You don’t have to travel to the depths of Patagonia to witness Argentine chef extraordinaire Francis Mallmann build a fire and cook over the flames. You just have to travel to Florida. At this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival (February 24th to 28th, 2016), Mallmann will be donning his apron at an intimate dinner in the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, recently opened in December 2015.
Mallmann’s first outpost in the US, Los Fuegos, is set in the Faena Hotel. Together with Chef Paul Qui—whose restaurant in the hotel, Pao, serves modern Asian food—Mallmann will demonstrate his grillmaster skills over open flames as part of the festival’s packed line-up. The evening will also include dishes that showcase the culinary role of smoke: fried chicken with smoked oyster aioli and smoked scallop with radicchio and endive.
Along with larger-scale regular events like Meatopia, Burger Bash (with Neil Patrick Harris on this year’s panel of judges), and an Asian Night Market, there are several intimate dinners on the festival schedule this year. These seated affairs will bring individual culinary voices together under the roof of one kitchen. Chef Sean Brock of Husk in Charleston will be teaming up with David McMillan and Frédéric Morin of Montreal’s Joe Beef for a dinner at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (shrimp and grits with crispy pig ears is on the menu). Daniel Boulud and George Mendes will bring together French and Portuguese flavors during a dinner at Miami’s db Bistro Moderne. Simply eating at the restaurants of these chefs would not replicate this experience—these collaborations feel fresh and inventive, placing chefs outside of their comfort zone, and seeing what happens when minds meet in a tropical locale.
So where should you eat when visiting Miami before or after the South Beach Wine & Food Festival? Chefs participating in the festival have a lot to say about the best bites in Miami (and aren’t limiting their suggestions just to South Beach). Here are picks from festival chefs on the irresistible places that keep them coming back for more.
“Michael’s Genuine is damn near perfect; great cocktails, clairvoyant waiters, classic patio, and a menu that speaks miles about how fertile Michael’s culinary chops are."—Chef Jonathan Waxman
“Definitely the 27 restaurant at the Freehand Miami. The space reminds me of your awesome grandmother’s house who’s lived in Miami all her life. It’s just a place you want to be all the time—it’s perfectly casual with so much soul. And above all else, every person that works there is incredibly kind."—Chef Michael Solomonov
“It’s hard to name just one favorite restaurant in Miami, but I love all the Pubbelly joints and Cena by Michelle Bernstein. They serve up constantly delicious food every time I go.”—Andrew Zimmern, chef, TV personality, and writer