Exclusive: South Beach Wine & Food Festival

They came wearing fur coats even though it was only 62 degrees. Cristal champagne flowed like Coors Light at the Daytona 500. Caviar was served like Doritos during the Super Bowl. No evidence of a recession here. But this wasn’t Las Vegas, or even New York. It was Casablanca, the Casablanca of the Americas – Miami, for the 9th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  When it comes to good food and wine, money is no object.

This particular party was held at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, to honor Michelin starred chef Daniel Boulud.  His friends had decided to throw him a little dinner for a few thousand people, at $500 a head of course. Eric Ripert, Nobu Matsuhisa, Paul Bartolotta, Anthony Bourdain and Guy Fieri all cooked and played. Not only is Boulud one of the nicest guys in the world, but he’s a master at public relations. Every time I run into him he asks if I have been to his new restaurant, and hands me a card. With ten around the world, I can’t keep track!

Forget Madonna, Shaquille O’Neal, or even Drew Brees. In this room, the chefs were hotter than Miami during the 1980’s riots. Mel Dick, the President of Southern Wine & Spirits, introduced chateau owners like it was the United Nations.

On the menu: Wagyu Tataki, Scallops with Curry Napa Cabbage and Dulce de Leche, Fried Langoustine with Porcini, Juniper Scented Venison and Hazelnut Praline.

Aside from the great food, about 500 bottles of Chateau d’Yquem 2000 were served.

This was of course all for a good cause – charity. The only way Americans are willing to spend money is if some of it comes back in their tax return.

According to one of my table mates, Bruce Sherman, the event was a bargain. Bruce organized the Naples Food Fair, where tickets go for $7,500. I didn’t know there was oil in Naples, Florida. That’s my kind of retirement community.

Once more festival founder, Lee Brian Schrager, was elated. Once more Miami was on top of the world, or at least the food world. The only disappointment? The goody bag. A box of Godiva chocolates – truffles of course.