Things I Learned at SOBE Wine and Food Festival

By 300 Sandwiches

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signLOAnnnnd I’m back! I returned from South Beach Wine and Food Festival with a full belly and a little color on my face. I totally get why people live down south—I became inexplicably happy once the Miami sun hit my skin from an opened sunroof.

It was my first time going to SOBE WFF—I’ve been to the New York one several times but it’s usually in October, which means bundling up in coats and covered shoes to run around to tastings. Eating and drinking on the beach this weekend felt like a true vacation. I’m bummed E couldn’t come, but I filled him in on what he missed out on:

lambburgerLOTruffles, macaroons and amazing wine at Friday’s Best of the Best event. This is where 50 or so of the country’s best chefs, like New York’s Scott Conant and Chicago’s Stephanie Izard, served up their best offerings while dozen of wineries poured their finest bottles of wine. In between eating truffle flavored pastas and duck dumplings, I had to beeline it to Rick Bayless’ table to give some hometown love to him–I used to go to Frontera Grill all the time when I was growing up in Chicago. His guacamole had my mouth on fire! Another favorite of mine was Xi’an Famous Food’s Spicy Cumin Lamb burger (pictured left). So happy they are based in New York so I can get more of that yummy goodness.

See that vein popping out of my neck as I eat? Jeepers.

See that vein popping out of my neck as I eat? Jeepers.

—The most amazing burgers at the annual Burger Bash. Chefs offer up their most creative burgers to be crowned the burger king (or queen). My game plan here was to take two bites of each burger and toss the rest, so to sample burgers from more stations and not get too full too fast. But this didn’t stop me from devouring the entire “Blackened Sabbath” burger topped with bacon, a beer battered onion ring, and goat cheese from The Burger Dive in Billings, MT. That burger got my top vote.

—Meeting the lovely Pat LaFrieda, whose famous family run business provides meat to top restaurants in New York and beyond (and to the participants in Burger Bash). In between tastings, LaFrieda educated me on the beef biz. For example, now I know why I can’t find venison at most stores in New York: you can’t buy wild game from say, a hunter whose just shot an 8 point upstate (sorry, Dad). You can only buy farm raised venison, and most of that comes from down south.

That hair is everything.

That hair is everything.

—More rum than food at the Grand Tasting Tent on the Beach. Well, for me at least. Not to say that talks and demos by Daniel Boulud and Anthony Bourdain and appearances by Miami Heat players Chris Bosh and Shane Battier weren’t enticing. I checked those out too. But when THIS GUY is offering up rum cocktails, you have to adjust your focus from food to drink, and indulge. That mohawk was about 8 inches from scalp to tip, and did not move in between pours. Trust.

The food was great, the weather amazing, and I’m thankful to all who fed me this weekend. Now, to the gym to work off all of those tasty calories!

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