The 12 Best Bites from the 2016 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Look back on a jam-packed weekend at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival with our recap of the best-of-the-best bites.

We're back from the beach, now in New York City instead of walking around the seaside tents and tasting all manner of Italian bites, juicy burgers and smoky meat that the South Beach Wine & Food Festival had to offer last weekend. Though the Festival's landmark 15th year may have officially ended with Sunday night's Lucky Chopsticks event, showcasing Asian-inspired eats, we'd still like to daydream about the days and nights we spent digging into fried bologna, burgers dripping with cheese sauce and thick-cut bacon. Join us as we look back on these and more of our most-memorable savory and sweet selects from a jam-packed weekend.

Fried Bologna Sandwich

We want to emphasize: This isn't the bologna sandwich you ate in your school's cafeteria in fourth grade. The folks at Joe's Stone Crab, a culinary institution in Miami Beach, made their own bologna for Meatopia and sandwiched it between toasted bread with a smear of pimento cheese — and served it with popcorn and an Adult Capri Sun, aka a lemon-rum cocktail in a portable pouch. Now that's our kind of juice box.

House-Cured Slab Bacon

Bacon is good, yes. But homemade bacon is better. And slabs of it, instead of the usual strips, are even more craveworthy than that. At Meatopia, Miami Beach's Quality Meats topped its bacon with peanut butter and jelly — a jalapeno-laced jelly, that is. What resulted was a sweet, savory, creamy and crispy combo that was enough to leave us wanting more.

Gnocchetti with White Bolognese

It just so happened that in a sea of pastas, meatballs and pizza, the first dish we tasted at Thursday night's Italian Bites on the Beach happened to be one of the most-unforgettable of the weekend. The team from San Francisco's SPQR served shrunken gnocchi with Bolognese, but there was no traditional tomato base in this silky sauce. Immediately after finishing our first plate we knew we'd be coming back for more — and we did, grabbing a second helping before the night ended.

Veal Breast, Agnolotti with Truffled Leeks and Sughetto

Smoothness. That was the name of the sauce game at the Dolce Italian Booth at Italian Bites on the Beach. This local Miami Beach eatery finished each plate of pasta purses with a drizzle of richly savory Roasted Veal Jus that not only added flavor but a velvety texture as well.

Island Creek Oysters

There was no shortage of next-level oyster preparations at Friday night's Oyster Bash, from smoky grilled half-shells to golden fried nuggets. But perhaps our favorite was the one that required no preparation at all. The raw beauties, shucked right before our eyes, were crisp, clean and briny, and when topped with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, they were ideal for easy slurping.

Michael Mina 74 Steak Burger

Cheese. Sauce. There was a lot of it on this between-the-bun creation from Miami Beach's Michael Mina 74 at Fontainebleau, and we're happy about that. At Burger Bash, they featured this gooey American cheese-based sauce on top of a moist patty stacked with crispy bacon for even more decadence.

Thai-Style Frozen Pops

Popsicles — I mean, how special can they be, right? Wrong. These frozen treats from Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith proved to be next-level inventive. Not only did she freeze them in what she called "a traditional Thai Popsicle maker,” pictured above, but she also opted for anything-but-ordinary flavors. We picked the pineapple-based flavor scented with Thai basil and lemongrass, and it was just the refreshing bite we craved.

Grapefruit Meringue Crumble Push Pops

Like Goldsmith, Duff Goldman, too, brought pops to his Sweet 15: A Dessert Party, but his weren't frozen. Built inside individual canisters, Duff's Grapefruit Meringue Crumble Push Pops weren't just a novelty to look at; they boasted smooth, tangy flavors that complemented each other well. We were especially excited about the crumble on top, as it offered a welcome bite of texture to the dessert.



Photo by: Neilson Barnard ©2016 Getty Images

Neilson Barnard, 2016 Getty Images

Warm Brie Sandwich

Consider this the grilled cheese sandwich of which all other grilled cheeses are jealous. Alex Guarnaschelli served this at the reception for her Dolce Brunch on Saturday, and in place of the usual slice of orange cheese, this toasted masterpiece featured soft and buttery Brie, thick-cut tomatoes, and peppery arugula to cut the richness of the filling.

Buttermilk Strawberry Skillet Cake

While some desserts prove to be overly sweet, leaving your mouth caked in sugar, this light and tender cake was not one of them. It was served at Trisha Yearwood's table at her brunch, and it was simply studded with strawberries and topped with fluffy whipped cream. Bonus: Mini skillets gave the individual servings especially crispy edges.

Cold Sesame Noodle Salad with Shredded Cucumber and Cilantro

Straight from the takeout box with chopsticks in hand — that's just how we like to enjoy noodles, and that's exactly how they were served at Sunday night's Lucky Chopsticks event at host Andrew Zimmern's Lucky Cricket booth. The noodles boasted a slight bite, and the sauce brought together the best elements of spicy, creamy and sweet for a bright mixture that blanketed each noodle well. We wish we'd thought about it at the time and grabbed a container of these to go for later.

Duck Confit Daikon Tacos

In what proved to be a welcome balance of hot and cold, these two-bite tacos from Miami's Toro Toro at Lucky Chopsticks featured a cool base of thinly sliced daikon to act as the tortilla, while the tender meat inside added heft and flavor.

Photos courtesy of Maria Russo and Getty Images for SOBEWFF®

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