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Garden To Glass Event at Miami Beach Botanical Garden Friday, February 22, 2013

Garden to GlassThe South Beach Wine & Food Festival may be all about wine and food, but there is something to be said about enjoying amazing mixed cocktails, especially when they’re served under the stars in one of the most beautiful and unique settings in South Florida, the Botanical Garden of Miami Beach. And so it was with the Garden To Glass event hosted by legendary chef Emeril Lagasse, along with the talented mixologists from Bar Lab and food provided by Chef Sam Gorenstein and South Beach’s My Ceviche. Miami Beach Botanical Garden

We arrived around 9:30 (the event started at 10 p.m.), found parking nearby and took our places in line outside the front gates. Walking in we noticed tables stocked with liquors, napkins, etc. all set up on the grass close to the sidewalks that wind through the gardens. One table seemed to have more traffic than the others. As we made our way closer, we knew why: People were there to catch a glimpse of Emeril Lagasse sitting at a small tiki-style hut with a bartender at a station to the right serving up cocktails. It was a crowded scene with semi-buzzed patrons all jockeying for position at Emeril’s table.  We managed to work our way in closer, meet Emeril, grab a cocktail and move on to the next station, leaving the chaos behind.

There were some cocktails we enjoyed, but considered them just average in terms of spirits, mixers, ingredients, etc. By that, I mean these were drinks you’d expect to find around town (and most likely, overpriced, depending on the establishment). On the other hand, Bar Lab’s cocktails were the hit of the night, as evidenced by the long lines and scores of return patrons (us included) at their bar. Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, the mad scientists of mixology and founders of Bar Lab, have built up quite the following in South Florida.  All of the six offerings were good but the Oaxacan Palate (blood orange, smoked ancho chili, coriander bitters w/Zignum Mezcal) was our favorite of the night. Bar Lab

One knock on this event was the lack of food. My Ceviche was a big part of the festivities, providing trays of various ceviche and light bites. They were hard to find and what samples they did offer were quickly snatched up by hungry, drunk patrons – oftentimes before the servers had a chance to move through the crowds. This was a disappointment, and we hope they’ll remedy this for future events. Oaxacan Palate

All in all we enjoyed Garden To Glass. A little more organization is needed to make this one of the more memorable events during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, but still, there could be worse ways to spend a Friday evening sipping cocktails amongst a lush tropical garden under a starry Miami night. The Gardens

South Beach Food & Wine Festival Weekend

Cardozo Hotel

Cardozo Hotel

February is a special time in South Florida for Wanderlushing.  South Beach turns into Mecca for fans of good food, wine and drink as the culinary elite head into town for the annual South Beach Food & Wine Festival.  We consider ourselves lucky to live so close to this event and every year we make our escape to the slight south for this special weekend.

Dilido Beach Club View of Burger Bash

As a change of pace for this year’s event, we decided to head down early Friday to ease our way into the decadent weekend.  After checking into our hotel, the Cardozo, on Ocean Drive, we decided a drink was in order.   We headed to The Betsy Hotel about a block north on Ocean drive.  We grabbed two bar stools at the long wooden bar where we could watch the passers by through the windows facing Ocean Drive.   With glasses of wine in hand we toasted to the beginning of our weekend.  The vibe was chill and the service was good.  Not a bad way to start.

We headed back to our hotel to get ready to go to the Dilido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where we could watch the Burger Bash going on at the beach and get to sample the Ritz Carlton’s entry.  We ended up getting a table that was right at the edge with a perfect view of the event.  A bottle of Cabernet on the table, lamb and beef sliders on the way and beautiful weather put us in the semi-reality that is the SOBE Food & Wine Festival.  The night wouldn’t be complete without a stop at a dive bar.  We ended up heading to Lost Weekend with plans to go to to Mac’s Club Deuce next but after a pint of Brooklyn Monster it was all we could do to make it back to the hotel.  Note to self:  10% beers at the END of the evening not such a good idea.

