By Becky Randel for The New Tropic
On Thursday the South Beach Wine & Food Festival kicks off its 16th year of bringing celebrity chefs, world-class eats, and many drinks to Miami Beach. The festival, which brings in 65,000 people, has gotten so large that much like Art Basel, a ton of “satellite” events have popped up around town for people to enjoy outside of – or in addition to – the main attraction.
While many of the city’s top chefs are taking part in official festival events, they’re also throwing their own parties and bringing in chefs from around the country to cook inside their Miami restaurants.
Jose Mendin, founding partner and executive chef of The Pubbelly Group, is hosting four events in total, and told us that as a local, he loves to fully utilize this time of year by adding unique experiences to people’s visits. He especially likes to take friends, other chefs, and festival visitors to other part of town so they can see Miami beyond the festival.
It works out: local restaurateurs can show off their eateries to the culinary royalty and out-of-town chefs, while residents are happy to commemorate closer to their homes, extend their foodie evenings into the wee hours, and potentially pay a few less dollars to take part in multi-day festivities.
“For us on the beach, it’s great to see people come in before or after an event. It brings excitement in the restaurant. Usually on the night of our event, there are other guests who are coming to eat at Izzy’s anyways, or coming back from Tacos after Dark, Burger Bash, or Oyster Bash, and they just want to stay and continue with great food, drinks, and a good time,” says Jamie DeRosa of Izzy’s Fish & Oyster (see info on his event, below).
The satellite events also allow chefs to join in even if they don’t meet festival requirements on issues like seating – Mendin of Pubbelly says there’s a 100-seat requirement that his restaurant doesn’t meet, which is why he does his own events at his restaurants.
Here are some of the best “unofficial” parties and dinner happenings around town.
Thursday, Feb. 23
Kick it off with Pubbelly
Pubbelly, one of the first restaurants to garner national attention for the Miami food scene, is going big both in and out of the festival this year. The Pubbelly Group, which started with a small South Beach eatery, now has six restaurants in Miami, two in the Caribbean, and one on Norwegian Cruise Line. Mendin will serve up his wares at Friday’s Burger Bash, but he’ll also be at the original SoBe Pubbelly (1418 20th St., Miami Beach) on Thursday for a “Childhood SOBEWFF Memories Dinner.” In collaboration with Darren Brass of Miami Ink (and the show’s clothing line, Ruthless & Toothless), Mendin will cook up dishes inspired by his childhood memories, alongside partners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, both James Beard Award winners from Boston. 8 p.m. $85 a ticket. Tickets and more information here.