We had the great privilege of being guests of the Food Network for the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival – a three day event held in breezy, open sided tents on the beach – in Miami’s South Beach. Our accommodations? The South Beach Ritz Carlton. (But more about that later, in a separate review of the hotel.)

Ritz Carlton marquee

Miraculously, Winston did not set off the Redneck detector at this property. Must have been out of order that weekend.

I’d heard of  SOBE-WFF before but must confess that I knew little about it. One lasting impression – it is a much, much BIGGER DEAL than I could have ever imagined! Three huge tents were set up…directly in front of the Ritz.

All the major celebrity chefs from the Food Network and the Cooking Channel were in attendance, most of whom were manning fully staffed booths – whipping up their individual specialties – for sample by the throng of attendees each night.

Let me pause here for some serious name dropping – Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri, Al Roker (yep, the weatherman guy – who knew?), Dean Fearing, Robert Irvine, Rachael Ray,  the Neelys & John Vergos of the Rendezvous (both of Memphis BBQ fame) as well as many up-and-coming young stars such as Nydia of “Nydia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen” (the Cooking Channel) and Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King .

Theme the first night was BBQ ribs. The second night theme was gourmet hamburgers. Needless to say, I went off my vegetarian diet for the weekend. (My taste buds loved it…my digestive system…not so much…by the third night my sleep was being interrupted by dreams of a scaly lizard-like animal bursting out of my belly and slithering on down into the sewer to find a suitable mate…a subtle message for sure.)

Diet Pepsi come on...

Hey there handsome…would you like a taste?

Either the young lady above thought I was irresistibly attractive…or she was being paid by the can. Fourteen Diet Pepsi’s later…I had to move along…to find a men’s room.

Emeril hands out BBQ samples

Emeril Lagasse poses above, while passing out samples of his special BBQ recipe.

Al Roker serving BBQ

Al Roker was overheard saying something like “Cloudy, with chance of meatballs!”

Guy Fieri with Judy Christa-Cathey
Judy reminisces with Guy Fieri about the time she hired him to cook for a crowd at a Hampton Hotel in New York – to promote the introduction of hot waffles as part of Hampton’s free breakfast.

Dean Fearing of Dallas, TX
This is Dean Fearing of the restaurant of the same name – located in the Ritz Carlton in Dallas, TX. Do you think Dean is having fun?

Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King gives a demo on the deck of the yacht
Jeff Mauro, known on the Food Network as the “Sandwich King” gave us a sandwich carving demonstration on the top deck of the yacht while we cruised Biscayne Bay.

A sample serving
This…and the next two images below…are samples of the type of presentations we encountered. Just how much of each of these incredibly delicious celebrity chef creations do you think you could eat and still make it all the way around the show…some 40 or 50 booths?

Just how many...and how much...can you eat?

Just how many...and how much...can you eat?

The Moonshine / White Lightning booth
Unfortunately we weren’t able to steer Winston Beavers clear of the Moonshine & White Lightning booth. Shortly after his 27th visit they instituted a ten sample limit.

Godiva Chocolates featured to-die-for desserts
Godiva Chocolates offered up some to-die-for desserts.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience…a real ‘inside’ peek at the world of Celebrity Chef-dom…and, of course, some of the most imaginative, sinfully delicious food I have ever tasted!  (With the all the super rich food and high octane drinks to be consumed, if we go again, I’ll set a more moderate pace…don’t want that acid refluxing lizard slithering back into my dreams – he might bring the whole family next time!)

2 Responses to The Ultimate Trip for Foodies

  1. Dude, how come you don’t mention these great trips BEFORE they take place? These days I’m not interested in anything to expand my mind. I’m only interested in things that expand my waist. Please keep me posted of other “Foodie” events. Especially if you can get me a good deal. Ciao For Now

    • admin says:

      Well let me slap my face with a loud “Doh!”
      Shoulda given you a call, Vinny. Jus wasn’t thinkin’ straight.
      Everything was comped for us, even three nights at the Ritz. Reason: Judy buys a ton of ad time on the Food Network for Hampton Inns & Hilton Garden Inns. Entrance tickets cost about $350 per person per night…scalpers were offering us $500. It’s an annual affair and if I was to go again, one night would be plenty…three is overkill! Say, after seeing these up-and-coming young whippersnapper cooking show stars, I’m thinking that Vinny outta have a show. If Nyda with all her tattoos and stuff can pull off “Bitchin’ Kitchen, then it’s all about entertainment right? Youse can do dat!

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