South Beach Wine & Food Festival 2012: The Q

The first big event at The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival this year was Moët Hennessy's The Q presented by Allen Brothers Steaks, sponsored by Miami magazine, and hosted by Emeril and Guy Fieri. The Q replaced BubbleQ in name, and featured a familiar lineup of great chefs, some of whom presented real gems.

For instance, Tim Love (Woodshed Smokehouse) did a taco with bourbon and cola smoked pork, pickled chiles, and cotija that was juicy and flavorful with a little bite. Roy Choi (Kogi) did savory grilled Korean short ribs with a salt chive kimchi that had a pleasant little bite. Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon) did white barbecue chicken thighs with jalapeño sausage skewers and grilled boudin, which was nice to see since Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q) didn't happen to serve his signature white barbecue sauce this time. John Vergos' (Charlie Vergos's Rendezvous) dry-rubbed ribs with mustard vinegar slaw were juicy with tremendous flavor and texture from the rub. Marc Forgione's barbecue tête de cochon with a Feather Ridge Farm egg was both beautiful and as delicious as when served at the resatuarant. And like fellow Texan chef Tim Love, Dean Fearing (Fearing's Restaurant) killed it with a barbecue beef tenderloin taco.

Lee Schrager has done amazing things with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival since changing its name, moving it to South Beach, and making it a multiday affair. There's an abundance of chef celebrities, great events and seminars, and opportunities to get a diverse cross-section of food from chefs across America. And it's fun to be able to meet well-known chefs like Michael White, Scott Conant (sporting a winter beard), Marc Forgione, Guy Fieri, Emeril, Stephanie Izard, and Michelle Bernstein at events. It's certainly an opportunity for many of them to enjoy cooking in a style that they may not frequently get to use in their restaurants. Sometimes, as in the case of chef April Bloomfield, it can result in a real winner of a dish. Chef Bloomfield's dry-rubbed lamb ribs with smoked tomatoes, cucumber, and dill was outstanding. Savory and crusted but light, satisying, and refreshing — it was the night's best dish.

But something about the event smacks a bit of this year's Top Chef Texas not spending much of the early episodes on Texan food and then heading to Vancouver — that is to say, losing focus. Not to say that the event, and drinking champagne until the wells literally ran dry, wasn't fun. But in terms of big name events, it's one of the reasons that when it comes to barbecue, The Que makes it clear why the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party in New York, which spotlights some of the country's classic pitmasters, is always such an amazing barbecue event.

So even as BubbleQ is retired, and The Q finishes its first year at the festival, maybe it's time to look the festival gift horse in the mouth and ask for some more classic pitmasters to be invited like Michael Rodriguez of The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, Ed Mitchell, some representative for Kreuz, and also new and exremely talented pitmasters like Aaron Franklin of Austin's Franklin Barbecue, whose brisket more Americans need to taste.