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South Beach Miami hosts the 2014 Food Network Wine and Food Festival

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Come one, come all! Eat, drink and be merry. That is what a food, wine and spirits festival is all about and the 2014 South Beach Wine and Food Festival lovingly referred by its acronym “SOBEWFF” delivered it beautifully.

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The sparkling sunshine and the crashing of the white cresting waves were the backdrop for the festival. This was the 13th year for the festival, which was held from February 20-23. The festival was under the genius leadership of Lee Brian Schrager, Vice President of Southern Wine and Spirits of America and his amazing team. He and his team, along with Jennifer Baum and her team from Bullfrog and Baum, New York made this festival a smashing success.

Each event was filled with joyful noise from foodies of all kinds enjoying the deliciously enticing smells and tastes that only a food lover would discern. The wine enthusiasts were also in their glory with all the wines available for tasting, as were the spirit lovers that found various libations to sample. It was truly a sight to behold. And, if you missed this year’s festival, please do make it your business to get there next year.

All the major events were held right on the beach in huge tents. Events such as The Q, Burger Bash, The Best of the Best and the Grand Tasting had any where from 30 to 50 chefs at each of the events. The top chefs from around the county prepared their wares for tasting and review by a ravenous crowd. These chefs included Food Network’s chef royalty the likes of the unstoppable Robert Irvine, Iron Chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Michael Symon, the gregarious Anne Burrell, Southern Belle Trisha Yearwood, and the beloved Giada De Laurentiis and Emeril Lagasse dazzled their fans with their culinary charm.

There were many more chefs that competed in the various competitions such as Chris Santos, Executive Chef of the Stanton Social (NYC) and a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped.” Chris won first place at “The Q” for his dish. There was Marc Murphy chef owner of the Landmarc in NYC and also a judge from Chopped who was in there as a contender. It seems that everywhere you looked there was another TV chef or foodie personality that you would run into. Most of these cheflebrities were just mingling in with the crowd tasting the wares of the other chefs and chatting up with their fans.

The food, the wine, the beer, spirits and the champagne along with the divinely decedent chocolate and sugar art that was presented was so tempting that you could not pass up one single dish or drink of something. Decisions, decisions, decisions. It was truly foodie and taster’s nirvana.

And if you are not into crowds there were numerous special events hosted by the cheflebrities that were more intimate in nature. Like Rocco DiSpirito’s “Little Palm Island Dinner” held in the Florida Keys and “East ‘Meats’ West Dinner with Michael Mina and Iron Chef Marc Forgione held at the Bourbon Steak in Aventura. There was Tyler Florence’s “Starry Night” held at the Fisher Island Club and “Mix it Up with (Iron Chef) Morimoto and Friends” held at the Shelborne Hotel. Then there was the party hosted by Emeril Lagasse and Sammy Hagar that rocked the Delano’s beach on Saturday night. The excitement just did not stop.

Seriously, you could not walk away from this festival hungry or thirsty. There is truly so much to sample that you really will have to pick and chose your selections carefully. You need to take your time and truly savor the time spent at each venue otherwise you will not really experience what the festival has to truly offer.

The one piece of advice that can be imparted that was learned from last year’s festival is not to eat the bun at Burger Bash. It is really not about the bread anyway. It is about the meat first and the toppings second. The bread just holds it all together so you don’t’ get your fingers all messy. So, toss the bread and grab a fork and eat on. Trust me when I tell you that you can taste more burgers this way and reduce the number of unnecessary carbohydrate calories.

One very important piece of information you need to know about this festival is that all the proceeds benefits the student education at the Florida International University (FIU) and the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, which also partnered and co-hosted the event. The school’s students worked at all the events and were an absolute pleasure. They were excited to be part of this great event.

There were so many people behind the scenes, as well as sponsors that it is impossible to name them all. What should be said is that all these people worked very hard to bring together a festival that is unique, one of kind even against its sister festival held in NYC in October.

So, mark your calendar now for “February 19 – 22, 2015 SOBEWFF.” You will not be disappointed.

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