I have a feeling it's going to be hard for me to get any sympathy for my sore feet and sunburn once you've seen the picture of my hotel pool. This is also a disclaimer: This post probably could be made into three, but there are lots of pictures and hopefully it'll make you feel like you were on a mini vacation...so stick with me!
Last weekend my husband surprised me with a last minute get-away to Miami.
You're all probably thinking, "How glamorous!" and "What a thoughtful husband!"
But, in reality my husband had business in Miami on Monday and Tuesday
and 2 other friends (also going on business) basically shamed him into
bringing me and making a weekend out of it (since they were bringing their
gals and doing the same). I don't really care how it all came about,
I'd scored a weekend in the sun, sans children, dogs and cooking!
And it turns out the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF)
would be going on just steps away from my hotel!
On Saturday I got my fill of sunshine, cocktails and fine dining.
In the morning I hung by the pool and kept cool with a watermelon and vodka drink, it's one I'll try and recreate (though my picture of the menu is blurred so I have no idea what was in it). We had lunch on the veranda at Bianca, a restaurant in the Delano Hotel. I had a delicious salad and a few Kiwi Coolers, another drink I will be recreating for sure. For dinner we met friends on Lincoln Road at a restaurant called, Meat Market (a steak place not a gay bar...but with a name like that I'd be hard pressed to make a guess).
Despite it's lovely interior we opted to eat outside and we left stuffed and a little buzzed after steaks, a bottle of wine and post meal sipping tequila.
Thanks to Nikki, I was clued in that the South Beach Wine and Food Festival would be going on. What perfect timing, I thought...well kind of. You see, this is a foodie event that people look forward to all year and most of the "hot tickets" were sold out.
Since I was making my plans the day before the event, I couldn't be too upset!
I decided the way to go was with a ticket to the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village. Basically it's a huge tasting party on the beach from 11 am-6 pm,
with tons of restaurants and wine & liquor producers showing off their best.
It also is packed with celebrity chef presentations & book signings.
Click image to link to the website
On Sunday I armed myself with spf 50, sunglasses and my camera and hustled down the beach walk along the ocean to 13th Street where I queued up for the SOBEWFF doors
(or more like gates and tents) to be opened. I've been to tastings before, but this event was no joke. First they issued you a (rather heavy) swag bag and a wine glass. (Then they proceeded to fill your wine glass with a choice of 6 wines...a good beginning!) The "venue" a series of booths and tents (on the sandy beach, a stones throw from the water) was easily 2-3 blocks long. (Yikes! Where would the bathrooms be? I'd better pace myself!)
We overheard some veteran SOBE foodies and decided that we should hit the bookstore so we'd have something for the chefs (we were bound to meet) to autograph.
Not the best idea, since they were heavy, but I did have the big guy along to help me
heft the load. We didn't want to venture too far from the entrance, where two big
tents were set up for cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, but we got around
and nibbled on some of the best food of the day.
There was a yummy flank steak sandwich prepared by Florida International
University's students. FIU has a well renowned Chaplain School of Hospitality and Tourism and after visiting their beer keg and freshly prepared sandwich stand, I can see why.
Circling the area we tried everything from octopus and shrimp ceviche to corn dogs
and jelly bellies. If we'd only known two other huge tents loomed beyond the initial block long entrance galley of exhibits we may have been a bit more choosy.
But we were pleased that we got to the whole foods and barilla pasta tents before huge lines formed later in the day. It was a good thing we had time on our side and could do some digesting while watching our favorite chef's give their presentations.
I saw all or part of 5 celebrity chef presentations. Rocco Dispirito was first up, and set the bar high. He is just as personable, flirtatious and good looking as he is on tv. He interacted with the entire audience, had some folks come up on stage and cook with him and could have charmed the pants off anyone. I was delighted to find he was very humble and every bit the guy I like to watch on tv. Plus, he signed 3 cookbooks for me
and was lovely interacting one on one.
It's time for another disclaimer:
My hair is going to look crazy in every picture. There's a reason everyone is
wearing hats and pig tails and sunglasses, it was insanely windy and very bright.
