Sunday, March 25, 2012

Starting South Beach with The Q

February is one of my favorite months because it is the time of one of my favorite events. There is nothing that quite compares with the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival for bringing together chefs and industry insiders.  This was my third year in a row attending and I was especially excited that I would also be covering for Ocean Drive Magazine.

My flight was running a bit late, but I arrived in time to get changed for The Q. I was staying at The National Hotel for the first time and was happily surprised at the locale – right in the center of all the events. I had a very nice room with a view and best of all it was just a quick walk out the back door to the beach. It happened to be the same beach The Q was set up on, at the Delano.

The Bubble Q had been my favorite event that previous years.  I had been disappointed to hear it would be cancelled, but happy to find out the new event, hosted by Moet Hennessy and called simply “The Q” would be very similar. I found that was certainly the case.

Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri hosted The Q, which served as the festival’s kickoff party. It was an eating frenzy, with some of the country’s best chefs serving a special barbecue dish of their choice. In addition, Moet Hennessy’s sponsorship of the event meant plenty of Belvedere Vodka, Moet Champagne and Hennessy Cognac.

As much as I hate to waste food, I did really want to take at least a bite out of as many items as possible. Here’s a sampling of some of the most memorable…

Chris Lilly passed out Big Bob Gibson barbecue, which was delicious, but was very rich so it was easy to leave it behind;

Dean Fearing of Fearings in Dallas had a superb BBQ Beef Taco that was a combination of sweet and savory;

Chef Yoshi Katsumura made Barbecue Wagyu Spareribs with Yuzyu sauce and candied skin, served with a Scallion Pancake and Watermelon Salad. It was terrific;

I really enjoyed my conversation with Nadja G. (check out my story at Cocktails and Joints). She is just so much fun and the pork belly she made was excellent;

The Hill Country Barbecue of New York offered some tender and tasty meat;

Chef Michael White prepared a yummy Grilled Pancetta with glazed figs and roasted pistachios;

Celebrity Cruises brought out a most delicious Spring Roll with white truffle barbecue sauce;

And, co-host Guy Fieri wowed all with food from his Tex Wasabi restaurant -- a Banh Mi Taco, served with barbecue chicken fried rice. 

For dessert, Godiva Chocolate had sweet treats for all, from drinks to mousse, to samples of their Belgium chocolate. Also there all the way from New York was the Big Gay Ice Cream truck, a big hit on a hot night.

Since the party was also the first night of SOBEWFF, many of the festival’s stars stopped by to visit the participating chefs. Andrew Zimmern, Robert Irvine and Rachael Ray were just a few who chowed down with their friends.

I stayed until the end and then headed back to The National Hotel for some rest. Day two at the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival was going to be a big one for me that included lots of interviews, some time with Antonio Banderas, and more food, wine and spirits than you could ever imagine.

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