The Daily Meal's Senior Editor Arthur Bovino is down in Miami covering the 2011 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Check in here for regular updates on burgers, beach bums, and all things Wine & Food. See all of The Daily Meal's 2011 SOBE event coverage here.
Thursday, 2/24, 5:52 p.m. Finally, the 2011 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival is here! It's a big one, with it being the tenth anniversary of the event (or at least, most people agree it's the tenth year, wink). The tents are up on the beach, the scalpers are out looking for extra tickets, and there's burger buzz in the air. It's time to head over to the kickoff event: Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Allen Bros., and hosted by Rachel Ray. We've seen the menu preview and made our predictions. Now it's time to see who takes home the trophy. Here we go...
10:38 p.m. Twenty-six burgers, a tent full of elbows, and a little more than three hours, this was the challenge: Can you taste all the burgers? Yes. Starting at the back of the tent and working back to the front was the strategy for this year's Burger Bash.
The stars were out — spotted during the course of the night: Michael Symon being mobbed for photos, Bobby Flay trying to help out at his station, Danny Meyer in jeans handing out a perennial favorite, Anne Burrell having a good time, Yumsugar, Lockhart Steele and Amanda Kludt of Team Eater, Spike Mendelsohn gaming it up in a Hamburglar outfit, Ray-Ray, José Garces, Ming Tsai, Alex Guarnaschelli, Todd English, Morimoto, Dave Martin, Ted Allen, Drew Nieporent, Tim Love, Michael White, Marc Murphy, Guy Fieri walked in with bodyguards and flashbulbs popping off constantly, and the list goes on.
Of the 26 burgers on the offer, five of the best belonged to Michael Symon (most tasty), Tim Love (most interesting), El Mago (sentimental local favorite), Spike Mendelsohn (strong return), and Boston Burger Company (to our surprise). But in the end it was an unprecedented back-to-back win for Mike Symon, who just moments before being announced as both the Peoples' Choice and Best Dressed Burger winner was characteristically self-effacing about his chances, "There's an amazing number of chefs here. We think we made a killer burger, but you never know. Bobby's here, Tim Love's here, Michael White, there's just a bunch of amazing chefs competing."
11:09 p.m. On to the after-party: Original Moonshine presents Shine & Swine hosted by Master BBQ Chef Adam Perry Lang.
Friday, 2/25, 12:25 a.m. Chuck Miller of The Original Moonshine is awesome, and so are most of the cocktails, but it's all Go-Go girls handing out shots, and little food besides a cheese-drippy, tasty pool-side Medianoche.
Friday, 2/25, 5:48 a.m. It's a big night with lots of events: BubbleQ, Let Them Eat Cake (Martha and Emeril), and Dim Sum and Disco with Ming Tsai. Hold on tight...
Friday, 2/25, 10:22 p.m. Okay, so there were a whole bunch of chefs at BubbleQ doing BBQ that really don't have much business doing it at a BBQ event. Todd English? Are we missing something? Regardless, Chris Lilly was doing his thing, portions were huge, and Miami restaurants actually represented nicely. Guy Fieri had his own roped off section, but Giada made her way through the crowd. Cat Cora was surrounded by a throng of picture-seekers, and Dana Cowin, Kate Krader, and Gail Simmons were spotted making their way through the crowd. Then there was Al Roker, betraying a much different in-person attitude than the friendly persona portrayed on TV. On to Let Them Eat Cake and Dim Sum and Disco.
11:33 p.m. In the open-aired pseudo garage at 1111 Lincoln Road, Martha and Emeril surprised Lee Schrager with a video tribute at Let Them Eat Cake. There were bites of sweet, sweet stuff. Spotted: Bob Tuschman, Aarti Sequeira, Gail Simmons, Kate Krader, Jacques Torres, Melissa d'Arabian, Dana Cowin, Alex Guarnaschelli, Colette Peters, Marc Murphy, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Jonathon Sawyer. The upside-down, skin-tight suit wearing Champagne pourers from last year's BubbleQ were there for 20-minute stints of upside-down pouring. There were cigars and spring roll cheesecakes.
