There are few finer delights than food, and for this, South Florida has become a tropical haven for award-winning chefs, festivals and culinary concepts from around the world. With a diverse mix of consumers, many of which migrate to the Sunshine State for a taste of leisure and indulgence, the annual Miami Fine Beverage, Chocolate and Food Show is well situated at Pinecrest Gardens. From March 8 – 9, the grand event hosts more than 80 exhibitors over 30,000-square feet of tasting space at the 14.5 acre garden. Featuring the finest foods alongside sweets and spirits:
what’s not to love?
Founded by Mario Pi in 2013 as the Miami Fine Chocolate & Food Show, aptly, the word ‘beverage’ has since been added to the title to better showcase the festival’s many components. In 2012, the flagship event held in Chicago drew more than 14,500 consumers and 2,700 trade visitors, making the National Chocolate Show and Chicago Fine Chocolate Show the first contemporaneous trade and consumer marketplace dedicated to chocolate. Pi has now successfully exported and enhanced the concept, taking it from Navy Pier in the heartland to coastal Florida.
Last year, revelers of the Fine Food Show were treated to a life-size chocolate sculpture of the Miami Heat’s own Lebron James by Food Network Challenge Winner and international celebrity chef Paul Joachim. Special for this endeavor – and a reflection of the many partnerships and industry opportunities created by the show – Davis Chocolates produced a heat-resistant chocolate for Chef Joaquim
to work on his statue outdoors.
The Fine Food Show is anchored by a series happenings, satellite events, and collaborations – such as the chocolatey Lebron – to create a fully immersive culinary experience. Additional highlights included workshops with Chef Allen Susser, who taught attendees how to make chocolate tea and hosted “Bean to Bar: The Story of Owning an Organic Farm in St. Lucia;” as well as veteran chef Norman Van Aken, who most recently released a new culinary memoir, “No Experience Necessary.” Pi explains, “We were overwhelmed at the response we received from South Florida—it reflects that we are a culinary community, with people who care about food and represent an extensive knowledge base.”
This edition, the Miami Fine Beverage, Chocolate and Food Show has grown with elements including the new “cigar lounge”- an on-site cigar area sponsored by Cigar Cellar & Lounge; an exclusive VIP area; liqueur infused-chocolates; more craft beers and spirits; and an expanded restaurant program.
Gold Coast Beverages will be rolling out the red carpet on craft and specialty beers. With a number of intriguing craft beers, journey around America by way of local brews such as Brooklyn Brewery and Pale Ale. Foodies with an adventurous palate can also sip on beer cocktails made with chocolate.
Gallo Wines, the largest exporter of exquisite California wine, is taking the festival’s themes of beverage and chocolate to heart by infusing their award-winning wines with dark chocolate. Go from grapes to grains with Chopin’s Chocolate Vodka, featuring an inexhaustible selection of cocktails centered on a warm, luxurious base of fine chocolate. And for those who prefer the spicy smoothness of rum, Varela Imports presents a rich, chocolate drink, while Wicked Jack continues its legacy a famed chocolate rum cake.
In the ultimate ode to chocolate – the founding ingredient of the expo – some of the best chocolatiers in the United States will be participating in the Fine Food Show. Local chocolate guru Romanico Chocolatier will hold court with a selection from their kitchen, and Illegal Bakery will also present a variety of signature treats, including the revered French macarons, verrines and “bars” of chocolate cookie goodness. For the more artistically inclined, Enlightened Chocolates brings artwork alive by printing photographs directly onto gourmet chocolate creations.
A portion of the fairgrounds will be devoted to the savory, with over 30 restaurants showcasing their finest dishes. La Tagliatella will be making a fresh, homemade tribute to classic Italian cooking, while this side of the pond, The Mexzican Gourmet serves up its award-winning dishes. Visit the Spartico Restaurant pop-up from the Mayfair Hotel, and for the seafaring, Exquisite Bites will offer a gourmet seafood escape. Giraffas will guide the senses to a Brazilian extravaganza; and known for roasting pig in the traditional way as done in Cuba, La Caja China are among the many restaurants of this culinary tour.
New this year, a cigar pavilion – that can be accessed with regular admission to the Fine Food Show – will feature more than 20 of the finest cigar brands for sale, including Gurkha, Torano, My Father, Camacho and La Hoja de Flores. Sponsored by the Cigar Cellar & Lounge, this program will bring together amateurs as well as those seasoned in the art of smoke.
For cigar lovers interested in raising the stakes, an independent “Miami Smoke Affair” pop-up will also be opened on Saturday, March 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at a separate ticket price of $95, giving enthusiasts access to the entire festival, as well as private valet parking, 20 free cigars, open bar, unlimited food tastings, a “goodie bag” of select cigar accessories and a personal concierge to answer any questions. Beyond the general cigar lounge, Miami Smoke Affair will give aficionados a unique window of opportunity to share their passion in a true connoisseur’s environment.
Cigar patrons may finally opt for the golden ticket at $125, which allows access to both a Miami Smoke Affair (valued at $95) and VIP area perks (also valued at $95) such as early entry, an adjoining exclusive pavilion, and valet parking.
General admission to the show is $15 online and $20 day-of-show, with reduced rates for seniors, military, children and groups.
A range of seminars and demonstrations, and a two- to four-night off-site restaurant series, are perfect sides for the main event. Rediscover what it means to truly relax: experience fine chocolate, sip on fine wines, revel in unique craft beers and savor all the rich incarnations of international cuisine and luxury cigars.