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Relive Grand Tastings + Culinary Decadence at the 2016 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Hot chocolate bar at Miami’s hottest annual food event, South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Hot chocolate bar at the 2016 South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Photo: Tatiana Azan

Baking & pastry arts sophomore Tatiana Azan takes us along to the 2016 South Beach Wine & Food Festival (popularly shortened to the hashtag #SOBEWFF), one of the premier food events in the world.

This year’s event featured plenty of JWU alumni as special guests — including Mind of a Chef’s Sean Brock '00, Lorena Garcia '00 and Emeril Lagasse '78, '90 Hon. JWU students were also busy as volunteers, helping chefs prep and generally keeping things running smoothly.

Tatiana was there as a guest, and she certainly made the most of it. Take it away, Tatiana! (Warning: Do not read while hungry.)

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AS A BAKING & PASTRY STUDENT, walking into an event at the annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami, Florida, evokes the same childlike wonder as a first visit to DisneyWorld. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I strolled by each vendor serving their newest and most popular menu items.

On Thursday night, I had the opportunity to attend “Tacos After Dark,” a gourmet taco tasting hosted by Food Network star Aarón Sanchez.

I entered the venue at roughly 10pm and was bombarded by the seemingly endless amount of choices.

I had no idea where to start until I was pulled towards a braised lamb belly taco. After stuffing my face with the delicious twist on a Mexican favorite, I looked up to see the one and only Aarón Sanchez.

It was hard to contain my excitement — after all, Sanchez has been one of my favorite chefs since he starred in “Chefs vs. City” [which he co-hosted with JWU alum Chris Cosentino '94].

A family friend stepped in and introduced me to the Food Network star (he’s a brand ambassador for the company).

We discussed how Sanchez attended Johnson & Wales University’s Providence Campus back in the day and how he absolutely loves the school. He graciously took a photo with me before being whisked away by companions, taco in hand.

The brief but memorable encounter set the mood for the rest of the night as I enjoyed ten too many tacos, Mexican hot chocolate, and ice cream before heading home.

Tatiana meets her culinary hero, Chef Aarón Sanchez (Food Network). On the right, duck tacos from Haven Fort Myers.

Tatiana with her culinary hero, Chef Aarón Sanchez (Food Network). Right: Tandoori-spiced duck taco at the Haven Fort Myers table. Photo: Tatiana Azan

On Saturday, I had another amazing opportunity to attend the “Grand Tasting,” a 5-hour expedition of all things food and wine.

This event takes place right on South Beach, along a gorgeous half-mile stretch alongside the ocean.

I prepared myself for the long day ahead of me and once again felt like a child in Disney World. Wine glass in hand, I snagged a peach bourbon slushy and proceeded to wait in line for the first of many vendors.

After 3 hours of constant eating, my family and I decided to stop by the Santa Margherita stand where servers generously poured full glasses of their popular Pinot Grigio (in stark contrast to the one-ounce “tasting glasses” poured by other vendors).

SOBEWFF goers had the opportunity to enter a contest by mentioning #SantaMargherita on Instagram or Twitter. I entered and, to my surprise, won two bottles of their 2014 Pinot Grigio and one of their 2014 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene.

It was at this point that I found a fellow Wildcat from the North Miami campus and began discussing the event and all its glory. He mentioned that many students were working the event and how much they enjoyed cooking with the chefs and gaining valuable experience.

Stomach full and wine glass empty, I exited the beach with every intention of attending SOBEWFF 2017.

Top: Cracklin’ Herd Duck Slider created by Richard Hales (Sakaya Kitchen). Bottom left: Raw Scallop served with Carrot Ginger Purée and Black Lava Salt created by Eric Grutka (Ian’s Tropical Grill). Bottom right: Batch Gastropub’s “magical” burger (one of Tatiana’s favorites).

Duck sliders by Sakaya Kitchen

Scallop Aguachile (Ian’s Tropical Grill) and Batch Kitchen’s burger with maple-smoked cheddar and Jameson bacon

Topics: Culinary Arts North Miami Alumni Food TV