What a whirlwind day of drinking and eating, which started off with a big bowl of homemade gnocchi for breakfast at 10 a.m. Of course, it wasn’t any plate of gnocchi. It was prepared by Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani, as he taught a cooking class for food bloggers at Casa Tua. The personable chef was on his A-Game at this early hour, telling our private group that he is the CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) of Bertolli Olive Oil, the company he oh-so-happily shills for. I learned more about olive oil this a.m. than I ever thought possible, but it was a yummy way to wake up.
With my taste buds properly primed, it was off to the Grand Tasting tents, the mainstay of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. This event really caters to the masses, many of whom just really want to get sloshed on wine and (oddly) Hpnotiq! People, these don’t mix! Anyway, I had more fun scoping out the professional part of the Fest, namely the KitchenAid tent, where all of their shiny, colorful products were assembled. I’m already drooling over the leopard-print stand mixers. So chic and tacky at the same time!
KitchenAid also sponsors the various chef demonstrations, and of course, I had to pop over to watch my dear friend Emeril Lagasse “Bam” it up at 2:15 today. Always the entertainer, Emeril interacted with the crowd (easily a few hundred people showed up), drank wine and still managed to prepare two delicious dishes: curry chicken salad and chicken satay with a tamarind glaze. I should know, as I was one of three people who was able to sample the gourmet bites. Hey, friendship with chefs has its perks! It was also great to see Gail Simmons up on stage, as I am a huge devotee of her no-nonsense judging on Top Chef.
Since the tents were boiling hot, it was a relief to head over to The James Royal Palm, where they were hosting the Big Gay Ice Cream Social with chef Art Smith. Aside from cooling off foodies, the event was organized to raise awareness about marriage equality in Florida. Amen to that! Art Smith was glowing in his white caftan (kind of like a dress version of a guayabera), as he worked the party. Also making the scene were Kris Wessel, Spike Mendelsohn, Johnny Iuzzini and Karelle Levy. Toward the end, I caught a great moment between crazy-haired chef Anne Burrell and a drag queen.
That in essence is the spirit of this weekend, a time where fans can interact with their favorite chefs. And when chefs can unwind with their fellow food professionals at private parties. All with the bright blue sky and calm ocean as a backdrop. While the action (and eating) has been non-stop, I’m having a blast!
Stay tuned for more videos on Miami Pop, including exclusive chats with celebrity chefs and footage from our cooking class with Fabio Viviani this morning.