The FN Dish Goes to Miami (The South Beach Wine & Food Festival)

At the end of the weekend and our trip to The South Beach Wine & Food Festival, my director, Matthew Horovitz, turned to me and said, “You’ve met everyone now. There’s no one left to meet!”

Watch the following video–the 2nd official episode of “The FN Dish”–and tell me if you disagree.

If that video left you dazzled and discombobulated, allow me to walk you through everything you just saw: a day-by-day breakdown of the festival with some big surprises thrown in too.

On Thursday, we arrived in the late afternoon and my stomach was so empty it inverted and became a liver. “We need to eat right now,” I demanded like a good diva to Matthew and my producer Jill.

“Let’s go to the News Cafe,” suggested Jill and that sounded as good as any cafe and though the walk took way longer than I wanted, this plate of hummus (which I ordered because I asked the waiter what the fastest thing he could possibly bring out was and he said, “hummus”) was just about the best thing I’ve ever tasted, I was so hungry:

Matthew and Jill fought bravely against my greedy hand as I dragged pita after pita through the chickpea mass, but I prevailed. I even had room for this Middle Eastern Salad which wasn’t half bad:


And this is Matthew and Jill, in case you want to know what they look like as we proceed with our story:


After scarfing down half the inventory of the News Cafe kitchen, I joined Matthew and Jill as we made our way over to the Loews Hotel where the Wine & Food Festival is headquartered (is it not called the Food & Wine festival so it doesn’t get confused with Food & Wine Magazine?) Over there we entered the hospitality suite (which we re-dubbed “the hostility suite” because they gave us some trouble handing us our media passes for the weekend events):


Once we had our tickets, I met up with my brother Michael who drove down from Boca to join us (here he is in my hotel room):


And sauntered over to the Rachael Ray Burger Bash.

Now here’s where I’ll get a little critical of the Wine & Food Festival (sorry Food Network!):

(1) All of these events sort of bleed together in my mind because;

(a) they all took place in a large tent;

(b) they all contained giant hordes of people who paid upwards of $150 a ticket to revel;

(c) the music at all the events was the thumping bumping sort that drives one mad;

(d) the food was ok but certainly not worth $150 or more and certainly not the kind you’d be happy with at a restaurant.

But, alas, there were–as you saw in the above video–food stars galore and there are worse things than standing around drinking free wine and champagne and eating burgers. Unfortunately, I missed the winning burger that night: a burger from Radius in Boston. So if you live in Boston, go to Radius and have their very winning burger.

After the Burger Bash, we headed over to Paula Deen’s Poker Party and, as I said in the video, it was insane. Before we went in, I asked Matthew and Jill: “Who pays $200 to play poker with Paula Deen?” The answer: gay men, Southerners, gay Southerners, and drag queens.

The next day, Friday, I crossed the street from our hotel (the very-much-to-be-avoided Catalina, where thumping techno music in the lobby made my room vibrate all night, every night) to the beautiful Delano where I had a very relaxing (and not very healthy) smoked salmon benedict for breakfast:


The food was very good, but it was the scenery that made it worthwhile:



It’s a very relaxing place to eat breakfast: I highly recommend it.

Afterwards, I met up with Matthew and Jill and went to the Ritz Carlton for a panel discussion on childhood obesity with Alice Waters (one of my heroes), Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray. You can watch the corresponding video now:

It’s difficult to contain any serious discussion or debate in a three-minute video but, truthfully, the conversation was quite riveting. My favorite moment was when Alice Waters and Rachael Ray butted heads: Rachael said we need to make quality food cheaper and Alice Waters said, “Food should not be cheap.” Her point–and one that’s echoed in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and other recent books–is that our culture is happy to spend its money on cellphones and cable television, but doesn’t want to pay more than the very minimum for its meat and produce. Our kids are fat not because of anything they’re doing but because of our own unwillingness to spend the time or money to feed them well. It’s a troubling topic and maybe one I can get into again in a later post.

But back to my own journey towards obesity: after this panel, we began a serious night of partying. We started poolside at a hotel (I forget which one) for a Food Network only party where I met Cat Cora and The Lee Bros (who I’d met before); after which we all headed to the giant tent in the sand, where the Burger Bash was the day before, for the Bubble-Q.

Unlike the Burger Bash, actually, the Bubble-Q was a pretty classy affair. The name comes from the marriage of two seemingly opposed entities: BBQ and champagne. The champagne is Moet & Chandon and the BBQ is BBQ from around the country. The most memorable bite of the night goes to Chef Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab in New York who served burgers made of smoked fat back which sounds gnarly but was pretty fantastic and flavorful.

