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Underground Dining Groups: Q&A With Maude Eaton of South Florida Foodies

​It's safe to say that South Florida has come a long way in the food world. So far, in fact, that we've left behind the old ideas of nouveau cuisine, power lunches, and Norman Van Aken and embraced the new ideas of food sovereignty, food blogs, and the almighty South Beach Wine & Food Festival. 

The local community has also come together in an unprecedented way that usually occurs in bigger food cities like New York via underground dining groups. 

Yes, they actually exist, and they are growing in number and popularity every day.

In the coming weeks, Clean Plate Charlie will highlight and uncover the inner workings of the various underground and not-so-underground dining groups present in South Florida. 

The series kicks off after the jump with the loudest and liveliest of the bunch -- Maude Eaton and the South Florida Foodies. 

Clean Plate Charlie: How did the South Florida Foodies originate, and who are its founders?
Maude Eaton: It mostly started on Twitter. A couple of us -- @4theloveoffood (me!), @ergagit, @ildivomiami, @foodalogue, @lax2mia, @sflfoodandwine, and @barefootcount -- started tweeting and commenting about food, restaurants, and what we had just eaten. Mind you, most of us had never met before. But the love of food stood as our common ground. Some of us met in person when we were invited as a group to an event (TasteCasting) by Dine Magazine. 

It was hilarious. We had no idea what the other looked like or what some of our "real" names were. Introductions went something like this... "Hi, I'm Maude, For the Love of Food" and the other would say, "I'm Jean Marc, Il Divo." We all became instant friends. We are an amazing group of people who love food. We come together without pretense or attitude. 

The power of social media is incredible! I thought it would be a good idea to set up a Facebook page that allowed other foodies to join the conversation, promote themselves, and share their food passions. We didn't have a name yet, so I called the group the South Florida Foodies. Now we are almost at 300 members, and every foodie brings something precious to the group.

How do the events work? How and why are specific restaurants chosen?
Er Gagit and I choose venues that have been "Er" approved and "Diva" tasted. These are usually restaurants and/or chefs that have "wow" factors and are making food above and beyond others. As foodies, we enjoy connecting and socializing with chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, owners, and staff. For me, it is all part of the eating experience. When we choose a restaurant, it has to provide the ultimate palate pleasure.

Who coordinates the events?
The events are coordinated by Er Gagit and myself.

What is the mission of the group?
We are a group of food lovers that have a passion for all things culinary. We love to eat, drink, and be merry... It's all about sharing the experience. We come together for the love of food. I think James Beard said it best: "Food is our common ground, a universal experience."

Do you want the group to become more mainstream, and what are you doing to achieve this goal?
It would be great to see groups like the South Florida Foodies become more mainstream. Who doesn't love to eat good food with great people? We have followers from Houston, New York City, and even Europe that have similar interests and enjoy hearing about our foodie adventures. We do great events with restaurants and chefs and invite them to join the group as well. We also pair up with local charities in an effort to give back to the community that we live in. Our best marketing comes from tweeting! Anyone can join our group -- simply request to join on our Facebook page and you're in. We upload all event information and event pictures to the page. 

Will you be creating a website?
At the moment, the Facebook group page acts as the sole webpage, but a full-fledged website will be introduced soon. 

Give me some ideas that are brewing in your head for future events.
We try to keep our events a surprise, but I can say that we have only just begun to stimulate our palates, and the future holds many tantalizing and delectable events. 

For more information or to join the South Florida Foodies, visit their Facebook page or follow @4theloveoffood, @ergagit, or @ildivomiami on Twitter.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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