South Beach Wine and Food Festival 2018 lineup unveiled with new twists in Fort Lauderdale

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival has unveiled its 2018 lineup, and for a third straight year, the five-day event known as “winter break for chefs” and “the Super Bowl for foodies” will kick off in Fort Lauderdale. Broward County will stage a record nine events as part of the expanded and rebranded Crave Greater Fort Lauderdale Series. Featured hosts at Broward events include celebrity chefs/TV stars Emeril Lagasse, Aaron Sanchez and Andrew Zimmern.

"We've got some big names, we're introducing new venues and events, and we're trying to introduce the festival to new people," festival executive director Lee Brian Schrager says about the expanded Broward footprint. "It's all become a mini-festival within the festival."

The 80-event South Beach Wine and Food Festival, which runs Feb. 21-25 and attracts hundreds of chefs and thousands of food lovers from around the globe, will feature a new venue for the Wednesday-night opener: a giant white tent on the sands of Fort Lauderdale beach across from the Conrad Hotel. It will be the first time Fort Lauderdale boasts a beachside tent, which has become a signature for the festival’s biggest and most popular events on the southern end of Miami Beach.

The festival will launch with a $200-a-head barbecue dinner on Feb. 21 hosted by World Barbecue Champion Chris Lilly and Conrad Hotel chef Jorge Ramos. The new beach tent replaces Bonnet House, which was cramped and had some issues with electricity during a stormy opening day of the 2017 festival.

"We really wanted a presence on Fort Lauderdale beach all along and the Conrad was eager to work with us to get it done," Schrager says. "Bonnet House was beautiful but it was not an easy location. There were a lot of restrictions."

There are other new wrinkles for Broward. Lagasse and Ramos will co-host a $200-a-head clambake at the beach tent on Feb. 22. Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” will bring his popular Asian-themed Lucky Chopsticks event ($125) to the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 23. Sanchez will co-host the Sunday Bloody Mary Brunch ($150) on Feb. 25 with chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian at Zakarian’s Point Royal restaurant at the Diplomat Hilton Resort in Hollywood.

Gone from the Fort Lauderdale lineup is a late-night cocktail event in Fat Village, which did not sell well for its 2017 debut. It has been replaced by a Rooftop Rose Happy Hour ($75) with Kristin Cavallari, cookbook author and lifestyle guru whose husband is Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, at the W Hotel at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 24. New wine seminars also will be held in Broward.

Perhaps the most intriguing Broward event: a Women of Syria dinner on Feb. 23 ($200) at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The dinner, co-hosted by New Orleans chef Alon Shaya and television personality Ingrid Hoffmann, will feature food and stories from Syrian refugees. Two organizations dedicated to supporting Syrians fleeing war, the Denver-based Comal Heritage Food Incubator and Miami-based Zaytouna and Syrian Supper Club, are taking part in the event.

The revamped Diplomat Hilton Resort in Hollywood will be a featured Broward venue with two events. Besides the Bloody Mary Brunch, a $250-a-head dinner will be held on Feb. 22 at Michael Schulson’s Monkitail restaurant, co-hosted by Schulson and San Francisco-based chef Chris Cosentino. Paula Da Silva , the newly installed chef de cuisine at Burlock Coast at the Fort Lauderdale Ritz-Carlton, will host a dinner ($175) on Feb. 24 with other Ritz-Carlton chefs from around the state.

Change is also coming to Miami Beach events, where the annual Burger Bash (Feb. 23, $250) will feature a new host, Food Network’s Guy Fieri. He replaces Rachael Ray after an 11-year run. The annual tribute dinner on Feb. 24 ($550) at the Loews Miami Beach will salute chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, and will feature a new walk-around format with food from a dozen chefs including Miami’s Michelle Bernstein. The dinner will be emceed by radio personality Elvis Duran. A new family-friendly event has been added, a Sunday afternoon ice cream social hosted by Duff Goldman at the Loews Miami Beach hotel (Feb. 25, $75 adults, $25 children).

Food Network and Cooking Channel will again be presenting sponsors of the festival, which will again raise money for the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University. The festival has raised more than $26 million for the school in 16 previous editions.

Tickets go on sale Oct. 23, with a Oct. 9-22 presale for MasterCard holders. Go to SoBeWFF.org for details.

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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