The main entrance at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. (Jenn Harris / Los Angeles…)
The Food Network South Beach Food & Wine Festival kicked off Thursday night with Moët Hennessy's The Q hosted by Paula Deen and sons presented by Omaha Steaks. Several white tents spanning the size of a football field were set up over a section of the beach behind the Delano hotel for the event. Foodies and women holding their heels, walking barefoot dressed in outfits that included club wear and shorts stumbled around in the sand.
I sipped the Q, one of the four specialty cocktails at the event, while I tried to spot Deen. The cocktail was a sweet mix of Belvedere vodka, simple syrup and lemon. I finally spotted the Southern queen as she approached the festival stage. She might as well have been Brad Pitt. Her bodyguard walked her through the festival shielding her from the throngs of middle-aged fans who tried to get close enough to snap a picture. People were also seen stopping her husband, Michael, who is frequently seen on her TV shows.
There was a covered tent with shades that I'm guessing belonged to Curtis Stone because his name and Twitter handle were all over it. No one entered or left the tent for hours but there was an image of a woman dancing provocatively on loop playing over the shades. Someone with an outline of spiky hair could be seen walking around inside the tent, but no clue if it was actually Stone.
Other festival highlights included Geoffrey Zakarian, Jonathan Waxman, Todd English (who won the award for favorite festival dish with his steamed bao with hoisin-glazed short rib) and Tim Love. Two of the best bites of the night were prepared by California chefs: former "Next Food Network Star" contestant Duskie Estes and Culver City chef Benjamin Ford of Ford's Filling Station. Estes made what she called a pig face poutine and Ford did a perfectly cooked lamb chop with roasted eggplant.
One of my goal's of the evening was to try Robert Irvine's food. Irvine is the host of "Dinner Impossible" and "Restaurant Impossible" and is known on the network for being a forceful British drill sergeant in the kitchen on TV, but I always wondered where he came from and if he actually had cooking chops. I guess I'll have to keep wondering because there were so many people crowded around his booth trying to get a picture with Irvine that I didn't dare try to cut through that line.
As the night went on, the band played louder and the bar lines spread like octopus tentacles through the crowd. People were seen on more than one occasion tripping in the sand and triple fisting their drinks. With ticket prices reaching $300 a pop, who could blame them? And hey, it's Miami!
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