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SOBE Wine & Food Festival: Bird’s Eye View of South Florida Recession?

With tickets at over $200 a pop (for a single day at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival) the truth bubbled to surface as to where  South Florida  is headed.    Reporting it’s best turn-out ever, this weekend marked  eight years of imbibing and nibbling  and cooking up a storm on Miami’s  sandy South Beach at the Sobe Wine &  Food Fest…. in the midst of February.  Why the over-the-top turn-out?  Surely our tepid “winter”  was a get-away draw for some.   SoBe enthusiasts seemed to hone-in on the importance of hearth and home (…and on the endless choices of ‘wines’ and ‘delicacies’ too)… Those of us who live in Miami seem dead-set on making food, wine, and friends the focal point of our lives, especially  in this current economic environment. 

Paula DeanPaula Dean  of the Food Network demonstrated her soon-to-be-available  (in local supermarkets) “crab cakes” … Bobby Flay taking center stage with her as she introduced her family (never missing a beat as she smiled and joked through a ‘wardrobe malfunction’… dropping her pants … on camera). She spoke to a packed tent, with standing room only,  and onlookers  waiting in the wings.

Ingrid HoffmannIngrid Hoffmann of Simply Delicioso… vivacious and sassy…  infused her afternoon demo with flirtatious fun…  focusing on mood, memories  and family.  Sparkling as she mentioned her grandma… and a  high-school honey under the bleachers …   the thread was food,  and the memories that smells, sounds and flavors evoke.  With simple, straightforward recipes, requiring few steps, but with tons of texture and flavor, the Miami culinary dynamo tauts her 20 Latin country influences and teases that she’s a minute faster than Rachael Ray, offering 29 Minute, rather that  30 Minute Meals.   Her perky demeanor is contagious.

Sunny Sunny Anderson fried up a storm,  sharing her secrets for dredging oysters with flour and cornmeal (using a paper bag), and using Old Spice as flavor enhancer. The recurring theme, again:    family, memories from childhood, and her origins.  Her love of New Orleans and fried foods … Her military background …  She is down-to-earth, amiable, and easy-going. 

Tyler Florence auctioned off his cooking expertise for big bucks… raising  $40,000 for the Wine and Food Festival as he shared recipes and insights in his standing-room-only tent. His confident manner and good sense of fun  added  a spark to  the event.

Michael SimonMichael Symon, Iron Chef winner,  was an absolute blast!   Cool, with shoot-from-the-hip humor, he shared his stories,  and secrets  (“Use organic chicken.  If chicken  costs 40  cents a pound there is a reason.  Choose quality products, and you’ll have a quality meal.”) .  Imparting  ‘simple tricks’ ranging from how to handle delicate herbs like basil and parsley (slicing through them only once) to preserve oils and flavor, pressing garlic by smashing the peeled clove with a chefs’ knife rather than using his abhored garlic press (my indispensable kitchen tool!), and tucking lemon slices between the  chicken flesh and skin ( for moisture) , and allowing meat  to “rest”  for 20 minutes after cooking  –  before slicing  (… holding the juices).  

Food and Wine Festival 2009With the economy what it is, home and hearth  take center court.  Not only is there comfort in food and wine, but many of us are returning to basics… our lives centering around what matters most… friends, family and food.    Having ‘raised’ my kids (summers!) in Europe,   15-20  of us would cook together and share meals  on the terrace or gardens every night … We’d return  ‘home’ to Miami at the end of each summer with memories to last a lifetime.  Simple memories… unprocessed foods, fresh ingredients, laughter, local wines …. time spent together with family, friends.    The South Beach Wine and Food Festival showcased  pricey $200 plus entry tickets  to the festival itself.   Bigger, and more importantly,   the  picture it painted of our current economic situation was ‘yummy’… to sum it up!  The ramifications for our “Miami” lifestyle  boil down to  Friends,  Family, and Food … center stage…  savoring what truly matters:  “Each Other”.  

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