SOBEWFF 2016 Wraps Up: Sun, Fun, Food & Wine

Dear Lee Schrager, do you really hit up all of the 80+ South Beach Wine and Food Festival events? 

As I write this recap of less than one tenth of the events I personally attended, I can’t even imagine attending so many.

The 15th year of SOBEWFF is another one for the books; perfect weather ( although some may argue it felt cool in evenings ),  amazing variety of big tented events, intimate dinners in the best restaurants in town, and informative and mouth watering seminars and tastings.  And that was just the first day.

Here is quick recap of the events I attended, some with a MIAbites media pass and others that I actually bought tickets for:

VIP Directors Kickoff Happy Hour:  As invited media, I got to kickoff SOBEWFF at a Happy Hour hosted by Director, Lee Schrager, on the beautiful rooftop of The Betsy Hotel.  Whispering Angel flowed freely as BLT provided snacks of sushi rolls, ceviche, tempura shrimp buns and tuna tartare cones.  Jose Cabrera was at the bar mixing up Tito’s Vodka cocktails.

Eat Prey Love:  James Beard nominated chef, Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi has set up a sushi bar and restaurant residency on the roof of the 1 Hotel.  Bun, known for his foraging for unique and sustainable seafood offered us a quick lesson on making sushi from explaining the history behind the vinegary rice ( vinegar works to preserve the rice) to letting us each make our own using fresh salmon from Washington State that was rejected by most fish wholesalers because it’s missing gene caused it to not be pink in color.  His pop up, PREY, is open for dinner thru April 30th, and don’t hesitate to do your part in helping the environment by selecting invasive species of fishlike Florida lion-fish, Carp ribs, or Chesapeake Bay catfish.


TODAY Show: As part of it’s new division, Today Food, a number of us were invited to be on set for the live Al Roker and Giada DiLaurentiis cooking segment during the Today Show broadcast at the Loews Hotel.  Arriving at 8 am, we were treated to orange and mango mimosas, a spread of Cuban sliders, quiche, donuts and healthy options like granola, fruit and Greek yogurt.  Joining us was Billy Dec, restaurateur from Chicago, Geoffrey Zakarian and Lee Schrager.  An upbeat way to kickoff the festival and plenty of photo ops with Al.

Fun In The Sun Food Truck On the beach by the Nautilus Hotel, Alex Guarnschelli’s new Driftwood Restaurant was serving up Cuban Philly Cheesesteaks and Milkshakes from Azucar Ice Cream.  I stopped by for a quick visit and to grab a milkshake, but alas Alex was not there along with no milkshakes.

Oyster Bash:  This is one of my personal favorite events . First because it involves those briny bi-valves, but also because it is a manageable sized crowd in the beautiful Lure restaurant.  This year both the inside of the restaurant and the outside Rum Line patio were packed with oysters.  Presented by Island Creek Oysters from Duxbury, MA., the selection ranged from freshly shucked oysters by favorites, Mignonette and Midtown Oyster Bar, Izzy’s oysters topped with chorizo and cheese to the amazing grilled oysters from Grand Isle in New Orleans.  Grilled on an open flame and topped with parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and Cajun chili these required multiple trips. Plenty of beer and creative cocktails completed a close to perfect event.

Bank of America Lifestyle Seminars:  Every SOBEWFF,  a series of Bank of America hour-long seminars are offered and designed to be as educational as they are tasty.  I attended two myself, Past Meets Present, with Chef Timon Balloo of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill and Gabe Orta, from Bar Lab Cocktails and the Broken Shaker.  And Sip & Sea, with Chef Bobby from Mignonette, Chris from Island Creek Oysters and Josh Wesson, a self- proclaimed “Lapsed Sommelier” who took us thru different wines to pair with seafood.  Both were interesting and enjoyable. 

Meatopia:  The big tent on the beach by the Ritz Carlton rotates each night, hosting thousands of hungry and thirsty attendees beginning with Thursday’s Italian Bites on The Beach, Friday’s popular Burger Bash with Rachael Ray, Saturday’s Meatopia and Sunday’s Lucky Chopsticks.  I have yet to meet anyone who has attended all four and cannot even imagine consuming such immense amounts of food and drink. 

I only attended Meatopia, and honestly it was a lot of fun.  Ageing rocker Gregg Allman, was billed as musical guest beginning at 9 pm and I guess that affected the overall age group at the event as there seemed to be more beer drinkers in the crowd than bourbon drinkers.  The food was OK,  with over 25 meat-centric offerings from Dinosaur BBQ, MC Kitchen, EDGE, Quality Meats, TALDE and PAO to name a fewMartin’s BBQ Joint was the place to be when they pulled out a whole pig from their traveling smoker and served up the tender pork right before your eyes.  Other highlights included EDGE Steak Chef Aaron Brooks pork ribs and kielbasa, MC Kitchen's Dena Marino’s garganelli pasta Bolognese, and the winner of People's Choice, Quality Meats Chef Patrick Rebholz’s Slab Bacon Peanut Butter and Jelly.  A surprise that worked. And available on their regular menu. 

BTW- Quality Meats is celebrating their one year anniversary in Miami Beach so Pastry Chefs, Cory Colton and Trew Sterling are creating giant devil's food and chocolate mousse confections designed to resemble the restaurant’s most popular dish, the 64-ounce tomahawk steak.  Like the steak, the cake will be wheeled throughout the dining room on guerdons and sliced tableside. for diners who stop in between March 2nd and March 4th. 

I think one of the best parts of Meatopia was that because it was not sold out, Groupon ran one of their deals for late entry, so until 8:30 pm we were able to sample most everything without waiting on long lines.  I also ran into a bunch of local chefs too including Timon Balloo, Jamie DeRosa, Brad Kilgore, Todd Erickson and Cesar Zapata. But, by the end of the evening, my entire outfit needed to go straight to the cleaners because it smelled to high heavens of smoke.

In prior years I have joined the throngs for the always Sold Out Burger Bash, where food truck  Jersey Dawg was crowned this year’s People Choice Winner, and the Grand Tasting Culinary Village , the all day walk around dining and drinking extravaganza with culinary demos featuring the likes of Food Network stars like Guy Fieri, Emeril and Giada Delaurentiis.

And as the sun set over Miami and the 60,000 attendees and participants made their way home,  I discovered another benefit of SOBEWFF. In reviewing my FitBit, I covered over 6 miles a day walking, averaging 12, 000 steps per day!  Maybe I actually walked off some of the food and wine I consumed?

Thanks for the fun times and see you next year!