This Week’s Miami Happenings: Full Moon, Rec Room, Scarpetta

SATURDAY: Lunar Activity
Full Moon Party Gets Groovy
Good vibes infused with metaphysical energy reign supreme at this month’s gathering of conscious souls celebrating the inaugural full moon of 2013. A hybrid of a traveling hippie commune and one bad ass dance party, the wildly popular Downtown Full Moon celebration takes place at the Moksha Family Artist Collective. There will be an open mic session, the opportunity to show off mad dance skills and reflect on words of wisdom spewed by those enlightened in attendance. Naturally, drums are welcomed.
The Downtown Full Moon Party is happening at the Moksha Family Artist Collective (228 NE 59th St., Lemon City) on Saturday the 26th. Check out the details by visiting the official Facebook page.

NOW: Positively Recked
Rec Room, LDV Hospitality’s latest edition to its booming nightlife division, has officially open its doors at the new Gale South Beach. The subterranean lounge – reminiscent of a ‘70s basement – will be home to the nightly shenanigans fueled by quality cocktails from the bar. All that, plus back-to-basics tunes, courtesy of Rec Room’s expansive vinyl library spun by notable DJs.
Rec Room (1690 Collins Ave., South Beach) is happening now. For the inside-info, read the listing at BlackBook Guides.

TUESDAY: Wine and Dine
The launch of the Fontainebleau hotel’s Cellar 1954 Wine & Dinner Series kicks off this week at Scarpetta, with pairings between the restaurant’s Italian menu and offerings from Bertani Winery. Dom Perignon, Kosta Browne, and Penfold’s Wines are said to follow suit. Seating is limited and will set you back $195 per person.
Cellar 1954 Wine & Dinner Series at Scarpetta (297 NW 23 St., Wynwood) is uncorking this Tuesday. For the inside-info, read the listing at BlackBook Guides. Tickets for the prix-fixe menu can be requested by emailing

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Industry Insiders: John Meadow & Curt Huegel; Partners, LDV Hospitality

John Meadow (left) and Curt Huegel (right), the partners behind LDV Hospitality, have never been busier. As the duo responsible for such hot spots as Veritas in New York, American Cut at Revel Resorts in Atlantic City, and Scarpetta, which has locations all over the country, they’re on a tear, but they always maintain the quality of their various venues. Their latest must-visit spot is No. 8, an upscale Chelsea nightclub they opened with Amy Sacco that carries on the tradition of the legendary Bungalow 8. We chatted with the hospitality duo to find out how they keep sky-high standards across their growing portfolio of properties.

Where are you from?

John Meadow: I grew up in Connecticut and went to Choate Rosemary Hall and Cornell hotel school.

Curt Huegel: I was born in New Jersey and lived in 16 different places by the time I graduated from high school, including Chestertown, Maryland (twice) and Arlington, Virginia. My mother was a decorator – she would buy fixer-up houses and I knew when she finished the bedroom we were moving.

How did you get into the restaurant business?

Meadow: My first job was at the Plaza Hotel in the food and beverage program. It was tough grind, but also very exciting to work in such an iconic company in the center of it all. My family was right around the corner growing up, and we’d always go to the Plaza for Easter.

Huegel: I have always been in the hospitality business – I worked my way through college waiting tables and after graduating I owned my first bar in New York City on the Upper East Side and never went on a job interview.

Meadow: It was important for me to own my own business. I was 24 and I met Curt and we opened a bar together called Local on 33rd and Eighth with some other partners. It was a grand slam. Then I left and opened a place called Gin Lane in the Meatpacking District. Gin Lane was a tragedy – I lost everything. There was lots of hype and lots of celebrity, and then it was tragically out of business. I learned a lot from the experience.

What made you decide to launch LDV Hospitality and what was that process like?

Huegel: I had always been in the bar and restaurant business, and the reason for forming LDV Hospitality was the natural progression from doing one-off restaurants. We wanted to create a hospitality company that would fill a void. LDV Hospitality’s first project was partnering with Scott Conant to form Scott Conant Management and open Scarpetta in the Meatpacking District in 2008. We learned that choosing your partnership wisely is paramount to your success in this business.

