Monday, March 5
But before the Grand Tasting tents opened, a few other exhibitors were out on the beach passing out some delicious items.
By 11 a.m. I still hadn't eaten anything (had to save room, you know) and was starving. One of the first things I tried was a whole grain chicken salad with gazpacho and jicama salad. Now that's different than your everyday Eggo.
Surprised that nearly 20,000 people come here in February when it's freezing in most of the country?
So, what is one to eat immediately after something like that? Ice cream, of course.
Dark chocolate pomegranate! I saw people gobbling these up the entire festival. Didn't matter if they had a pint of Amstel Light in one hand and a glass of chardonnay in the other. These were a huge hit.
Speaking of Amstel Light, did I mention that it was flowing non-stop all weekend? Free with your admission.
Inside the tents, food was the major attraction. Still, wine and liquor had a major presence.
For me, this (and the "Experience France" exhibit) was more than enough wine to get a good taste of wines of the world. However, there are major wine tastings that go on at the Miami Convention Center each day... if that's your thing, and for many people-- it is.
It's overwhelming, isn't it? But so much fun. There was a giant raised platform with a DJ and open bar inside of the tents, complete with crazy dancers.
Also, the "Future Brands" tent (placed in-between entrances of the two giant tasting tents) had such a crowd I never made it inside to sample some liquors that aren't available to the generally public. Shoot!
One of the my favorite things I tried was a chocolate truffle from Romanicos Chocolate. It was only 30 calories, was made with no butter, and had no added sugar, yet still was delicious!
Alcohol-wise, I had a green tea vodka lemonade and a new kind of Tommy Bahama dark rum that I really liked.
I only heard a few complaints while inside the tents... mostly about the massive crowd and how loud it was. I admit that due to the number of people it made it hard to ask questions to the exhibitors or find out anything about what you were trying. Mostly people would just squeeze up to the table, grab the small plate or little cup and move out of the way.
I'm sure exhibitors would have appreciated a little bit more face time with the tasters, as the whole point is to build some recognition for their restaurant/company/etc. Unfortunately, many just ate or drank without any knowledge of the company (or in some cases the ingredients themselves).
Even with those few complaints, the Grand Tasting Village is totally worth the $137.50. Many people went straight to the bar at 1 p.m. and stayed until they got kicked out around 5. And the best part is, if you come back the next day you get to eat more of what you liked the day before!