By Tracy Block Posted February 27, 2012, 6:55 PM EST
MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA This past weekend, thousands of people migrated to South Beach for the four-day marathon of food and drink known as the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Rubbing elbows alongside more than a dozen top culinary television personalities, fans sampled a range of offerings at events sponsored by big name brands like Whole Foods, Evian, Amstel Light, Diet Pepsi, and Bank of America. As always, the weekend, overseen by Southern Wine & Spirits of America's vice president of corporate communications and national events Lee Brian Schrager, attracted a slew of personalities, from household names like Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, and Emeril Lagasse to lesser known chefs like Robert Irvine, Daniel Holzman, and Jacques Van Staden.
Highlights of the 2012 run of the festival include a dinner hosted at the site of the unopened Marlins Park, Wine Spectactor's upscale affair at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, the interactive Celebrity Cruises tour, and the second installment of the “Best Thing I Ever Ate Late Night Bites & Sweets” sponsored by the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.
Perhaps the biggest was Moët Hennessy's barbecue kickoff on Thursday night, an interpretation of the marquee event BubbleQ that was retired last year. Like its predecessor, the affair hosted by Lagasse and Guy Fieri drew a energetic crowd, who gobbled up items like Tim Love’s pulled pork tacos, Jaques Van Straden’s pork spring rolls, Michelle Bernstein’s lamb pitas, and Dewey LoSasso’s filet mignon sliders with lobster and onion marmalade. The party headed into late-night hours with the Q After Dark, a courtyard bash serving more smoked barbecue, cocktails, winged dancers, and a rotation of DJs spinning electronic dance tracks.