Each year, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival takes over South Florida with a seemingly endless roster of parties, seminars, and dinners.
The festival's crown jewel is the Grand Tasting Village, where a massive stretch of sand on South Beach is turned into a theme park of food and drinks where hundreds of wineries, spirits companies, and restaurants serve thousands of happy patrons. Add to the mix dozens of celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri, Robert Irvine, and Anne Burrell. Sprinkle in nonstop music at the David Grutman Experience and you have one hell of a weekend.
Of course, all of that consumption and excitement can be overwhelming. Juggling a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other while taking a selfie is a skill in itself.
At these times, it's best to turn to the pros for advice. Thankfully, Alex Guarnaschelli, David Grutman, and Geoffrey Zakarian are happy to impart their advice on where to go and what to drink at the GTV — and even how to best share your memories on social media.
Geoffrey Zakarian. Geoffrey Zakarian is a busy man. The Chopped judge, cookbook author, chef/partner of several restaurants — including Point Royal at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood — and Grand Tasting Village veteran says there's no way one human can taste every single wine poured at the GTV. "Do your homework and be strategic." That means foregoing a wine you're familiar with in favor of exploring rare vintages or wines from vineyards that intrigue you.
The dashing chef says the best way to meet your favorite Food Network celebrity is at one of the book signings directly following the cooking demos. The chefs happily personalize books and smile for photos. "We love our fans, and we are very patient," Zakarian says.
Finally, partying all day in the sun can get to you. That's OK, he says. "There is no such thing as drinking without some regret. However, drinking one glass of water per glass of wine and one Motrin will dull the pain. Most of all, have fun."
Alex Guarnaschelli. She's the best friend you wish you had. Smart and sassy, Alex Guarnaschelli is the executive chef at New York City's Butter; a favorite guest on shows such as Good Morning America, Today, and Late Night With Seth Meyers; and a regular judge on Food Network's Chopped. She's performed a one-woman show in New York and entertains her 524,000 Instagram followers through hilarious and relatable stories on raising her tween daughter, who's a foodie in her own right.
Guarnaschelli says she never hits the Grand Tasting Village without a hat to protect herself from South Beach's piercing rays. She also sips plenty of cold water. "It offsets all the salt and wine intake." Guarnaschelli plans her free time at the GTV in advance. "I read the list of booths and earmark and map the ones I want to see. Sometimes it takes two trips to see everything. I will do one that focuses more on drinking and another on eating."
In the end, however, it seems the Food Network celebrity has a serious case of FOMO when it comes to the festival. "If I'm Zen that day, I may meditate and do some yoga, eat a great breakfast, and chill on the beach beforehand. OK... truth? I try to see it all and miss nothing."
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David Grutman. When he's not curating playlists at the David Grutman Experience, the nightlife mogul and restaurateur likes to walk around the Grand Tasting Village. He shares everything — from the food he eats to the people he meets — with nearly a half-million followers on Instagram. His advice on how to take the perfect picture: "Be authentic. Don't take forever to edit your video or photo, because you'll miss the moment. Just post what you want and have fun with it." Also, don't count down '3, 2, 1,' with your subjects. "It's just not necessary, and you get goofy pictures."
He suggests incorporating video into your social media posts, especially when visiting the David Grutman Experience. "The music is going to be sick, so make sure you don't miss it." He also suggests capturing the full scene. "No other food festival takes place on the most amazing beach in the world, so show off South Beach and all its beauty."
Finally, if you see your favorite celebrities at the festival, including the nightlife king himself, approach them nicely for a picture. "Stay calm, be cool, and, if you're going to photo-bomb them, try not getting in trouble."
Grand Tasting Village. Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24, at 13th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $191.25 to $275; a "3-6 on Ocean Drive" ticket, good for Sunday admission from 3 to 5 p.m., costs $100 via sobewff.org.