The South Beach Wine & Food Festival was the culinary place to be this past weekend — practically every big-name chef came down for the festivities. Here's Grub Street correspondent Alexandra Peers's report.
• Hottest ticket: The “Bubble Q,” a tony barbecue event on Friday where scalpers were getting double the face value for $300 tickets; sponsor Moët & Chandon ran out of Champagne halfway through. Models sported Marie Antoinette–style gowns made of bubble balloons, and Al Roker, dishing barbecued shrimp, glared at the much longer line for Laurent Tourondel’s* Kobe beef brisket (in fact, Roker’s shrimp was the thing to get).
• Biggest topic of discussion, of course: the New York Times ad Jeffrey Chodorow took out last Wednesday in defense of Kobe Club. (Perhaps you remember We Ask Jeffrey Chodorow If He’s Been Feeling Well Lately and
The Gobbler Responds to Mr. Chodorow’s Broadside.)
• Collective display of ego: New York’s Gael Greene, hosting a tribute to Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert, asked the room, full of reluctant New York restaurateurs, to salute the fish palace as the best restaurant in the city. Meanwhile, in a filmed tribute to Ripert, David Letterman pronounced Le Bernardin “so much better than White Castle.”
• Most spurned dish: Many guests barely touched their plates of Daniel Boulud’s wild mallard duck ballotine with Buddha's hand confit at the Ripert dinner. (Diners, according to a corporate sponsor of the event, just “didn’t get it.” So much for celebrating all things culinary.)
• Biggest celeb: Paula Deen won some of the biggest cheers, but amazingly enough, Rocco DiSpirito drew Beatles-like groupies at a brunch held at the Biltmore Hotel.
• Who was watching the kitchen? New York chefs in attendance included: Daniel Boulud, Laurent Tourondel, Bobby Flay, Nobu Matsuhisa, Gotham Bar and Grill's Alfred Portale, A Voce's Andrew Carmellini, Anita Lo of Rickshaw, David Chang, Floyd Cardoz of Tabla , Aquavit's Marcus Samuelsson, plus most of the stars of Food TV and the barbecue masters from Dinosaur and Daisy May's BBQ USA.
* Correction, Feb. 28: We originally wrote that Laurent Gras, not Laurent Tourondel, served the Kobe beef brisket at the “Bubble Q” party.