The South Beach Wine & Food Festival arrives February 19 through 22 with more than 75 events, tastings, parties, seminars, and dinners. The bash, which benefits Florida International University's dining and tourism programs, brings thousands of fans and celebrity chefs to Miami.
The Grand Tasting Village is the festival's culinary wonderland. To celebrate its 14-year run, as well as Miami's ever-growing restaurant scene, organizer Lee Brian Schrager has called upon the city's top toques to help the hordes navigate the shaded white sands. "We've invited fellow chefs from restaurants as far north as Palm Beach and far south as the Keys," Schrager says. "Each one will be the leader of their pack."
Not quite sure which neighborhood to check out first? To help you make the best choices, New Times asked the head honchos from each district what they plan to make and why their hood is best.
Restaurant: Shikany (now closed)
Dish: "Crispy Kumamoto oyster Wagyu tenderloin tartare slider made from cayenne apple chutney, pickled mung bean, red onion relish, shiso chili oil powder, and white truffle sesame aioli."
Why the best 'hood?: "I wouldn't say we're the best dining neighborhood, but we're starting to get there; we're definitely the most up-and-coming. It's similar to an area like the Meatpacking District in New York that's just growing and going nowhere but up."
Dish: "I'll be combining my style of paying respects to classics using Floridian products like Key West local pink shrimp with whipped key lime and throwing a twist like green curry and nam pla butterscotch to help balance out the coconut."
Why the best 'hood?: "As a newcomer to Wynwood, it means a lot to represent what we want to bring to the neighborhood. It's an artistic forward-from-scratch area, and that's the way we're going to be doing it at Alter and at the festival. People truly believe in what they're doing over here, and I'm just glad to be a part of that."
Restaurant: Basil Park
Neighborhood: Sunny Isles Beach
Dish: "We're going to do one of our signature dishes that customers really seem to enjoy: a pan-roasted scallop with raw corn salad and purée of butternut squash."
Why the best 'hood?: "I don't know if we've got the best hood or not; that's a good question. We have a lot of high-end and good restaurants coming up in the area, like Corsair that just opened at Turnberry Isle. If you look at Sunny Isles ten years ago, it was nothing of what it is now. North Miami is really starting to explode and be a little more cutting-edge than ever before."
Restaurant: Edge Steak & Bar
Dish: "I wanted to do a take on kielbasa that I've made lately and turns out really good, but with lamb of course. It'll be in a little soft bun with some jalapeño mint jelly -- a play on classic flavor on where I'm from [Australia] but with a Miami steak-house sort of twist on it."
Why the best 'hood?: "It makes me superproud because I moved to Miami just over three years, and back then Brickell was just starting to emerge. But now it's really coming into its own, so being able to represent and being the guy in this area makes me really proud. We're not just a financial district but also have culinary flavors and restaurants coming here that are really making their mark. You don't have to go to the Beach to get a good meal, although there are awesome places there, don't get me wrong."
Restaurant: Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Dish: "I figured it would be great to win the masses over with one of the Sugarcane favorites, so we're going to do our one-biter goat cheese croquetas."
Why the best 'hood? "Well, because we have Sugarcane. Just kidding! I think we're a pretty cool little area. Where else can you go get food and go to Target right after? You can get a cocktail after work or a full meal at your favorite neighborhood joint. We have that versatility."
Neighborhood: Fort Lauderdale
Dish: "I'm doing a creole conch stew with stone crab claw. I'm using lots of ingredients from South Florida, so I think it represents the area nicely."
Why the best 'hood?: "I wouldn't go out there and be that bold, personally. I think we're going to stand out because so many people think of South Florida and think of just Miami, but we're just 25 miles north and have a completely different culinary style and setting."
Neighborhood: Miami Beach
Dish: "We'll be poaching some local yellowfin tuna to make a tuna conserva with some grilled Zak the Baker bread, a little garnish of some fresh herbs, and a nice aioli."
Why the best 'hood?: "We're a real straightforward seafood restaurant that's a little bit off the beaten path and all about the locals, and I think Traymore has brought a lot of fresh seasonal flavor to the neighborhood. You see people out on the boardwalk talking about food on a daily basis. There's a community."
Restaurant: SushiSamba Coral Gables
Neighborhood: Coral Gables
Dish: "We really want to showcase the flavor profile of what Peru is all about, so we're doing veal heart anticuchos with chimichurri aioli and a couple of other exciting things I don't want to talk about just yet."
Why the best 'hood?: "A lot of emphasis is put on SoBe, but Coral Gables is the underdog in comparison to all these other well-known areas. For me it's a great way to showcase talents we have here on a larger and broader scale so that not just people in Miami but also people around the world can see what we have to offer. I want to open the eyes of the people in South Florida that Coral Gables is here to stay."
Restaurant: 3800 Ocean
Neighborhood: Palm Beach
Dish: "We get our scallops from New England, so we'll be replicating a dish we do at the restaurant to highlight the amazing seasonal product and putting a really great twist on it by pairing another local ingredient, calabaza, with a great vanilla rum butter and some crispy plantains to have that Floribbean touch."
Why the best 'hood?: "It's nice to have some representation from Palm Beach because it spans several counties. A lot of the chefs here in Palm Beach have great camaraderie, and I think we're going to show up in style. It's always fun to go head-to-head with all the big-name chefs in Miami and big names that are going down from the Food Network for a good cause."
Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village featuring MasterCard Grand Tasting Tents & KitchenAid Culinary Demonstrations: Saturday, February 21, and Sunday, February 22, from noon to 5 p.m. at 13th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $225.
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