laurentiis recognized me from the show we did together in a vast crowd of demo watchers and called me out to introduce myself. What made it so special was that my mother was there with me, and she lit up like there was no tomorrow.
Pro tip: Take it slow in regards to both the food and booze. I know how exciting it can be, but you do not want to tap out early and miss some exciting bites and memories. Slow and steady wins the race.
Michael Saperstein — Rebel House, Fort Lauderdale
Craziest memory: Having one of my chef crushes, Giada De Laurentiis, come eat our food.
Pro tip: Start at the far end and work your way toward the entrance. That way, you can beat the lines.
Goya Foods' Grand Tasting Village
Featuring MasterCard Grand Tasting Tents and KitchenAid Culinary Demonstrations. Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 25, and Sunday, February 26, at the Grand Tasting Village, 13th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $225 each day. MasterCard Demo Pass tickets cost $275 each day. A special "3-5 p.m. on Ocean Drive" ticket — good for admission Sunday, February 26, from 3 to 5 p.m. — costs $100.
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