The South Beach Wine & Food Festival could not have come at a better time. Exhausted from the past few months and what seems like an endless bought of freezing cold in NY, I have never been so excited for a weekend away – especially a weekend that involved friends, sun, food, and lots of wine.
The days were a good balance of business meetings and pool time lounging; the nights were filled with parties, festival events, and more parties. As I slowly recover from the weekend, I wish that there were more pictures to remind me of all of the fun we had. But it’s hard to take pictures when you’re constantly managing a plate in one hand and a drink in the other. So we’re just going to have to settle for a top five list of favorites from the weekend.
Sadly in it’s last year at the festival, Bubble Q perfectly combines barbeque and champagne, two of my favorite food groups, not often served together. It’s a match made in South Beach. And an event I will miss next year!
Jonathan Waxman, Rick Bayless, and Michael Symon served the best bites (according to me), but to be fair, I didn’t have a chance to make it through the second half of the venue. As you can see from the crowd, it was a packed house. So instead of fighting the crowd for more snacks, I stuck close to the champagne bar!
Let them Eat Cake. Let them throw a party on the top of a parking garage. Let them hang from the rafters. Let men carve giant blocks of ice into sculptures with chain saws. That’s how Lee Schrager celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the SOBE WFF. It was amazing.
The who’s who of the food world gathered together to celebrate the occasion. Rubbing elbows with celebrity chefs is always fun – well, until Wylie Dufresne asks for a restraining order. I kid…I hope.
As if the cake and dancers and liberally flowing champagne wasn’t enough, they passed out Shake Shack burgers at the end of the night. This means I started and ended my day eating Shake Shack. (Full disclosure: I’d had the Shark Attack Concrete that morning for breakfast.)
The Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach was one of the most fun events of the weekend. I wasn’t blown away by the food AND I was starving, but I kept running into familiar faces from NYC which always makes me feel like I’m filming something on location. (Remember when Saved by the Bell would go to Hawaii?)
Because a selection of chefs and food personalities were offering their picks for, well, the best thing they’ve ever eaten at the beach, I was expecting to leave fat and happy. But there was one shining star. Daniel Boulud and Hedy Goldsmith’s selections of Croque Monsieurs were not only the best bites there, but the Croque Italienne – a little brioche square with cheese and truffles, stuffed with a soft boiled quail egg – was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life.
The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas After Party by Bullfrog and Baum was my favorite party of the weekend. After leaving the Best Thing I Ever Ate still wanting to eat, I couldn’t have been in a more perfect place. After stepping of the elevator onto the roof of the Geary building, I was handed a cocktail and offered a piece of Blue Ribbon fried chicken. Six steps later, I stumbled upon the raw bar where I found myself parked for half of the night. The music, crowd, and vibe at this party was even better than the food.
After the party is the after party: As if seven hours of food and partying wasn’t enough, every night there’s always an “after party, after party” to continue the fun until the very wee hours of the morning. The guest list is scaled down –allowing chefs, talent, and food execs to relax and cut loose and making entry into this party the hottest ticket in town. Most people wanted in to hang with the chefs. I was just happy to hang out near the bar with close access to the beet cocktails. They were the best drinks I’ve sipped in months.
Oh, and if you’re ever throwing an after-party, after-party – do not forget to put the gals from the Food Network/Cooking Channel on your guest list. They make the party. Don’t believe me? Just ask Bobby Flay how much fun he had getting down in their conga line.
Thanks to KitchenAid, Cooking Channel, Bullfrog & Baum, and my awesome friends Jessica, Lock, Lindsey, John, and Kristin for making this great weekend possible! Thanks to Kate Krader who always seems like my biggest cheerleader, Anne Burrell for stories that will continue making me laugh out loud, and Aarti Sequeira and Brendan McNamara for being two of the most down to earth and awesome people I’ve ever met! And I can’t forgot to thank Lee Schrager and Devin Padgett for all of their ridiculously hard work that goes into pulling the whole thing off.