Behind The Scenes: SOBEWFF

It’s been just a few days since I returned home from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Cozy in my Brooklyn apartment, I stretch out on my couch and go through the ol’ camera…

Every year I have the same slight tinge of sadness when I leave Miami. Maybe it’s the sunshine and weather, maybe it’s the food and drinks, or maybe it’s the combination of the two that has “vacation” written all over it when you are also working. It’s a sort of controlled chaos; the whole time you’re running around from event to event, eating this, drinking that, and meeting new people. It’s really a lot of fun, but if you’re not strategic about it, you can piss the whole trip away on one really bad hangover.

Or…maybe that’s just me because I have the alcohol tolerance of a 4 year old.

Truthfully, some of the best times I’ve had there are unplanned, but I think STARTING with a plan is the best way. The intent is there, and isn’t that what matters most? The thought?

As you may have guessed, I packed my schedule from Thursday to Sunday with interviews, official events, photoshoots, and restaurant visits. I know, I know – it sounds like a real tough life. But trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks. Except for laying out by the pool in our own cabana at The Shelborne. That was pretty easy.

Before you roll your eyes and judge me, let me remind you that I also have no salary and no health insurance and no retirement plan. My retirement plan is something along the lines of Netflix and chill. Except the chill is pizza. Ya feel me? So shut up and let me have this.

Best Moments: SOBEWFF 2017

  1. Interview with Marc Summers: if you were born pre-1988 or so, you probably know who this is. He hosted Nickelodeon’s Double Dare, What Would You Do, and one of my all time favorites, Unwrapped. I got the recipe for slime: vanilla pudding, oatmeal, apple sauce, and green food coloring. Ratios, I’m not so sure of, but is it weird that I want to eat that? Sounds great to me.
  2. Chicken Coupe Event at The W Hotel: Normally, I find a lot of the events of the festival variety to be overwhelming. Chicken Coupe was perfect. It was indoors (major plus for no sand) in the gorgeous W Hotel, beautifully set up and executed, and there was fried chicken in multiple forms, as well as champagne. Fried chicken and bubbles?! You literally can’t go wrong. Plus, I got to try Hattie B’s Hot Chicken!! So exciting and it was indeed, hot. I loved the Chicken Coupe event in NYC too, so I think this one may be my new favorite. 
  3. Meeting Laurent Tourondel at LT Steak and Seafood: While having dinner with my ladies Michelle (@coffeeandchampagne) and Rayna (@onehungryjew), we got a private tour of the new Betsy hotel and all it’s alcoves. It’s a gorgeous hotel and evokes an older time period, which I really enjoyed. There was a dimly lit bar complete with piano player, old pieces of artwork, a library full of books, and a gorgeous rooftop pool. But I digress. The true highlight of this experience was getting a crepe tasting by Laurent Tourondel. We were walking through the kitchen and he started chatting with us, then served us some crepes. Great day. 
  4. Shelborne South Beach Pool: This was one of those “pinch me” moments. We had a cabana reserved, unbeknownst to me, and it was absolutely ridiculous. The “cabana” is like a small apartment complete with couch, TV, bathroom (with a shower), studio light (not sure why), and a shaded area outside right behind your beach chairs in the sun. It could not have been more perfect. I am mad at myself for getting there late and not soaking up every bit of that moment. Take. Me. Back. 
  5. Lucky Chopsticks and The Toothpick Hunan Beef: Honestly, I would have entered this festival if this was the only thing they were serving. That’s how much I enjoyed the Hunan beef from Blackbrick. It was juicy, crispy, and dusted with peppery and spicy seasoning. I had two servings and wanted about 12 more.
  6. Watr at 1 Hotel Rooftop: The space on the roof of the 1 Hotel might be one of my favorites in South Beach. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s quintessential Miami with white couches, palm trees, and colorful lights hanging above that cast a mellow red glow over everything. Watr is the new Japanese and sushi restaurant up there, and we had a nice sampling of the menu, from edamame to poke to sushi. The edamame might have been my favorite, which is a weird thing to say. It was pan fried slightly and tossed in a wonderful sauce. The quinoa and spicy tuna/kimchee salad was another favorite of the table, as well as the salmon poke. Perfect dinner to fill you up just enough before hitting the bar for after-dinner cocktails. Mood = set. 
  7. Wine n Dine New Taste at Villa Casa Casuarina: I’m not going to lie to you, the location was a big factor here. When someone invites you to an event at Villa Casa Casuarina, you go. Fun fact: this opulent space was formerly owned by designer Gianni Versace. I love the Wine n Dine guys anyway, so it was an easy decision, but that made it even easier. What a gorgeous space; right on Ocean Drive, with a garden complete with fountains, a pool, and those long, twisting, adjacent staircases that make you feel really special as you walk down into the party. God help you if you fall. There is no recovering from that. Chef JJ Johnson hosted this soiree (in pool, below), and prior to jumping in the pool with Josh Stern (founder of Wine n Dine), he served up amazing sliders and a variation on the Moscow Mule. It was so strong, I was tipsy after just one of them. Again, my tolerance is embarrassing. 
  8. Brunch at Continental: Sitting outside in the middle of February is something I rarely get to do as a New Yorker, so when I planned brunch, I made sure it was a damn good one with damn good outdoor seating. Loved the Dragonfruit Mule (guess Miami really loves Moscow Mules?), and the mac n cheese. Not too salty, but perfectly creamy and cheesy with a solid layer of breadcrumbs on top. Don’t sleep on the huevos rancheros either.  

Stay tuned for more coverage of the festival including some interviews with all the amazing chefs I met!

Pinch me, yet again. My blackened heart is bursting.

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