Friday, March 2, 2012

South Beach Wine & Food Fest 2012

As I sit here recovering from a brutal digestive coma after 3 days of shameless gluttony all I can think about it doing it all over again next year. This was my second year attending the SOBEWFF. Last year, my SOBEWFF virginty was taken as I was lucky enough to join my sister who scored tickets through her job. Having attended The Best Thing I Ever Ate @ The Beach event and The Whole Foods Grand Tasting Village on someone else's dime I was able to see for myself that the astronomical tickets prices are so totally worth it. We ate like pigs, drank like fish, enjoyed cooking demos by Food Network royalty, and got a perfect taste of what the SOBEWFF experience is all about. Visit her blog to read about lat year's events and check out the pics.

When ticket time rolled around in October I immediately purchased tickets to The Best Thing I Ever Ate and confident that I would somehow manage to score more tickets I requested Friday and Monday off from work (last year's Monday was NOT pretty... digestive coma part 1 was somehow more aggressive than this year's.) So, after praying to the SOBEWFF ticket Gods and offering them my unconceived children's souls, I somehow got lucky and attended 4 awesome events: The Wine Spectator Trade Tasting @ The Grand Tasting Village, The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Late Night Bites and Sweets, Salsa at Sea, and Swine & Wine. Here it goes:

Friday, February 24th
The Wine Spectator Trade Tasting @ The Grand Tasting Village
Awesome event with awesome friends. We were lucky enough to be invited by a generous friend who had a couple of extra tickets. This "invitation only" event is basically a shorter version of the $225 a pop, 6 hour munching marathon event held on Saturday and Sunday minus the celebrity chef cooking demos. This event is housed under 2 massive tents and a large outside area. In comparison to last year's Grand tasting Village experience on Sunday, this event has less food/more booze - hence the name. You receive a wine glass and goody tote on admission which will leave heavy on your should from all the fun free stuff you are welcome to in the event - from Bustelo & Illy cans (great for the sleepy ride home) to battery operated fan misters to olive oil to potato chips (also awesome on the boozy ride home.)

Favorites at this event:
Would I do it again? Hell yes. I hope I get invited again next year.
Recommend? My only recommendation is to make friends (or in my case, stay friends) with the well connected.
If you do attend... wear flip flops, a comfy flowy dress, sunscreen and most importantly: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! They don't hand out Evian and Acqua Pana like it's going out of style here for nothing. The brutal heat in conbination with mixing sips of this and that here and there may lead you to bust a rousing rendition of The Motto to your husband in the car and put you in an 11 hour coma for the night... or so he says.

Saturday, February 25th
The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Late Night Bites and Sweets
This was my second year attending this event and I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't blown away. This event is based on one of my favorite Food Network shows. If you're looking for a great party that won't break the bank ($110/pp - actually about $130/pp after shipping and fees), this is it.  About 30 or so booths park alongside the beautifully lit tent surrounding several open bars, couches and tables. A live band plays pretty good music and the ocean breeze blows through the tent to remind you you're @ SOBEWFF (not that fighting with the sand in your wedges doesn't but whatever.) It's a great setup.
The lines seemed to be a bit longer than last year so I wasn't able to taste everything. I did, however, have a good strategy. If I can buy it locally or if it's from a franchise, we're skipping the line, which eliminated names such as Sonic's & Rosa Mexicano. Even with this strategy on hand I managed to eat. A lot. And the fact that we were a group of 8 added to the cause as we all made different lines and let eachother cut (shameful, I know!) to get enough for the group. After the 4th dish or so, hubby and I shared dishes as we were getting topped off and that is forbidden at any SOBEWFF event. In my book, at least.
In between guzzling Amstel Lights I managed to eat plenty, and even though I didn't get to try several dishes due to security people guarding the food like Whitney Houston's casket, I managed to eat more than my fair share. Crabcakes from Rusty Pelican, Red Velvet Cake from Daisy Cakes (amazing frosting!), Mini Reubens from Jerry's Deli, Stone Crabs in Mustard Sauce from George's, Philly Cheese Steaks from Phils Tavern in PA, Pork Belly from Bourbon Steak, Mini Medianoche & Guava Pastry from Versaille's (local, yes, but sadly I've never been), Mango Salmon & Jalapeño Sashimi roll wrapped in Daikon Radish from Bar Tanaka, Ahi Tuna Sliders (pic below) from Ed's Chowder House in NY, Beef Skewers & Quinoa salad from Edge Steak Bar (pic below), Nadia G's Bitchin' Cherry Cola Float, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's Awesome Sauce Sundae from NY and Guru Indian Restaurant's Gulab Jamun - honey & saffron mikl dumplings in pistachio cream. Yum. Sadly I didn't get to try Joe's Stone Crab's Stone Crab w/ corn waffles, Red Light's Dripping Oyster Empanada (filled with oyster, bacon, & fontina with fennel dipping bisque - that makes me want to cry tears) & Fornelletto at Borgata's Tre Panini. Luckily, Joe's and Red Light's are in this neck of the woods so I shall add them to my bookmarks on Yelp and pay them a visit soon.

