Food Festivals

SOBEWFF's Taste Fort Lauderdale Kicks Off With Sold-Out Seaside Eats Event Hosted by Robert Irvine (Photos)

Well, Broward County, it's official. You're now an integral — and, according to Robert Irvine, oft forgotten — part of one of the country's biggest annual foodie festivals. "When they asked me to do this [event], it was an easy choice," said Irvine. "These events are really all about giving...
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Well, Broward County, it's official. You're now an integral — and, according to Robert Irvine, oft forgotten — part of one of the country's biggest annual foodie festivals.

"When they asked me to do this [event], it was an easy choice," said Irvine during a recent launch event. "This festival is really all about giving a shout out to the chefs of Broward County. They do an amazing job, and have been overlooked for a long time."

Indeed, this year marks the first time greater Fort Lauderdale is officially participating in the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, presented by Food & Wine. The inaugural event series lineup known as Taste Fort Lauderdale takes place February 24-28, and even starts one day before the launch of the Miami-based bash, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year.

Not to be outdone by the South Beach shows, the inaugural series of Taste Fort Lauderdale events range from oceanside dining and pairing dinners with celebrity chefs and bloody mary brunches with the cast of Chopped, to multisensory experiences designed to blow your taste buds away.

The kick-off celebration — which took place last night on Wednesday, February 24, at the city's historic Bonnet House Museum & Gardens — catered to chowhounds and foodies alike with a sold-out Seaside Eats, hosted by Robert Irvine.

Longtime SOBEWFF supporter and celebrity chef Irvine circulated the Bonnet House property grounds, visiting each restaurant's station throughout the evening, taste-testing along the way. Midway through the event, Irvine gave a speech praising the area's chefs, and thanking South Beach Wine & Food Festival founder Lee Schrager.

"[Lee] For 15-plus years, has given to so many charities through his hard work — and I'm talking 365 days a year — to pull these festivals together in order to give to others less fortunate. The festival moving into Broward was a long time coming," said Irvine. "So let's give him a big round of applause. And let's have fun tonight."

YOLO: Seared Diver Scallops 
Yolo Restaurant's executive chef Rosalia Barron was serving up plates of seared diver scallops to a long line of hungry event-goers Wednesday night. The scallops made for a beautiful dish with a yuzu gelée, shaved fennel, tarragon, and a torched tangerine wheel. A similar dish can be found on the Fort Lauderdale restaurant's menu.

Coffee and Dessert From Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach
The evening wasn't just about wine and savories. You could also grab a cupcake and cup of coffee, Cuban coffee, colada, or latte from Paramount coffee and dessert station. The Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach is an 18-story condominium tower with 95 luxury residences expected to be open later this year, or early 2017.

Tuna Tacos From Boatyard
Boatyard executive chef Doug Riess didn't hesitate to go with his best-selling dish for the evening. His two-bite ahi tuna tacos made an appearance during the Seaside Eats event. The dish is one of the restaurant's most popular selections, diced raw yellowfin tuna served with mango and a hot-and-sour sauce in a crispy wonton shell.

Dandee Donuts: Dozens of Doughnuts
The best dessert of the evening might have been the dozens upon dozens of fresh-baked doughnuts provided by Hollywood-based bakery and restaurant Dandee Donuts. Although there were plenty to choose from, the signature was a showstopper: a giant glazed doughnut covered in the house crumbled cake mix and topped with a tuft of vanilla or dulce de leche cream.

The Pelican Grand Beach Resort: All About Oxtail
There was more than seafood to be had at the Seaside Eats event, of course. Take this cinnamon oxtail terrine from executive chef Michael Bloise at Ocean2000, the signature restaurant at Fort Lauderdale's Pelican Grand Beach Resort. The stop included a bite-sized sampler of Bloise's favorite dish, braised oxtail served with celery root and coconut puree, spiced puffed rice, and cilantro.

Schnebly Redland's Winery-Brewery Restaurant: Tropical and Local Offerings
A Miami-based restaurant made the trek to Fort Lauderdale during Wednesday's Seaside Eats event to showcase its unique concept. The winery, brewery, and restaurant offered up a taste of a number of unique ingredients, including Florida-grown winged beans (also known as the Goa or Manila bean, a tropical legume native to New Guinea). Head to the restaurant and you can get a taste of things like wild Florida boar dumplings, oyster mushroom dust (yes, that's a real thing), and bacon leaf (an herb that tastes just like bacon — seriously).

Robert Irvine's Dish: Queen Snapper Leave it to Irvine to "wow" guests with an impressive, open-mouthed, whole-roasted Queen snapper for his own "tasting plate" at Seaside Eats. The lean white fish is similar in flavor and texture to red snapper, served with lobster in a seafood broth along with fragrant bits of green onion, basil, mint, and fregula (a pasta from Sardinia similar to couscous).

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival Taste Fort Lauderdale series continues this week through Sunday, February 28. Visit

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.
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