The Oscars weren’t the only Awards Show in town this weekend. While Hollywood’s biggest stars were busy starving themselves to fit into figure-hugging couture, food’s power players were feasting as they accepted awards of their own. Food fanatics from all over the country flocked to South Beach to catch a glimpse of their favorite Food Network stars in action. South Beach Wine & Food Festival stormed the beaches, setting up shop oceanside as the foodie masses crowded into colossal white tents for the Grand Tasting, a frenzied sampling of all things food and wine. There was nothing subtle about this theatrical four-day affair as culinary rock stars, like Emeril Lagasse, Giada DeLaurentiis and Bobby Flay mingled and even fed gastronomic groupies.
The hottest (and priciest) tickets at this four-day food free for all sold out quickly, sending diehards scalping. I’ll admit that I was tempted to accept a $600 offer for my $300 BubbleQ ticket (true story), but I’d never sipped champagne while gnawing on bbq ribs. Other buzz-worthy highlights of the festival were an al fresco Burger Bash and the Le Bernadin Tribute Dinner .
As the reigning queen of the Food Network, Rachael Ray refereed a fierce burger battle. A coincidence that Rachael’s working on a burger joint in Times Square?
I think not. Designer burgers like DB Bistro’s foie-gras stuffed signature were out in full force. While Father’s Office from Santa Monica made for a worthy competitor – a burger topped with bacon, blue cheese and watercress tucked into a french baguette – New York City’s Shake Shack won over the crowd, beating out 12 challengers with a good ole chuck patty.
Sure champagne and barbecue seem an unlikely match, but in South Beach anything goes. Famed foodie Al Roker not only hosted, but also grilled up a little bbq of his own; Memphis-style barbecue shrimp served with his wife’s potato salad.
Pit masters Daisy May’s, Dinosaur and Neely’s were present and accounted for, all dueling it out over smokiness and texture. Technically there was no actual winner, but chef Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson BBQ) stole the show with a melt-in-your-mouth tangle of shredded pork gently doused in sauce. While Tom Colicchio opted against barbecue altogether, he dished out terrific chestnut and pumpkin ravioli perched on pork belly. By night’s end, things got downright uncivilized as tipsy gourmands charged Dylan’s Candy Bar decorate-your-own rice krispies treat station with marshmallow fluff, vanilla frosting and M & M’s.
Stay tuned for the dish on Le Bernadin’s Tribute Dinner…
Until we eat again,
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