The siren songs of balmy temperatures and turquoise blue waters have been calling northerners to the beaches of South Florida ever since Henry Flagler built his railroad leading to paradise. And no time more so than in February when months of cold dark days and icy storms have blanched the skin and withered the spirit. This is the time when South Beach fills up with festive beats and skimpy outfits. It’s also when one of the greatest culinary experiences ever hits the hot sandy beach that everyone loves. Yes, it’s the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
Started as the Florida Extravaganza in 1997 by Florida International University (FIU), it was originally held on their bay front North Miami campus. Its massive appeal quickly overwhelmed the satellite property and in 2001 it was moved a few miles south to Miami Beach gaining the name South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Locals and tourists seeking a break from bitter winter temps make their way to this amazing display of delicious food, exotic drinks, and a rocking good time in droves. Now sponsored by Food Network, the four day festival has garnered millions of dollars in funds for FIU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management giving the students a definite step ahead of the competition. And it’s not just world class dining and great drinks; expect to see the biggest culinary stars around. The largest food and wine fest in the country has attracted appearances from such luminaries as Mario Batali, Paula Deen, Emeril Lagasse, and Rachael Ray.
Steadily growing over the years, there are now numerous events that cover the last weekend of February. South Beach Wine and Food Festival attendance last year was over 50,000 at such activities as the BubbleQ (champagne and barbeque), the Burger Bash (gourmet delectable hamburgers cooked by famous chefs), and of course the Grand Tasting Village. Imagine two massive tents covering several blocks worth of beach sand filled from end to end with noshes from the highest end restaurants in the city. In between the copious amounts of food expect plentiful servings of vodka, absinth, gin, rum, and of course lots and lots of wine! Oh, and don’t forget the book signings, cooking demonstrations, live music, and much, much more. Tickets sell out extremely quickly for the more popular events, so plan on getting them months in advance. Once in hand, just show up, drink your butt off, and dine on some of the best food that’s ever passed your lips. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival is everything you could want in a winter celebration. Perfect weather, delicious food, great music, and a lifetime of memories; here’s a toast to one awesome food fest!
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