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Grand Tasting at South Beach Food and Wine Festival

I went to the Grand Tasting...what a Zoo, not sure I am going to go back. I thought there were some really good things and some really horrible things. I had some quesadillas that were awesome and then there was this soup that was barely edible. I am curious to see if anyone else had any good or bad experiences!

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  1. A total zoo. Madness. people pushing and shoving. terrible organization. they should have one tent for wines, one tent for foods. and why did it seem as if the WINE and food fest became a LIQUOR bonanza? So many different brands of booze that had nothing to do with wine..yuck!

    1. I agree. Went on Saturday-was looking forward to it as we had gone last year and had a great time. There should be instructions on how to behave at a food festival- not that anyone would really listen or read. The lines for the food were outrageous- there were loads of people who started at one end of the food tables and then just walked along the tables browsing. They would look and listen to what foods were being offered and then say no and stand there and wait until they could move forward to the next table and see what they had to offer. Or they would stand there and eat and discuss what they liked or didn't like with their friends. Grab a sample and get out! My husband watched a guy get a sample, eat it and then drop the sample cup on the ground and go up to the next table. He (this guy) then proceeded to step on my foot and elbow me out of the way to get at a sample. My husband and I would take turns waiting in a line- at one table he was waiting for a slider (chicken?) and a woman was at the table and grabbed a plate with the slider and started to eat it. Her friends were behind her and started saying "Hey, grab us some too" (which was fine) but then she said " Can't you wait for me to eat mine?" -so that's four people (five including my husband who was trying to get to the tray) all at the front of this line with a big crowd of people waiting behind them. There were several food tables we never got to the lines were ridiculous.

      1. Seems that this event has become a throw away event for the masses. This years list of restaurants was horrible and not a good representation of South Florida Chefs and Restaurants.

        Is there any planned organization or structure for the Grand Tasting? In past years it felt like the Chefs and Restaurants were hand selected and wanted to be there.

        My partner and I wasted our time at this years Trade Day GT, only food was discusting Sysco food and a long line at the CenterPlate booth for ceviche. The Exhibitors were not serving any food and their were many empty tables.

        As most of the other events did not sell out, the organizers decided to once again oversell the GT and make the overall experience a crowded disaster. Serving booze over 4 hours will not ensure that everyone will have a good time. FIU student volunteers looked like dears in the headlights and did not seem happy to be there.

        This is surely my last year at this unorganized and careless event.

        1. Thanks for confirming my decision to skip this.


            1. While being cognizant of the fact that this opinion will likely put me at odds with most of the posters on this board, I'd like to offer a bit of a defense of the event.

              I went and enjoyed myself. The key? Managing expectations.

              Once you realize that in attendance will be every twenty- or thirty-something who hasn't found an outlet for partying since they left the frat/sorority (and some folks who fancy themselves as twenty- and thirty-somethings, even though they may be twice that or more), and you realize that many of these people aren't likely to behave in a manner that you will find acceptable when they're sober, much less then they're plied with copious amounts of booze, you can move past that and enjoy the offerings of interest to you.

              It's hard to argue with the fact that there were an ambitious number of wines and spirits represented. What's more, they were handing out "programs" of the various vendors represented in the Grand Tasting tent well before the gates opened. So sit in one of the empty demonstration tents and map out exactly what you'd like to try. Go forth into the tent and see if there are some good finds.

              Enjoy the food offerings with the keen understanding that Top Chef (or years in the business) has provided about the perils of catering. A lot of the places represented there don’t “cater” as their main source of business, so they’re liable to screw up. Some places did great. (I recall this ceviche in a cone/tuile thing that was spectacular.)

              For me, the “Wines of Spain” tent was especially nice. For one, they did some crowd control there via FIU students at a rope-and-stanchion, so it was a little less crazy. There was also not just a huge number but also a wide variety of Spanish wines and sherries, including a guy with a legitimate cask of Amontillado (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cask...), which I thought was neat. Also, lots of good little munchies (cheeses, Iberico ham, bite-sized cookies.


              I also caught a couple of the demos. Some were tasteful and informative (e.g., Bayless.) Some were unsurprisingly, erm, not (TGIF-hawker.) And it’s a great way to skip out on a year’s worth of book signings and get them all banged out at one time, if you’re into that sort of thing.

              Would the event have been better with 1/3 the crowd? With fewer drunks? With better food? Was it pricey? Sure.

              But overall, I thought that it was a good time.

              2 Replies
              1. re: TheChiefofStaph

                My husband and I went last year and we both agreed that something was off this year that we can't entirely put our finger on. I remember crowds last year and there were crowds this year but something was definitely different. I don't remember having to wait and elbow our way to the front of the food lines as much last year as we did this year and I didn't really want the food once we got up there. We circled the tents several times as I wanted to make sure that I didn't feel gyped and we decided that we would not be attending the grand tasting anymore. If we go at all to the fest it will be to one of the other events.

                1. re: bella1006

                  The food this year was certainly a disapointment., I have attended this event several times and missed the presentaion of quality tapas portions from prior years. For example sliced roast beef on a small bun wasnt exacltly a gastronomic expierience one would hope for .Also the selections of wines and champagnes offered was of a much lessor quality compared to prior years. The event started at 1 pm and by 3:30 pm the food was starting to run out. To add insult the event costs have gone up over $ 200 and they no longer include a wine glass lanyard with the free gifts they gave out in the past, this year they charged $ 10 per lanyard. I will not be attending next year unless some dramatic changes are made.

              2. We went on Sunday and had a great time. Controlled chaos is the term that comes to mind and we got right into the groove and joined in the fun. We never waited more than a couple of minutes for any of the samples, skipped the one or two tables with huge lines, and left feeling pleasantly full, pleasantly buzzed, and with a positive attitude about the experience. The food was mostly really good, ditto the wines, the location was amazing, and everyone around us seemed to be having a very good time.

                1. went to the tasting on sunday---it was complete madness,way to many people pushing shoving and acting like they had never ate before.Only tasted a few things and nothing was exceptional.The demonstrations by the chefs were fantastic but not worth the price of the ticket alone.Next year we probably wont go to the tasting event but more of the individual demos.