While the idea of expanding the South Beach Wine & Food Festival north to Broward County has been in the works for some time, it didn't come to fruition until this year. In 2015, festival organizers tested the waters with the first Fort Lauderdale event: a dinner hosted by celebrity chef Amanda Freitas and S3 chefs Peter Boulukos and Chris Miracolo.
Now in its 15th year, the SoBeWFF has officially expanded into Broward with a full roster of celebrity-studded dinners, tastings, and culinary-themed events. Dubbed the Taste Fort Lauderdale Series, it highlights the city's growing number of up-and-coming culinary talents in intimate dinners and tasting experiences at various restaurants.
Fort Lauderdale's culinary scene is a natural choice for the always-evolving event. It is also home to SoBeWFF's founder and all-around godfather, Lee Schrager, who took a one-day festival on Florida International University's campus and transformed it into the annual premier culinary event of South Florida. And thanks to him, it's one that is now
"I grew up in Broward. My parents live in Broward. My culinary education started in Broward," says Schrager. "Everyone who loves food in Broward is the same as those who love food in Miami, and there're so many great chefs in Broward."
It will be a true tour of Fort Lauderdale's historic spots and chic modern eateries, including some of Schrager's favorites.
"[There's] the bloody mary brunch at the Ritz-Carlton, and I've always loved the Bonnet House — it's so beautiful. And as far as the smaller events, there's Casa D'Angelo. We chose... great chefs, and we partnered them with other great guest chefs."
The Broward festivities kick off a day earlier than the main event in Miami with seafood bonanza Seaside Eats on February 24. To host this year's inaugural Broward event,
"I think the new Taste Fort Lauderdale Series says a lot about South Florida and how the different destinations within it are starting to blend into one awesome place to be," says Irvine. "There will always be that distinctive Miami experience, but really, the fundamental enjoyment of the South Florida lifestyle really extends beyond the boundaries of the Magic City, so it's good to see the festival embracing that."
As for whether the festival will continue to embrace Broward in coming years, Schrager is optimistic.
"The response has been great," he says, "so I think as long as it continues and people like what we're doing, who knows what we'll spin off from there."
Seaside Eats, Hosted by Robert Irvine
Wednesday, February 24, 7 to 10 p.m.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
900 N. Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale
Energetic celebrity chef Robert Irvine, a longtime festival
Tasting Dinner, Hosted by Debi Mazar, Gabriele Corcos, and Angelo Elia
Thursday, February 25, 7 to 10 p.m.
Casa D'Angelo Ristorante
1201 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale
Hosts of Cooking Channel's Extra Virgin and owners of the Tuscan Gun eatery in Brooklyn, Debi Mazar and her husband, Gabriele Corcos, return to the festival this year to host an evening of Tuscan-style dining. They will be joining Casa D'Angelo executive chef-owner Angelo Elia at his Fort Lauderdale restaurant, where his philosophy of "
Dinner Pairing, Hosted by Todd English and Chris Miracolo
Thursday, February 25, 7 to 10 p.m.
505 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
S3, site of the first Fort Lauderdale-based SoBeWFF event in 2015, will host yet another progressive pairing dinner geared at expanding guests' culinary boundaries — this time with celebrity chef Todd English. Known for his interpretation of rustic Mediterranean cuisine, the four-time James Beard Award-winning
Pairing Dinner, Hosted by Marc Vetri and Giovanni Rocchio
Friday, February 26, 7 to 10 p.m.
Valentino Cucina Italiana
620 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale
Spending his formative professional kitchen life in Bergamo, Italy, working alongside some of the region's most-noted chefs, James Beard Award
Napa-Style Dinner, Hosted by Robert Curry and Paul Lemieux
Saturday, February 27, 7 to 10 p.m.
Auberge Beach Residences & Spa
2200 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
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New Style Remix Dinner, Hosted by Justin Warner and Alex Becker
Saturday, February 27, 7 to 10 p.m. (afterparty 10 to midnight)
Kuro at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
1 Seminole Way, Hollywood
Hosted by celebrity chef and cookbook author Justin Warner, Kuro executive chef Alex Becker, and DJ Felix Da Housecat, the New Style Remix fuses live music with Kuro's new-style Japanese cuisine. Described as a culinary journey that will take diners through the breadth of Kuro's kaiseki-style menu, with a few of Warner's own creative twists, a multicourse pairing that opens with chilled dishes and travels through tempura, robata, land and sea, and concludes with sushi and dessert. Each course will be paired with one of Kuro's taste-driven cocktails as well as a variety of high-end sakes, and a postparty event will take place at the Kuro bar and lounge in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Bloody Mary Brunch, Hosted by Food Network's Chopped Cast
Sunday, February 28, noon to 2 p.m.
The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Event participants might be excited to learn this event is an offshoot of a similar brunch that debuted at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, a brunch that stands as a new event not only in terms of Fort Lauderdale but for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival as a whole. Attendees will have the chance to rub shoulders with the entire cast of the Food Network's Chopped, who will host a boozy brunch overlooking Fort Lauderdale Beach from the outdoor patio of Burlock Coast, the restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale. Guests can enjoy a variety of free-flowing bloody mary offerings, encompassing both classic flavors and modern twists. The event has also rounded up chefs from all over South Florida to serve distinctive dishes with a focus on fresh and local fare.