Monday, March 1
I really wasn't planning on going again this year. While very fun, it can become a very busy weekend--one that doesn't feel much like a vacation after a while.
But then D.C. got more snow than I could possibly handle. We beat the 1898 record of 54.4 inches and even now still have a few more weeks for the chance of snow.
Sooooooooooo... I changed my mind. And what a good change it was.
Look at that beach! There just isn't a food festival in America that compares to SoBe, in my opinion. I'm sure Aspen has its perks and SoBe's sister fest in New York is very charming, but Miami definitely adds something to the overall experience that can't be matched.
The weather forecast was also another major decision factor in going again this year. While some years have been almost unbearable (I think two years ago it was in the 90s on the beach), the weekend's forecast was for days never higher than 70 degrees.
When we arrived it felt great in the sun, but was actually a little chilly if you were in the shade-- a concept entirely foreign to me after all my other visits to Miami.
Anyhow, for everyone that was in much colder environments all weekend who I'm sure are not interested in reading about me complain about "chilly' Miami weather of 50-something degrees, I'll get on to the parties!
This year Emeril Lagasse hosted the giant, overwhelming, probably overpriced BubbleQ event on Friday night. The celebration that combines barbecue and champagne was held in a massive tented area right on the beach and featured a few less decorations, performers, and fancy displays than in years past. It almost felt like the recession had finally caught up with this event. I don't think first-time attendees would have noticed this, but I thought I'd throw that out there in case anyone else noticed.
The crowd still felt just as packed as ever, though. You really have to be ready to squeeze your way around and get your toes stepped on if you want to sample all of the fancy bites from such famous chefs as Michelle Bernstein, John Besh, Todd English, Aaron Sanchez, and many more.
My girl Sunny Anderson took the time to pose for pics with fans, which wasn't that easy of a feat since many of the Food Network stars stayed on a huge raised platform for most of the night, cordoned off by a velvet rope.
Ace of Cakes' Mary Alice was on her way up to said velvet rope area when we bumped into each other and were able to take this pic. Mary Alice has been one of my earliest supporters (and my FIRST Food Network interview), and it was great seeing her again.
And since the theme of barbecue and champagne might be a little too limiting for a $350/ticket event, wine by Graffigna was being poured and many fancy desserts were available for the taking.
I especially enjoyed this cupcake boy.
One thing that seemed missing was the host himself, Emeril! I never once saw him at his host tent, which was serving delicious pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw on onion rolls. This seemed very strange after previous hosts like Giada De Laurentiis (who worked the crowd and stood up for long hours while very pregnant) and Tom Colicchio were very present during the event.
All in all, it was a very fun party. And even though the champagne seemed a little less present (I couldn't find a bar with glasses to save my life) and there were no fire-eating dancers or other extras, it was a great start to my 2010 festival experience.