Another year, another awesome South Beach Wine & Food Festival in the books.
Every year I tell myself this is the last year I’ll go, and five years later here I am. A slave to the SOBEWFF.
The only reason I tell myself I can’t do it anymore is because it’s just a giant eating and drinking fest, and my waistline hates me for it afterwards. Seriously I’m sitting here drinking tea and wishing it was a plate of tacos instead. Life is hard.
Regardless, I really do enjoy this event. It’s a combination of the beautiful weather in Miami this time of year, the delicious food, the fun parties, and the friends that come along for the ride. I always meet up with people I haven’t seen in ages, revisit favorite restaurants and discover new ones.
Waking up at the Shelborne South Beach on Collins Ave, seeing the sun shining down on the pool…how can you not be filled with joy? I’m from New York for cryin out loud. It’s February. It’s 28 degrees in my hometown right now. You can’t ask for a better week to get away from it all, and you sure as shit can’t ask for a better place. Miami is the perfect landscape for this.
A lot of the big events are held on the beach, right by the Ritz Carlton – Burger Bash (presented by Heineken Light) and the Coca Cola Beachside BBQ (presented by The National Pork Board) are probably my favorites. They are held at night and meat-centric, which are two very important things to me. This year’s Burger Bash winner was LT Steak and Seafood (great restaurant in The Betsy hotel), but I thoroughly enjoyed the one from Curbside Burger. Unique flavor on that one with chuck/brisket blend, cheese, sweet heat pickles, charred poblano mayo and spicy pork belly preserves.
I know I was waxing poetic about the weather before, but the outdoor events during the day can really take a lot out of you. The sun beating down on you while you’re biting into Hattie B’s hot chicken is a dangerous, sweaty, combination. Then you try to wash it down with rose, which does nothing but sting your tongue and move you from sober to buzzed in a matter of minutes. Maybe that’s fun for you. If it is, you’ve come to the right place.
The aforementioned scene took place at the “New Taste” party, hosted by Wine n Dine app and Chef JJ Johnson, held at the gorgeous (and exclusive) Versace Mansion, or Villa Casa Casuarina. After that Netflix show came out, there are even more people clamoring over that invite. I always love stopping by, but due to the heat, I can never stay too long. I’m weak. I’m pale. I sweat like Mickey Rourke at a Vegas buffet. I was built for colder weather.
That said, I can’t ignore the fun of the festival. The chef’s kickoff party at The Dutch at the W hotel was fabulous. Filled with amazing Cuban sandwiches, a roast suckling pig, and some of my favorite chefs in existence, I thought the night had peaked. Then, Ruth Reichl was introduced to me. Rather, I freaked out a little bit and asked my friend to introduce me to her. But whatever. Details. She was so sweet. I told her she was a major inspiration to me as a food writer, and her book “Garlic and Sapphires” was the reason I even thought about becoming a food critic in the first place. Totally fell in love with her writing. I’d be so curious to hear what she thinks of the food world now, in all it’s unicorn-laden glory.
But I digress.
The best part of SoBe for me is the relaxing and the eating. I made it a point this year to make sure I spend ample time unwinding and visiting the places I truly want to. No more running around like a lunatic from photoshoot to photoshoot, barely resting or digesting in between. Every day was a day to workout, then lay out, then eat. Taquiza Tacos is a must. That was my first real lunch in South Beach this year, and I even had time to squeeze in a nap before the night event. That is truly the way to live life. The Italians are onto something with that whole “siesta” thing.
Joe’s Stone Crab was another first for me on this trip. An institution for 106 years now, it’s like the Peter Luger of crab. Thankfully I hit up my friend Ryan from We Own South Beach and he was able to get us in there without waiting. Hit them up if you’d like the same treatment. Highly worth it otherwise you’ll wait over an hour and they do not take reservations. The fried chicken is also a hit at this joint. I would never think to order fried chicken in a place that’s known for stone crab, but I’m glad someone told me about it.
Lastly, it can’t be a trip to South Beach without a night of drunken dancing and binge eating tacos at Bodega. During the day, this is one of my favorite places to eat, and at night, it’s one of my favorite places to dance. Get you a place that can do both. If you’re going at night, get there early if you don’t want to wait in line for the club (through the secret “bathroom” entrance). During the day, just get as many tacos as you can. And the oreo paletas for dessert. Can’t go wrong with anything they have here.
If you ever have the chance to get to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, go. Even if you go to one event (the tickets can be pricey), it’s worth it for the energy the festival brings to the city. And the people. If you’re a foodie, it’s one of those situations where you could be roaming around Ocean Ave and run into your favorite chef. See the Ruth Reichl example above. And again, if you’re from the colder parts of the east coast, you’ll be thankful you got out of dodge for a bit.