Monday, October 10, 2011


Maybe I'm not the best person to comment on the South Beach Wine and Food Fest. Truth is, I haven't been to an event in years. I still recall going when it was primarily a wine tasting in a tent on the Florida International University campus, but those days were some time ago. My most recent experience was to take my spawn to a "Kidz Cooking" event a few years ago, in which we got to watch Giada DeLaurentiis demonstrate how not to finish a single dish in an hour.

Over the years, the SoBeFest itinerary has become increasingly dominated by "TV Personalities," which I suppose is fine for those people happy to pay just for the opportunity to stand near them, perhaps in ways the personalities don't necessarily enjoy. But the experience doesn't come cheap. The keynote dinner events - the "Q"[1], the "Burger Bash," the "Best of the Best," and the "Tribute Dinner"[2] - are priced between $225 and $500 a person. And while they feature some pretty impressive names, when I think of the meal(s) I could buy for that kind of money, I just can't bring myself to join the teeming hordes. I mean, for $500 a person I could fly to New York, have the tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park or Le Bernardin or Daniel, and still have a good bit of money left for the wine.

There are several lower-priced events, however, and when you consider the prospect of paying as much as $1,000 for you and your significant other to have dinner, suddenly $95 per person starts to look incredibly reasonable.

Consider, for instance, "Party Impossible," hosted by the hammer-headed, resume-fudging Robert Irvine and presented by Epicure Gourmet Market. This event on the roof of the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage "showcases Epicure Market, Miami’s answer to Dean and Deluca" and presents "the gourmet meats, cheeses, breads, soups, pastries, prepared foods and much more that can only be found in this vivant store in SOBE and in Sunny Isles."[3]

What's it going to be like?
"Expect to walk around like you would a grocery store, with one major exception, instead of pushing a shopping cart, you’ll be holding a glass featuring the hottest spirits from the Southern Wine & Spirits portfolio."

Who would want to do that?

"This event is perfect for locals who can’t get enough of Epicure’s delights and bon vivant out-of-towners who have heard the buzz for years."

SoBe Fest grand poobah Lee Schrager is particularly excited about this one, saying:

"We're basically recreating an afternoon at Epicure [Gourmet Market] -- all the best prepared foods you can find in market will be there."

So. It's just like going to the grocery store and eating the grocery store's prepared foods, except you get to pay $95 per person for it.

You know how else you can get an experience like that? You can go to Epicure Market. Which, I know, seems like it would be really hard to do. But I'm going to let all of you "bon vivant out-of-towners" in on a little secret that only us locals who are hopelessly addicted to Epicure know: Epicure Market is literally directly across the street from the venue for this $95 event.

(continued... )

To illustrate:

The red dot on the left is Epicure. The purple dot on the right is 1111 Lincoln Road.

The idea of "recreating an afternoon at Epicure" - literally directly across the street from the store itself - might run the risk of making Umberto Eco's head explode.[4] And while it's true that I very rarely finding myself getting out of Epicure for under $100 (here's where you'll want to make the joke about how Epicure is like Dean and Deluca), I also am usually able to feed a family of four with what I bring home plus have some staples that will last in the pantry for a couple months.

But wait! There's more! Maybe you're not a big fan of gourmet markets. Maybe you prefer something a little more down to earth. Have you heard about these food trucks? They're the latest trend: all the hipster kids are doing it these days. Now you can too! For only $95 per person, you can go to the SoBe Fest "Trucks on the Beach" event, and Andrew Zimmern "will help guests navigate the terrain of bizarre and not-so-bizarre truck foods." The lineup thus far includes New York's Big Gay Ice Cream, along with some of Miami's more notable mobile munchies: Dim Ssam a Gogo, Fish Box, Latin Burger, Mr. Good Stuff, among others.