 

Grand Tasting Village

Grand Tasting Village

SATURDAY

Come 11 a.m. sharp the doors opened wide for the Grand Tasting Village. It was a warm day, but not terribly uncomfortable. I say this every year we go to the SBW&FF, what possesses people to wear white clothing to an event where red wine will flow like slurred prose from a drunken poet? To each his own, I suppose. With two tents both a football field in length to walk through, it would take several blog entries to give you a fair and apt description of all the wine, food and spirits available over the course of seven hours. However, that said, we would like to pass along some important highlights about some of the subtle changes that have taken place since last year’s event.

 

  • The wine glasses: Gone is the elegant sophistication of the Reidel glass, replaced by a dubious sponsor in Ikea. On a positive note, the glass did come fully assembled. The complimentary first wine pour as we left the hospitality tent was welcome, as usual.
  • The “Swag Bag”: During past festivals bags would be brimming with volumes of coupons, recipes, food samples and even utensils like cutting boards, bowls and small kitchen gadgets you could keep for a few months and then use as cheap Christmas stocking stuffers. Our bags seemed considerably lighter this year, and it seemed like there were less free magazines available as well.
  • The Crowds: Maybe it’s just us, but it looked like there were more people at this year’s event. Maybe they oversold tickets to the Saturday Grand Tasting, or maybe we’re just losing our capacity to handle large crowds (especially tipsy ones), but it was more elbow-to-elbow during the 2012 event. No one was rude or cut in line, but several vendors ran out of their respective items before the tents closed at 5 p.m.
  • The Home Brew: Several intrepid students from Florida International University Cooking & Hospitality school brewed four craft beers as an academic assignment. Come to think of it, if I had a class like that in college I would have never graduated. The American Pale Ale and the IPA we tasted were incredibly bold, complex and refreshing, not overly hoppy or dry. We give them an A+ on their beer-making venture.


"Talking with My Mouth Full" Pairing Event

“Talking with My Mouth Full” Pairing Event

SUNDAY

It was nice to sleep in on Sunday after a full Saturday’s overindulgence. We took a walk over to Starbucks for coffee, orange juice and muffins. We checked out of the Cardozo at 11 a.m. and headed over to the Miami Beach Convention Center where we would be attending a Bank of America Lifestyle food and wine pairing seminar given by Top Chef judge, author of the book Talking With My Mouth Full and Special Projects Director at Food & Wine Magazine, Gail Simmons, along with wine personality Josh Wesson.

Josh Wesson

Josh Wesson

The seminar, slated to begin at 1 p.m., started a little later than expected because of timing issues with a previous event. This didn’t make a lot of people happy, including the Wanderlushes. Punctuality aside, Gail Simmons is the same in person as she is on television, friendly, knowledgeable, outgoing and definitely not afraid to say what’s on her mind. Her partner for this seminar, Josh Wesson, was equally entertaining and made funny remarks throughout the presentation. Each food item was not only delicious, it had an interesting story behind it. The Spanish artichoke and chickpea stew with Chorizo, served with pan con tomate, was influenced by her early college days in Spain; the Quinoa and brown rice bowl with sautéed vegetables and Tahini Dressing; the pork belly with pickled radishes; the Vietnamese shrimp and scallion Pancake with Asian slaw and fried shallots; and for dessert, her mom’s vanilla and plum (peaches substituting for the plum) tart. The wine selection was eclectic; yet paired well with the food. The Zardetto Spumante Rose, The 2010 Clean Slate Mosel Riesling, the 2010 Los Dos Grenache/Syrah, the 2011 Stella Moscato and a thick, yet not cloyingly oversweet, Emilio Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez NV Sherry. The portion sizes were adequate, as were the wine pours. Overall, the It was an hour-long food and wine journey we both thoroughly enjoyed.

Despite the negatives, and they are minor ones at that, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival really is a wine and food lover’s dream. Even if you pace yourself properly (and remember to hydrate frequently), there is no conceivable way you can sample everything available. It is just that big…but in a good way. We will be back next year, SBW&FF.

Wanderlushes

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