Meadow: We went on to do Veritas, where we brought in (executive chef) Sam Hazen. Veritas was awarded a Michelin star and got a three-star review in The New York Times. Then we developed the new Revel projects in Atlantic City, Azure, American Cut, and Lugo Caffe—the original location of Lugo is at One Penn Plaza. We wanted to do something on a more accessible, commercial level. It’s a heartfelt, passionate project at a level that’s attainable to the masses, yet with the same level of true hospitality of our other places. That’s largely the future of our business. American Cut and Lugo are the brands we want to run with now.

How’s are the Revel properties going so far?

Huegel: Things are going very well and we believe that the three restaurants that we opened at Revel – American Cut, Azure, and Lugo Caffé – are on par with any other restaurant in any casino or hotel project in the world.

Tell me about No. 8.

Meadow: For our last, most exciting deal, we partnered with Amy Sacco for No. 8. Amy represents an organic, real aspect of social life in the city. It’s very organic, it’s very natural, and it feels like New York City. There’s no shakedown to get you to spend $10,000 on a table. You’re either on that guest list or you’re not, there’s no negotiation at the door. As with all of our businesses, we take care of our guests. It’s working. It’s going great.

With so many different bars and restaurants to oversee, what’s an average day like for you? Do you go to an office or do you divide your time between the venues?

Huegel: My average day is long. With so many venues to oversee you have to believe in your staff – we have a director of operations that we trust implicitly. Our time is split between the office and venues and we visit them at night to see them in action as often as possible.

Many people have tried and failed to do what you do. What advice would you give to a young person interested in owning and operating upscale restaurants and lounges like yours?

Huegel: The hospitality business has to be something that you love and are passionate about. It picks you, you don’t pick it. One simple secret to success is to always be striving to exceed your guests’ expectations.

Meadow: It’s either all buzzwords, or you make it something real. We’ve created a team of empowered individuals and we’ve been aggressive about developing a brand.

National Spaghetti Day Exists, So Fill Up On Carbs

We aren’t entirely sure where these national food days have come from, or who decides what each day means for what day. But for today, since its National Spaghetti Day, it’s a great excuse to eat a bowl of pasta or two.

The most recent addition to the land of pasta is Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, an Italian pasta company that opened a restaurant in the Chelsea Market in November. There, you can get an array of dishes including ravioli with artichoke and smoke mozzarella, and chestnut tagliatelle with guinea fowl ragu. Or get fresh pasta to go like the chili-garlic pappardelle or lobster stuffed mezzaluna.

For an old school Italian experience, the 30-year-old Marco Polo in Brooklyn serves scrumptious plates of squid ink tagliolini and fettuccini with red wine sauce, which gets tossed in a wheel of Parmesan. In the same vain, the king of Italian cuisine Mario Batali serves luscious bowls of pumpkin cappellacci and spaghetti with Dungeness crab and jalapeno at the popular Del Posto.

Scarpetta too makes a mean spaghetti with tomato and basil, and you can’t go wrong with a plate of linguine with clam sauce at Esca. If you want to go for the stars, celebrate this pseudo holiday at Robert De Niro’s Locanda Verde, where you can get a plate of papperdelle with ragu or lumache with duck sausage and broccoli rabe.

Of course, today, and any day, is a good time to hit up Il Buco Alimentari andVineria, which is one of the best new Italian spots to open in 2012. Fuel up now, you can start you New Year’s diet tomorrow.

Hogging the Spotlight: The Cosmopolitan’s Summer Festival of Pork

No hotel in Las Vegas is bringing the proverbial heat quite like the Cosmopolitan this summer. Their club Marquee is luring the biggest names in dance music on a near-nightly basis, and they’ve even secured Adele to drop by next month for an intimate gig. But the hotel offers a lot more than pop icons and DJs. Later this month, the Cosmopolitan will host the rock stars of the food world at a new event, the inaugural All-Star Cochon.

