Well helloooooo! I realized I never wrote about my experience at the 2013 South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF). I wrote a post about some cool free events from SOBEWFF, but never recapped my time at festival.
Like I've said in previous entries, I worked as a press and media associate in the festival last year and had a great time. But this year, I was so stoked to actually go as a guest to both days of the Whole Foods Grand Tasting Village and enjoy all the celebrity demonstrations and yummy food!
So what were my favorite parts of the SOBEWFF this year? Here are my top three memories of the Whole Foods Grand Tasting Village:
3) Steak sandwiches and freshly brewed IPA from the Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management
Steak, carbs and beer? I'm so there! First of all, the steak in the sandwich was so juicy and fresh, nestled comfortably on warm, crusty French baguette. Mmmm, are you drooling yet? And I had the privilege of washing it all down with my own Alma Mater's freshly brewed beer. Scratch that, not just any beer- my favorite type of beer: India Pale Ale, also known as IPAs.
2) Shrimp and Grits from City Hall Restaurant in Miami
HOLY SOUTHERN JESUS. Down home, real southern comfort food is one thing that always puts a smile on my face. These shrimp and grits were one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, dishes from the festival this year. The shrimp were perfectly seasoned and the grits were so velvety. And let's not forget the creamy sauce that was ladled over the dish. It was almost like a white cheddar sauce you'd put on fancy shmancy mac and cheese... only better! I am definitely going back for seconds. Only this time, I want a whole portion, not just a sample sized dish!
And best of all...
1) Meeting some of my favorite celebrity chefs!
One of the reasons why I wanted to go to the Grand Tasting Village was to be up close and personal with the chefs I see on the Food Network and on Cooking Channel. From Nigella Lawson to Tyler Florence to even Alex Guarnaschelli (such a sweetheart!), it was so surreal to see these people outside of my TV set, let alone cooking some of their signature dishes!
Now, I have my eye out for three particularly hunky celebrity chefs. These are: Ben Sargent, Chuck Hughes and Rocco DiSpirito. So, the absolute best part of my time at SOBEWFF was when I met two out of these three men! TWO OUT OF THREE- that's 2/3!
First up was Rocco DiSpirito. Rocco was had the whole audience swooning with his charisma (and good looks!). He brought up a couple of people from the audience to cook with him. Rocco's a natural host and there's a certain ease about everything he does.
After Rocco's session was over, a tall, freckled Canadian hunk came up on stage. COULD IT BE ?! COULD IT REALLY BE CHUCK HUGHES?! Yes, yes it was. Chuck was very early to his demo so, being the outgoing guy that he is, he came down from the stage and started talking with the five of us that were sitting. I was so shocked, I barely spoke. Wait, I didn't speak. I had on the biggest grin and just nodded and shook my head when appropriate. Can you say, starstruck?! His show started and he was like a big kid in a man's body. So playful and blurting out his food-related jokes and puns. Alongside his sous chef, Danny Smiles, a contestant on Top Chef Canada, the duo worked under pressure while still taking the time to joke around with each other. I was able to take a little piece of Chuck with me forever as he signed my apron at the end of his demo. #FANGIRL
Sadly, Ben Sargent didn't come this year... But you better believe that I'll be anxiously waiting for him to come down to the festival next year! 😉