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SoBeWFF: In Defense Of The Grand Tasting Village

Dewar's Scotch Egg, photo by lee kleinScotch Egg & Scotch at Dewar's Scotch Egg Club, photo by lee kleinThe Demo Area of the Village, photo by lee kleinAlfredo Echeverria, Executive Director of Costa Rica's Club De La Gastronomía Epicurea, photo by lee kleinShort Rib Empanada with Pickled Apple and Smoked Tomato Aioli, photo by lee kleinGuy and Snoop, photo by lee kleinDJ Snoopadelic, photo by lee kleinCoca-Cola at SoBeWFF, photo by lee kleinIlly Coffee, photo by lee kleinTino Martinez Cap - Thanks MasterCard!,photo by lee klein

Of the some 90 events of each year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the least sought after ticket among serious food people is for The Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village. Luckily I’m not that serious, so I greatly enjoy the annual day that my wife and I spend at “the tents.”

The crowd is less upscale than at other events. The entrance fee is $250 per, so there are no imminent threats of an angry proletariat uprising taking place…but perhaps because lots of tickets are given away to festival sponsors and such, it’s a pleasantly down-to-earth affair.

The Demo Area of the Village, photo by lee klein

It lasts a long time – from noon to 5 pm (media gets in 11:30 am). So you can take your time doing whatever: You can watch Masaharu Morimoto or Bobby Flay or Ming Tsai or Guy Fieri/Snoop Dogg talk cooking while creating dishes at the Culinary Demo stages. Or you can sample various foods in the main tents. If you like good wine, you can find good wine to sip. If you like to get drunk on all manner of libations, you can do that too. If you’re curious about the newest flavors of Coca-Cola or La Croix or other soft drinks you can gulp those all day long. Peeps fan? There’s a whole separate tent for those!

Coca-Cola at SoBeWFF, photo by lee klein

Guy and Snoop, photo by lee klein

Illy Coffee and Alaska Coffee Roasters and Oceana Coffee are poured all day, hot and iced. Grab a few delectable Honeybee Donuts, maybe some Graeter’s Ice Cream, and there’s your coffee break.

Illy Coffee, photo by lee klein

It’s right on the beach, with the ocean breezes, so it’s got the nicest backdrop of any event. You can always leave the tents, traipse along the ocean for a while, and then return. Nice.

Short Rib Empanada with Pickled Apple and Smoked Tomato Aioli, photo by lee klein

You can concentrate on just a few things. For instance, this year we paid particular attention to Dewar’s Scotch Egg Club. Unfortunately we couldn’t play bingo with a mechanical chicken because they were having temporary problems with the chicken, but we got to sample much of the John Dewar & Sons blend and single malt portfolio, and had a great conversation with JD&S brand ambassador, Gabriel Cardarella, who gave us the lowdown on famed chef Michael Voltaggio’s menu of insanely creative Scotch eggs, and how they specifically pair with Dewar. The Scotch eggs served: Huevos Rancheros, Bagels & Lox, and Ramen. Also one with salmon sausage, pickled egg, curry sauce and trout eggs…best Scotch egg I’ve ever had. In case you haven't yet heard, Scotch eggs are the new cauliflower -- which, of course, was the new kale. I'm still waiting patiently for herring in cream sauce to have its day.

Scotch Egg & Scotch at Dewar's Scotch Egg Club, photo by lee klein

It helps if you’ve got a sponsor/media ticket for the tiny-but-air-conditioned Hospitality Lounge, which this year was hosted by “Essential Costa Rica.” I spoke for some time with Alfredo Echeverria, Executive Director of Costa Rica's Club De La Gastronomía Epicurea, about Costa Rica’s culinary scene. Later, those in the Suite were handed samples of snapper over mango with coconut water and cilantro -- a creative take on the country's indigenous ingredients.

Alfredo Echeverria, Executive Director of Costa Rica's Club De La Gastronomía Epicurea, photo by lee klein

There are surprises. This year, there were two surprises.

1. My wife got me a Yankees cap and baseball autographed by Tino Martinez, who she chatted with while we were in the baseball-themed, dome-shaped MasterCard tent (some may not know that Tino was a hitting coach for the Marlins).

Tino Martinez Cap - Thanks MasterCard!,photo by lee klein

2. After doing a cooking demo with Guy Fieri, DJ Snoopadelic moved to the Village sound stage and within seconds the entire village joined in for a rollicking Snoopfest that closed out the Saturday event.

DJ Snoopadelic, photo by lee klein

So those are a few reasons why I love Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village. And I didn’t even mention the complimentary packets of Badia spices.