I've got a little navigation tip as well: you can find just about all of these trucks at various gatherings around Miami, just about every night of the week. Check my Miami Food Trucks twitter list or Burger Beast's Miami Food Trucks website for where to go, and I guarantee you'll make yourself physically sick before you can possibly spend anywhere close to $95 while sampling from dozens of different trucks. It would seem that SOBEWFF has managed to recreate still another experience you could have all by yourself, only with most of that $95 still in your wallet.

Bizarre indeed.

[1]Formerly known as the "Bubble Q" and offering a rather clever pairing of BBQ and champagne, the "Bubble" has been dropped this year and I suspect the beverage offerings will drop as well.

[2]This year the honoree is Charlie Trotter, and the list of participating chefs is about as motley a crew as I can imagine: Anthony Bourdain, who hasn't cooked professionally in years and once said of Trotter that "the guy cooks like he's never been fucked properly in his life"; Frederic Delaire (if you're asking "Who?" you're not alone: the answer is, the chef at the Loews Miami Beach; and if you're asking, "What restaurant is at the Loews in Miami Beach, once again, you're not alone); Wylie Dufresne of wd~50; Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart Bakery; Emeril Lagasse; Nathan Myhrvold, creator of the Modernist Cuisine tome; Patrick O'Connell of The Inn at Little Washington; and Norman Van Aken. There's certainly some talent in that crew, but how it all comes together ought to be pretty interesting.

[3]Is "vivant" an adjective? The only definition I can find says "In mort, bridge, and similar games, the partner of dummy." Is that like an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt?

[4]Go read "Travels in Hyperreality" if you don't know what I'm talking about.


  1. WWUED? = What Would Ulterior Epicure Do?

  2. You forgot the event where for only $50.00 per person you get to mop the floor at Publix. One of my personal favorites.

  3. I'd pay $1,000.00 to watch Schrager eat a trough full of meatballs with his hand tied behind his back while wearing nothing but a diaper. $2,000.00 if Burger Beast joins him

  4. There a plenty of sad, pathetic "foodies" in Miami, not just in middle America & Alaska...
    These are the same aliens who lease a fancy Mercedes that doubles as a Studio Apartment and and office, & who think that Fried Butter on a stick is a balanced meal.

  5. Awesome post but I think the comments are even better hahahaha! Hilarious!

  6. Frod, you forgot to add that, regardless of which event one pays for and attends, the lines of patrons will be unbearable and the chef/kitchen will invariably run out of food about a quarter of the way through the event.

    This food fest scam is comparable to time share scams.

  7. I think they scould change the name to the South Beach Wine and Food Scam....

  8. Re comment 1: the "UE" I was thinking of here was Umberto Eco, not Ulterior Epicure, who I suspect already knows how to spend his food dollars more wisely than on these types of things.

  9. great post. totally true. BTW "Bubble" was supposedly taken out because the previous sponsor had the rights...

  10. Christine - Not sure about that. The "Bubble Q" mark is owned by Southern Wine & Spirits which is still the ultimate grand poobah of the SOBEWFF. Sponsorship of the event itself has bounced around over the past several years.

  11. I've lived in South Florida for 12 years and seen the 'Foodiepalooza' became what it is today. Majority of the people here couldn't tell the difference between onions and shallots if they took their heads out of their arses.

    Miami folk are nationally known to jump on whatever worn out trend happens to find it's way down from NYC every winter. Yesterday was the trucks, today the pop-ups and tomorrow the container restaurants. Magic City will never be a Foodie heaven like the First City, Windy City or the City by the Bay because the locals here are mostly transplants who take no pride in their cities, be it Hallandale or Hialeah - West Palm Beach or Westchester. They would rather attack their next door neighbors over their 'former' homeland they so reluctantly left behind, be it Havana, Cuba or Manhattan, NY.

    Now before some of your KIA Foodies decide to judge me, I led Disney F&B for 4 successful years before opening my own Family Casuals in WPB and Broward. For past 10 years I've served my 'known it all' guests road kill at Kobe Beef prices and vice versa. I've had many Food Network fame hogs make regular 'appearances' to promote one thing or another. Hence, I usually tend to know what I'm talking about.