On July 24, chefs such as Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura of Lindy & Grundy, Michael Sullivan of Blackberry Farm, John Sundstrom of Lark, Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, Jeremy Fox and the 2010 “King of Porc” David Varley of Michael Mina, Alex Seidel of Fruition, and Stephanie Izard of The Girl & the Goat will descend upon the Strip’s hottest hotel to cook up all things pig.

As part of the three-year-old Cochon 555 competition, the chefs will dream up new ways to roast, chop, broil, and fry the swine in ways previously unknown to man. Not only will chefs fly in from all over the U.S., but the Cosmopolitan’s own dream team of pork participants will be in the mix as well. That means kitchen pros from restaurants such as Comme Ça, D.O.C.G, Estiatorio Milos, Holstein’s, Jaleo, STK, Scarpetta and more. While the series has toured before nationally, the July 24th event at the Cosmo is the first ever “all-star” event, with acclaimed butchers and 14 whole heritage hogs. Naturally, packages are available for those looking to pig out later this month, many of which also include special tastings of Domaine Serene reserve wines paired with Spanish pork variety Fermin Iberico de Bellota.

Watch a trailer for Cochon 555 to get a sense of why hogs have been all the rage recently.

Are Toronto’s Chefs Biting New York’s Style?

Last year, when slick New York restaurateur Scott Conant brought his flagship eatery Scarpetta to The Thompson Hotel’s Toronto outpost, he did so with the typical bravado of a celebrity chef from Manhattan. Just prior to Scarpetta’s opening, Conant posted an “Open Letter To Toronto” on The Huffington Post, in which the James Beard award-winner introduced himself, his restaurants, and Miami, to Torontonians. “Miami is really beautiful, T-Dot. You should check it out sometime,” he wrote, urging his new friends to visit a city that is (gasp!) a whole three-hour plane ride away. It was just one of many perceived slights that Toronto’s food critics and bloggers accused Conant of. To his credit, the letter wasn’t all condescension and bragadoccio.

Conant praised the “local bounty” of the Niagara Peninsula, and the importance placed on locally-sourced ingredients throughout the region. He also marveled at the lightning-quick flight between cities, saying that it was “shorter than most crosstown cab rides I’ve been on.” But despite Conant’s effusive praise, the damage had been done. Toronto–always the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to major North American cities (and especially New York)–was once again left to lick its wounds, and wallow in its own sense of inferiority.

The fact is, Toronto has always been looked at as a vanilla version of New York City. It’s almost impossible not to compare the two metropolises, given their geographical proximity, and their reputations as the centre of all thing media, fashion, business, art, and food in their respective countries. In the 1970’s, Toronto even promoted itself as a cleaner, safer, more livable version of New York. It wasn’t long before Hollywood clued in, and began using Hogtown’s streets as facsimiles of New York’s own grand avenues and tree-lined streets (to this day, prop NYPD squad cars and yellow cabs can be spotted with a film crew not far behind). Toronto continued to encourage its self-appointed title as “The New York of The North,” until Rudy Guiliani arrived and made Gotham safe again. Suddenly, Toronto wasn’t much cleaner or safer at all. Just smaller. Or as Steve Martin flatly put it on a recent episode of 30 Rock: “Toronto is like New York, but without all the stuff.”

It’s been nearly six months since Scarpetta opened its doors, and so far, so good. Despite some initial lukewarm reviews (including a particularly scathing rant courtesy of the Toronto Star’s Amy Pataki, who clearly felt dissed by Conant’s letter), his trattoria has hit its stride, with tables usually booked weeks in advance. It’s a level of success that eluded Susur Lee–Toronto’s marquee culinary star–when he brought his inventive pan-Asian cuisine to Manhattan’s Lower East Side with Shang, almost two years ago (also in The Thompson Hotel). The restaurant received a frosty welcome from New Yorkers, which Lee blamed on the limp economy and their xenophobic taste buds. “People won’t go for chicken feet no matter how many truffles you stuff in there,” he once said. The folks at New York Magazine’s foodie blog, Grub Street, took offense to his remarks, and facetiously invited the chef to Flushing for pig’s blood and intestine soup. We’re guessing he declined, because, like, ew.

