Barbecue, burgers, cheflebrities — it's all happening on the beach in Miami at The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine. There's parasailing just offshore, planes pull signs through the sky, the palm trees are swaying, and there's a full lineup of events, seminars, lunches, and tastings. The festival benefits Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center (to date, it has raised about $17 million for the school), but it also benefits the stomachs and taste buds of the winter-weary revelers and tipplers who have descended on South Beach.
The Daily Meal's senior editor Arthur Bovino is on the scene along with Eat/Dine editor Dan Myers, so check in for updates, observations, and interviews from the festival. To follow the goings-on at the festival on Twitter, follow #SOBEWFF, and click here for all our festival coverage.
Thursday, 11 p.m.: The festival got off to a rip-roaring start Thursday night, as top chefs from around the country gathered together under the event’s main beachside tent to dish up their unique takes on that American classic, barbecue. Moet Hennessy’s The Q was hosted by Paula Deen and her son Bobby, who also served as emcees for the evening.
While some chefs hewed close to tradition, most notably famed pitmasters Myron Mixon (of Jack’s Old South) and Chris Lilly (of Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ), who served pork belly sliders and 7-hour smoked beef short ribs (top), respectively, others, such as The Lamb’s Club’s Geoffrey Zakarian, veered in the avant-garde direction (he served smoked togarashi-crusted tuna with a cous cous and medjool date salad with spicy sea urchin emulsion). Overall, though, there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. — Dan Myers
Read More: Breakdown of The Q
Friday, 5 p.m.: During Friday’s Wine Spectator’s Trade Day, hundreds of varieties of wines and spirits were available for sampling, and in many cases the owners of the companies and winemakers themselves were on hand to tell guests all about their products. We had the opportunity to speak with Lucas Bonchick, southern division manager for Lucid Absinthe (which was the first true absinthe to return to the market after it was re-legalized in 2006), and we took advantage of the chance to ask him a few burning questions about that mystical Green Fairy, and settle the mystery once and for all. — Dan Myers
Read More: About Absinthe and Finding the Green Fairy
Friday, 11:30 p.m.: Everyone was gunning for chef Michael Symon's title. No surprise considering he'd won three times in a row. He brought a French onion burger out of Cleveland to try for his fourth straight win. There were 11,000 pounds of beef on hand, but there could only be one true champion. It wasn't a complete shock that Michael Symon didn't win — his French onion burger wasn't the strongest of the burgers he'd won with the past three years, but the judge's choice, the likeable Sandwich King Jeff Mauro was a curious choice. His burger, "The Greatest Patty Melt in the History of AMERICA" when tasted by this reporter was cold and served on mushy bread, not anywhere near as good as the New York City Wine & Food Festival Sandwich Showdown winner who almost stole the festival with its own patty melt. — Arthur Bovino
Read More: 2013 Burger Bash Breakdown
Saturday, 12:45 a.m.: At 10 p.m. on Friday night, the second night of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden was transformed into a veritable wonderland of cocktails, as the outdoor Garden to Glass cocktail party, the first entirely cocktail-driven event in the festival’s 12-year history, brought some of the country’s leading mixologists together to create cocktails inspired by, and using ingredients from, the garden.
"The philosophy behind this event was to bring some of our best friends together, who also happen to be great mixologists, and to create a true garden experience,” Elad Zvi, who together with Gabriel Orta runs The Bar Lab, a beverage management company that helped to curate the event, told us. "We’ve brought in bartenders from Milwaukee, San Francisco, Oakland, and New York, and elements from all our cocktails come from the garden itself." — Dan Myers
Read More: Garden to Glass
Saturday, 8 a.m.: The Q was great, and Burger Bash really gears everyone up, but Saturday marks the festival in full-on swing. This is prime time. Tasting tents, seminars, booze, sand, and talent. There's almost too much to keep track of. But we'll try! — Arthur Bovino
Saturday, 6 p.m.: At the Island Creek Oysters Lifestyle Seminar, hosted by Island Creek Oysters founder Skip Bennett, chef Jeremy Sewall, and Union Square Hospitality Group wine director John Ragan, guests had the opportunity to sample five oysters from all across the country paired with white wines, and the message was clear: Don’t be afraid!
"Oysters have gotten a bad rap, because people used to get sick from them," said Bennett. "Getting sick after eating an oyster is actually a lot less common now. They would have to be severely mishandled, which is incredibly rare because there are now very strict FDA standards." — Dan Myers
Read More: Island Creek Oysters
Saturday, 11 p.m.: On Saturday night, chef Michael Symon (best known for his Iron Chef status and Cleveland restaurants, including Lola) took over the dining room at Miami’s Red, the Steakhouse and served a meat-centric feast that was fit for a king.
He teamed with Red’s chef Peter Vauthy, and together they served a five-course dinner to a couple hundred lucky guests. Symon and Vauthy each prepared two dishes, and Vauthy took care of the dessert.
Read More: Carnivorous Dinner