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April 19, 2016

South Beach Food & Wine Festival

I had heard about the South Beach Food and Wine Fest (Food? Wine? Sun? Right up my alley), but it had fallen off my radar. On one of the more dismal winter days I spotted an ad in a magazine and decided to get the hell out of Dodge. And (lightbulb goes on!)  why not make it a girl’s weekend for my daughter’s 21st birthday?

So off we went to Miami.

We hadn’t been in a few years because our last trip left a bit of a sour taste: an extremely loud room next to the disco at the Betsy, too windy for the beach, and HOT. But this time, EVERYTHING was perfect.

The 1Hotel: 

A top-to-toe overhaul of the old Gansevoort, this place is a stunner. My king room was ginormous, complete with a lounging area that would fit a crowd, a live-edge wood desk down the length of one wall, a glassed-in, walk-in shower, cement slab of a sink, and the most delightful smelling cedar and citrus bath products. Frankly, the whole place smelled yummy from the moment you enter the lobby. Absolutely everything is in soothing tones of white, beige and pale woods. An eco-concious and sustainable mission is behind the new decor: you won’t find a slip of paper in the room (a mini blackboard in place of a pad) and a tiny tablet has all the room info you need, plus immediate access to any services you desire. There’s even a bin for you to leave your over-packed clothes for the hotel to donate to those in need (maybe a little much?). A vast stretch of uncrowded beach, three pools, and Soul Cycle (yes, I did!) in the lobby will keep you happily entertained on property. The in-house restaurants are by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, but serendipitously, the pop-up on the roof for the Food & Wine Fest was helmed by none other than our very own Bun Lai from Miya’s Sushi in New Haven….so up I went for my first grub in South Beach.

1hotels.com/south-beach

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1Hotel Lobby

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View from roof top pool at 1Hotel

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Artisanal cocktails at 1Hotel

Prey – Miya’s Sushi Pop-Up at 1Hotel

And grub it was. Well almost. Actually it was crickets. If you’ve eaten at Miya’s now famous sushi joint in New Haven, you know his penchant for sustainable foods and invasive species. He’s been light years ahead of his time in his relentless pursuit to educate us to eat tastily from protein sources that are readily available. I wasn’t nearly hungry enough for the marathon tasting menu, but nervously dove into a plate of cricket sushi (lucky for me doused with brie and apricot).  My encouraging waitress suggested they taste a bit like shrimp. Well, no. They taste like crispy crickets, which really aren’t half bad. I moved on to beet-infused lion fish presented on a slab of frozen sea water (gorgeous), and those ridiculously yummy fried not-chicken sticks that taste exactly like chicken McNuggets. I had a lovely night on the roof with Bun and his sister, Miya. The pop-up is over, but if you’ve never been to Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, it’s high time to go. (Read my review here.)

www.miyassushi.com

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Eating Cricket Sushi

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South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine Magazine

By the time I decided to get tickets for the SOBE Fest, many of the “celebrity chef” dinners with the likes of Nigella Lawson, Daniel Boulud, Joel Robuchon and Emeril were sold out. Fearing they might be akin to “gala” food (where feeding hundreds of people the same dish at the same time is rarely an epicurean experience), I decided to stick to the “tasting” events.

The Wine Spectator Best of the Best tasting, in a mammoth ballroom at the Fontainebleau featured hundreds of wines, all of which scored 90 or better, plus elaborate accompanying tastes from Miami restaurants and famous chefs. We quaffed sips from Qupe, Krug, Stag’s Leap and Duck Horn, and nibbled steamed buns, truffle toasts, and duck confit (ubiquitous flavors at the event), but my pinnacle moment came at the booth for the Fonterutoli Vineyard. Twenty-two years ago, my husband and I went on a free-wheeling tour of Italy and happened upon Castello Di Fonterutoli one Sunday. Church had just gotten out and we, along with everyone else in town, crowded into the Vineyard’s restaurant for lunch. It was the most delightful day of the trip, eating and drinking and whooping it up at a communal table with the entire village and pretending we were Italian. And then–we returned from Italy pregnant!  I hadn’t tasted Fonterutoli since that day twenty-two years ago. How perfect to run across it again with my just-turned- 21-year-old daughter, the by-product of that historic vacation. Of course, I had to share the story with the vintner to the chagrin of my poor daughter. Oh, and the wine is lovely, too!

There’s something about being surrounded by so much glorious food and wine that turns one into an insatiable maniac. First of all, you really, really want to feel like you got your money’s worth (the tickets are EXPENSIVE) which means standing in line for the better vineyards and anything with foie, truffle or confit in the name. Although it was mainly teeny bites, we had eaten enough steamed buns (still a trend!) and truffle-scented everything by 10pm. We waddled back to the hotel with handfuls of those ridiculous Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake Truffles (order them online!).

www.fonterutoli.com

www.sobefest.com

The next day, we woke up hungry. Having stretched out our stomachs, we headed to the beach version of the previous night’s tasting, The Goya Food Grand Tasting Village. Good to know: wear a swing dress, you do NOT want anything around your waist. This one was even more fun; the food was less precious (more steamed buns!) and along with the wine, they were serving up mini cocktails. We noshed on the best Buffalo Mac and Cheese ever, the Bagel Ball (a genius invention of a warm bagel stuffed with cream cheese), and an-over-the-top hamburger, fried brie concoction that was infinitely better than it sounds. And that’s not all. Again, we waddled back to the hotel for a nap.

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Sliders with fried brie

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Cupcakes everywhere!

Bazaar by Jose Andres

For our one meal outside of the Food & Wine Fest we headed to Bazaar by Jose Andres, a James Beard award-winning chef, who is credited with bringing the small plate phenomenon to the U.S. We were slightly put off by the lobby seating, but everything was uphill from there. As we marveled at the parade of teeny and teenier dresses with higher and higher heels, we feasted happily on over-the-top tapas. Andres likes to mix it up, with plenty of classics (pan tomate, garlic shrimp) to highly inventive bites (a riff on Cafe Versailles classic Cubano: a pillow of crisp bread that bursts with melted cheese, pickles and jambon when you bite into it) that are as tasty as they are beautiful. Save room for the deconstructed Key Lime Pie, a sublime plate of creamy lime curd with bubbles of toasted meringue and graham cracker crumbs. If you’re in Miami, this is a don’t miss.

sbe.com

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