Burgers, Cocktails, Wine and Banderas in South Beach

I have been known to schedule some pretty busy days, but I think I outdid myself for the first full day of the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival (and I got the blisters to prove it).

I started bright and early at The National Hotel, where I ordered a fruit and yogurt plate from room service to get me going for the day. It gave me a sense that the day would have at least something low cal and healthy in it!

First on my schedule for the day was an interview with David Burke. I had loved everything about my visit to David Burke Primehouse at The James in Chicago and have been looking forward to trying his new restaurant in Chicago. We had a fun talk about his Dining In the Dark event (look for my story at Cocktails & Joints for more) before I took off to the beach for the Food Festival’s Trade Tasting.

Originally, this tasting was a chance for the trade and the press to check out the booths before the big crowds arrived on the weekend. Unfortunately, the number of tickets increased and it seemed to be as crowded as the regular tastings got. Still, armed with my welcome glass of Simply Naked Unoaked Chardonnay (light and fruity), I headed into the Barilla tent for some great pasta before grabbing a Skinny Girl White Cranberry Cosmo (a new low cal go to for me).

The Cosmopolitan of Vegas once again created a modern building to give out treats, drinks and even a stay at their hotel, which I really need to get to in the near future.  From there, I made a stop taste taste Diageo’s new Q Dream, a deliciously creamy liqueur that is also low in calories, but I gained them all back at the Fiji Water booth where they were making fresh donuts and giving out water  with fortunes.

I put my aching feet into a cab to the Perry Hotel (formerly the Gansevoort) where the event to sell out the quickest was located --- Matador! An Introduction to Anta Banderas Winery with Antonio Banderas. I have to admit it was probably the thing I was most excited for and an assignment for Los Angeles Confidential Magazine enabled me to stay as one of the few members of the press in the room. Banderas was as charming offscreen as he is on and was quite candid when talking about his career and his wine.

The Anta Banderas Chardonnay is not yet available in the U.S., but I urge you to check it out if you do make it to the winery in Spain. In the meantime, you can purchase the Anta Banderas a10, a fruit-filled blend of temparillo, merlot and cabernet sauvignon as well as some of his other reds.

I didn’t have long to change for the evening and get to the Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Allen Brothers Steaks and Diet Pepsi hosted by Rachael Ray. It’s hard to describe this event to anyone who hasn’t been there, but it’s a fine line between comfort food heaven and gluttony! I tried to tackle as many as possible by eliminating burgers that were too rare or on bacon overload and going for a few special ones. Even then, I couldn’t take more than a bite of each.

A few of my favorites stops were…

Good Stuff Eatery Blue Cheese Burger with French Fries and Bernaise sauce, served with a Crème de Casis Milk Shake;

The Meatball Shop Chili Flavored Meat Patty smothered in Grafton cheddar cheese sauce and topped with caramelized onions with a sweet and sour taste;

NoMI Kitchen '800' Burger made of  Ground waygu mixed with Nueske bacon and onion,  topped with smoked tomato aioli, comte cheese, watercress, pickled shallots and garlic, and tomato confit on a rosemary ciabatta bun and served with VodkaNInfused Watermellon (my favorite overall);
Rachael Ray’s BBQ Burger with Sweet 'n Spicy Pickles And Smokey barbeque sauce, a simple, but appealing combo;

And the fairly healthy and tasty South Beach Diet Feta Stuffed Sirloin Burger with Smokey SunNDried Tomato Aioli served on pita.

I also loved the Jack Daniels Milkshake served by Guy’s Burger Joint and the Truffle French Fries Abe and Arthurs was giving out.

Michael Symon, whose B Spot served a Pork and bacon burger topped with pulled pork and slaw (I was not really a fan), won the contest for the third year in a row. It should also be noted that all the burgers tasted fantastic when eaten with the Frozen Hot Chocolate Serendipity 3 was pouring!

After the Burger Bash, I went to 1111 Lincoln Avenue for Robert Irvine’s Party Impossible. This rooftop soiree and a ton of food, from seafood to meat to decadent desserts. I was starting to regret the burgers as I couldn’t get more than a few bites of an out of this world Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar from Ready, Set, Cupcake! with a few crumbs of scrumptious cookies.
I walked back to The National Hotel at about 1:00 am, I walked back to hoping to do some digesting before catching some much needed sleep. There was still a lot more of the South Beach Food Network Wine and Food Festival to come. 


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