Though Shang remains open today (Lee insists that business has improved), the once-invincible restaurateur has returned to Toronto with his trademark ponytail between his legs. Susur’s new den, Lee Lounge, opened this month in the city’s burgeoning King West area (or Toronto’s version of the Meatpacking District according to Thompson co-founder Jason Pomeranc), and figures to perform much better than Shang, because despite a reverence for everything New York, Torontonian’s like to take care of their own. They’re also fascinated by their most celebrated chef’s failure in The Big Apple. There’s a permeating feeling that well, “If he can’t make it there, who can?” In a recent interview with Eye Weekly, Lee was again asked about the New York debacle, and again he blamed the economy, instead of his own food. He was also asked whether or not Toronto tends to copy New York when it comes to food trends. “I wouldn’t say copying, more like inspired by, like in fashion or art,” he told the magazine. But a handful of recent openings in Toronto might suggest otherwise.

Pictured top: Toronto’s Porchetta & Co.

At the end of last year, Porchetta and Co. opened in Toronto’s increasingly with-it Dundas West area, and has taken the city by storm. The sandwich shop specializes in that succulent brand of Italian slow-roasted pork, much like the similarly-named Porchetta, in Manhattan’s East Village. But the parallels between the two don’t end there. Both menus feature porchetta as their star, with greens, beans, potatoes, and soups available as accompaniments. That Porchetta opened over two years ago however, may raise a few eyebrows. “I was going to call my shop Porchetta, and started doing research to see if such a concept existed in Toronto,” said Porchetta & Co.’s owner Nick auf der Mauer, a former cook at Toronto’s foodie pinnacle, Canoe. “Upon further research, I learned about Porchetta NYC. I did take a step back to ask myself if I should keep going through with the concept. I looked more at Porchetta NYC as a window into the future, to see how I thought people would respond to my concept.”

Respond they did, and as to whether or not Toronto chefs tend to copy what their colleagues in New York are doing, auf der Mauer thinks it’s only natural. “It doesn’t bother me that people think Toronto mimics New York, and to a certain extent we do. It will probably always be perceived that way.” He continues, “It makes perfect sense to, as you say, ‘borrow’ ideas from New York. You can save a lot of time and money seeing if certain things have won or lost in New York, but it doesn’t mean that it will play out the same way in Toronto. You still have to take the risk, stick your neck out, and see what happens. I don’t feel that I borrowed the idea, but it did help to see what had already been done in New York. It is impossible to deny the obvious similarities of the two sandwich shops.”

auf der Mauer isn’t the only Toronto restaurateur reaping the benefits of great ideas hatched south of the border. Since opening last summer, The Burger’s Priest in Toronto’s East End has quickly become a destination spot for burger fanatics. Its classic take on the American burger–never-frozen, fresh ground beef cooked on a flat-top grill–is nothing new for most New Yorkers, yet The Priest is the only place of any regard in Toronto that prepares their burgers this way. But it’s the Burger’s Priest’s vegetarian option–slyly called “The Option”–that most mirrors New York City’s burger benchmark, Shake Shack. The patty, constructed out of two portobello mushroom caps, stuffed with cheese, then deep-fried, is a Shake Shack staple, and The Priest’s owner has taken full advantage. To his credit, the native Californian and former seminary student doesn’t hide the fact that he spent considerable time in New York studying the art of the burger, which would explain the shop’s striking similarities to Shake Shack. When asked if The Option was based on Shake Shack’s portobello burger, he simply replied, “I don’t really remember.”

Is it a big deal that Toronto chefs are trying to cash in on New York’s culinary success stories instead of trying to forge their own? Probably not. After all, a Toronto band is only cool after they’ve sold out a show a Williamsburg, and Jeremy Laing–the city’s most famous fashion export–was only a local icon after he showed at New York Fashion Week. When it comes to food, Nick auf der Mauerr probably puts it best: “Specializing in one thing and doing it well is something that every major city in the world can learn from New York. I think as chefs, we look at places like New York for inspiration, and as an amazing place to see what could be the future of food in their home town.” Now if only someone had told that to Susur Lee.

