By Katy Lynch
It’s not every day that you get to have brunch with Daniel Boulud, share a burger with Bobby Flay and clink glasses with Rachael Ray—unless you attend Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival. About to embark on its 14th year, this annual culinary extravaganza unites a community of food lovers, star chefs, culinary personalities and renowned wine and spirit producers for what has become one of the largest food and wine festivals in the United States. Taking place in February in sunny Miami Beach—the time of year when visitors happily retire their wool sweaters to dig their feet in the sand—it’s four days of sunshine, nonstop eating and drinking, VIP parties and learning about new trends in the industry. (At the 2013 event, it was all about beef short ribs.)
Although numbers have grown nearly tenfold since its inception, the popular festival continues to offer tried-and-true favourites, combined with seminars, trade talks, multi-course dinners and more intimate off-site events. For those seeking glitz, glamour and to mingle with their favourite Food Network personalities, may we suggest one of the starstudded events like the Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray, where nearly 40 chefs compete for the best in show (Bobby Flay will be back to defend his crown in 2014) or Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best, where talented chefs pair their creative masterpieces with wines rated 90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s scale. If education is more your goal, the lifestyle seminars are for you. While these change every year, 2013’s seminars taught us how to taste wine like a master sommelier; how to pair Italian wines and cheeses; and new pastry tricks with James Beard Award Nominee Hedy Goldsmith. While the centre to activity is just off Ocean Drive, there are some fantastic options for those not wanting to brave a crowd. Our top spot from 2013’s festival was Swine & Wine hosted by Chef Michelle Bernstein and held at The Biltmore Hotel (in Coral Gables, about a 30-minute drive from Miami Beach). More than a dozen chefs showcased their pig-roasting skills in hopes of wooing over the crowd—and chef Ryan Nielson of Bongos Cuban Café took home the winning prize.
When: FEBRUARY 20-23, 2014
Where: Miami Beach, FL
Cost: Tickets range from $85-$500.
Hotel Accommodations: Make your reservations early, as rooms are sold out months in advance.
VISIT: sobefest.com ,as special rates may be offered.