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If you're escaping the cold and heading to Miami this month, be sure to plan a visit to the four-day South Beach Wine and Food Festival which is taking place from 23 - 26 February. Celebrating its 11th anniversary this year, the event takes place right on the beach, where visitors can join a host of celebrity chefs for a packed weekend of tastings, demonstrations, dinners and parties.
Undoubtedly the most glamorous event in the gastronomic calendar, it's also one of the biggest with more than 55,000 visitors last year. The festival showcases the talents and produce of some of the world's most renowned chefs, vineyards and distilleries and attracts many A-list guests - this year film star Antonio Banderas will be presenting his Spanish winery.
Some of this year's highlights include Brunch at Sea, where you'll be able to board the festival's very own party boat, the Biscayne Lady, for a floating brunch of chef Douglas Rodriguez's zingy Cuban cuisine alongside Food Network star Aaron Sanchez's Mexican-inspired fare, served with Diplomatico Rum and Montecristo cigars. Learn how to Taste Wine Like a Master Sommelier with various experts who will help you learn how to identify different varietals and styles of wine.
Dining in the Dark is designed to heighten your sense of smell, touch and taste, and after you've been led to your table at the dimly-lit ballroom of the Gansevoort Hotel, the lights will go out and won't come back on until the very end of your four-course meal. All of the evening's chefs will work together to challenge your palate and test your senses and there'll be an opportunity to discuss each chef's dish and wine pairings at the end of the night.
At the Amstel Light Burger Bash, some of the world's top chefs will compete to prepare the ultimate gourmet burger. Last year the coveted People's Choice prize was won by Food Network star Michael Symon, who cooked up a burger with fried salami, provolone, shasha hot sauce and pickled onion. Swine & Wine is an event for the pork-obsessed where more than a dozen chefs will work together to produce a roast of unparalleled proportions at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
Anthony Bourdain will be hosting the festival's annual Tribute Dinner in honour of Chicago chef Charlie Trotter and renowned winemaker Piero Antinori, with a "who's who" of chefs preparing the meal. Finally, Trucks on the Beach is the festival's official closing party, hosted by the Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern who will help visitors navigate the crazy world of Miami's top food trucks and celebrate the original dishes and classic cocktails that make up the street food scene.
For more information on the dozens of events taking place, and tickets for various packages or for individual events, visit the South Beach Food and Wine Festival website.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.