This is probably one of the reasons I didn't feel my collar bone and neck roasting
to a bright red as I waited in line to get Bobby Flay's signature. I'm chalking it up
to the price of rubbing elbows with celebrities (and also Bobby Flay showing up
late to his signing, he was as charming as a wet napkin once he arrived...
just check out the picture of us...he refused to look up in my photo with him...oy!)
Also Check out Paula Deen in pig tails. That woman is a hoot and a holler.
Luckily most my celebrity encounters were wonderful. I watched Morimoto sing (yes, sing!) and my husband tried to take note of how to "break down" fish for sushi and steaks. He was so skilled with the knife and uber fast. He was clearly one of the most popular chefs to see and the tent was packed with fans. We also watched Michael Chiarello for a bit, but he made a shrimp dish, and since I'm allergic to them anyway...
we headed out to explore the rest of the tasting tents.
By this time it was 1:30ish and we were hungry again. Unfortunately everyone else was hungry too. The enormous vendor tents were packed. Every booth had a line. There was a bounty to sample, but you couldn't even see the name of the restaurant you were queuing up for, let alone the kind of food they had to sample. Luckily I found my current favorite drink, St. Germain, represented and I scored a great new drink recipe, their signature cocktail, The Hummingbird. I also bumped into Top Chef favorite, Fabio Viviani at the Bertolli booth. I'm not sure many folks recognized him since he wasn't wearing his chef's coat, but I spotted him straight off and had no shame asking him if he'd pose for a photo with me. He was down to earth, and gave me such a warm and friendly greeting. He even chatted with me for a bit until some lunatic fan came over and started pawing at him. We parted and he darted back behind the food table for protection!
My husband was over this whole expedition. It was really crowded, this event was already not his thing and he needed to get back to do some work. But, I had to stay. My number one mission coming to this event was to meet Anthony Bourdain. He's a bit of a polarizing fellow, you either love him or hate him...and I'm a lover! While walking my husband back to the entrance we hit one of the best spots...the Cruzan rum tent. We were hot and tired and Cruzan rum welcomed us with several cocktails to choose from. We had a pineapple rum something or other and then: a little slice of heaven appeared. It was an orange mojito popsicle, complete with rum & slivers of fresh mint frozen inside. I'm sure foodies everywhere will curse me, but it was the best thing I had all day, hands down.
On my own, with sore flip-flop clad feet and carrying all the cookbooks myself, I needed a rest. I found myself a seat for Bobby Deen's show. I had not planned on going, but boy was I glad I did. His southern boy charm was as heavy as his mama's use of bacon drippings. Paula Deen sat in and acted as the waitress passing around the food and her husband Michael Groover (and Santa Clause look alike) helped Bobby cook on stage.
Paula Deen was a trip and found K.C. from K.C. and the Sunshine Band in the audience
and made him get up and say hello to everyone. I felt more like I was at a
family picnic than at a professional cooking demonstration and I enjoyed
every second. And the best part was yet to come.
Later, I mistakenly met Bobby Deen (I was waiting for Bobby Flay) at his book signing and he turned out to be my favorite celebrity encounter of the day. He chatted up everyone he met and made you feel like he had all the time in the world for you. He was a real southern gentleman and seemed to genuinely appreciate fans of any kind. (FYI, Bobby Deen graciously stayed over his book signing time to help smooth things over with the ticked off Bobby Flay fans that had been waiting in the sun for 45 minutes.)
Finally 4 pm came and so did Anthony Bourdain (right on time). There was a big line
and fans were heckling him even as he signed books. He quipped back to the crowd
with Bourdain-esque snarky remarks, but was perfectly genteel shaking my hand
and happily signed three cook books for me with a far out swirly twirly autograph.
It's not the best picture in the world, but it was worth the long day.
I got myself into a cab and headed for my hotel wondering how on earth I was going to rally for dinner at 7:30. I was beat. I had swollen feet, half a sunburned neck, crazy straw hair, and was loaded down with signed cookbooks. I know, poor baby. It was a rough weekend with all that wining and dining and lounging by the pool, but somehow I survived. I might even go back again next year!