Favorites at this Event:
  • STK Miami's Lil BRG's - wagyu beef, special truffle sauce, sesame seed bun. Explosion in your mouth.
  • Prime 112's Fried Oreos - yes, anyone can fry an Oreo but Prime's Oreos were magical, as if made by blessed by The Pope while made by purple unicorms and sprinkled with Tinkerbell's powder. Perfectly crisp, gooey, melt in your mouth amazingness. I had 2.
  • Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's Ginger Curry Shake - like nothing I've ever had before. It was spicy, sweet, mysterious. So good. I had 2, too.

Would I do it again? Ehhh... not sure. I may want to save my pennies and go to a bigger and badder event next year.
Recommend? Highly. A great "starter event" for SOBEWFF newbies or those who want to have a fab time without foreclosing on their homes to afford tickets.
If you do attend... wear comfy shoes and a flowy dress. You will leave significantly bloated and much heavier than you did walking in.

Because I was busy cutting lines and stuffing my face, I didn't get but one picture of the food. But here are a few pics of us having a fabulous time.

Sunday, February 26th
Event #1, 11:00am:
Brunch at Sea hosted by Douglas Rodriguez & Aaron Sanchez
I dragged myself out of bed after a late night of indulging in some of the best things I ever ate. Through sleepy eyes and an angry, grumbly gut I made the dreadful drive accross town to pick up my lovely and talented sister whose amazing recipe won her tickets to this event courtesy of Goya. Hooray for being well connected/related, again!
We arrived at Bayside and made a bee line for the Biscayne Lady while WTF'ing everything in sight and asking ourselves how this place still exists. As we entered the Biscayne Lady (wow, that sounds so wrong given the kind of ladies Biscayne usually hosts) we were warmly welcomed by a glass of bubbly - fabulous way to start! We made our way in and enjoyed some tasty (and not so tasty) hors d'oeuvres as we waited for the main course to be served. Hors d'oeuvres included some funky toast (picture below) with bizarre flavor, texture and smell  (I still don't know what was in it but I know one thing: me no likey) and some yummy meatballs made of plantains stuffed with shredded beef, breaded and fried in something yummy. We then hit up the main courses and truly indulged. The food was phenomenal. I love me some brunch and this hit the spot. Althought I stuffed my face like a true fat girl I still made time to document my eating adventure better than the night before. Pics below.

Favorites at this event:

- Sugarcane's Foie Gras "McGriddles" with Berry Compote and Smoked Bacon Butter. Foie gras? berry compote? bacon butter? Enough freaking said.
- I don't know who the chef was, but there was a ridiculous ceviche of white fish, roasted garlic chips, and ginger. The best ceviche I think I've ever had.
- Empanadas filled with fig and something savory? Kill me! I don't recall. But they were @ Aaron's table and they were damn good.

