Review of the Miami Wine and Food Festival-2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not to be confused with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival where ticket prices have escalated to a stratospheric Super Bowl rate ($300), this event is smaller in scale but still offers a delectable range of high-end restaurants and wineries at a reasonable price for an intimate two hour period. I highly recommend this event for locals and visitors.

This was the 14th Annual Miami Wine and Food Festival held April 23-25, 2009. The motto this year was "Good Food. Good Wine. Good Will" as portion of proceeds benefited Camillus House and the United Way.

On Thursday, was the "Taste and Toast" night. This year, just as last year, the event was held on the private street in Merrick Park Village --the upscale, outdoor shopping mall. The fee was $75.00 and you were treated to memorable samples of the finest restaurants and some up and coming new establishments. Then of course, el vino--the wine. VIP tasting was $150 and started an hour earlier. Adrienne and I had to work until 6pm so we joined the general admission crowd.

The evening was picture and weather perfect. A comfortable 80 degrees, zero humidity, and a breeze to fan your wine flushed cheeks, we could not ask Mother Nature for any tweaks.

The attire--the crowd was dressed up for a nice dinner. Ladies dressed a little more flirty and glam than work attire and we could wear heels! Why is this important? Well, my "happy feet" will happily share with you that at the other wine and food festival on the beach, you are literally on the gravel beach strip kicking up dust. If I was covered in beach dust, it must have penetrated the food too? Don't you agree?

With almost 60 international wineries and almost as many restaurants, we simply did not have time to visit and sample them all. No complaints as our stomachs were satiated with the finest cuisine and wines.

Our first stop--Martini & Rossi for a sample of their Rose champagne. Pink champagne has its perks and this brand gets high marks for elevating the rose.

Steak lovers-- you missed a meaty event! At the festival were Smith & Wollensky, Morton's Steakhouse, Shula's Steakhouse, Meat Market and more. We sampled almost all of them. The common denominator was the chimichurri sauce to enhance the red meat flavors. Suddenly I had energy.

Another restaurant we sampled was FuegoVivo Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse. With four locations in Miami, North Miami Beach, Sunrise, and Houston, Texas, I kept the brochure to visit one day and compare it to The Knife in Coconut Grove and Grimpa in Mary Brickell Village for taste, value and ambiance.

Photo: Shula's Corporate Chef, Peter Farrand and Florida Blogger, Christine Michaels

To quench my thirst, we came across Penfold's and sampled the Shiraz. Succulent meats followed by a red wine, what could be a more perfect union?

The most memorable food sample was from Por Fin restaurant in the Gables. In passing their booth there were no ready samples but the hostess was smart to stop passerbys and describe the mouth-watering pork and cheese dish while it was served fresh out of the ooooh that smells so good. I can't remember the name exactly, but it was sweet, it melted in your mouth and it was heavenly. Visit

I readily accepted the handsome brochure and studied it on the spot. For their one year anniversary, Por Fin is offering a four course meal for $40/person (not including tax or tip) plus a free bottle of wine. Offer ends April 30, 2009 so HURRY!!!

Another sparkling wine to note and savor was a rose wine from St. Tropez under the label Whispering Angel. This wine is only sold in the South Beach area at this time. PINK IS IN!

Finally, time for dessert. A sweet tooth, Adrienne remembered the locations of the two cupcake vendors. Yes cupcakes--it's the latest trend in desserts. There were Misha's Cupcakes and pictured below is Adrienne at Cupcakes Nouveau.

Cupcakes are perfect for portion control and the creativity for decorating them is endless. It's all about presentation moreso than the taste of the mini cakes with frosting. I had the Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. The name was more appealing than the cupcake which was a standard cocoa cake with sweet frosting. I'm not a fan of super sweet frostings hence I make my own cakes for special events which are a big hit with my guests. They always beg for more (the secret is to reduce the amount of sugar to tease the palate and not overwhelm the flavors with sugar to overcome the law of diminishing return). So I'm not the best judge of cupcakes other than the presentation was stylish. However, Adrienne approved with a thumbs up. Visit

Unfortunately the time passed quickly that there was little time to mingle with other guests--a handsome crowd indeed with a healthy age range from early 30's and older.

For Friday and Saturday, the celebration continues. Unfortunately I can not attend these events but if you have the opportunity to do so, please return to this blog and post a comment!

Friday is the “Food, Friends and Fun Interactive Dinner” in which tables cook their own three-course meal under the direction of top chefs. It begins at 6:30 p.m. with a silent auction and cocktail reception with the dinner at 7:30 p.m. It’s at the JW Marriott Hotel Miami, 1109 Brickell Ave. Tickets are $250 each.

Saturday is the “Bubbles, Bids & Bites Auction and Dinner” with live and silent auctions of travel packages and wines. It begins at 6 p.m. with a Champagne Mumm reception and silent auction, followed by the live auction and casual dinner at 7 p.m. It, too, is at the JW Marriott Miami. Tickets are $500.

Bon Apetit! & Salute!

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