For more than a decade, Burger Bash has been one of the most celebrated events of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF). Now, an equally delicious meal on bread — the artisanal sandwich — is about to get its place in the fete's limelight.
The 19th edition of the annual food-and-beverage extravaganza will take the Sandwich Showdown from SOBEWFF's sister festival in New York City to the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort this Saturday, February 22, as part of the Crave Greater Fort Lauderdale Series. Food Network's "Sandwich King," Jeff Mauro, will host the gathering.
"Hosting a sandwich-centric event has always been a dream of mine," says the chef, who in the past two years led the festival's Bloody Mary Brunch alongside Geoffrey Zakarian. "It's a midsize event, so lines will be shorter and people will get more bang for their buck."
Cohost of the Food Network show The Kitchen, the Italian-American chef worked as a cook and a professional comedian in Los Angeles before winning the seventh season of Food Network Star in 2011. His Emmy-nominated series, The Sandwich King, ran for five years and made him famous for turning nearly anything edible into a sandwich.
Die-hard foodies are invited to attend the walk-around lunch, where more than a dozen local sandwich shops will offer an overabundance of creations in all imaginable forms. Guests can expect to nibble on sammies such as lobster grilled cheese, shawarma, and Philly steaks crafted by chefs such as Robbyns Martinez from Henry's Sandwich Station, Pablo Salas from Lona Cocina Tequileria, and Alex Recio from Colada Cuban Cafe.
In addition to working the crowd during the midday happening, Mauro will prepare one of his favorite sandwiches: smoked mortadella and melted white American cheese held together by horseradish aioli and topped with fried jardiniere on a brioche bun.
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"Miami inspires me," the Chicago-based chef says. "I've been coming to the festival for the past nine years, and every time, I make a point of finding a new neighborhood spot to enjoy authentic food."
As for food and drink festivals, he says there's nothing like South Beach's annual five-day bash.
"The biggest difference between this festival and others is all the chefs that come together to make this happen," he notes. "It's our time to mingle with our peers and coworkers, connect with the fans, and, in the end, everybody wins. The culinary world really lets down its hair."
Sandwich Showdown, Crave Greater Fort Lauderdale Series, presented by My Fort Lauderdale Beach. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, February 22, at Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, 505 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $125 via sobewff.org/sandwich.