4AM DJ Tour Diary: DJ Price Spends Halloween in Miami

As a manager and partner at 4AM DJs, I’m constantly arranging performances, events, and photo shoots around the world. Every day, I get reports back from my DJs filled with the kind of wild adventures I rarely get to be a part of as a desk – rather than a disk – jockey. The people who flock to these stellar international events get to experience the end result of months of prep, but do they really know what a day in the life of a DJ is like? In this monthly column, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of DJ war stories, with photos and videos from the world’s best to show for it. In this second 4AM DJ Tour Diary, you’ll read about DJ Price’s insane Halloween weekend in Miami. Yours truly, Adam Alpert.

Miami has to be one of my favorite cities to play in. South Beach’s energy and excitement for music is among the best in the world. From the moment I walked off that plane and threw on my Ray Bans, I knew it was going to be a great weekend. I’ve been to Miami many times before, most recently this past year for the Winter Music Conference and the 4AM launch party at the Mondrian hotel. You can download our CD recorded live that night here. Also, I was excited to have just received my new indie house mix CD, Dynamics of Moving Bodies Volume 1, fresh of the press to bring with me to give out. I gave out over 500 copies in 4 nights. You can download it here.

This time around I had a full tour booked: 4 gigs in 4 nights. I landed Thursday, October 28th with my best friend and Reason business partner, Phil Bassis, and headed to our room at the Fontainebleau. I have nothing but good things to say about the Fontainebleau. My room was huge and the view was amazing. If you’re looking for a hotel in Miami that you won’t ever have to leave, this is the spot. I started the weekend off spinning at The Wall at the gorgeous W Hotel South Beach.

The club hasn’t even been open a year and they recently renovated it and re-arranged the layout. The new lay out is very conducive to dancing, and the new state-of-the-art DJ booth has been relocated front and center to have a great view of the room. One of my favorite design elements of the room was the custom designed crystal color changing disco ball in the center. That Thursday I was hired to DJ the after party for the launch of Lou La Vie’s Miami Premier Exotic cars. I played an open format set, ranging from hip-hop, rock, and house, and even sprinkled in some of my favorite indie, disco, and ‘80s tracks. The crowd was rocking way past 4am. Thanks to Navin Chatani for showing me a great time.

I headed back to the Fontainebleau for the next 24 hours. Spent the day by the beach, ran into the great hip-hop artist, Pitbull, went jet skiing, sorted through some new music, and had dinner at Chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta inside the hotel. When we walked into LIV, we knew Halloween had officially started. They transformed the 30,000 square feet into an Alice in Wonderland-themed adult playground. Bartenders were dressed as Mad Hatters, and waitresses like Alice. Someone was running around in a giant rabbit costume. My manager/mentor DJ Jus-Ske had requested that I open and close for him, knowing that I would be in Miami.


LIV is undoubtedly one of the largest rooms in the country, and was formally an ice skating rink in the Fontainebleau. It’s a nightclub that has the feeling of an arena. The DJ booth is massive, with two banquets on each side, and 2×4 turntables set up (2 mixers, 4 turntables). The club is busy by midnight and you’ve got to keep the energy up. I warmed the night up nicely with an assortment of hip-hop, rock, and house records. Some of my favorite’s of my set were Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out,” Auburn’s “La La La,” “XXXO” from M.I.A., the new Ting Ting’s single “Hands,” Duck Sauce’s crossover hit “Barbara Streisand,” and I even threw in “Samba De Janeiro” and some Brazilian records to spice it up. The room was slammed, and dancers and performers were dressed in costumes, bouncing around throughout the night. I turned around at one point and Gumby & Pokey were jumping on the banquets behind me. Out in the middle of the room Marty McFly was holding a magnum bottle of Belvedere in the air.

Jus-Ske came on at around 1, and proceeded to tear it down flawlessly. Jus is one of my favorite DJs and crowds love him wherever he goes. In Miami, if you’re a good DJ, the clubs won’t close until 5 a.m. Jus let me finish them off with enough time to still play some high energy joints, check out this short video.

