Since moving to Miami eight years ago, I’ve wanted to attend the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, but always found an excuse not to go. Too touristy, too crowded, too expensive. Maybe I was just scared of my own daunting perception of what I thought it would be. Well, regardless of all that, this year the excuses finally ran out. I’m now part of a dynamic food blogging duo and it would just be flat out wrong not to cover South Florida’s largest, and arguably one of the nation’s most important culinary celebrations, showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities. The time had finally come to see what this shindig was all about.
That said I wasn’t quite ready to go full-fledged foodie for this, my first foray into the festival. I don’t think my stomach, or my wallet for that matter, could quite handle four days of tastings, seminars, brunches, lunches, dinners and late-night parties. So I took to perusing the SOBEFEST website, blogs, online daily deal sites, and social media channels to carefully select a couple of events to attend: Medianoches & Mixology on Friday night and the Big Gay Ice Cream Social on Saturday afternoon. On my first time out, I thought it was important to try and find events that focused a little more on the Miami food scene, featuring local cuisines, chefs and causes.
Here’s a quick rundown of my first experience…
Medianoches & Mixology
What better way to ease my way into the SOBEWFF than with an event built around the medianoche sandwich? For those who don’t know, the medianoche is the cousin of the Cuban sandwich, and a classic in its own right. It consists of roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles, but it’s served on softer, eggier, sweeter bread (like a brioche or a challah) as opposed to the crustier Cuban bread.
On Friday night, the Wynwood Walls provided a great backdrop for guests to enjoy medianoche variations from some of Miami’s best Latin food authorities, sipped on Botran rum cocktails and mingled with celebrity hosts Chef Anne Burrell and Emilio Estefan. The food was outstanding, ranging from traditional (The Cuban Guys, Bobos Café, El Exquisito, Luis Galindo’s Latin American, Daddy’s Grill Gafé, Latin House Grill) to more modern takes (Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar, Pubbelly, Bread + Butter) on the medianoche. But that wasn’t all, as there were also empanadas from Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, croquetas from Islas Canarias, hot chocolate and churros from Churromania, flan and tiramisu from Sweetness Bakeshop, and ice cream from Azucar Ice Cream Company. Ufffff, I feel stuffed all over again just typing this.
Pork Belly Medianoche (Chef José Mendin, Pubbelly): Pork Belly, Smoked Ham, Ementhal Cheese, Sliced Pickles, Yuzu Dijonaise – they don’t call him the “Prince of Porc” for nothing!
Medianoche? (Chef Alberto Cabrera, Bread + Butter): Medianoche Pâté, Swiss Cheese, Mustard Greens, Grainy Mustard on a Sweet Ham Bread
Elena Ruz Sandwich (Chef Adrianne Calvo, Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar): 12-hour Braised Pulled Turkey Breast, Whipped Cornichon Cream Cheese and Housemade Strawberry Preserves on a Hawaiin Roll
The Big Gay Ice Cream Social
On Saturday afternoon I headed over to The James Royal Palm Hotel on South Beach for the Big Gay Ice Cream Social. While not on the “official” SOBEWFF schedule, this free event brought out some heavy hitters on both the national and local food scenes to help raise awareness for marriage equality in Florida.
Hosted by Chef Art Smith, the event provided a festive afternoon of frozen drinks and desserts created by Smith and provided by Big Gay Ice Cream and Kelvin Natural Slush Co., Florida Cookery and executive pastry chef Antonio Bachour. Additionally, local favorites like R House, Tongue & Cheek, Crumb on Parchment, Daisy Cakes, Panther Coffee, Kindbar, Swine Southern Table & Bar, Hip Pops and Haven South Beach were on-hand to dole our their best dessert samplings.
While the event itself was a little disjointed – too many people, not enough space – it really didn’t matter because it was all for a good cause.
Tres Leches (R House)
Blonde Chocolate & Coffee Custard (Tongue & Cheek) – aka one of my favorite desserts… ever!
Warm Sticky Icky Bun (Swine Southern Table & Bar)
All in all, I’d say I did pretty well for a newbie. I tasted some delicious food, snagged pics with a few celebrity chefs, watched some of my local faves shine in front of a national audience, and in general had a pretty great time! But, best of all I learned that there was no reason to be afraid of the SOBEWFF. Whether it’s a takeover dinner by a trendy NYC restaurant, a brunch or dinner hosted by your favorite Food Network star, a food and fitness seminar, a Burger Bash, an unaffiliated side event or a wander through Grand Tasting Village, there really is something for everyone. It’s up to us to decide what we want and make the most of it.
For a closer look at the events I attended and the food I ate, check out the photo gallery below.