South Beach Wine and Food Festival: Tasting the ‘Best of the Best’

Martha Stewart stops by the Celebrity Cruises booth at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival.
Martha Stewart stops by the Celebrity Cruises booth at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival.

Over 65 top winemakers and 50 chefs delighted the gastronomically-primed crowd at Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best event Friday night, pouring and serving up a storm of tasty bites and sips. Event guests — who included Martha Stewart, reality television star Ramona Singer and publisher Jason Binn — marveled at the event’s cavernous space at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach as they filled their wine glasses with prestige cuvées and Californian cabernets and stacked their plates with ceviches, carpaccios, pastas and delectable desserts.

Now a signature event at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the “Best of the Best” 2014 is a prime opportunity for chefs and winemakers to show off the finest — and funkiest — of what their respective institutions can offer.

Among the more unusual dishes spotted on the floor included Terrance Brennan’s smoked sturgeon panna cotta with beet, apple and wild American caviar, Bruno Oteiza’s 100% cotton foie-gras (that’s cotton as in cotton candy, folks) and a lobster s’more from Joe’s Stone Crab, with spicy bacon chocolate and a large marshmallow melted between two lobster-flavored crackers. Host hotel Fontainebleau Miami Beach also had a large showing, as chefs Scott Conant, Michael Mina, Thomas Connell,  recent “Top Chef” Season 10 runner-up Nina Compton, and Jian Heng Loo all had stations. The hotel also staged an elaborate display of desserts — including a sugar-spun green apple filled with marshmallow and topped with orange Pop Rocks candy — for guests to sample on their way out.

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Serving desserts at the Celebrity Cruises booth at “Best of the Best”

Holding court with both savory and sweet food stations was Celebrity Cruises. Chef and Associate Vice President of food and beverage operations John Suley treated guests who were looking for a heartier bite to a delectable braised pork cheek with mascarpone polenta, broccoli rabe and fuji apple, served in a miniature black plastic pot with matching lid. Those with a sweet tooth had their choice of a honey pie, a chocolate dulce de leche or a cheesecake pop, served out of spiraling platter wound around a live model’s grass skirt (pictured below).

Chef Suley said that a great deal of research went into determining his dishes because he wanted to do something a little different, but knew that he had to keep top of mind that he was designing a menu for a wine-heavy event. He also thought a great deal about the presentation of the food, which stood out from the other offerings at the event. “It’s all about the vessel,” he said.

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