I feel a little spoiled that my first time in Miami was at the South Beach Miami Wine and Food Festival. White sandy beaches, aqua blue water, 80 degree winds, and food festival tents stretching down the beach as far as the eye could see. Mark surprised me for our one year wedding anniversary with tickets to five of the food festival events, each event themed with its own celebrity Chef host and unique menu.
The South Beach Miami Wine and Food Festival has almost a hundred different festival events, with everything from specialty wine blending classes to an oyster bash. We stayed at the Royal Palm Resort, right on the beach in the middle of the food festival action and just a walk away to almost every event. Over the course of five days we ate our way through five delicious events, enjoying equal parts wine, cocktails, dessert, and small plate entrées everywhere we went.
Giada's Italian Bites on the Beach
Right on the white sandy beaches of Miami, we started the festival with one of our favorite events. We enjoyed cacio e pepe served to us right out of the center of a massive cheese wheel, with every pasta variety making a menu appearance during this special Italian celebration. With over fifty restaurant booths serving up delightful Italian bites, it was hard to pick a favorite!
Guy Fieri's Burger Bash
For a Friday night, this event was the place to be! The tent was packed full of burger lovers waiting to bite into anything pressed between a couple of burger buns. Even though the burgers were the size of sliders, they were incredibly filling and I could only eat a few! Two restaurants at this event were crowned the South Beach Miami Wine and Food Festival burger champions - one voted as a crowd favorite, the other picked in a blind taste test from a panel of judges, including Andy Cohen and 'Food God' Jonathan Cheban. One of the burgers I tried was from Chef Morimoto who created a tempura burger, which was delicious enough to win my vote. The winners of the South Beach Miami Wine and Food Festivals people's choice was Swine Southern Table & Bar and the judges voted for Alex Guarnaschelli's restaurant Butter.
Grand Tasting Village
This event was massive with everything you could ever want in a food festival. Celebrity cooking demos, four (or many five, six?!) large food tents, activities, music, and so many drinks. For every one food booth there was a wine and cocktail booth serving up delicious specialty drinks. The event felt more like a day party, which was perfect for a Saturday afternoon event right on the beach.
Sweet Moves: Light-Night Desserts and Dancing
Hosted by Chef Bobby Flay, this smaller and more intimate event was exploding with sweet treats! Some of the desserts included a verrine full of tapioca, combava lime, coconut and pineapple, edible flowers made of icing, and a 'magic forest' cake with berries and pistachios.
Grand Bloody Mary Brunch
Hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian and Aarón Sánchez, this boozy brunch was the best way to end this marathon of a food festival. The hosting Point Royal at the Diplomat Beach Resort was stunning, giving me some serious design goals! I loved the raw bar, which had oysters, ceviche, and shrimp all served and shucked right on the spot. One of my favorite features was the bloody mary bar where you added your own drink toppings, like shrimp, olives, celery, and a whole crawfish! It was an event I felt like I could lazily enjoy, hanging out all day, going up for seconds and thirds.
Five days in Miami attending five different food events was like an edible marathon. There were times where we were so full we couldn't possibly fit in another bite .. then a unique dessert or cocktail would catch our eye, and we couldn't resist but to take one last bite! Between food festival events, we had just enough downtime to get sunburnt on the beach and enjoy a few date night dinners away from all the festival excitement. One night we went to the Versace Mansion and had dinner by the stunning blue tile pool and stayed for hours sipping wine and admiring the tropical courtyard. If you ever visit, you must go see the observatory at the top of a winding staircase with amazing views of the stars.
I can't wait to go back and think of this trip to Miami as one of the first of many more to come. We enjoyed the South Beach Miami Wine and Food Festival bites and small plates but I know we will be back to explore more of the city. I am dying to visit Little Havana, have a Cuban sandwich, and feel the white sandy beach beneath my feet once again.