We woke up the next day and took it easy around the hotel. My manager, Adam Alpert from 4AM, arranged VIP tickets for us to go to the Miami Masquerade Motel featuring the Swedish House Mafia, billed as one of the largest Halloween parties in the country in a 55,000 square foot tent. The Masquerade Motel has been making waves over the summer at Pacha Ibiza as the go-to party every Monday night. They have been mixing talents with an assortment of costumed dancers and performers, and a mind-bending array of visual effects.

The party was amazing. I’ve never seen so many people in unison, jumping around and enjoying the music simultaneously. Some of the highlights of the night was when the trio played their hit “One,” and without a doubt Steve Angello’s “Knas.” After the show, I ran to my gig at Opium Group’s Louis nightclub inside the Gansevoort South hotel. We headed there around 12:30 a.m., as club-goers in costume were pilling in. Halloween in New York is always impressive, but I have to say the costumes in Miami were well-thought out and fun. Louis is a great nightclub experience. Designed like a royal Parisian palace on an acid trip, it’s one of the most exciting backdrops for a Halloween party I could imagine. One of the highlights of the night was when a little person dressed as Napoleon started dancing around on top of the bar and sprayed the crowd with a fire extinguisher. I couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween crowd.

Sunday’s weather was a bit overcast, so we headed to South Beach to check out some shops. We had lunch at La Sandwicherie, one of my favorite lunch spots in South Beach. I recommend the Pate sandwich on a croissant. We checked out the Versace mansion and even some retail, which has gotten better recently with shops including Barney’s and Polo Ralph Lauren within walking distance of each other. A trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without paella, so we had to get that for dinner. Sunday was October 31st, and I was going to DJ at Coco de Ville, also at the Gansevoort South hotel. The crew at the Coco DeVille is great. Roy Alpert, Tatanka Guerrero, Paulo Cardoso, and Sebastian Puga run the best intimate, dance lounge in the city. I have to say Tatanka and friends had the best costumes I’d seen all weekend as Chilean Miners, including someone dressed as the actual mine hatch and a Spanish speaking reporter.

My set at Coco DeVille was great and included a lot of New York flare: ‘90s hip-hop, reggae, baile funk, rock, and house. Highlights of the night include Kanye West’s new hit “Runaway,” “Fancy” from Drake and Swizz Beatz, and one of my all time favorites, “Juicy,” by Notorious BIG. We crawled out of there around 5, which concluded a very successful Halloween 2010 Miami tour. We headed back to NYC the next day ready for another great week in the greatest city in the world.


For more info on DJ Price go here.

Las Vegas Previews: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, Scarpetta, China Poblano

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill (Strip: Central) – The Bromberg brothers roll all their NYC restaurants into one and take it to Vegas. ● Scarpetta (Strip: Central) – Elegantly rustic Italian food. ● China Poblano (Strip: Central) – Asian-Mexican fusion from globetrotting celeb chef.

Nightlife Try Outs: Intern Alice’s Wide Eyed NYC Itinerary

Name: Alice Urmey Professional Resume: BlackBook intern and NYC newbie.
 One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Fascinating.

City Loves: 
 • Favorite lunch spot: Hampton Chutney Co. in Soho. Cheap, delicious, and a nice alternative to Whole Foods. 
• Favorite dinner spot: DBGB. Fight for a table up front and enjoy upscale burgers and beer with the crowd.

• Favorite nightlife trend: Bars becoming more than just places to drink: Union Hall, Culturefix, Pimps and Pinups, The Blind Barber. • Drink of choice: Sangria is always a summer favorite. And a Belve and Soda. • Meal of choice: John’s of Bleeker: classic New York pizza. 
• Favorite group of people to bump into: Anyone I haven’t seen in a long time and keep forgetting to call.

image Union Hall, Culturefix, Pimps and Pinups, The Blind Barber

City Gripes: 
 • Nightlife trend you loathe: When a good trend goes out of style too quickly. 
 • Drink: Martini, who knew it was just a fancy name for gin?
 • Meal: Raw oysters. Briny and slippery goop. • Group of people to bump into: Crowds on The High Line, tourists in Soho.