It was at the BubbleQ where I met the large bulk of celebrities that you see in the main video: Ted Allen, Ilan Hall, Jared from Subway, and many others. I told Ted that many of my readers think that I look like him and he thought you were crazy. CRAZY. He said I look more like Carson.

After the BubbleQ we hit Emeril’s Sugar Shack which was, as far as an event, pretty lame (Emeril rolled with a big entourage and the desserts were fine, but minimal). There were non-English speaking models dressed as butterflies flapping their wings (the objectification of women was a main feature of the festival: at the BubbleQ, scantily clad ladies ate fire and climbed into giant plastic orbs–it was weird) and if this took place at a Holiday Inn I would’ve thoroughly hated it, but instead it took place at the Raleigh Hotel which is gorgeous and sitting poolside in a little cabana was a real treat. If you hit South Beach, go visit the Raleigh (or stay there, if you can afford it): it’s fantastic.

The next morning, again I breakfasted alone at the Delano (Matthew & Jill were eager to hit the beach; I’m less of a beach nut) and this time I had granola to negate the fat back burger I ate the night before:


After that, I met up with Michael and his girlfriend Tali for a quick walk on the beach:


And then we joined Matthew and Jill at the Tasting Village, which is the main event, I’d say, of the Wine & Food Festival. There you see demonstrations by the likes of Emeril and Giada, there you see celebs signing books like Rachael and Madhur Jaffrey and there you join hordes upon hordes who hang wine glasses around their necks (they have wine glass necklaces so you don’t have to hold your plate) in getting drunk, meeting Danny DeVito and eating food–mostly mediocre–from around South Florida. The best bite? Actually, Danny Devito’s meatball hero: the meat, I’d guess, had pork and veal and was really tender. The worst bite was a parfait of peanut butter, foie gras and jelly topped with champagne. I hated it (and I had to taste it on camera).

After parading around this event for a few hours (and hanging out, for a moment or two, with Michael Ruhlman) I left Michael and Tali behind (they were having fun) and walked along the beach back to my hotel. Funny, when I looked back at my footprints there were two sets during the happy parts and only one set during the hard parts. Where were you God? WHERE WERE YOU?


That night was the last big event of the weekend, at least for us. A dinner at Danny DeVito’s Restaurant cooked by Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver.

Matthew, Jill and I arrived early and stood on a red carpet and waited for celebs to arrive but once we realized we’d met most of the celebs already–Jamie Oliver, Danny DeVito–we entered the party and it was a mess of people.

There were so many people, in fact, that we threw our hands in the air and decided to just sit and enjoy the night: we’d done enough taping. Even that was difficult, though, as the food was served buffet style and we had to fight our way through masses and masses of people just to get near any of it.

But the pasta was mighty tasty (there were three kinds) and the steak–Fiorentina steak from Tuscany–was epic and memorable (grilled, as it was, by Adam Perry Lang).

Soon we were ready to call it a night but on a whim I said to my director: “Maybe we should pop into the kitchen with the camera, just to interview Mario.”

Mario, as many of you know, is my favorite TV chef. 90% of what I’ve learned about cooking–and I don’t think I’m exaggerating–comes from his show. I love him, I love his food, and when I opened the door to the kitchen I expected to see only him.

Instead, I hit the mother-lode: standing there was Mario, Jamie Oliver, David Pasternack (from Esca), Adam Perry Lang (from Daisy May’s) and the man himself–the Joker to the Food Network’s Batman–Mr. Anthony Bourdain, who I’d been pursuing all weekend for an interview.

But first Mario. Here’s my moment with him and Jamie:

Soon after, and with some prodding from my director (who told Bourdain we wanted him to rant and rave about Food Network on our show) I got my moment with Sir Anthony and the ensuing hilarity (and conversation) is both highly amusing, offensive and dangerous to my already tenuous career as the online face of Food Network. Currently, we are fighting to get it up online. Stay tuned for progress.

Just as we were about to go, who should enter, though, but another giant star: a very pregnant Giada DiLaurentis.

Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t have accused Mario of being Giada’s baby daddy but hopefully it was good for a laugh. (I wish I could hear what Bourdain’s saying in the background?)

After that, you’d think the night (and weekend) would’ve been over but The Food Network Addict, Jacob Strauss, invited us to a party at the Versace Mansion where we finagled our way in and hobnobbed with the cast of Ace of Cakes, Padma Lakshmi and Pat Nealy. My head is still cloudy with all the glitter and glamour.

