The 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Festival got underway on Thursday night with two huge events: Al Fresco Feast on the Beach, held in the main tent behind the Delano Hotel, and Thrillist’s Barbecue and the Blues, held at the Shore Club.
Al Fresco Feast on the Beach was hosted by the culinary power duo of Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar, and some of the country’s most dynamic chefs used the opportunity to showcase their finest Italian offerings. Lots of pasta, meatballs, and other Italian specialties were on offer (there were about a half dozen porchettas being served, a sign of a trend if we ever saw one), and it was clear that all the chefs involved were very happy to be there.
“The fact that we’re here on the sand and that it’s four degrees in Chicago should tell you all you need to know,” Spiaggia’s Tony Mantuano, who served hand-rolled potato gnocchi with langoustine, baccala, controne pepper, and lemon (certainly worthy of being served at his restaurant, which is one of the best in America), joked. "It's great to see old friends, and it's just a lot of fun. And the fact that spiaggia translates to 'beach' definitely tells you that we feel right at home here!”
Domenica’s Alon Shaya, who recently opened an eponymous restaurant in New Orleans featuring “wood-fired pita, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and the food of all the cultures that have settled in Israel over the past several hundred years,” as he told us, served a cavatelli verde with braised oxtail and chicken liver that was a huge hit. “The energy in Miami is completely the opposite of the energy in New Orleans, but I absolutely love it,” he admitted.
Other standout dishes included porchetta sandwiches with winter garden vegetables from Charlie Bird’s Ryan Hardy; garganelli with shrimp, calamari, citrus, and tarragon from All’onda’s Chris Jaeckle; and wagyu beef meatballs from Siena Tavern’s Fabio Viviani.
Happening simultaneously a few blocks uptown, Thrillist’s Barbecue and the Blues, hosted by Anne Burrell, was also a huge hit. Crowds lined up for some truly great barbecue (with an emphasis on local Miami spots) in the pool area of the Shore Club. Standouts included barbecued beef short rib sliders from Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue, Korean-style short rib from Creekstone Farms, barbecued baby back beef ribs with bacon and lobster mac & cheese from Red, tamarind BBQ-glazed short rib from Buns & Buns, and slow-braised brisket croquettes from Pincho Factory. If porchetta was the trend at Al Fresco, beef ribs were definitely the trend at BBQ and the Blues.
With night one in the books, it’s clear that the 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Festival is off to as great a start as ever. Stay tuned for tomorrow night, when the Burger Bash is guaranteed to bring down the house.