Sunday, February 27, 2011

BubbleQ and More in South Beach

At last year’s Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival, my favorite event was the Perrier Jouet BubbleQ and it again lived up to my expectations.

My friend Lynn is with my this trip and I had been playing up BubbleQ so much that I think she thought I was exaggerating.  That all changed when we arrived.  We had VIP passes thanks to the sponsors, Pernod Ricard, so we were able to get in before the crowds. Our first greeting came with Perrier Jouet Champagne and Godiva Chocolate, so we were off to a great start!

In addition to the champagne and chocolate – and there is plenty of that, including scrumptious offerings from Sweet Street Desserts – host Bobby Flay and more than two dozen other chefs had a chance to showcase a dish.  Though the theme was barbecue (hence “bubbles” for champagne, “q” for bbq), the selection was even wider than that. From weatherman/cook Al Rocker’s Barbecued Chicken to Michelle Bernstein’s Corn Masa Tortillas filled with Kobe Beef and Green Tomato Slaw, the event had Lobster sauces and Lamb Meatballs with Shaved Parmesan (my favorite, though the Macaroni and Cheese from Chris Lilly’s Big Bob Gibson was to die for ). There was no way to go wrong with food from greats that included Jonathan Waxman, Rick Bayless and Todd English.

I also got a taste of things to come on my May Celebrity Cruise as they were represented with some delicious food and desserts.  The fans of BubbleQ included industry insider guests, like Guy Fieri, Martha Stewart and Giada De Laurentiis. Sadly, I hear this is the final BubbleQ and I can’t imagine anything that could come close next year.  One thing that isn’t going away is the selection of seminars offered at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival

I attended two seminars on Saturday at the W Hotel. The first was “Grape Nuts! Crazy-Good Brunch Wines Featuring Josh Wesson and Blue Ribbon” (owner Bruce Bromberg).  I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, the wine or the banter between the two hosts!  It was a fun time for all and even though I couldn’t eat most of the food (it was mostly seafood, to which I am highly allergic, I definitely enjoyed the wines and the pairing suggestions.  My favorite was the Chateau St. Michelle Pinot Gris (2009) from Washington, a place I will be visiting and sampling next month, though I also loved the Georges Grand Cru Beaujolais Fleurie (2009).”  Josh called it “a red wine that wants to be a white wine,” and I couldn’t agree more that it is very food friendly.

Before my next seminar, I met up with Swirl Girl Lilly for some great conversation about wine, food and the state of journalism.  We didn’t solve any problems of the world in 15 minutes, but it’s always fun to swap stories with a fellow imbibing writer.  I arrived at “Making Great Cocktails At Home” as host Tony Abou-Gani, aka The Modern Mixologist, was demonstrating the making of the perfect Margarita. It was followed by the Perfect Dry Martini, the Negroni, the Manhattan and then the Mojito.

Tony’s lessons, though the audience only got to taste the Margarita and the Negroni, were great for the novice mixer and the experienced bartender and included tips on everything from shakers to ice to glassware.  It was a lot of fun, however, I am a bit disappointed that this year’s seminars are more cocktails –  repeat cocktails in most seminars – then the wine regions we had last year.

After I left the seminars, I headed back to the Riu South Beach and enjoyed an hour of down time, a bit on the incredible beach and then with a dip in the pool.  I didn’t have very long because it was going to be a busy evening at the Cruzan Rum VIP Party, where they were launching Cruzan Strawberry Rum.


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