Saturday, 2/26, 2:48 a.m. At The Setai, Dim Sum & Disco featured a few worthy late-night bites. Chef David Werly's eel and foie in eggshell was worth seconds, while Chef Ming Tsai did avocado purée, soba noodle sushi and a shitake spring roll. Other worthwhile bites were shrimpballs and chicken pot stickers.
1:30 p.m. Gail Simmons hosted the Dolce Brunch at Blue Door Fish at the Delano. The meal featured Chef Michael White's menu and included a blue marlin crudo, poached eggs with blue crab sturgeon caviar, and sea urchin zabaglione, and Dolce wine. The highlight? Tortellini with panna fresca, black truffle, and Parmigiano — one of the best dishes tasted at this year's festival so far.
2:30 p.m. Way down on the beach the booze flowed freely at the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village. There was Prosecco at every turn, passion fruit ceviche, tuna and beef tataki, lots of sand, and long lines for George Stone Crabs. Guy and Emeril made an appearance on stage together while Chef Ming Tsai gave a demo.
4:30 p.m. Anyone who missed out on the Shake Shack sunglasses being handed out at Burger Bash had another shot at getting them (and a pair of Shake Shack flip-flops) at Danny Meyer's Shake Shack Seminar, which turned out to be a six wine wine-pairing. Introduced as "the infamous Danny May-er," the head of Union Square Hospitality quipped, "Mayer is infamous, Meyer is famous." Prosecco, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Chianti, and Moscato were paired with Shake Shack fare including: cheese fries, Bird Dog, Shack-Cago Dog, ShackBurger, and Key Lime Pie oh' My. Meyer noted to the crowd, "We don’t overanalyze condiments, but for some reason we do analyze wine. But wine is just another condiment to put on our food."
7 p.m. On to Thrillist's BBQ & The Blues, hosted by chefs Tyler Florence and John DeLucie.
Sunday, 2/26, 1:35 a.m. Duff Goldman hosted the night's signature event in the big tent, The Best Thing I Ever Ate On The Beach, which was suspiciously heavy with Florida representation. Still, it was a fun event with most of the chefs able to spend a little more time talking and yukking it up with festival-goers. Both Joe's Stone Crab and George Stone Crab were there, the first served as a ceviche with watermelon Pop Rocks (yes, you heard that right). Spotted: Food Network's Sunny Anderson serving up a bacon cheese Nathan's hot dog, Dwayne Wade, Iron Chef Marc Forgione, Scott Conant, and Daniel Boulud.
Of all the chefs' favorite dishes, standouts were Chuck Hughes of Chuck's Day Off, who picked fried clam bellies from Cape Porpoise Lobster Company in Maine; Chef Anne Burell's pick, Kelly's "World Famous" roast beef sandwich from Revere, Mass.; and Chef Daniel Boulud's trio of croque monsieur. Oh yeah, and I bumped into my brotha' Guy Fieri on the way out.
1:15 p.m. The Sushi and Wine Seminar hosted by Thomas Buckley and Josh Wesson was a little underwhelming. Danny Meyer's wine pairings up and down across the spectrum of cheese fries and Shack-Cago dogs were much more fun. Highlights included Wesson's endorsement of Greek wine and screw-tops, and advice for what to do with any half-bottles of wine you just couldn't finish (are you trying?). According to Wesson, apparently, freezing the wine will make it come back at 90% of its original taste.
8:47 p.m. The Festival Closing Party at the Gansevoort was everything you would have expected. Mini-bonfires, a stage, Guy Fieri, a massive cauldron that he poured multiple bottles of booze into to create a drink called the Slur-Icane, and music by Journey and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Food-wise there were steak skewers flavored with chili pepper, grilled cheese sandwiches, steak hoagies, and (the longest lines) pizza. There were no chefs of note on the scene as of a half-hour before its supposed end. It's been a great four days, and a fun 10th anniversary festival, but it's time to call it quits. Goodnight, all.