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Here's What To Expect At SOBEWFF'S CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale

This month, dozens of Food Network stars and celebrity chefs will descend on South Florida for one of the country’s most preeminent gatherings of gourmands: the 17th annual Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Plenty of wining and dining awaits attendees during this week of star-studded culinary events with the food world’s biggest names. And, with it, comes the most anticipated year of the exclusive CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale series.

The local series returns for its third year—which SOBEWFF founder Lee Schrager is calling its biggest yet—with an expanded roster of events, a rebranded name to align with the region’s CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale dining program, and of course, top-notch celebrities.

So, don’t be surprised if you see Emeril Lagasse strolling the shores of Fort Lauderdale beach this February, or if you find Andrew Zimmern searching Fort Lauderdale’s hole-in-the-wall eateries for the area’s most bizarre food. Yes, these A-listers are among the chefs coming to town as first-timers to the Fort Lauderdale series. “We think bringing Emeril up there and bringing Andrew Zimmern is as big as it can get,” Schrager says.

In addition to these new stars, the CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale Series has introduced several other SOBEWFF signature elements: seated wine seminars; official white beach tents, much like those that dot the sands of South Beach; and the fan-favorite Lucky Chopsticks event, which in the past has drawn up to 3,000 attendees. (For comparison, last year’s Seaside Eats with Anne Burrell was the largest Fort Lauderdale event, drawing 600.)

It’s all a sign that South Beach Wine & Food Festival has gained a strong foothold in Fort Lauderdale. In its inaugural year of 2016, the Taste Fort Lauderdale Series consisted of eight local events and drew more than 1,500 attendees. Now, only three years later, the 2018 CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale Series features a record lineup of 11 events with the potential to attract a crowd of more than 2,200, according to SOBEWFF’s ticketing office. This growth comes as no surprise to Schrager. “We knew there was demand because we knew we had a lot of people attending the South Beach festival from Broward and even further north,” he says.

Interestingly enough, Schrager adds, now the Fort Lauderdale series has seen festival goers from Miami come up to Broward for the new events, as well as people coming down from Boca and Palm Beach. “It’s been a win,” he says.

Ready to attend? Check out the 11 events taking over Fort Lauderdale during South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

2018 CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale Series

BBQ Dinner hosted by Chris Lilly and Jorge Ramos

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m., Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, $200 Kick off the 2018 festival with a night of dining under the stars. World barbecue champ Chris Lilly will be joined by Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel’s own Jorge Ramos for a family-style dinner featuring the pitmaster’s award-winning barbecue, paired with gourmet comfort food sides and desserts prepared by Ramos.

Clambake hosted by Emeril Lagasse and Jorge Ramos

Thursday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m., Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, $200 One of America’s most iconic chefs and TV personalities, Emeril Lagasse comes to Broward to host a great New England-style clambake with Jorge Ramos and the best of South Florida’s seafood restaurants, from Burlock Coast and 3030 Ocean to Wild Sea Oyster Bar, Terra Mare and beyond. Plus, Charm City Cakes’ Duff Goldman will top off the moonlit evening with libations and samplings of his sweet creations. Better get those tickets now, or they’ll be gone quicker than you can say “Bam!”

Women of Syria Dinner hosted by Alon Shaya and Ingrid Hoffmann

Friday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m., Broward Center for Performing Arts - Porter Ballroom, $200 Heritage and human rights activism combine at this family-style dinner with “Simply Delicioso” host Ingrid Hoffmann, James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya, whose Israeli eatery in New Orleans was named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2016, and Syrian women from organizations that support refugees including Miami’s Syrian Supper Club. Guests will be able to taste cultural-inspired culinary delights while learning firsthand of these refugees’ stories.

Lucky Chopsticks hosted by Andrew Zimmern

Friday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m., W Fort Lauderdale Courtyard, $125 Andrew Zimmern makes his way north to host the popular Asian Night Market-style event that’s been a fan-favorite on South Beach. Local restaurants including Kuro, Temple Street Eatery, Poke House, Etaru and more will all take part in the walk-around tasting of Asian bites such as sushi, dumplings and dim sum.

The Champagne of Victors: G.H. Mumm and a History of Innovation

Saturday, Feb. 24, 11 a.m., Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, $125 The first of two signature wine seminars, attendees will explore the nearly 200-year history of luxe Champagne makers G.H. Mumm and taste this “Champagne of the Kings” in a guided format.

An Insider’s Tour of Six Pascal Jolivet Sancerres: Exploring Various Soil Types that Define Differences and Similarities

Saturday, Feb. 24, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, $85 Learn why Pascal Jolivet’s Sancerre wines taste more floral and elegant than other wines of the region, and how the three soil types their grapes originate from—clay, limestone and flint—impact the wines produced.

Rooftop Rosé Happy Hour hosted by Kristin Cavallari

Saturday, Feb. 24, 5:30 p.m.,  W Fort Lauderdale Bungalow, $75 Not every SOBEWFF event is about schmoozing with celebrity chefs. In this new-to-SOBEWFF event, “The Hills” star and fashion designer Kristin Cavallari will host a rooftop soiree with bottomless rosé—every South Floridians’ favorite, Whispering Angel. Cavallari is set to release a new cookbook called True Roots: A Mindful Kitchen with More Than 100 Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Refined Sugar in April, and what better way to celebrate than with a St. Tropez-inspired happy hour paired with bites and beachfront views at the W Fort Lauderdale?

The Ritz-Carlton Dinner: A Culinary Adventure

Saturday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m., Burlock Coast at The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, $175 Ritz-Carlton chefs from Key Biscayne, Naples and even Orlando will join South Florida celebrity chef Paula DaSilva of Burlock Coast at The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale for a one-night-only culinary collaboration sure to impress.

