A Peek into the South Beach Festival's Grand Tasting Village

Staff Writer
Food lovers, chefs, and brands from around the world united on Miami Beach for two days of tasting, drinking and schmoozing

Hundreds beat the heat for the highly anticipated Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village.

Crowds, booze and a fair share of celebrities. It's what you typically find on a Miami Beach weekend. But, the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village, part of the 2014 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, brought a new flavor to the beach on Sunday. The day was scorching in true Miami fashion, yet that didn't stop hundreds of festival-goers from taking in an abundance of food, drinks and celebrity chefs at every turn. 

The event was hosted on the beach near 13th Street and Ocean Drive, and showcased tent after tent of some of the most popular, and soon-to-be-famous, brands. From hot pressed Cuban sandwiches and homemade tomato sauces to fresh caviar and even blood sausage hors d'oeuvres, the mix of food truly ran the gamut. Our very own South Florida eateries were present, including SuViche; Red, The Steakhouse; and Fratelli la Bufala, who had one of the longer lines of people waiting to taste its fresh bufalo mozzarella.

Flanking the grand tents were several pop-ups that served as entertainment upon arrival. The Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel & Casino hosted a beach bash with complimentary cockails and bites, including pulled pork sliders that were actually very good. The nearby Celebrity Cruises tent grilled up delicious, juicy lamb chops, and Casa Barilla, hosted by the famous Italian food company, served a couple of savory pasta dishes and even offered cooking demos. The Cruzan Rum bar, a little oasis between the two grand tastings tents, featured a steel drum band and delicious, refreshing mojitos. We tried the key lime variety and loved it.

The KitchenAid Culinary Demonstrations on two stages were just as fulfilling as the fare. We caught part of Giada De Laurentiis, who was as vibrant as she is on television, and was great at helping on-stage guests learn proper cooking techniques. The husband and wife duo of Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos also teamed up for a demo and were super charming and fun. Debi spilled the details on how they met in Florence thirteen years ago, and about their recent culinary travels for their Cooking Channel show Extra Virgin, which is debuting its fourth season in April.

Miami's Books & Books hosted a celebrity chef cookbook signing throughout the day. This was one of the highlights for us, and the lines were suprisingly short. We met chef and Food Network personality Anne Burrell, Iron Chef  Masaharu Morimoto, and Paula Deen, who was making her first public appearance in nearly a year with her husband and sons. All were very gracious and seemed happy to greet their fans.

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The festival's Grand Tasting really was grand, and complemented a satisfying weekend of dining, drinking and soirées. Until next year, here's to another fabulous South Beach Wine & Food Festival!