Updated: Jul 4
It's been go, go, go in the recent months and I've finally got down time to write about my trip. At the end of February, I went to my first ever Food Festival: South Beach Food and Wine in Miami, Florida. This is an event I have heard about for years, and so many of the celeb chefs that I look up to make an appearance at it. From Rachael Ray to Guy Fieri to the newest Food Network and Cooking Channel Stars.
I flew in on Thursday night for the festival, as there weren't any events we were interested in going to that first evening. My friend Mike joined me for the whole weekend, as he is a foodie too. We flew into Fort Lauderdale and ubered down to Miami Beach, as both airports are about the same distance from the venue. We checked into our hotel, Hilton Cabana Miami Beach and it was time to crash after a travel day.
On Friday, we had the morning and afternoon to lounge around the pool and beach, as our first event wasn't until the evening. The hotel was located beachfront, so we were just steps from the ocean. Plus they had two pools, one ground level and one a few floors up where you had a great view looking down the coast and into the Atlantic. For breakfast, we ate at the hotel that morning (there were several GF options) and lunch we just walked up the street and had something light in preparation for our Taste of Italy event that night.
The Taste of Italy was a walkaround event featuring loads of Italian cuisine across South Florida and hosted by the one and only Anne Burrell. I'm a huge fan of Anne Burrell from her appearances on Food Network, and I always joke with my parents that I'm going to audition them for the show. The event was cool to see all the food; unfortunately there were only three to four GF options and plenty of drinks. I was a bit disappointed with that as I expected more with Italian, and I was a bit confused as to why have 1/4 of the food be meatballs. In the end, I went back for seconds and thirds of what I could eat and met Anne Burrell so the night ended well.
Saturday was the big day with the Grand Tasting Village. This is the signature event with tons of demos, tasty bites and chef sightings. We got there right at Noon, so we could have the full afternoon ahead of us. There was plenty of GF food at this as there had to be 50-60 booths at least, and the staff for the most part was very polite in answering dietary questions. I had to ask as they did not have the items marked FYI. We spent a lot of the afternoon walking around trying different foods, but also getting to watch several of our favorite chefs cook. From Geoffrey Zakarian to Alex Guarnaschelli to Guy Fieri and so many other personalities on stage. Lots of free swag too throughout the day and plenty of celebrity encounters; including pics with Alex G and Michael Symon. One of the funniest moments was seeing Anne Burrell drunk on stage (rumor is she does that at a number of events, according to the staff at our hotel). She sprayed the audience with champagne and I kept thinking to myself; she is going to cut herself while cooking. Overall, the day ended great; much better than Friday and I would give the food a B. There were some really good bites and I would go back but maybe take a few years off. I'm a tough critic as I cook so much at home and am a perfectionist.
We headed to a restaurant nearby for Drinks (La Havana). The mojitos were great and sampled a few tostone bites too (they had me at plantains). We then walked by the Loews hotel to rest a few minutes and see if we would run into any of the celebs, as this was the host hotel. Guy was the honoree for the dinner that night, and while I was waiting in the lobby; I saw Anotnia Lofaso walk by. I've been a huge fan of hers since her days back on Top Chef Chicago. I told her it was a pleasure meeting her and snapped a selfie. Back to the hotel now.
Sunday started with breakfast at the hotel, and then wandered around Miami Beach a bit. Hit up Taquizo's Tacos for lunch, as I remember seeing this on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. The tacos were delicious: one fish and one grasshopper (both GF); also they had GF churros. If you know me, you know I don't skip dessert. From there just headed back along the beach and chilled in the sand a bit before walking back to the hotel. It's now off to the Miami airport and next stop Rio.