Paula Deen Kicks Off the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

When it comes to kicking off a weekend-long celebration of all things cocktails and culinary at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Paula Deen knows just how to do it. She and her son, Bobby, were on hand last night to host The Q, a seaside bash featuring a feast of barbecue-inspired fare with dozens of top-notch chefs from across the country and crowds of hungry food fans. The Deens and other Food Network stars like Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Robert Irvine, plus past The Next Iron Chef: Redemption rivals Tim Love and Duskie Estes, mingled with guests and dished out a seemingly never-ending supply of their best smoky bites.

While the atmosphere at The Q among chefs and guests alike was relaxed and tropical, the food scene was serious. To start, Robert Irvine put the focus on pig, offering tender braised pork cheeks with fried pickles on a soft brioche bun.

Given Chef Love's mastery of untraditional meats, it's no surprise that he dished up smoked antelope and served it with oak lentils and leeks. His former Redemption competitor Duskie also showcased the unconventional with a poutine of pig faces alongside deliciously salty confit fries.

Providing the sole seafood pick of the evening was Iron Chef Zakarian, whose slices of cool tuna were bright pink on the inside and crusted with smoked togarashi. Each plate was finished with a scoop of Israeli couscous and creamy, spicy sea urchin for a full-flavored dish that would surely impress the Chairman.

Not one to forget about dessert, FN Dish's own Hedy Goldsmith put her winning confectionery chops to work, serving guests slabs of sweet, sticky candied bacon, dressed in a warm maple-brown sugar glaze and baked (pictured right).

Just as the night was wrapping up, Paula took the stage to announce which chefs had made particularly standout 'cue. Chef Todd English took home The Omaha Steaks Award for Culinary Excellence with short rib-tenderloin steamed bun, while Chef Jonathan Waxman scored the title of King of Q with a NY strip steak with arugula and salsa. Both dishes wowed the Deens and kept fans coming back for more.

Stay tuned to FN Dish this weekend for more coverage of the 2013 South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

(All photos courtesy of South Beach Wine & Food Festival)

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