Grand Bloody Mary Brunch hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian and Aarón Sánchez

Sunday, Feb. 25, 11:30 a.m., Point Royal at The Diplomat Beach Resort, $150 This Fort Lauderdale Series staple has changed venues for 2018. The Bloody Mary Brunch will be held at Geoffrey Zakarian’s restaurant Point Royal and hosted by none other than Zakarian himself, alongside “Food Network” companion Aarón Sánchez. Expect an epic bloody mary bar, a vast raw bar selection, roasted pig and a dessert room that’ll kick your food coma into high gear.

Dinner hosted by Dario Cecchini and Angelo Elia

Thursday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m., Casa D’Angelo Ristorante, SOLD OUT Angelo Elia is already one of Fort Lauderdale’s favorite Italian chefs, so what could make dinner with him any better? Elia will host an authentic collaboration at his restaurant Casa D’Angelo with the world’s master of butchery, Dario Cecchini. He carries out his craft in the Chianti region of Italy (yes, they’re known for great wine), where he lives by the philosophy of using every part of the animal and has practiced his art for the past 40 years.

Dinner hosted by Michael Schulson and Chris Cosentino

Thursday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m., Monkitail at The Diplomat Beach Resort, SOLD OUT Embark on a Japanese izakaya-style journey at Michael Schulson’s Monkitail as the chef prepares a tasting meal of small shared plates alongside “Top Chef” winner Chris Consentino, known for nose-to-tail philosophy of serving up the whole animal. Then wrap up the night at Nokku lounge—as guests are whisked into this secret cocktail bar hidden in the back of the restaurant—for drinks and a round of karaoke.

Emeril Lagasse

When it comes to celebrity chefs, there’s no denying Emeril Lagasse is about as iconic as it gets. This year, the master of Creole cuisine makes his CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale Series debut.

Having heavy hitters like yourself become a part of the CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale series gives the area even more credibility. What do you think about the growth of the Fort Lauderdale series?

It’s great that the festival is evolving and growing to reach new audiences and expanding to new locations. Food and wine bring people together, so I’m not surprised with the festival’s growth. Some people may not consider Fort Lauderdale to be a food destination city, but this gives people the chance to experience what Fort Lauderdale has to offer. I am excited to be a part of this series.

What can we expect from your Clambake event at the Conrad Fort Lauderdale?

Are there any local chefs you’re particularly looking forward to working with? Growing up in Fall River, Massachusetts, clambakes were part of my childhood. You can definitely expect that my dishes will have some Portuguese influence behind them. Clambakes were really my first experience with seafood, so I’m really excited for this. Duff Goldman and Jorge Ramos are going to be hosting with me, and I’m very much looking forward to working with them. We have a great lineup, Paula DaSilva, Michael Hampton, Jeremy Shelton, the list goes on and on of talented chefs.

What’s your favorite part of SOBEWFF? Do you get to enjoy any downtime while you’re here?

Well, firstly, Miami is a great food city, and I am always happy to be here. The festival has grown so much over the years, and there are not only great large events, but some of the smaller dinners are really special and unique, too. I love that so many chefs, colleagues, restaurateurs all descend on Miami for the weekend. You never know who you’re going to run into. February in Miami is also great for stone crabs, which I never miss.

Based on the time you’ve spent in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area previously, what’s your impression of the local food scene and its evolution?

I think the food scene is evolving and will soon be on par with the scene in Miami and other South Florida dining destinations. My foundation is coming up on our second year of our newest event, Line, Vine and Dine, which takes place in Fort Lauderdale, and we are excited to have some local Fort Lauderdale chefs participating again this year at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina.

Andrew Zimmern

Andrew Zimmern is bringing his festival-favorite Lucky Chopsticks event–a grand tasting highlighting the best Asian eateries in South Florida–north to Fort Lauderdale this year. Ahead of the 2018 event, the four-time James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, writer and teacher tells us about his typical South Beach Wine & Food Festival experience.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re here for SOBEWFF? Do you get to enjoy any downtime?

I love attending all the festival events, and especially the small chef-driven breakout dinners. In the downtime I do get, I head to Palacio de los Jugos and eat some great lechon and superb traditional sides.

Can we expect any new twists to the Lucky Chopsticks event this year?

Why mess with perfection! I’m biased, but the last two years of Lucky Chopsticks has proven that it’s another one of SOBEWFF’s essential signatures, and bringing it to Fort Lauderdale is going to be a blast.

How do you feel about SOBEWFF’s expansion, and the growth of the Fort Lauderdale series, in particular?

Why is it important that the festival keeps evolving and reaching new audiences? This festival is cause-driven, creating financial opportunity for more future culinarians who need school scholarships, for example, and for me, it’s also about expanding its reach and growing the audience for food events with a social justice mechanism. If we are going to grow the gospel of food as a wellness tool for our planet, we need to grow the reach of our sermons.

Do you have any favorite South Florida restaurants or chefs you’ve discovered while you’re in town for the festival?

So many of the big out-of-towners have opened restaurants in Miami this year, from Salt Bae to Solomonov, I can’t wait to see how the Miami iterations of many restaurants are faring. But I’m as interested in checking out Shelley’s, Stubborn Seed and Lutum, new eateries that are more homegrown. And I have to hit Joe’s and all my other regular hot spots that I love, new and old. I met Brad Kilgore, Michael Schwartz, Michelle Bernstein and a slew of other new and established chefs over the last 15 years making TV in South Florida, and many, like those three, have remained good friends of mine. I love reconnecting with the Miami food community every year.