Imagine leaving the Polar Vortex in Chicago and flying off to the warm beaches of Miami. Are you with me?!? Now picture partying with your favorite celebrity chefs, culinary professionals, and feasting on the best food and spirits. Sound like a plan?!?
Tavi J. from Chi@Glance had the opportunity to leave the cold behind and cover The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF®). SOBE Wine & Food Festival is a national, star-studded, five-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities. This was the 18th annual year. There were over 100+ events spanning from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, over 350+ talent, and over 60,000 people in attendance.
Hosted by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and Florida International University (FIU), the Festival benefits FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center. Each year, more than 1,000 students and volunteers gain invaluable real-world experience with the Festival – which serves as an interactive educational platform for the future leaders of the hospitality industry. To date, the Festival has raised more than $28 million for the School.
I was so thankful to be an attendance and leave the cold weather behind. From partying late into the night at The Wharf, to dancing the night away at the Taste of Jamaica, to walking the sandy beaches in search of the best wine and bites at the Goya Signature tasting event…this trip was AMAZING! Check out my highlights from the festival and you should definitely consider packing your bags and joining the fun next year!
Tavi J. SOBE Wine & Food Festival Highlights
My first event was media related. I attended the Director’s Welcome Happy Hour to mingle and kick off the festivities. Walking into the Shore Club I was greeted by Chef Chris Valdes serving up taco’s. Chef Valdes is a Miami native that fuses Caribbean flavors with modern influences. Chris was a finalist on season 14 of Food Networks “Food Network Star” and is starring in his own series, “Cooking with Chris” – Now entering its fourth season.
The Director’s Happy Hour event was such a great place to network. I met Chef Wendford Patrick Simpson AKA Chef Patrick.
Chef Patrick has quite an impressive career. He has cooked for over 300 celebrities, is the Chef at Sony Hall and the Highline Ballroom in New York, Chef at The Howard Theatre in Washington D.C., and he’ll soon have his own show on The Food Network next month. Chef Patrick is known for his Caribbean/American style cooking. As of 2018 he became brand ambassador for Walkerwoods Caribbean Foods. I can’t wait to interview him next month in New York!
Later on that night I headed to The Wharf for “Mixing it up on the Miami River: Best Bars, Bites, and Beats” hosted by Adam Richman. The Wharf is one of the hottest spots in Miami nestled on the river. Culinary explorer Adam Richman, host of “Man finds food” on the Travel channel, served as our host for the evening. The Wharf was transformed into a cocktail haven of award winning bars. One of my favorite cocktails of the evening was from Hornitos. The Pa La Playa (Hornitos Blanco Tequila, Lemon Juice, Native Guy Honey, Pomegranate Puree, Ginger Beer, Tajin, and Lemon Peel). My sweet tooth was working overtime that night and I couldn’t help myself from grabbing one or maybe two of the Guava Donuts from Mojo Donuts & Fried Chicken. Also a huge crowd pleaser of the evening was the “Off the Cob” Elote from Cracked by Chef Adrianne. One thing I have to say about SOBE Fest is they go all out with the décor. Walking in I felt transported to a carnival like atmosphere surrounded by some really good food and drinks.
The next day my first stop was at Wine Spectator Trade Day presented by Beverage Media Group and hosted by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. The trade event took place in the signature white tents in the sand known as the Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village. The event offered insiders the opportunity to learn about new trends and products in the beverage industry. Guests got to enjoy panel discussions on the Publix Culinary Demonstration stages and also get to sample rare vintages, unique spirits, and select pours while networking with industry leaders. The drinks were definitely flowing but their were also a few bites there as well. One of my favorite bites was from Chef Jenard Wells. The Nashville Hot Chicken!!
Later on that evening we headed to my favorite event of SOBE Fest – Taste of Jamaica. SOBE Festival – in association with the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaican Gastronomy Network – tapped South Florida’s pioneers of Caribbean cuisine Cindy Hutson and her partner Delius Shirley to round up some of the best chefs to dish up a ‘Taste of Jamaica’ at The National Hotel. The National Hotel was transformed into a beautiful Jamaican getaway. Top chefs from Jamaica were on hand to introduce the world to all that Jamaica has to offer. The evening soirée payed homage to the classic flavors of the island and introduced new Jamaican cuisine and flavor profiles – ‘beyond jerk!’ The amped up affair had us swaying to the sounds of DJ Irie with plenty of libations to whisk attendees away to a truly marvelous Jamaican-inspired experience. This event made me really interested in packing my bags again to attend the Jamaica Food & Drink Festival later on this year in Jamaica. YEAH MON!
The last SOBE Event I attended was the Goya Foods Grand Tasting Village Signature event on Miami Beach. The Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village featured Mastercard Grand Tasting Tents & Publix Culinary Demonstrations sponsored by Sub-Zero Group Southeast offered tastings from more than 50 restaurants and an array of wines and libations from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. We also got to watch our favorite Food Network and Cooking Channel chefs, authors and culinary personalities dice it out on the Publix Culinary Demo stages. This event reminded me a lot of Chicago Gourmet, but on a much larger scale and on the beach.
Participating restaurants were grouped together in culinary quadrants, representing distinct districts across South Florida — from South Miami and Coral Gables to Brickell, Wynwood, South Beach and on into Fort Lauderdale. One of my favorite vendors ended up being Wing Stop. Loved those Lemon Pepper Wings. We also made sure to relax in the American Air tent while making new friends and having fun at the photo booth. For those heading to the Goya Grand Tasting Village on Sunday they were treated to a live performance from rapper Ludacris at the Dave Grutman experience.
Words cannot express how much fun I had at Sobe Fest. It was my first year attending and definitely not my last. There are so many events to attend and so little time. Getting away from Chicago for 5 days in the warm weather was definitely a game changer. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to cover the fest and look forward to many more to come!!! Mark your calendars SOBE Wine & Food Festival is February 19th – 23rd next year!
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