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21st Annual Las Olas Wine and Food Festival Wined and Dined the Boulevard

Another spring brings the annual Las Olas Wine and Food Festival, which took place this past Friday, April 29, downtown Fort Lauderdale. The event is a yearly benefit for the American Lung Association, shutting down the restaurant-heavy section of Las Olas Boulevard to tents and pedestrians. 

This year, the festival creators grouped as much into long tasting tents as they could, while allowing nonattendees access to the public sidewalks. It provided an opportunity for an amazing amount of private security personnel, who checked wristbands as people ebbed to and fro among the tasting areas.

It's an unsurprising mix of culinary play and wine sampling from both large producers and small vineyards. I say unsurprising because you get exactly what you pay for: over 200 wines to sample and food from over 50 local restaurants. Yeah, it's a big deal. One wine highlight this year was the inclusion in the VIP area of James Halliday's Winemaker of the Year 2016, Peter Fraser, chief winemaker of Yangarra Estate Vineyard. The Australian wine expert was in Fort Lauderdale for the event, shaking hands, giving interviews (check back to New Times later this week), and being a generous soul trying to educate those interested in his craft. The winery's viognier is of an exceptional class, floral with a nice acidity at the end.

Toward the regular-admission tasting tents, many of the great South Florida restaurants were out in show, including downtown's own YOLO, which was constantly frying up one of the best dishes of the night, fried calamari. American Social, Fork and Balls, and Bao Las Olas were among the over 50 restaurants that participated, giving out meatballs, dumplings, and more.

At the center of the festival, I caught some of the action between chef Andres Teran of JWB Prime Steak & Seafood and chef Franco Filippone of Sette Bello Ristorante, who duked it out during the Battle Sea portion of the Best of the Best Chef Competition. They put their fish-based skills to the test during the 15-minute cook-off. The Las Olas Wine and Food Festival is a potentially four-hour-long event, if you go with VIP, and that can be a marathon when it comes to drinking. Police presence was strong, and I witnessed no real drunken shenanigans. It was, when everything was said and done, a very enjoyable bacchanal.
The Las Olas Wine and Food Festival is an annual event that takes places along Las Olas Boulevard in Downtown Fort Lauderdale every spring and raises funds for the American Lung Association. Visit lasolaswff.com, or follow it on Facebook or Twitter.

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