The annual South Beach Food and Wine Festival is held over five days at the end of February. As a first-time attendee I didn’t really know what to expect. There were SO many events and tickets are not cheap! The “$100 and under” category offered “Buddha and Bellinis” for only $35; first you participate in a yoga class, then enjoy cocktails on the beach. Pricier were the nightly “Intimate Dinners” hosted by celebrity chefs in exclusive restaurants around town, ranging from $175 to $250 per person. They sell out months in advance so plan accordingly if you’re thinking about going next year. The main event was the Grand Tasting Village. Five hours of celebrity chef cooking demonstrations and more food and drink than is humanly possible to consume in that time-frame. Tickets from $195 and up.
Spending one day at the Grand Tasting Village was a must so I splurged on the Demo Pass – $275- guaranteed seating seemed like it would be worth it! I chose Emeril’s Sunset Stone Crab Dinner for the first evening I was in town. Described as an outdoor, “smart casual” event, it was the perfect way to kick off my weekend at SOBEWFF! Emeril’s Cajun-inspired eats and wine and spirits all included for $175 didn’t sound unreasonable for a fun-filled night.
Once the tickets were secured, I needed a place to lay my head in between nibbles and hydration. Hotel prices skyrocket during the festival. Do yourself a favor and call Carol, the festival’s travel consultant. Including the room rate, taxes, guest service fee and parking, the bill for one night was just over $500, about $200 less than the lowest rate if I had booked direct.
The absolute BEST experience was the Grand Tasting Village. Seriously, it was Disneyland for Foodies. I spent the full five hours there and still didn’t see it all! The cooking demos were taking place on two stages, and there were book signings after each demo. And then there was the food. And the drinks.
For demos I caught Bobby Flay, Scott Canto, and Valerie Bertinelli. My favorite celebrity chef was Valerie Bertinelli. She is SO genuine. Her husband Tom joined her on stage, lending a hand with the cocktail shaker. I’m now the proud owner of a personalized, autographed edition of “Valerie’s Home Cooking”!
The food, the drinks, the people all tied for second place after meeting Valerie.
Everyone was happy, friendly, and slightly inebriated!
So, is SOBEWFF worth it? Yes! The energy of South Beach, the sun and sand…it is ON the beach. Total immersion in a sea of aromas and flavors, tropical drinks. Fabulous people who enjoyed talking nonstop about food…and wine. I was in heaven.
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