Finally, on Sunday morning I did another amazing thing with another amazing person but I can’t tell you about that yet (that video will air, hopefully, in the next few weeks) but soon I was on a plane and soon it was all over.

I’m sure for my longtime readers this must been as surreal for you as it is for me: who would’ve thought that the person who made musicals with eggs and sang songs about lasagna would be at the Versace mansion with Padma Lakshmi waiting in line to tour the guest house? Certainly not me. But I guess that’s how life works: you do the thing you love to do and hopefully you’ll get rewarded. And if that’s the case, this weekend was like a giant, gleaming trophy, one I’ll have (at least online) forever.

Now then, while you’re still buzzing with excitement, it’s time for you to join forces with the FN Dish. We need you to spread the word about our show and blast our traffic through the roof. Please link to the site, link to the videos, embed them on your blogs, your Livejournals, your Facebook, your MySpace, your Friendster. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, and keep watching, rating, and leaving comments. The bigger we can make this now, the more likely I can make this show an actual platform for great food content on the web. And if you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see–places you’d like me to go, subjects you’d like me to interview, recipes you’d like me to undertake–please leave them in the comments. Thanks for watching, loyal readers! You’re the ones who made all of this possible.

46 thoughts on “The FN Dish Goes to Miami (The South Beach Wine & Food Festival)”

  1. I just have to observe a remarkable improvement in the quality of your photographs since you got your new camera – really lovely shots!

    Florida looks amazing, and you missed the snow – lucky!

  2. Hi – long time lurker, first time commenter, I just have a suggestion. If you want to drive FN Dish traffic through the roof I suggest linking to your videos there as opposed to embedding them here. I know I’m way less likely to go all the way over there if I can just hit “play” right where I am. Just my two cents…

    And, in other news, congratulations on the FN Dish and the awesome interviews and everything. So exciting! So entertaining.


  3. First off I would so watch a FN show about terrines. Maybe its time for the Amateur Gourmet to tackle a classic french terrine and fill that 25 step recipe void.

    Secondly, this week’s videos were really good and you’ve made a lot of progress as a host, I can’t wait till next week’s.

    And third, I must see the Bourdain rant (or at least a transcript).

  4. I really, really, really want to see Bourdains rant!! The video’s are great, that must have been fantastic to stumble upon that group in the kitchen!

  5. Can we have some more Bourdain please?

    That was a really good lot of videos, thanks. Any hints as to what we can expect next week?

  6. One word: Lucky. You actually seem pretty natural with the mic in your hand – good job there!

    I need to see that Bourdain interview, so I certainly hope you can get it online. Who’s the woman in the red strapless dress standing near him in the Giada interview, btw?

  7. Hilarious part about where was God!!! Okay, your post cracked me up because I was at the Grand Tasting on Sunday– but due to a freak (and tragic, or so I thought at the time) sinus issue, I was unable to taste anything. It was all pretty beautiful food and I was, well, almost devistated about not being able to taste anything!! I was imagining it was as delectable as it looked. You say it was mediocre and that makes me feel SOOOO much better. Thank you, Adam!!

  8. Hi–another long-time lurker, 1st time posting. I have to agree with you on the best bite from the BubbleQ was the burger from the Fatty Crab. So good it was the only place we went back for seconds.

    Great job– I enjoyed your coverage for the weekend. Now how do we get an invite to the dinner with Mario Batali next year?

  9. I think my head just exploded. That sounds like the most amazing weekend EVER! You MUST get that Bourdain video up — I’m literally pining!

    I don’t know if I’ve said it yet, but congratulations, Adam — this is such an amazing opportunity for you. =)

  10. Adam, THANK YOU for such incredible footage and fascinating interviews! I’ve been reading about the festival everywhere and your reports, by far, offer a real intimate look at the personalities behind this event. What a historical moment to be in the kitchen with Bourdain, Giada, Mario and Jamie!? And I think that’s Bourdain’s newish wife in that clip in the kitchen. Total coup! Congratulations!! I can’t wait to see more.

  11. My head hurts just reading about your weekend. Maybe it wasn’t as ostentatious or obnoxious as it sounds, but your report makes me glad I didn’t find out for myself. Food Network viewership is down, right? This is why.

