The weekend Anthony Bourdain once called “spring break for chefs” is back. The 17th annual Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) hits Miami February 21-25. The massive event sprawls two counties and has even inspired a New York City offshoot. It raises millions of dollars each year for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University and gives its students real-life culinary and event experience throughout the weekend.
Here below is everything you need to know about what to bring, what to wear, and what events are available for every appetite and budget.
Once upon a time, the festival was basically limited to the sands of South Beach but not anymore. With the more than 90 events happening this year, they have expanded throughout South Florida from Coral Gables all the way up to Fort Lauderdale. Staying true to the name, many of the big events still happen on South Beach and its general vicinity.
While being on time is something most people have never heard of in South Florida, note that these events begin and end precisely when they say they will. If an event is over at 10 p.m., don’t think that at 10:01 p.m. it’ll be possible to grab that one last drink. Oh, and speaking of drinks, taking them out the door after an event is severely frowned upon and could even get someone in trouble.
Since there will be copious amounts of booze at just every event, the best bet it to either find a designated driver or use a rideshare app like Lyft or Uber. Available parking at events is limited at best. For Grand Tasting Village ticketholders, there is a free park-n-ride option, with free shuttle transportation to the event from dedicated Festival parking lots.
The Elements and What to Bring
Ladies, do everyone a favor and leave the high heels at home for any event on the beach (and most marquee events are located there). Inevitably, the shoes will be ruined because you’ll spend the whole night sinking into the sand – not a good look. Sandals are the best option (or boots if the temperature drops). If headed to the tasting village tents during the day, only bring a small bag with you — the festival gives out a sizable swag bag to carry things around in.
Now this is important: do NOT leave home without an ID to show you are of age, because someone will ask you for it at some point in time. And don’t forget to bring your ticket! No ticket, no entry. Period. And lastly — and maybe most importantly — bring a stockpile of wet wipes and antacids to the event because you will be eating a lot. Thank us later.
And while South Florida is usually bright and sunny this time of year, the events are rain or shine. Meaning no event will be cancelled due to weather, and no refunds will be given.
Grand Tasting Village 101
The event that started it all. The two-day, wine-filled Grand Tasting Village runs February 24-25. Each day it features more than 50 restaurants handing out food, while 100 different wine and spirits suppliers pour unlimited samplings. If that isn’t enough to make someone’s head spin, there are also an array of culinary demos featuring everyone from Anne Burrell to Zac Posen along with plenty of interactive activities. To add an even more of a Miami spin to it, the festival is bringing back mega-club mogul David Grutman to take over the Village’s courtyard on on both days to create the “David Grutman Experience.” There will be crowds, so be prepared to wait in some lines, but they move quickly and there is more than enough food and drink to go around.
The festival adds some new blood into the rotation each year. Highlights include Marcus Samuelsson’s Overtown brunch where guests will get a first look at his upcoming restaurant; a late-night dessert and dancing party hosted by Bobby and Sophie Flay; a barbecue themed dinner by Chris Lilly and Jorge Ramos; a clambake by none other than Emeril Lagasse; a master bread making class by Jim Lahey; and a midnight munchies party on Espanola Way hosted by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Action Bronson.
Each evening (beginning Thursday, Feb. 22), showcases at least one large-scale tasting event per evening. Kicking off the weekend is the Barilla’s Italian Bites on Thursday, February 22, followed by the Heineken Light Burger Bash now hosted by the king of flavor town, Guy Fieri, on February 23, which runs at the same time as the swanky Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best. Saturday, February 24, Bacardi takes over the beach with its Walshy Fire’s Rum & Bass Beach Party. Rounding out the weekend is a Trisha Yearwood Southern brunch and a beachside barbecue hosted by Michael Symon.
Events Under $100
You don’t have to break the bank in order to enjoy the festivities. Plenty of booze-centric events have tickets for under $100 including the craft cocktail focused Craft-y Happy Hour, the tiki cocktail extravaganza known as the Taste of Aloha and Art of the Tiki, the pet-friendly Yappie Hour, and the kid-friendly Fun and Fit as a Family. There is even an option to workout during the weekend at the annual Buddhas and Bellinis yoga event and a Barry’s Bootcamp class hosted Robert Irvine.
CRAVE Fort Lauderdale Series
Every year, Miami’s neighbors to the north, Fort Lauderdale, gets more and more into the action — and this year is no exception, making the festival very easily acessible to those in the 954. The third annual CRAVE series this year features two South Beach favorite events, Lucky Chopsticks hosted by Andrew Zimmern and the Rooftop Rosé Happy Hour. Other highlights include a Women of Syria dinner with Alon Shaya and Ingrid Hoffmann; a barbecue and clambake; wine and champagne tastings; and a bloody mary brunch with Geoffrey Zakarian and Aaron Sánchez.