Food

South Beach Food and Wine Festival 2016

IMG_4513At the end of February I had the opportunity to partake in the South Beach Food and Wine Festival (SOBEWFF). I thought I would share some of the photos I took during the festival for those who may be interested and who may not be on my Facebook. The only reason I went was due to my work requiring me, which as some of you may know I try to avoid South Beach like the plague.

This is a huge event that takes place on the beach and at various venues throughout South Florida. SOBEWFF has now expanded to a couple events up in Ft. Lauderdale this past year. For those who may be cruising in late February or early March, this may be a fun weekend activity to look into before or after your cruise.

I was only at the Grand Tasting Village in South Beach for 3-days. Many of the employees who work at SOBEWFF are volunteer students from Florida International University. The event actually supports the hospitality program at FIU and provides scholarships for students. When I was working on my master’s degree at FIU I could have volunteered, but due to classwork and research I avoided the event for 2-years.

Even though I worked the event, I had the opportunity to taste and walk around all 3-days I was at the Grand Tasting Village. Tickets are normally pretty pricey, with the tasting village tickets running over $200+ for one day. Most events are a minimum of $100 and events hosting a celebrity chef seem to be running over $200.

Friday is Trade day at the Grand Tasting Village, but the general public is unable to purchase tickets for this event. Tickets are given away by businesses or are given to those in the industry. I actually won a ticket from Yelp in 2014, but was unable to go. *(Check out Yelp in South Florida starting in January for chances to win tickets to many of the events).

Trade day is primarily alcohol with really no food. There were probably over 70+ tables ranging from wine to spirits. I just tried the spirits since that’s all I had time for. There were a wide range of bourbons, tequilas, rums, and vodkas. Many of the products being served were well over $80 a bottle.

On Saturday and Sunday the event has less alcohol but more food. I had the opportunity to try some of the samples of food and a few more drinks. The food I tried was delicious. I had a fancy bacon donut from a place in Wynwood and guava barbecue dish from somewhere in South Florida. I also had a slider with fried cheese on top.

Saturday and Sunday are much busier since these days are the expensive tickets for sale to the general public. There are demonstrations in the tents as well from celebrities and chefs. I had the chance to see Neil Patrick Harris, Rev Run, Emeril, and Rachael Ray (to just name a few). These events are huge draws and are completely packed with many people IMG_4547standing.

Now the Grand Tasting Village is located directly on the beach, so you are walking in sand. If you have any problems walking, I probably would not partake in this event. Some people were in wheelchairs made specifically for the beach, but I saw people struggling pushing these chairs. Also highly recommend sunscreen, I learned after day one and was pretty sunburned.

Overall, SOBEWFF and the Grand Tasting Village is a fantastic event. I highly recommend not driving to South Beach and getting a hotel room for a night, or taking an Uber/Taxi. The only way to really experience the event is if you don’t drive. Luckily I had rides for 2 of the 3-days and could really taste some of the fantastic drinks.

Magic Kingdom (Part 1)

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During our stay over the Christmas holiday we decided to visit Magic Kingdom before Christmas day, due to numerous websites and reviews reporting after Christmas would be madness in Magic Kingdom. The following days after Christmas Magic Kingdom was closed for entry to various ticket holders due to reaching capacity. We were all really happy we went to Magic Kingdom before Christmas Eve and day.

For our first day in the park, we didn’t make any dining reservations since we had originally booked the dessert party later in the evening, but that was cancelled on us by Disney. Since we arrived at the park earlier than we had planned, we checked out the new Jungle Navigation Co Ltd Skipper Canteen.

In December the restaurant was not taking reservations since it had just opened a few days before we arrived. At this time you could tell the cast members were practicing various jokes and memorizing a script since many of the cast members were using the same exact phrases. Luckily our waiter did not partake in the corny jokes during our meal.

We had around a 15 to 20-minute wait before being seated in the “secret dining room.” The restaurant has a jungle cruise theme obviously and the food is inspired by “exotic” cuisines around the globe.

We started with the falafel appetizer and we all really enjoyed this. The meal also came with bread and a honey dipping sauce (the dipping sauce is fantastic). For my entree I ordered the Char Siu Pork, which was great and the meat surprisingly tender! Everyone else ordered the “A Lot At Steak” Salad, which was a Thai marinated steak salad. Overall a great new restaurant addition to Magic Kingdom.

After our late lunch/early dinner we waited for our FP+ reservation time at the Jungle Cruise (Jingle Cruise in December). In December the ride was decked out in Christmas decorations and all the jokes were holiday inspired. Afterwards we walked around since it was getting late and we had a FP+ reservation for Holiday Wishes.

Originally we had booked the dessert party for the first night, but Disney cancelled our reservation due to overbooking. To make up for the cancelled reservation Disney gave us a FP+ reservation for the firework show and a $100 gift card. The FP+ reservation for the firework show was new to us and gave us access to a fenced off area to watch the fireworks without having to stake out a spot for hours.

The fenced off area opened up about an hour and a half before the firework show started. Before the fireworks started there were  also two different shows in front of the castle. The first was A Frozen Holiday Wish, which was a castle lighting ceremony. The castle lighting is actually very pretty, minus all the Frozen hoopla. The second show was Celebrate The Magic, which is a musical light show focusing on various Disney stories. Celebrate The Magic starts around 15-minutes before the Wishes Fireworks show begins. This show was really great and showcased what seemed like some of the forgotten Disney movies.

The real highlight though of the evening was the Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season. The firework show seemed to be around 15 to 20-minutes long and of course put everyone in the Christmas spirit. Once the show was complete we decided to head back to the hotel after the drive from Miami that morning.