It was my second year of covering the Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival so I was a bit more prepared for what was in store than last year. I also knew what a blast it was going to be so I brought along a friend for fun.
This wasn’t the first girls’ getaway for Lynn and I. We have been friends for 20 years thanks to our two daughters who happen to have the same name, were born the same week and decided to play on the same soccer team at the age of six. Though we both had moved away from the Long Island suburb of New York we had grown up in (and raised our girls), we keep in touch and see each other frequently.
Contacts always come in handy at these events and I was able to use mine to get Lynn some invites to join me at a few of the parties and events that were going on in conjunction with the festival. First up for us was my favorite from last year, the Perrier Jouët BubbleQ. I thought it was even better than last year and Lynn was also thrilled with this evening long decadence of Perrier Jouët Champagne, Godiva Chocolate and incredible food (with a barbecue theme) by two dozen chefs, including Bobby Flay and Michelle Bernstein. I am saddened to learn there won’t be a Bubble Q in 2012, but told something even better is waiting for us.
Lynn and I also scored an invite to the Cruzan Rum party to celebrate the release of the brand’s strawberry flavor. An allergy to strawberries was not going to let this spirits traveler’s evening get ruined and Lynn helped me sample through some of Cruzan’s other great flavors, like Pineapple (on the rocks), Black Cherry (with club soda) and Coconut (with pineapple juice). We also savored some great appetizers while enjoying the view from the Presidential Suite of The Royal Palm hotel, which seemed to demand a girly picture pose!
On our final day together in South Beach, Lynn and I were at the Food Festival’s Whole Foods Grand Tasting Village, which you must see to believe. It consists of blocks and blocks of cooking demonstrations, as well as more food and drink samples than you can consume in one day (they do sell passes for the whole weekend, a great idea). I always learn about new products there and discover new versions of familiar ones, like Aboslut Vodka’s Wild Tea.
We had a perfect place to stay for the long weekend, the Riu Hotel South Beach, a bit further down than most of the hotels on a less crowded section of beach. Even though this hotel isn’t all-inclusive like most of the other properties the hotel has, it does have that Caribbean feel, with some added flair from the Spanish company. We had a nice room with a great view and really enjoyed the huge buffet breakfast each day (lunch and dinner was at the festival). Lynn managed to sneak in some quality beach time when I was at some of the seminars and I even hit the pool one day to burn off some calories. I also got to stay in town an extra day and had a wonderful dinner at The Royal restaurant at The Raleigh Hotel, which is located in the heart of all the events for the festival.
I’m looking forward to returning to the South Beach Food and Wine Festival next year. In the meantime, I will be attending the Food Network’s Atlantic City event this summer and just may have to bring along a girlfriend (or two) for support!