For those of you who have been around for a while, you know that every February, my friend, Emily, and I shed our winter-weather gear and head to Miami for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. It's a weekend that I look forward to all year long. Why? Because, aside from the obvious (my passion for food and wine), there's just something about Miami Beach that works for me. Clicks. Does it. I often say that it is the "perfect beach city," as the sea water is warm and the prettiest hue of turquoise blue - there's a strong Latin culture and flair - an abundance of fabulous shopping - world-class night life and dining - and some of the best looking people on the planet. Oh, and temperatures in February range anywhere from 75 to 85 degrees (Fahrenheit).
Where does the time go? Seriously, I'm having some issues coming to grips with the fact that my 3-day food and sun-soaked weekend has passed. However, I'm already looking in to hotel reservations for 2014! The dates for next year's Festival, by the way, are 2/20-2/23. So, in the meantime, please enjoy my recap from yet another fabulous visit to Miami.
Just call me your personal "travel martyr." Why? Because I thought that I was saving a bundle by flying in to Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami. And, technically, I was. Until I saw my bill for the 45-minute cab ride to the hotel. $80, folks! Pre-tip.
This year, Emily and I decided to stay at the Fountainebleau, which is located next door to Eden Roc, where we stayed last year. We wanted to try something different and, after having checked out Fountainebleau's hot pool scene last year, decided that we'd be better positioned to meet men. And famous chefs.
After checking in, the first thing Emily and I did was head down to the pools/beach. We did not want to miss a minute of sunshine!
Prior to our 8pm dinner reservation, Emily, Josh, and I headed to the W hotel's outdoor lounge, Grove, to meet my friend, Tammi, for a cocktail. Oh, how I wish we could have stayed there all night! Legit, Grove was one of the coolest outdoor cocktail venues I've ever been to. In the world. This, fellow travelers, is a Miami *must.*
After dinner, Emily headed to one of the Festival events, while I retired to our hotel room.
Because chaise lounges are such a hot commodity, I ran down to the pool before 9am (!!!) to snag two for Emily and me. The effort! Then, I grabbed my goggles and went for a dip in the beautiful ocean...
When I got out, I almost stepped on this...
As if a famous chef and a near-jelly fish-bite weren't exciting enough, the lunch I ordered, poolside, was *actually* really delicious. Who'd have thought? Grilled mahi-mahi fish tacos came drizzled with cilantro crema and were accompanied by cole slaw and a fantastic salsa. Bam!
Post-shopping, I met Alex and Chef Cesare Casella for a cocktail in the lobby of the hotel.
Burgers. Burgers. And more BURGERS! I was in hog heaven (or, should I say "beef heaven")...
This was, by far, one of the most delicious nights I've had in recent memory. My favorite burger of the thirty-four was from Miami's own Burger & Beer Joint. The "Susie Q" was composed of: Aged sharp cheddar, smoked applewood bacon, tomato jam and spicy mayo on a brioche bun. Crispy dill pickles and buttermilk ranch (dressing) accompanied.
As per usual, I was up early and headed down to the pool to grab chaise lounges. This morning, however, I had to snag 8 chairs instead of just 2. Since Emily had befriended 4 new people and invited Yasmin and Mike to join us, I literally had to place a piece of random collateral - sunscreen bottles, water bottle, magazines - on an entire row of chairs. Once everyone slowly started to arrive, I decided that it was time to crack open the 40oz. can of malt liquor that Emily's friend brought for me in a paper bag. Remember, dear readers: I put the "ass" in "class."
At around 1pm, I headed back to our room to change out of my swimsuit and wander over to my next Festival event: Whole Foods Grand Tasting Village. Held beach-side on the sand was a literal "tent village," consisting of cooking demos, book signings, and a massive grand tasting. While the sights were lovely and impressive, and the talent lineup was fantastic, I found the event, itself, uncomfortably crowded and hot. I only lasted about 20-minutes, from entry to exit. :(
Something I did get to try, however, was a Mama's Guava Bar. Guava, if you did not know, if my favorite fruit, and I adored these chewy bars laced with the stuff. I don't know who "Mama" is, but I totally wanted to hug her.
Like I said further above, I got the hell out of that grand tent as soon as I possibly could. Famished, since I had not sampled much of the food, I went back to my hotel and noshed on a spicy tuna roll.
After a fabulous afternoon nap in my comfy hotel bed (I know, life is really hard), Em and I got ready and joined two of our new friends (who we met at the pool) for dinner at local favorite, Pubbelly. Although the restaurant does not take reservations, we scored an awesome outdoor table without having to wait more than a minute! Unfortunately, I did not have my fancy camera on me that night, so that explains the lack of photos. Plus, I'm too embarrassed to share the shiteous shots that I actually snapped of the meal with my iPhone. So, instead, I will just give a brief, jealousy-inducing synopsis of what we enjoyed:
- Sour Patch Kid (cocktail): Sake, pickled pineapple, chili flakes
- Stone Crab claws
- Croquetas: Chorizo, roasted apple aioli
- BBQ Pork Wings: Smoked teriyaki, picked grapes slaw, bacon
- Eggplant Fries: Housemade ketchup
- Shortrib & Corn dumplings: Black truffle, corn soy, shiso, parmigiano
- Kimchee Fried Rice: Porkbelly & pineapple
I would wholeheartedly recommend Pubbelly to anyone looking to try multiple, eclectic plates that are packed full of flavor and creativity. We absolutely loved our experience!
For a night cap, the four of us headed to the uber chic and trendy SLS Hotel, where I realized that, never in my entire life, had I been surrounded by more sexy, breathtakingly gorgeous human beings. Seriously. Ladies: If you want your man to *not* pay you any attention and check out other girls all night, take him here!! On that note, the public facilities at this hotel, bars and restaurants, are no place to step foot within if you're having a "fat day" or a "bad hair day." Trust me, you will only feel much worse!
On Sunday morning, I caught another flight out of Fort Lauderdale and headed home. Although I was sad to leave another outstanding weekend in Miami, I was looking forward to seeing my pup, Lucy, who turned 1 the day prior. A belated-birthday celebration was in order!
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle