SoBeWFF 2013: The Good, the Bad, and the Crowded

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Alex Rodriguez
Guy Fieri closes out the 2013 SoBeWFF.
Each year, more than 50,000 people attend the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's various seminars, dinners, and parties. Most events sell out far in advance despite the usual complaints of high ticket prices, next-to-impossible parking, and long lines to get a bite of food.

People rave about eating celebrity meat (in the form of burgers and barbecue) and watching the antics of their favorite Food Network stars as they kibitz in the tents.

This year's SoBeWFF saw a blend of classic festival events (Burger Bash, Grand Tasting Village) and new offerings (A Red Hot Night, Garden to Glass), with mixed results.

From parking woes to stellar food, here's our list of the good and the bad.

What Worked

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Hannah Sentenac
Toasting to Cocktails
This year, the festival took note of the growing classic cocktail movement with several events revolving around spirits (and one nod to beer). Tony Abou-Ganim, the Modern Mixologist, hosted a seminar on stocking your home bar and cohosted a vodka and caviar pairing seminar with Dome restaurant. Earlier in the week, the mixologist led a master class on vodka for some of the best bartenders in the nation.

Garden to Glass, hosted by the Broken Shaker's Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, showed how innovative and fresh a good cocktail can be, while Beer Tasting With Spiegelau proved there's more to life than red Solo cups. Bonus: All of these events were priced under $100.

Eating and Drinking Decadently
Bringing the world's best chefs together in one place can work for or against you. Let's face it -- is there any one space large enough to house all of those giant egos? Fortunately, the ballroom of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a large venue. This annual event is slightly mind-boggling and a little overcrowded. But where else can you drink nothing but wines that are rated 90 points and over by Wine Spectator magazine and eat seemingly endless amounts of truffles, certified Angus beef, and porchetta?

Smart Seminars
Though the Q and Burger Bash get the lion's share of media attention, we must pay tribute to the humble seminar series hosted by Bank of America. For less than $100, you generally get a meal, some good wine or booze, and an education, all in about an hour. You could bake with Hedy Goldsmith, slurp oysters with Skip Bennett, or listen to Khong River House's Chef Bee tell the stories behind his Thai food. Serious about wine? The Wine Spectator Seminars were more in-depth (and slightly pricier) but were priceless for oenophiles.

Satellite Events
We love, love, love the trend toward welcoming free satellite events to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Though many were unofficial events, we hope the SoBeWFF people take note of the added value these happenings bring to the festival. This past weekend's freebies included the following:

For the Let's Get Spiked celebrity volleyball tournament, chef Spike Mendelsohn and friends played beach volleyball for charity. The James Royal Palm Hotel graciously set out lounge chairs for spectators, who cooled off with drinks while Andrew Zimmern, Todd Erickson, Johnny Iuzzini, and Curtis Stone, among other, ate sand and talked trash.

Dapper chef Geoffrey Zakarian taped a broadcast of his Sirius radio show, Food Talk, poolside at the James Royal Palm. Zakarian's guests included Guy Fieri, Anne Burrell, Scott Conant, Sunny Anderson, Curtis Stone, Al Roker, and Marc Murphy. Attendees were treated to all of these celebs and others talking about how they got their start in the biz (we didn't know Fieri began by selling pretzels as a kid). Best part: The celebs were relaxed and up close and personal.

The Big Gay Ice Cream Social, hosted by chef Art Smith and the Big Gay Ice Cream Guys, saw a serious subject -- marriage equality -- given a fun and positive spin. After all, who doesn't like free ice cream? And who doesn't want everyone in this country to be given a shot at finding happiness with a life partner and being recognized for that?

Ending the Weekend With a Live Concert
Ziggy Marley, fresh off his knockout Grammy tribute to his father, was nothing short of brilliant at this fun, electric, and amazing finale to the big event. Pairing Marley with Guy Fieri, the best Caribbean food, and a river of rum was inspired. We hope this is the start of a yearly closing concert on the sand. Oh, and in the spirit of love for free stuff: We suggest moving the concert stage to a place where all attendees can enjoy the concert.

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Minelli Reyes
Minelli Reyes

I heard from an inside source that Guy is a cokehead d-bag.

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