Eat It Up: The Most Notable South Florida Food Festivals of 2014

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Mark your calendars for the most notable food fests in Broward and Palm Beach.

There's a reason most of us chose the more laid-back and casual lifestyle of Broward and Palm Beach; our festivals are representative of our fun-loving yet easygoing scene. From informal parties like Beerfest and the Garlic Festival to fashionable fetes like New Times' Pairings or the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival, we have plenty of world-class culinary celebrations in our own backyard.

Here's the scoop on our favorite food- and drink-centered activities.

17th-Annual New Times' "Original" Beerfest, April 5

For 17 long years, New Times has been throwing one of the biggest bashes in South Florida with its annual Beerfest. (Yes, we loved craft beer before craft beer was cool!) This year, the party is heading to America's Backyard (100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale). The event includes unlimited samples of more than 100 beers, food, and a live music lineup that's bonkers: Internationally acclaimed reggae band SOJA (Soldiers of Jah Army) is performing on Revolution Live's outdoor stage, with L.A. hip-hopper Murs opening. VIP tickets include entry one hour early (3 to 4 p.m.) and access to the speakeasy-style lounge inside Stache, filled with unlimited liquor and food samples, beer-snob-approved craft brews, comfortable seating, and giveaways. General admission begins at 4, and the event lasts until 7 p.m. Tickets cost $45 (VIP, $75); those prices jump to $55 and $90 respectively at the door. Visit newtimesbeerfest.com.

Las Olas Wine and Food Festival, May 2

Taking over idyllic Las Olas Boulevard, this event brings together the area's best chefs and restaurants for a night of indulgence on the famed Fort Lauderdale street. Gaggles of gourmands descend upon the road to drink wine, sip cocktails, and sample delicacies from more than 70 local eateries from 7:30 to 10 p.m. The VIP Prive party takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $100, $225 for VIP. Sponsored by Premier Beverage and the American Lung Association in Florida, proceeds benefit the ALA. Visit lasolaswff.com.

Boca Burger Battle, July 12

Summertime is all about grilling ­-- and good ol' American competition. Watch 20 local chefs battle it out for the titles of Best Burger and Best Alternative Burger at this Boca Raton festival. Celebrity judges (past years have included chef Dean Max and Sef "Burger Beast" Gonzalez) and 2,000 members of the public will pick their favorites from the contestants. Taking place at Sanborn Square (72 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton), it includes live music and unlimited food and booze. Tickets cost $55 per person; VIP tix, which include lounge access and early admission, cost $85. Visit bocaburgerbattle.com.

New Times' Pairings, September 18

After being held for two years at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center while the swanky Broward Center for the Performing Arts underwent improvements, this über-chic New Times event is moving back to its original -- and very refined -- turf. More than 40 of South Florida's best restaurants serve delectable dishes with expertly paired wines, craft beers, and cocktails. The seventh-annual event is expected to draw 1,500 local food and drink connoisseurs -- so this is the perfect opportunity to mix and mingle with like-minded sophisticates such as yourself. This year features a new VIP area on the club level of the center and cooking demos by local chefs. Prices and times TBD. Visit NewTimesPairings.com.

Boca Raton Wine and Food Festival, November

Spread over a three-day weekend at the beginning of November -- exact dates TBA -- the festival includes an elegant sit-down dinner and afterparty on Friday, a grand tasting on Saturday, and a bubblycentric jazz brunch on Sunday. With 5,500 people slated to attend, the event brings together about 125 local restaurants with live music, retail shopping, and, obviously, plenty of wine. It takes place at Boca Corporate Center & Campus (5000 T-Rex Ave.). Tickets start at $45. Visit bocaratonwineandfoodfestival.com.

Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival, December 12 to 14

This gem of a food fest has been steadily increasing its celeb chef wow factor for the past few years. Last year, its roster read like the James Beard Foundation's yearbook superlatives. Restaurant Impossible's Robert Irvine, Todd English of Food Trip With Todd English on PBS, Daniel Boulud, Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City, Top Chefs Kevin Sbraga and Lindsay Autry, and many more have graced the kitchens -- and the afterparties -- of the star-studded events. Spread over a few days, this fest has become known for its chic and intimate events, giving guests plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with the visiting chefs. Details for 2014's lineup are still being worked out, but gauging from its recent growth, we're betting we'll see more celebrities and even stronger events. Visit pbfoodwinefest.com.

Jupiter Craft Brewers' Festival, January 24, 2015

Bringing 3,000 craft beer geeks together for a day of sampling the country's finest brews, this fest really focuses on recognizing brewers' talent. It's organized by Tequesta Brewing's Fran Andrewlevich. For $35 at the door, guests get to sample unlimited micro- and homebrews from 1 to 5 p.m. Visit jupitercraftbrewersfestival.com.

Delray Beach Garlic Festival February 6 to 8, 2015

This Delray Beach festival is a celebration of the most agreeable -- and odorous -- culinary ingredient. Affectionately titled "The Best Stinkin' Party in Town," it is known for creative and crazy garlic-infused dishes like garlic ice cream, garlic funnel cake, and plantain- and garlic-crusted frozen bananas. The award-winning event features live entertainment -- previous acts have included G. Love and Special Sauce, the Wailers, and Collective Soul -- and a garlic chef competition in which local chefs battle it out for garlic supremacy. Tickets start at $10. Visit dbgarlicfest.com.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.

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