Burgers, BBQ, and Bubbles: Highlights From the South Beach Wine & Food Festival

By Rebecca Wallwork March 1, 2011, 2:04 PM EST

Photo: Seth Browarnik/WorldRedEye

Now in its 10th year, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine wrapped four days of events scattered at venues throughout Miami Beach on Sunday. While the seminars, panels, demonstrations, and parties catered to meat lovers, wine aficionados, and even kids, the most talked-about events were both familiarsuch as the Amstel Light Burger Bash and Perrier-Jouët BubbleQ—and new, including the festival’s 10-year anniversary party, dubbed “Let Them Eat Cake” and presented by Moët Hennessy USA, and “The Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach,” a live version of the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Here’s a look inside some of the festival’s biggest events.

Amstel Light Burger Bash
The first big event of the festival, Thursday’s Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Allen Brothers and hosted by Rachael Ray, drew a sold out crowd to a tent on the beach behind the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. While sliders were the star of the show, lots of sponsors were on hand to promote their brands, including: Pepsi, showcasing the new Diet Pepsi Skinny can; Havaianas, who (with the help of chef Marc Forgione) served cocktails and snacks inspired by their own products and gave ticket-holders a pair of their signature flip-flops; and Heinz, who used ketchup bottles as centerpieces and awarded chef Michael Symon the Heinz Best Dressed Burger Award. Symon, of Cleveland’s B Spot, also won the night’s coveted People’s Choice Award for his “Yo! Burger,” which was topped with fried salami, provolone cheese, shasha sauce, and pickled onion.  

Perrier-Jouët BubbleQ
A perennial favorite on the SoBe Wine & Food Fest itinerary, BubbleQ served BBQ meat and champagne for the final time on Friday night on the Delano's beach. In 2012, festival founder Lee Brian Schrager will replace BubbleQ with a wine-driven event called “Red, White, and Q.” Pernod Ricard USA public relations director Krista Drew said that the company’s brands look forward to being part of new events, and agreed that it was time to retire BubbleQ. She estimates that BubbleQ guests drank approximately 2,400 bottles of champagne at Friday’s party. “These are the true food and wine lovers who will be most likely willing to buy of bottle of Perrier-Jouët once they are home after they have experienced the brand in such a favorable light,” she said. Other sponsors with a strong presence at the event included Bing, Godiva, and Fiji Water. “Bing helps food lovers make great decisions and we are excited to connect with this passionate community,” said Bing general manager Eric Hadley.  

The Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach
Food Network’s program came to life in the form of this new event held in the same tent on the beach on Saturday night. The concept? Letting the network’s star chefs showcase their favorite restaurant and dishes. Beverages included Pommery POP Champagne, Evian, and a Skinnygirl margarita bar from Bethenny Frankel who was on hand to support her top pick, Ritz-Carlton South Beach’s Bistro One LR. Live music by KC and the Sunshine Band kept guests entertained until 1 a.m.

Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best
This annual event, sponsored by Bank of America, took place at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach on Friday night. The showcase was hosted by Charlie Trotter—whose eponymous Chicago restaurant has held a Wine Spectator Grand Award, the magazine’s highest honor for restaurant wine lists, since 1993. Forty other chefs joined Trotter in serving signature dishes that were paired with drops from 82 winemakers. The evening’s sponsors included Bank of America, Evian, Illy, FedEx, and Riedel, who supplied the attendees’ wine glasses for the tastings. “Wine Spectator sponsors Best of the Best because it puts great wine in the perfect context, partnered with delicious food,” said the magazine’s executive editor, Thomas Matthews. “For an adventurous lover of food and wine, it’s a dream come true.” Amid the broad range of flavors represented by the chefs, key trends included seafood soups such as Paul Bartolotta’s guazzetto di cozze (Tuscan mussel soup with white beans), decadent sandwiches like Luis Pous’s Cuban foie gras sandwich, and bone-marrow dishes, including Eric and Bruce Bromberg’s mini beef marrow with oxtail marmalade, served with challah toast croutons and fried parsley.  

Tribute Dinner in Honor of Alain Ducasse
The festival’s biggest names moved from the tents into a ballroom at the Loews Miami Beach on Saturday night for an annual tradition that pays tribute to culinary leaders such as this year’s honoree, Alain Ducasse. (Past honorees include Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.) A Krug Champagne reception with hors d’oeuvres was followed by toasts, a video presentation created by the event’s producer Tara Gilani, and a five-course dinner prepared by Ducasse’s peers. Charlie Trotter served “A study in Rabbit and Olives,” and the dinner finished with Frederic Robert’s Louis XV with Praline Crunch. Tables were dressed simply but elegantly with candles and white rose centerpieces by Susan Kleinberg. Lenox supplied the china, and Riedel the wine glasses. The dinner’s 620 guests dined on, and could take home, plates commemorating the occasion.

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