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Gulf & Main Magazine

Culinary Getaways: Florida’s Food and Wine Festivals That Make The A-list

Planning a trip around a food and wine festival adds another dimension to a weekend escape or a well-deserved vacation. Foodie fests are always happening somewhere in Florida. Here are our favorites for the culinary connoisseur in you, plus where to stay for easy access to all the festivals’ happenings.

Seeing Red Wine Festival, Seaside, Nov. 8-11, 2018

Our Picks
: The vintner dinner at Bud & Alley's Beachfront Restaurant, complete with sunset, scores for its awesome setting. Another top event is Saturday afternoon’s Seeing Red Grand Tasting in downtown Seaside, where you can stroll from tent to tent and sample some 600 wines, before moseying over to the retail tent for a case of your new favorite wine. This is one of few wine festivals held steps from the Gulf of Mexico waters in a darling of a beach town. Consider it northwest Florida’s premier event in which guests enjoy swirling and sipping wine, live music, Southern hospitality, and sand and surf.

Stay: With more vacation rental homes than hotels available, consider booking through Cottage Rental Agency and take advantage of special lodging and ticket packages. Many of the houses are close to the shore on Scenic Highway 30-A, just a short walk from Seaside.

Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest, Dec. 13-16, 2018

Our Picks: Friday night’s Chef Welcome Party is held in a luxe, yet tropical, setting at The Breakers resort. Sunday’s Daniel & Friends brunch at Café Boulud is a chance to meet the renowned chef. And Sunday’s Grand Tasting at the convention center is where you eat, drink and mingle as you visit some 60-plus stations. Chef Daniel Boulud is the headliner at Palm Beach’s food and wine fest. But there’s no shortage of talent with names such as Duff Goldman, the pastry chef from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes fame, and Palm Beach’s own Clay Conley, a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef of the South. And the venues are just as grand, including the historic hotel The Breakers.

Stay: The Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach is the official host for the festival. Set on the Atlantic Ocean, it’s the perfect spot to retreat to in between events.

Key West Food and Wine Festival, Jan. 23-27, 2019

The wildest of all the food and wine fêtes, this festival because of its sheer location attracts a crowd that knows how to sip, savor and party in the most laid-back, anything-goes way. Bring shorts and flip-flops. 

Our Picks: Book a Neighborhood Stroll and choose the location—Bahama Village, Historic Seaport or Mallory Square; then sample wines as you tour the Key West neighborhood. For something more culinary, reserve a spot at the Stock Island Shrimp Boil at The Perry Hotel for a dinner of pink shrimp, conch fritters, Key lime pie and more. Wrap the weekend with the Master Chef’s Classic on Sunday for an impressive presentation and tasting of premium wines and food.

Stay: The Marker Waterfront Resort, near the historic seaport, is walking distance to most events. One of the newer properties built from scratch in 2014, the luxury boutique hotel has a tropical conch vibe, balconies and three pools.

Forks & Corks, Sarasota, Jan. 25-27, 2019

Our Pick: Held in the courtyard of The Ringling, surrounded by classical sculptures and architecture reminiscent of Old Europe, Sunday’s Grand Tasting is a delicious soirée in one of Florida’s most beautiful museum settings. Sample fine wines and dishes prepared by the area’s top talent. This is a salute to Sarasota’s independent chefs and restaurant owners, who partner with visiting winemakers. Expect elaborate dinners in choice restaurants and the Grand Tasting.

Stay: If you want to sleep in the newest hotel, book at the Sarasota Modern in the Rosemary District. Scheduled to open in December 2018, the boutique property promises Modernist architecture representative of Sarasota in the 1940s—clean lines, natural woods and big windows. From its central location you can easily drive to the events.

South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Feb. 20-24, 2019

Starry-eyed foodies are right in their element when the South Beach Wine and Food Festival literally takes over SoBe and brings Food Network’s celeb chefs—the likes of Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay—to town for five days of sampling and sipping at more than 50 events. 

Our Pick: The glamorous fun ranges from intimate dinners and wine seminars to after-dark beach parties. But for the first-time festivalgoer, the Grand Tasting Village held on the beach Saturday and Sunday offers cooking demos by the who’s who of culinary rock stars, wine samplings galore and new product launches. 

Stay: If you can get a room here, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel is on the edge of the sands where big tents for events are set up. It’s abuzz with activity and a good spot to spy celeb chefs who often stay at this 790-room beachfront resort with their entourages.

Bern’s Winefest, Tampa, April 7-14, 2019

Tampa’s famous Bern’s Steak House is known for its exquisite wine cellar. That said, if you’re looking for a smaller festival to sate your taste buds, this is it. Held at Bern’s, its sibling restaurant Haven, Bern’s Fine Wines and Spirits shop and its Epicurean Hotel, the festival boasts quality wines that will blow you away. 

Our Picks: Sunday’s Grand Tasting is by far the star event in which a selection of impressive wines and culinary creations from the kitchens of the Bern’s restaurants are presented. Seminars such as Champagne and Oysters are held in the Epicurean Theater inside the hotel and winemaker dinners take place at Haven. Poke into the wine shop to buy the wines you discovered during the event. 

Stay: The cleverly designed Epicurean Hotel, part of the Bern’s family, sits across the street from the steak house. With its wall of wine corks and oversized forks for door handles, the urban hotel is stylishly themed and located in Tampa’s SoHo (South Howard Avenue) entertainment district.

Patricia Letakis is the managing editor for TOTI Media.