Grand Tasting Highlights: Part I

Every year, it seems the Grand Tasting tents get a little bit rowdier. A once-small-scale festival thrown by the FIU students as an annual fundraising gig has turned into a bit of a sloshfest. When in Miami, especially as a tourist, there's nothing more rewarding than a gorgeous beach day. But, add two colossal tents, a never-ending stream of booze and you've got the Grand Tasting in a nutshell. But, let's not forget about the food. Sometimes, a chef misses the mark, but there were a few standout bites this time around. It takes a ton of dedication and talent to keep the attendees happy, especially when the G-Tasting is known for it's vulturesque vibe. The lines grew longer, attendees a bit more restless to get their tastes in. And, there's really nothing to be done, because those folks came for their $212.50 worth in samples, and no one could get in their way. The Grand Tasting tents are always a scene, and in our two days of exploration, we found some hidden gems and highlights to rehash for you.

Saturday's Memorable Moments, Highlights and Lowlights:

1) Running for cover during the hour-long downpour around 5 p.m., we sought shelter at the Barilla tent, where a plate of warm pasta did the trick as we rode out the storm. It was a drunken duo that caught our eye. First, the 20-something girls were stealing boxes of pasta, followed by sauce and olive oil. Barilla staff finally got word and began packing up the display. "People are stealing all of our product," one Barilla rep said. We sighed as we took in the moment.

2) We stopped by the Feast Miami tent to check in with Ben Leventhal, and as the the rumble of thunder hit and the first raindrops fell, we were graced with the presence of an overly tipsy middle-aged woman who was not happy with those nearby drinking sangria (in her eyes, blasphemy at a food and wine event).  She then dropped a glass of red wine on the makeshift studio floor and began to share restaurant sexcapades. Too bad the cameras weren't rolling.

3) We watched as swarms of eaters rushed the Drunken Chef booth, sure it was something we needed to try. Turns out, not so much. We were not fans of the 'drunken' desserts. A rum ball here and there is just fine, but a limoncello-infused cookie that threw us back to lemon drop shots of our drinking days was not the flashback we were interested in having. If we wanted a cocktail, all we had to do was turn around.

4) Those orange sunglasses. We were no fan of the Aperol spritzer, but all we wanted was a pair of those snazzy shades. We thought they were uber cool and couldn't wait to score a pair, even if everyone else was wearing them.

5) DeVito South Beach's food spread was our favorite showing of Saturday's tasting. The return of the four-cheese pear ravioli was phenomenal once again. We could have skipped more than half of the booths and requested a full serving of ravioli instead. We were big fans of the second offering, the short rib slider, as well. The shredded meat went well with the last sip of pinot noir we had left in our glass. While Danny, himself, was not onsite serving meatball sliders circa 2008, we were fully satisfied with the double dose.

6) In between the two tasting tents, a Calypso band was busy banging on the steel drums. Rum and tequila flowed in the break area, while an inebriated dance party broke out. Pleasant tunes transitioned into wasted karaoke hour, and we wondered where the heck those Evian girls were hiding. These drunkies could've used some hydration… or sobering up, whatever you want to call it.

Aside the hour of unrelenting rain and the drenched walk back to our car, we were able to catch a peek at the gorgeous rainbow that took over the Miami Beach sky. It was our sunshine after the rain and we were hoping for a breezy and beautiful day, come Sunday, for the fest closing… And our wish came true.

To Be Continued...

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