Five days of nonstop food and drink came to South Beach last week, giving attendees access to everything imaginable without ever leaving Miami. With more than 100 events from South Beach to West Palm Beach, the result was a trip around the world through the eyes of local restaurateurs, alcohol connoisseurs and big businessmen alike.
The event? Food Network’s 2020 South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
The festival– held this year from Feb. 19 to Feb. 23– is an annual event featuring cooking demonstrations, special events hosted by world-renowned chefs like Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay, ample happy hours and family-friendly events.
Proceeds go to Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, for which over $30 million has been raised since its inaugural event.
Nothing embodied this international, culinary adventure like Sunday’s Grand Tasting Village event, hosted on the white sand and under the blue skies of the already bustling intersection of Ocean Drive and 13th Street. One of the most popular and affordable events of the long weekend, Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village welcomed ticket holders to sample food and drink from the finest chefs, caterers wine enthusiasts and bartenders of Miami and beyond.
Among the 50-plus restaurants and array of drink vendors represented, companies of all sizes set up under a spread of white tents that seemed endless and distributed hundreds of bite-sized samples, all in the hopes of it being voted the “Best Bite on Yelp.”
Well-known vendors such as Miami’s iconic The Salty Donut, Bang Energy and even Goya Foods itself made an appearance at the event, hosting giveaways and performances, in addition to encouraging passersby to take as much food as they wished.
Other lesser-known businesses focused on meeting future customers and building roots in the Miami culinary community. Xochimex Cantina Grill, which first opened its doors on Bird Road only 10 years ago, was one of them.
Despite now having seven locations, Nancy Milian– who runs Xochimex with her husband Jorge– is avid that they are still a “mom-and-pop” shop, attributing their success to years of hard work. As for their secret to an undeniable menu, one which offers an array of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salads and more, Milian says it is rooted in the family’s culturally rich heritage.
“My mom is Cuban and my dad is Mexican,” she explained. “So, we infused a bit of both to get the flavors that we have.”
Meanwhile, brands like Washington-based Heritage Distilling Co. spent their day pouring shots and promoting their one-of-a-kind liquors. For Heritage Distilling Co., Sunday was about spreading the word on their Brown Sugar Bourbon (BSB) liquor, which won “World’s Best Flavored Whisky” in both 2018 and 2019.
“We launched in all 50 states this past summer, 2019, and had amazing success. So, now we have two offerings– the 60 proof (perfect for light drinking and new whiskey drinkers) and its big brother, the 103 proof (better for a seasoned bourbon whiskey drinker and makes an amazing old fashion),” said Grant Portier, Southeast senior director of sales.
“I love this event. I love coming to it. I love interacting with all the craziness that goes on,” he continued, commenting on Heritage’s involvement in the festival. “Especially having a new brand, getting it into the mouths of consumers is important. This is a product that is liquid to lips, so people have to try it to see.”
Other vendors included Mac & Chess– which claims to be “Miami’s first board game cafe”– serving deep fried mac and cheese bites with bacon and jalapeno, Komodo– an upscale restaurant that combines “South Asian cuisine with a South Florida Vibe”– serving peking duck and T’antay Miami Cake Studio, a Peruvian Bakery with an entire spread of miniature desserts to choose from.
InRamen Asian Street Eatery, Swan European restaurant, Durty Gurl Cocktail Mixers and more were also in attendance, offering samples of short rib ramen and chicken gyoza, shrimp and lobster sliders topped with coleslaw and bloody marys, respectively.
Lines stretched from one end of the beach to the other and temperatures were much warmer than that of previous days. But, drunken festival goers did not seem to mind, because for five uninterrupted hours, they had the entire world at their fingertips.
At a glance: South Beach Wine and Food Festival 2020