Avid foodies, wine aficionados, spirits and beer lovers, fans of SoFi, locals, out-of-towers, and just about everybody who loves a great dine-around booked themselves some all-access passes to the amazing Experience SoFi, South of Fifth’s annual Culinary and Arts Scene Tour.
This was the 5th year that the Experience took over this upscale neighborhood in South Beach’s South of Fifth area, and it was bigger and better than ever. The event brought together 20+ chefs, globally acclaimed artists, spirits and wine distributors, taverns, cocktails bars, wine bars, restaurants and neighborhood favorites for an amazing experience.
At 6:30, ticket holders eagerly checked into their assigned start restaurant, the location where they kicked off their tour. Here they received their all-access passes, an event map and a menu of what the chefs and bartenders would be creating for the culinary experience.
There were wine or craft cocktails at each of the 20+ locations, with small plates and bites at a selection of restaurants. Participating restaurants included Fratelli La Bufala; Cadillac Pop-Up; Nikki Beach; the Local House; Joe’s Stone Crab; Lilikoi Organic Living; Upland; and a new restaurant, Amare. Though it was a hot South Beach night (in more ways than one), ticket holders could sit back in cool comfort, chauffeured from location to location on a bus.
Our start restaurant was Upland, getting the party started with a divinely refreshing summer cocktail made with Volcan Tequila and cooling cucumber. Upland sampled tasty, small bites of wood-toasted beets with whipped feta; yummy, crunchy falafel; and flavorsome Margherita pizza slices straight out of the oven. We proceeded to the new restaurant Amare, where we imbibed in another tequila cocktail, the Blue Grotto (reminding us of our last time in Capri), which was made with muddled cucumber, pineapple, mint, and a splash of club soda. The small plates here were substantial; the tasty Melanzane e Zucchine, delish Orecchiette con Spinaci, and scrumptious Risotto Tartufato were plenty to keep us going till our next stop, the Lobster shack, which was all about “pink:” sumptuous lobster bisque; delectable pink shrimp bites; and icy Notorious Pink Rosé. The queues were still short, but getting longer – and with all the wines and spirits on offer, partipants were getting happier by the moment. At Portofino Wine Bank we sampled some tasteful, pricey wines; mellowed out by sippin’ a little Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey at the Casablanca Cigar Bar; and munched on flavorful, organic treats at Lilikoi, which featured live painting with RoseByrd Art’s Monique Byrd-Rivera, a Miami-based mixed-media artist.
Biscayne Bay Brewing Co. beers cooled us off with draft beers at South Pointe Tavern, and we tried the William Hill wines and dessert treats at Joe’s Stone Crab. Stubborn Seed offered a Jim & Neesie Pop-Up; Planta South Beach featured Ketel Botanicals along with New York Times bestselling authors Trisha & Gerald Posner, longtime residents of the South of Fifth neighborhood.
Red, the Steakhouse served William Hill Wines and featured a Seawell Fish ’n Oyster & Minnow Bar Pop-Up; and after the culinary tour was over at 9:30 pm, was the host of the hottest scene on the tour, the rockin’ Celebrity Cruise After-Party, which went on until 11:00 pm.
Proceeds from the event went to EAT SMART Program, which focuses on the battle against childhood hunger and childhood obesity through nutritional awareness, health, wellness and exercise.