The Loews Miami Beach Hotel's ballroom was filled with the good smells of Southern home cookin' yesterday at the annual Paula Deen Sunday Brunch. The room's crystal chandelier glistened as guests took their seats (most welcome after a weekend spent trying to juggle a plate and wine glass while standing up).
A blues band played soulful tunes, interrupted only by the popping of champagne corks and laughter of Deen fans, most of whom were decked out in their Sunday brunch best. The Food Network star, who's been getting quite a bit of negative press since her diabetes announcement, was surrounded by fans at the sold out brunch, who came to eat the rich, decadent foods Deen is known for.
Although Deen herself didn't present any dishes from her flagship Savannah restaurant, The Lady and Sons, there were plenty of other famous chefs who provided modern takes on home style favorites.
Chefs Hugh Acheson (Five and Ten), Ben Ford (Ford's Filling Station),
Cindy Hutson (Ortanique on the Mile) and others manned their tables,
talking with guests, smiling for photos, and dishing out dishes like
hominy stew, smoked trout, and short ribs with quail eggs.
Paula Deen, lovely in a green and blue
tunic. After saying a few words to her fans, Deen was about to be led
away by some burly bodyguards, when she was surrounded by a group of
superfans. The Food Network star stayed to take photos with each one, sometimes stopping
for a hug and private whisper.
The food was rich, buttery, and (at times) sinful -- like the "loaded"
shellfish chowder from Ed's Chowder House in New York. The Deen-worthy
chowder was filled with scallops, crab swimming in a sea of rich cream
Brothers Michael and Patrick Sheerin of Chicago's Trenchermen, tempt you with their short rib blood sausage with popcorn grits.
Cindy Hutson presented a beautiful shredded short rib over bacon cheddar bread pudding, topped with a quail egg.
The Loews Miami Beach Hotel turned out giant skillets of fried chicken and waffles, with plenty of real maple syrup for drizzling.
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The smoked trout rillettes with pickled radish salad by Ben Ford of Ford's Filling Station in Los Angeles was a crowd pleaser.