Susannah wasn't the only one who ate and drank her way through the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, I was right there by her side! While we both enjoyed plenty of seafood, I couldn't resist trying the meat dishes. From succulent short ribs to sliced seasoned pork, here's a taste of my favorites from the weekend.
When I met Scott Conant of Food Network's Chopped and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, the first question out of my mouth had to be about the onions. The chef and restaurateur's notorious criticism of raw, red onions is so well-documented that even Facebook runs rampant with pages like, "Shut up, Scott Conant, we don't care if you have an aversion to raw onions!" But Conant wants to set the record straight: he's not raising any stink over red onions.
"I don't hate red onions . . . I have a lot of them on my menu," he explained. "There are big things that get edited out of these [TV] shows. When I explain my thought process on red onions, all too often, what happens is, is that it's not interesting — what's interesting is the reaction."
You heard it from Scott Conant himself: he doesn't dislike onions. A few ways chef Scott likes to prepare onions, when you read more.
As much as I looked forward to the star chef demos, culinary seminars, and nighttime parties in South Beach, the food celebration wouldn't have been complete without daily trips to the American Express Tasting Tents, where various restaurants, wineries, and spirits companies showcased their latest offerings. Even if you couldn't be there for the weekend's tasting highlights, check out some of our takeaways when you read more.
Last Friday night as he prepared for the BubbleQ event at the 10th annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival, chef Rick Bayless took a quick minute to speak with us. The Top Chef Master wasn't in the chattiest of moods, but we did manage to ask him a few questions about his view of authentic Mexican cuisine. At the barbecue-centric party, which was hosted by Bobby Flay, Bayless was serving barbecued suckling pig with a spicy slaw. To see what he had to say, keep reading.
If you ever have the opportunity to watch legendary bar chef Tony Abou-Ganim in action, don't turn it down. There are several reasons for this: first, he's the definitive expert in mixology and bartending today. Second, his jokes ("what lasts longer: your marriage or a bottle of Angostura bitters?") will have you clutching your gut. And third, he'll make you aware of little details that you might have never otherwise noticed.
At his seminar in South Beach, Tony, who's referred to as the Modern Mixologist, left me — someone who regularly makes cocktails at home — aghast with regards to how many things I do wrong behind the bar. Not only did he set the record straight, but he made sure to explain in detail exactly why cocktails should be made in a certain way.
- What you're doing wrong: Not chilling your glassware. "A cold drink should always be served in a cold glass," he declared. At any given time, Abou-Ganim stores two to three different glasses in his freezer.
- What you're doing wrong: Buying that economy-sized club soda. Always buy small bottles. Tony buys the eight-ounce bottles and keeps them in the refrigerator for use any time.
- What you're doing wrong: Squeezing that lime juice ahead. "Limes are very fragile," Tony explained, "so you should always squeeze them à la minute." They should be used right away, because after 20 to 30 minutes, they become oxidized. Look for fruits with smooth, dark green skin and a soft, pliable touch.
Want to know what else you're doing wrong? Find out after the jump.
Eating the burgers at Rachael Ray's twice-yearly Burger Bash: it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it! The event, which took place in a giant tent overlooking the waves of South Beach, was the big party of Thursday night, and everybody, from Spike Mendelsohn (dressed in a Hamburglar costume) to the NFL's hunky Jason Taylor, was there. We tried as many burgers as our stomachs could fit to decide who took top billing when it came to the beef. Here, a few standouts, and why they did — or didn't — work for us.
One of our favorite demonstrations at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival was led by chef Alex Guarnaschelli. If you're not watching her wildly entertaining and informative show on the Food Network, Alex's Day Off, I highly recommend you check out a few of the episodes. Her passion and enthusiasm for food is infectious, and her recipes are creative and delicious-sounding. On Saturday afternoon, in the bright sunshine, Guarnaschelli made homemade pizza. While she whipped up tomato sauce and pizza dough, she provided the audience with tons of helpful hints for channeling your inner pizzioli. Read on for her suggestions.
Unlike other food festivals, such as the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival takes place primarily in tents that are located right on the beach. Festivalgoers slip off their sandals — it's hard to walk in the sand with them — and traipse barefoot around the tents. Of course we did the same: as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
There's no alcohol that goes better with the tropical spirit than a good rum, and while in South Beach, we discovered a new favorite, Ron Zacapa Centenario, made and aged for 23 years in the mountains of Guatemala. Dispel any notions you may have of too many nights drinking that flavorless clear substance; this is the good stuff, meant to be enjoyed straight up. I wouldn't dare muddy its flavor in a fruity cocktail, but I do plan to enjoy its sweet richness as a topping on vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
This rum is a wonderful taste of the tropics for those times when your toes are in the sand — and those moments when getting to the beach proves to be an improbable predicament. What's your favorite top-shelf rum?
The South Beach Wine and Food Festival is like Spring break for the food industry, so naturally, a lot of partying goes on. The most outrageous event that happened over the weekend was the 10th anniversary celebration, Let Them Eat Cake. There were 15 hand-crafted designer cakes, an endless amount of champagne, a wide variety of food, ice sculpturists, and tons of celebrity chefs (it was hosted by Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse). But the most amazing thing about the shindig was the location: Lee Schrager and the festival planners transformed the seventh floor of an outdoor shopping mall's parking garage into a nightclub. It took me 20 minutes before I realized that the party was, in fact, in a parking lot! It was unbelievably cool and by far the craziest place I've ever partied. Now that I've shared this experience, I want you to do the same: what's the craziest place you've ever partied?