By Tracy Block Posted February 21, 2012, 1:28 PM EST
MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA The 11th annual Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival kicks off Thursday, which means locals and visitors are preparing, yet again, for the most anticipated wining and dining event in South Florida.
Last year’s festival attracted more than 53,000 attendees to more than 40 events and raised approximately $2.2 million for the F.I.U. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. For this year's installment, festival organizers will keep a few staple events with a few modifications to improve both the turnout and the experience.
Following the retirement of the Perrier-Jouet BubbleQ in 2011 comes the introduction of sister event Moet Hennessy’s the Q, which makes its debut Thursday night with hosts Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri. One of the hottest tickets in town, it sold out in record time, but entry is still available for Moet Hennessy’s the Q After Dark, an inaugural after-party with cocktails and music by DJ Ruckus.
Friday brings the return of two established events—Rachael Ray’s Burger Bash, which will have 30 burger offerings from around the country, and Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best at the Fontainebleau, a celebration of fine wines and culinary arts from various kitchens and vineyards, sponsored by Bank of America. Food Network personality Robert Irvine’s Party Impossible will also be presented Friday at 1111 Lincoln Road.
Saturday's schedule will feature 24 events, including Michael Schwartz’s Farm to Table Brunch sponsored by Whole Foods, Fun and Fit as a Family sponsored by Carnival, and the midnight party, the Best Thing I Ever Ate Late Night Bites & Sweets, courtesy of Godiva Chocolatier, Food Network, and the Cooking Channel. Seminars and discussions will tackle such subjects as the art of meatball rolling and grilled cheese pressing, and a Momofuku dessert blessing will take place.
Sunday marks the end of the four-day festival. There will be two brunch events—Paula Deen’s Sunday Brunch presented by Smithfield, and Brunch at Sea hosted by Miami chefs Douglas Rodriguez and Timon Balloo. The festival's signature white tents will be set up on the beach for the afternoon's Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village with tastings, demonstrations, and book signings. Paying homage to the Miami street food scene, Trucks on the Beach, the official festival closing party presented by Cultivated Wines and Andrew Zimmerman, will close out the gathering with big-name guests and food truck menu items.