The Miami Marlins new ballpark was the venue for what had to have been the most striking (pun intended) event of the 2012 South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
The moment guests stepped out of the elevator onto the field level Diamond Club area for cocktails and appetizers, cameras flashed and jaws dropped. The ballpark is stunning. With a retractable roof, pastel neon lighting, and clean lines, it's a gorgeous and inspired backdrop for a reception.
Appetizers straight out of the cookbook Diamond Dishes, by Julie Loria, wife of Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria were served including Hanley Ramirez's tostones and empanadas and Alex Rodriguez's kale chips, as a band played. Though the food and drinks were lovely, all eyes were glued to the field, where chefs were making the final touches on their serving stations, placed on the four bases of the brand new ballpark.
Then, it was time for guests to be escorted onto the field to eat their way around the bases in a progressive dinner served by some of the biggest names in the Miami restaurant world.
Michelle Bernstein (Michy's, Sra. Martinez) was at first base, serving jamon and manchego croquetas with fig marmalade, oxtail stew over trophie pasta, an open faced fried quail sandwich, and octopus and potato salad.
A bearded Scott Conant (Scarpetta) welcomed diners to second base, where creamy polenta with fricasesee of wild mushrooms, braised short ribs, and burrata were enjoyed by diners.
Laurent Tourondel (BLT Steak) took the baseball theme and elevated some traditional ballpark food to a higher level with Kobe beef pigs in a blanket, black pepper and comte popovers, veal and pork meatballs, and mustard and horseradish crusted rib roast.
Sliding into home, guests were treated to sophisticated takes on childhood favorites, as Hedy Goldsmith (Michael's Genuine Food & Drink) and crew browned custom-made peanut butter s'mores with a propane torch and served lemon meringue pie in mason jars.
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Martha Stewart and Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) stopped by to enjoy the evening. Stewart, clearly a baseball fan, took photos of players and spent time in the dugout, which was turned into a VIP lounge for the evening.
The true star of the evening was the stadium itself, with people taking turns to pose at home plate, see themselves on the Jumbotron, and fantasize about childhood dreams of playing in the majors.
Though lines were a little long to get food from each station (which could be easily fixed by staggering the number of people on the field during the cocktail hour), the Diamond Dishes event was a home run.