The South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Grand Tasting Village is, quite literally, a mini-city of gigantic white tents taking over several blocks of Miami Beach's sandy coastline.
Thousands of people flock to the GTV to swirl and sample hundreds of fine wines, sample the fare of over three dozen restaurants, and watch celebrity chefs demonstrate their culinary skills (and stand up comedy routines).
But the GTV village has so much more to offer. From gathering up some of the best free swag we've seen to partaking in fine libations from some of Miami's best mixologists, here are the top ten things to see and do (none of them wine-related).
10. Enjoy a Hard Cider
Walking around the GTV gets hot. You're in the sun and you need to cool off. Head for the Strongbow Cider display and allow one of these beauties to hook you up with a cider on the rocks. It's crisp, slightly bubbly apple goodness is just what you need to keep going.
9. Snag Organic Snacks
It's going to be a long day and you need some energy. Sure, there are tons of sugary items to give you a quick boost, but for long term energy, you're going to want some snack in your bag to keep that blood sugar even. Head over to Love With Food and score a snack pack filled with organic guilt-free goodies and squirrel them away for when that tummy starts rumbling.
8. Try Sammy Hagar's Red Head Rum Before Anyone Else in Miami
First there was Cabo Wabo tequila. Now here's Sammy's Beach Bar Rum. Seems as though Sammy Hagar just isn't content to be called a rock god -- he's got to be a rum maven, as well. That works for us, because his Red Head rum, flavored with macadamia nuts, fruits, and vegetables is seriously delicious. It's coming to a store near you, but you can have a first taste at the GTV.
7. Fresh Cocktails from Miami's Best Bartender
Allow Rob Ferrara, Miami's Best Bartender for 2013, to make you a custom cocktail made with VeeV Acai, fresh strawberries, and lime. Added bonus: the drink comes with its own wooden bracelet (we still wear ours from last year).
6. Get Good Karma
Setai's Philip Khandehrish wants to give you good karma. No, seriously. As in the Karma, a refreshing cocktail made with Suzaku sake, cucumber and Barenjager honey. Seriously soul satisfying.
5. Baby Yourself
Who doesn't love a cute little baby -- especially when that baby is you! Evian invites you to Baby Yourself by showing you and the world what a cute little tyke you were (not that you're not smokin' hot now). They'll take a picture of you and through face recognition, match you up with your inner child, and print out the result for you to take home (and Instagram the heck out of).
4. Get the Swag!
Right from the start, you'll be handed a wine glass (yours to keep) and a goodie bag. From that point on, your goal is to fill that bag with as much free stuff as you can! Start by playing Cutthroat Kitchen and score a pair of shades (it's bright in the sun), then see what the MasterCard vending machine has for you before getting free spices from Badilla. Hint: Be nice to your favorite vendors and score extra goodies like t-shirts and keychains.
3. Enjoy a Hand Crafted Fruit Pop From FIU Students
FIU's culinary students are the backbone of the festival. Each year they assist the celebrity chefs in preparing and cooking the food you enjoy and serve with a smile. Visit their booth at the GTV and say hello! In exchange, you'll be rewarded with a refreshing, frozen fruit bar, created by student Juan Puerto. We love the roasted pistachio, but there's also mango, coconut, and other tropical flavors.
2. Get a Cool New Wardrobe
Flavour Gallery has the absolute coolest shirts each year. The company specializes in graphic tees especially for the culinary industry and they're absolutely wearable. Check out the SoBe Fest hoodie with the Flamingo. Instant love.
1. Take a Trip to the Islands
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Each year we take a little Island getaway right during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival at the Cruzan Rum Bar. Here you'll find all the party people dancing to a live Reggae band while sipping on fine Cruzan rum drinks, straight from St. Croix. Only problem? Stop here for a quick one and you may never leave until security kicks you out.
The Grand Tasting Village is $225 per person; 21 and over only. Saturday's event is sold out; tickets are available for Sunday (including an afternoon fix for $125). Purchase tickets (and see the roster of celebrity chef demos) at sobewff.com.