  12. That was a pretty friggen scary Drag Queen on the video! That Salmon benedicat looked real good. I want to meet Richard Simmons now…

  13. Excellent job AG, thanks for the vicarious ride! I think it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Bourdain video..uh…you know, sort of “leaked” out via YouTube or something, you know? Wink wink nudge nudge. But seriously, it looks like this may be the first (of many?) lesson when it comes to sacrificing your soul/ideals/honesty to walk the FN party line – don’t let ’em keep you (or Bourdain) down! Your voice must be heard! Information wants to be free!! Ok, I’ll stop ranting now, you get the gist. :) Rock on dude.



  14. It’s YOUR blog! Why can’t you put the Bourdain stuff up??? Oh, cause it was filmed with FN cameras.


    *fingers crossed that FN can laugh at itself, and lets you post the video!*

  15. It’s true, it truly is extraordinary to see all that’s been happening for you lately. So very happy for you, Adam! Your growing success and incredibly entertaining journey gives people like me hope that there really is something to the mantra “follow your bliss”.

    I’ll be sure to spread the word!


  16. Right on, jinius….Rachel Ray on a panel about childhood obesity? Puhleeze…apart from her shilling for Dunkin Donuts (and their fatty, overprocessed sandwiches that she was seen scarfing down on one of her interminable commercials) her own recipes are frequently loaded with fat.

  17. These are great! I’ve been watching them over at FN, and you seem like such a nice guy (and funny!) And you got to meet Giada! Sigh… I’ve been wanting to pick up your book now for a while! I think I’m gonna have to do that! Good luck, and congrats!

    – Nate

    + one man’s unsupressed lust for method home products

  18. Was that a Sandra Lee drag queen I saw?

    I loved all of these videos so much. I’ve never been a huge Mario fan, but I think I’m converted. I hope you’ll be able to put up the Bourdain interview.

  19. These are AWESOME videos. And your Footprints poem shout-out made me laugh, hard. Keep it up and I’ll spread the word.

  20. Adam – wow, very cool. I bet your mom was super jeleaous that you were meeting all of these celebs (event though they are just Food Network celebs and not real celebs like Flea or Pamela Anderson – well ok, Flea and Pamela Anderson aren’t real celebs either).

  21. Congrats Adam!

    It’s every food bloggers dream to be invited into the inner sanctum of the food network. Good luck with your new videos!



  22. I love your humor – it’s somehow semi-dry. As much as I love Bourdain, I want to see an Alice Waters video!

    I kind of agree with salty, the Food Network titans came off as slightly unappealing. I think you make them look disingenuous.

  23. I love your humor – it’s somehow semi-dry. As much as I love Bourdain, I want to see an Alice Waters video!

    I kind of agree with salty, the Food Network titans came off as slightly unappealing. I think your utter sincerity makes them look disingenuous.

  24. I love the interview with Mario and Jamie. I can’t tell if Mario is red from the heat or the wine, but Jamie’s teeth show the evidence: its the wine!! lol

    You looked a bit harried, but it seems it was a ton of fun to meet all those cool chefs. :)

  25. I love the interview with Mario and Jamie. I can’t tell if Mario is red from the heat or the wine, but Jamie’s teeth show the evidence: its the wine!! lol

    You looked a bit harried, but it seems it was a ton of fun to meet all those cool chefs. :)

  26. Adam,

    I am new to your blog and just read all about your big break on FN. That is so incredibly exciting. It’s great to see you covering all the big events. It was great to see the Lee Brothers on your video, I just met them at the Southern Living Cook-off in Birmingham last October. I got to have dinner at their table, they are really funny.

    I am nervous to watch the Ultimate Recipe Showdown Sunday night. I was a finalist in the mac and cheese round! You never know how they edit these things!! Guy and Marc were great and troopers too, the taping of these shows were really long!

    You are a natural, enjoy your new job with FN, we’ll all stay tuned to see your next adventure!!

    Best of luck to you.



  27. Ahhhh- it all makes sense now… I was wondering who the fellow white-as-milk roving reporter was- working alongside with a former cameraman I worked with in SoFla (Cameron). I was there for the FN Canada and like yourself- my head was buzzing (albeit for very different reasons).

    Good for you for launching this project! Your quick hits were lots of fun to watch on the web. And don’t worry- I don’t think Molto or Giada (or Todd- the real daddy you didn’t know about- hahaha) took your joke seriously.

    Continued success and sauld,


  28. Bourdain this and Bourdain that and Bourdain with Ruhlman and Ruhlman with Burdain – finally – Bourdain watching Ruhlman who’s overseeing Consentino. Is this a threesome or a twosome or just a sort of childish togetherness with Ruhlman’s wife Donna capturing it all in photos?

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