I survived another weekend at the South Beach Wine Festival, barely. I did miss my flight home by a few hours due to a faulty alarm clock and a poorly planned exit strategy of leaving at 7am -- in the morning -- after a late night dinner at Tantra. Here is the blow-by-blow!
Friday -- I arrived too late to catch the Trade Day tasting, but met up with friends at the Clevelander for a few drinks. I had lived in Miami for about five years and had seen most of the sights on Ocean Drive (you know the usual scenes of girls hawking the cheap drinks, the skateboarders, the snake guy with the Pythons, the Dave Barry sighting), but it was a first to see the medium-sized dog working the panhandler routine with a donation bucket in his mouth going from table to table pulling in $1 and $5 and $10 bills. By himself! I suppose he probably gave up some of the cash to his owner at the end of the day, but maybe he just kept it all and treated himself at the end of the night to some Alpo and a dogbone! He ran off before I could ask.
Saturday -- As the Event was sold out, I had to scalp a ticket to get in. (My alternative plan of swimming in from the beach had been foiled by the chain link fence around the perimeter. I think someone must have tipped them off to my plan!) At precisely 1pm, the gates to the Main tasting Village swung open and thousands descended on the wine and food booths. Beside a large selection of mostly large-production wines, there was hundreds of food bites and a lot of specialty liquors and cordials with each of the Main tents dominated by raised Champagne rooms by Vueve and Moet. This was a party and I was the only one spitting. As the spit buckets were blocked by the amatuers I resorted to using the trash cans and on more than a few occasions I got some strange stares by those who thought I was getting sick! I then resorted to using the sandy floor to spit and dump. The whole event is set up on the beach as a tent village with two Main tents the size of a football field each and then 10 or so auxillary tents for the food demonstrations.
On the way out I caught Rachel Ray signing about a thousand books and looking a bit tired, and Emeril gave a great show to a 300 plus standing room only crowd that treated him like a rock star. Having warmed up from an afternoon of wine (and tequila shots) the crowd would have applauded if he had made peanut butter sandwiches.
The rest of the night was a blur with stops at the Astor Hotel, the Hotel Chelsea, China Grill, Monty's at the Miami Beach Marina, Delano (couldn't get in) and finally the Shore Club. A brisk 10 block walk back at 2am cleared my head for a great night's sleep.
Sunday -- Today was a quiet day (see Saturday), but I did catch a fascinating short documentary at the Wolfsonian about Ferran Adria, the chef of El Bulli, who is either a genius or way out there depending on who you ask. His restaurant is off the beaten path in Roses, Spain and has a two-year wait list. It serves 55 people at a time with a four hour, 40 course meal of food bites provided by a staff of 50 in the kitchen. I can only imagine the cost, but catch the documentary if you can, "Decoding Ferran Adria".
Monday -- I had to actually work today by visiting a client in the morning and then a prospective client in the afternoon. I did manage to catch a great burger and beer at Scotty's Landing in Coconut Grove on Biscayne Bay next to the Miami City Hall. If you like good burgers, open air dining and being surrounded by hundreds of boats, Scotty's is your spot.
The main event tonight, beside emptying all the wine samples so we didn't have to carry them home -- thank you girls at the Hotel Chelsea for looking the other way on the BYOB policy -- of course, the $40 tip was the biggest of the night --, was getting a hot reservation at Tantra as Monday is the A list night. Dinner at 9 starts rather routinely with food and wine, but by midnight the sound system is blasting at club levels with strobe lights and girls dancing on the bar. This is in the main dining room! In the lobby there is a mass of writhing dancers and admission to the VIP area will set you back about $1,000 due to the four bottle minimum (we are talking Vodka here, not Bud!), or you had better have a very recognizable first name. Nobody had heard of Jens, so I took in the view from outside. Amazing!
See you next year! That's Jens with a J!