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.
'Tis the season, South Florida -- the season for garden kale, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, Swiss chard, arugula, and other locally grown produce. While most of the nation resembles a tundra, Miami is at the height of its harvest season.
To maximize your experience of Miami's rainbow of fruits and vegetables, try the Vegan Dinner, hosted by Matthew Kenney, Tal Ronnen, and Tim Andriola. Or head to the Farm to Table Brunch, hosted by Iron Chef/restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian and chef Julie Frans of Miami's own Essensia Restaurant & Lounge, and featuring a plethora of other chefs.
Miami will be well represented at the Vegan Dinner. Kenney, who is a raw-food guru, plans to open both the plant-based restaurant White Lotus and an eponymous culinary school later this year. Also present will be Andriola, whose Miami eatery, Basil Park, focuses on healthful, nutrient-rich cuisine.
The five-course meal will be broken down thusly: Ronnen and Kenney will create the appetizers, Andriola the first course and dessert, Ronnen the second course, and Kenney the entrée.
"When I first started going into health food, reading about raw food, Matthew and Tal were the two guys who kept coming up in my searches," Andriola explains. "I got all their books, so I'm really looking forward to this."
Andriola and team will source primarily from Harpke Family Farm in Hollywood for specialty items. Farmer Tamer Harpke is a partner in Basil Park, and the restaurant frequently uses his items. As far as what's on the menu, Andriola spilled his part of the lineup."We're making a chioggia beet carpaccio with some of the wild greens Harpke grows on his farm," he says. "Dessert is going to be a raw chocolate pâté."
There will also be jícama tacos with pistachio guacamole, porcini-crusted eggplant, heirloom tomato lasagna, and several other plant-strong selections.
Vegan Dinner, hosted by Matthew Kenney, Tal Ronnen, and Tim Andriola: Saturday, February 21, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Basil Park, 17608 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Attendees must be 21 or older, and attire is smart casual. Tickets cost $250.
Farm to Table Brunch
In line with annual tradition, Zakarian will headline this year's Farm to Table Brunch. The event includes a series of chef-manned stations, each featuring a unique dish. Attendees can cruise around, tasting goodies from every one of them.
Zakarian will be joined by Essensia's Frans, as well as a roster of other noteworthy names from across the nation. Known for her local sourcing and impressive onsite garden, Frans helped the visiting chefs get clued in about what was in season. "Each chef creates their item based on seasonality," Frans says. "I gave them all a list of what grows in South Florida in this time, so I tried to get them thinking as much local as possible."
In addition to the chef stations, the brunch will also feature a farmers' tasting table. "I have Teena [Borek] from Teena's Pride -- she always donates a lot of local produce and offers that local-farm element. She brings a lot of food for people to taste, and she talks to people about CSAs and why to buy local. It adds a nice element to the brunch," Frans adds. "We really try to highlight the fresh seasonal stuff, so we have some interesting things on the menu."
Teena's Pride will supply a whole host of produce, from tomatoes to herbs to kale, Frans says. And, of course, the brunch will use the bounty of Essensia's work. "My station is always closest to our garden, so I end up walking over with people who are interested, talking to them about garden-to-table food."
Whole Foods is the event sponsor, and the company does its best to work with local suppliers, Frans adds.
"It's a very mellow event where people can really socialize and everybody tastes everything, which also is different from a lot of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival," she says. "There are a lot of chefs -- ten stations or more -- so it's really nice and spread out. People aren't crowded; they aren't spending their whole time waiting in line. You'll feel like you're walking away with a little more education -- not just food in your belly and cocktails, but you get to meet a local farmer and hear the story and why.
"As far as staying true to the name of Farm to Table, I really do think we bring that, and I think it's really special. It's different from other events of the SoBeWFF. We do source as local as possible, as much as we can."
Farm-to-Table Brunch, presented by Whole Foods Market: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, February 22, at the Palms Hotel & Spa, 3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets are sold out.
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