Exhausted wasn’t even the word to use when I arrived in Miami on Thursday night. Though a traveler through and through, hours on a plane, particularly coast-to-coast, always takes it out of me (don’t get me started on flying through LAX). I couldn’t have been happier when I finally made it to my sunny destination – my first visit to the popular South Florida coast – just as the sun was setting, and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s beloved Amstel Light Burger Bash with Rachael Ray was taking off.
After a quick check-in at the marvelously serene Angler’s Resort just blocks from the beach, I first made my way to Shine and Swine with BBQ man Adam Perry Lang built around the gorgeous W South Beach pool for a bite of pork paired with a swish of moonshine. Before calling it a night, I also stopped by a rooftop soiree at Red thrown by my friends at Certified Angus Beef. Complete with delish shredded beef tacos from chef Peter Vauthy and Jonathon Sawyer from Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern, it was the perfect welcome to the city.
Following a relaxing post-travel morning, my Friday event schedule began atop the beautiful beachside Betsy Hotel. With the sun setting during late afternoon hours, the Ultimate Beginnings Wine & Cheese Party with wine man Josh Wesson and cheese maven Laura Werlin was a tasty way to kick off the nighttime festival activities. Cheeses and wines from every region, conversation in every direction, and a breathtaking, sun-kissed view took revelers easily into the evening hours.
From the Betsy, it was an easy stroll to the white tents of BubbleQ hosted by chef Bobby Flay. Though the last BubbleQ on the docket for the South Beach festival (to be replaced by a more wine-focused Red, White, and Q), the event featured a whole host of marvelous chefs, beverages, and bites. Flay and friends, including chefs Michael Symon, Rick Bayless, Jonathan Waxman, Elizabeth Karmel, and numerous others – even the Today show’s Al Roker – delivered everything a true champagne-filled beach bash should have, from sauce-slathered ribs to Vietnamese Po’boys.
And what better way to end an evening than with a bit of cake? After BubbleQ, it was celebration time with the late night Let Them Eat Cake, hosted by crowd favorites Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart. Celebrating the festival’s 10th anniversary, intricately designed confectionery creations paid homage to the wine and food celebration throughout the event space overlooking South Beach. Master pastry chefs like Jacques Torres and Ron Ben-Israel presented cakes alongside favorite on-air baker, Duff Goldman of Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes, while ice carvers, cocktail makers, and daring, ceiling-dangling acrobats kept the crowd entertained.
Phew! Anyone tired yet? Tomorrow – Day 2 of the 2011 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, featuring coverage of Saturday’s afternoon seminars and the nighttime beach party, The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender