South Beach Wine & Food Festival Dish
Festival founder Lee Schrager shares what's new for next week's festivities
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) returns to the sands of Miami Beach next week with more than 100 different tastings, seminars, classes, brunches, dinners, and parties.
From February 22 to 25, Miami will play host to this culinary extravaganza that sees chefs flying in from all over the globe to converge upon the Magic City for four days of fun under the sun.
The sheer number of events can make planning your itinerary overwhelming: With multiple parties happening simultaneously, how do you choose where to go - especially if you’re coming in from out of town or a first-timer.
The festival, which has raised more than $37 million for FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management to date, started in 1997 as the Florida Extravaganza, a wine and food pairing event. In 2002, that event transformed into the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Since then, the festival has continued to evolve and grow, with the festival growing beyond its famous beachside tents to hold parties in Miami’s Design District, Coconut Grove, and beyond. “We’ve grown from the beach and we’ve expanded because of that,” says festival founder Lee Schrager who adds that Miami’s tony Design District neighborhood is one of the most popular locations for events. “Every event in the Design District sells out,” he adds.
Schrager says that the expansion throughout the Miami area is also a strategic tool to serve the entire Miami community. “People are looking to stay in their own backyard,” he says, adding that the Coconut Grove events, like Sunday evening’s Heritage Fire cookout at the Hangar, are proving to be quite successful.
Schrager is also bullish on the festival’s FoodieCon on Saturday, February 24. The event allows social media stars and influencers to meet and mingle with each other and their followers — think of it as a ComicCon of food. Content creators such as Brian Lindo (@briancantstopeating), Nadia Caterina Munno (@the_pastaqueen), and Jake Cohen (@jakecohen) will be attending. According to Schrager, this is the opportunity to see the breakout food celebrities of tomorrow today. “I do think Food Network is looking closely at this talent. These people are wildly successful at social media and digital networking.” Schrager says, at $95 a ticket, it’s also a great value. “There’s food and drink and plenty of activities. It’s a fantastic afternoon if you follow content creators.”
For Schrager, however, the SOBEWFF Grand Tasting Village is the place to be. “The Grand Tasting is my baby. It’s the one thing that’s been here since day one. At that time we didn’t have Burger Bash or Best of the Best.” Schrager says he believes that it’s the one ticket no one should miss. “It’s the one event where you can spend the entire day enjoying food, drink, music, and people-watching. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and you have the culinary demos, the David Grutman experience on Sunday. If I had to choose one event to go to, this is the one.”
And, if you’re a first-timer to the festival, Schrager has a game plan for you. “If you’re going for the first time, I would check out the Grand Tasting Village. I would also choose a dinner, a brunch, and a late-night party. One or two events a day allows you to enjoy in moderation.”
To plan your schedule and purchase tickets, visit sobewff.org.