By Cody Lewis | SanDiegoVille Contributor
The opportunity to cover a full weekend of the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting at the 12th annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival was both unexpected and exciting. After all, there are dozens of different foods to try, unlimited booze, and Food Network celebrity chefs hosting live shows and mingling with the crowd, all right on the beautiful South Beach sand in blistering Miami, Florida. And yet, even with the incredible nature of this event in mind, the paradise that awaited me at SOBEWFF was shocking.
|Iron Chef Morimoto doing his thing!|
Some of the highlights from this flavor party:
|Aaron's Catering Lechon with cornbread|
• For the health conscious vegan Daiya cheese and Udi’s Gluten-Free delivered on some bomb bites. Daiya prepared both a surprisingly flavorful quesadilla and a sharp Daiya cheese with apricot jam that was simple and operative in demonstrating their efficiency as a cheese substitute. Udi’s made a brown bag style sandwich with turkey, provolone, roasted peppers, and mixed greens all on their multigrain.
|Roho's Truffle Mac 'N Cheese with chocolate covered bacon|
|Tutto's Mare Miami's crispy ceviche|
• The incredibly personable Chef Eric Grutka of Ian’s Tropical Grill, coming off of a victory at the Palm Beach Food and Wine festival, was cooking some traditional Spanish style rice with clams, and was more than happy to pose and show off some sautéing skills while doing so.
|Tito's Vodka table|
• The seared tuna served over heirloom tomato salad with a gazpacho dressing, was unbelievably fresh and cooked to perfection, and immediately transported me to my favorite beach in Spain, looking over the Mediterranean.
• Goya shocked me with their gourmet spicy meatloaf over yuca mash, garnished with sprouts, and served in a smartly assembled cornhusk.
|Some of the samplings from the Whole Foods tent|
|Chef Aaron Sanchez's demo|
Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Dawson also provided some witty banter, calling themselves the Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of cooking, respectively. Bourdain provided reason, saying “its because people don’t know how the hell I’m still alive.”
|The Sandwich King doing his thing for all to see!|
|Meeting some Iron Chefs!|
|I missed that part!|
Tips for future attendees:
|Dress like that guy!|
• Go shoeless! Nothing beats swishing a fine wine with a tray full of grub between your hands and sand between your toes. Plus, seeing inebriated people trudge open toed shoes through sand is awkward for all.
|Look - My phone! Oh, and Rachael Ray|
• Do your research. It helps to have a vague plan for the day so you don’t end up in a vicious cycle of going randomly from food to drink to food all day long. The presentations really are worth your time and even some of the lesser-known chefs give killer, often times hilarious shows. The two best I saw were on the ‘JV’ Green stage and far more entertaining and personable than the big names. Looking up the vendors competing in “best bites on the beach” is another brilliant plan. It gives you an idea of the frontrunners and an idea of which stands are likely to blow you away.
• Check your shyness at the door. Everyone at this event is looking for good food, good drink, and good times. The vibes are wonderful and it’s all too easy to coast on them if you have the right mindset.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a festival following foodie or you just eat to survive. Going to this unbelievable event you are guaranteed to experience a weekend of pure content and will come out with a full heart, mind and belly.