Would I do it again? If free, yes. I would not pay $150/ticket to attend this event.
Recommend? Sure - to my parents and those in their demographic.
If you do attend...  get there early to secure a spot. It's hard to juggle your drink and eat on your feet while at sea.

The undesirable

My sister & Goya's Executive Chef

Later that day...

Event #2: 4:00 pm
Swine & Wine at The Biltmore Hotel
If "you are what you eat" then this event couldn't be a more appropriate way to end my 3 day eating marathon. Swine & Wine showcased about a dozen chef's (and an interloping clown who is no stranger to messing with my favorite kind of pigs) unique way of roasting lechon. The event was held in a small courtyard in the fancy schmancy Biltmore Hotel. As you enter the property you are greeted by the unmistakably delicious aroma of caja china and chicharron (and producers demanding you sign a release for and have your picture taken since they are filming "a show", more on this hot mess later) We were handed a wooden coin to place in the piggy bank of whomever had the tastiest pork platter. Chefs and their worker ants are lined up on the perimeter of the venue eagerly awaiting for us vultures to sashay over and get down to business. In the center, a lavish and beautifully decorated table filled with The Biltmore's yummiest desserts (macaroons!) and side dishes and another equally large setup with a bar offering wines from Herederos del Maques de Riscal.

We walked around from stand to stand and tried a little bit of everything. I didn't cut anyone in line this time which worked out in my benefit (and the benefit of the public as well...) so I was able to kinda sorta digest in between pickings. I had Asia de Cuba's Lechon Asado, Restaurant Euguene's Chopped Smoked Pig with Johnny Cakes and Cracklin' and Pickle Salad, FIU's Golden Pathers Coach's Brined Baby Swine with Passion Fruit Habanero Mojo, Marcela Valladolid's Cochinita Pibil, another amazing sandwich which was wrapped like a crepe in a massive sheet of bacon (don't recall the chef but it was awesome) and yummy desserts from the aforementioned table. Yolanda Machado's Famous Natilla (whoever you are, your natilla is the bomb) and the Biltmore's macaroons rocked my world. And let's not forget Paulina's Pops - her pineapple pop with a sprinkle of spicy Mexican seasoning was out of this world. My mouth is watering as I recall the Ultra Fest-esque rave of flavors in my mouth at that moment. Yum.

As I mentioned, a certain "show" was being filmed and sharks, I mean, producers were adamant all must sign and have their picture taken to either accept or refuse to be on film. Assuming it was something on the Food Network, I happily signed away my rights. As I was stuffing my face with pork fat and trying not to get mojo drippings on my super cute dress I noticed 5 skeletons rocking extensions, too much makeup and some seriously poofy silicone lips standing around surrounded by cameras. Yep, there they were - The Real Housewives of the 3-oh-5. Nice. It looks like I am going to be on Bravo for the whole world to see The Fat Girl Inside at her finest. Lovely.

Favorites at this event:

- Ingrid Hoffman's Mini Pulled Pork Taco Bowl with Guava Salsa Negra & pickled Mustard Seeds (won the piggy bank contest at the end of the night, it was incredibly good.)
- Bar Basque's Yuhi Fujinaga's Suckling Pig with Heirloom Bean Casoullet, Morcilla Dip with Chicharones (I love me some bloodsausage, sit that sucker in dip form on top a chicharron chip and both my cholesterol and my heart soar)
- Seamus Mullen's Berkshire Pork Jowl & Whole Suckling Pig (in the most amazing mojo EVER! he got my piggy bank coin)
Would I do it again? No, thank you. Way too much pork and not a good selection of wines.
Recommend? Sure - again, to my parents and those in their demographic.
If you do attend...  I hope you're not kosher.

Real Housewives of Miami - so annoying
Bar Basque's yummy Morcilla Dip

Restaurant Eugene's Johnny Cake Dish

Ingrid Hoffman's Winning Taco

The biggest swine at the event

Exactly how I feel...
(BTW, this cookie was awful. I felt like God was punishing me for being gluttonous enough to eat it)

See you next year SOBEWFF!

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