image Alice, Left

Her Hotspots: Monday: Fresh pasta at Scarpetta, Little Branch. Tuesday: B.E.S., Avenue. Beautiful art and beautiful people in Chelsea. Wednesday: Bar Pitti, Wilfie & Nell. A low key night with close friends. 
 Thursday: Schiller’s Liquor Bar, free entrance to New Museum after 7pm–great incentive to get my boyfriend to a museum. 
 Friday: Start with a bite in Brooklyn at The Vanderbilt. Hit the East Village for Death & Co. and Mayahuel, where tequila is not only the drink of choice, it’s the only drink. 
 Saturday: Union Square Greenmarket for a loaf of bread and Long Island wine. Light dinner at The Standard Grill, followed by a night of rooftop bars. Sunday: Aroma Espresso Bar, Balthazar. Recover from the weekend with strong coffee and steak frites.

image Smith & Mills

Every night: Smith & Mills. Perfect place to end any night. 
 Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Fratty bars like Wicked Willy’s. If I wanted to play beer pong, I would’ve stayed in the suburbs. 
For special occasions: Celebrate with drinks at The Modern while munching on truffle popcorn. 
Brunch is usually: Pastis. Or Bubby’s if I didn’t eat there in the early hours of the night before.

Industry Insiders: Lee Schrager, Foodie Network

Lee Schrager, the man behind the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, as well as its recent New York incarnation is prepping for his big event in South Florida from February 25th to February 28th. For the upscale foodie celebration, the vice president of corporate communications and national events for Southern Wine & Spirits has recruited kitchen all-stars such as Paula Deen, Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse, Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay to cook, attend events and lead demonstrations for guests. The former Miami club owner gives us the inside view on the festivals, celebrity chefs and his love/hate relationship with food bloggers after the jump.

On the New York vs South Beach event: The biggest difference is that we have so much more space available in Florida to do something. We have three city blocks to do our big grand tasting that the city of Miami Beach gives us complimentary. In New York, we have a pier which is probably 15% of our Miami space. It’s just the limitations of doing work in New York City, and wanting to be outdoors in a great location in a great time of year. I never wanted to be in a ballroom, I didn’t want to be in a convention center. I really wanted to be in a neighborhood. And that’s what Chelsea offered us this past year.

On feedback from attendees: When I started this nine years ago, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I’m never insulted by feedback. A lot of times it’s bullshit, but 50% of the time you get something out of it. I think when you listen to people and you listen to the comments and what bothers them, whether it’s that the restrooms are too far away, or the welcome center isn’t running as smoothly as it should, you can make a positive impact. On planning for the unexpected: In South Beach, you can’t control the rain. I never used to look at weather reports. But about four years ago, at a major event called the Bubble Q. which is big champagne and BBQ event on South Beach with Bobby Flay hosting we had a disaster. It was gorgeous weather all day, and I was getting dressed in the hotel and watching the weather on the six o’ clock news. There was a chance of light showers later in the night. This party started around 7 or 7:30, and when I was heading over to the sight, there were clouds coming, but I wasn’t overly concerned. Around 8:30 p.m., the skies opened up and it was absolute rain. In my 30 years of living in Miami I’d never seen a typhoon like this. Guests had been at the party for about an hour to two hours. It’s an outdoor party under the sky, so was the party a wash out? Absolutely. I can tell you we’ve had tents ever since. You learn your lesson. On dealing with rock star/celebrity chefs: Listen, these are the talent. You’re dealing with talent that’s pulled in every direction. These are people that make big dollars to attend events, or be at events or headline events, and they all donate their time to support the hunger cause. There are very few things that we find as cons. It’s like anything; we’re dealing with people who have people and it’s normally the people’s people who, if there are issues it’s them, not the people. Anyone who does the festival or hosts one of our headline events are people who I’ve had relationships with over the years, who’ve been very loyal and supportive of anything I’ve asked. The few times I’ve had issues it’s never with my people, it’s their people. What he misses about nightlife: Not a thing. The cash. Definitely not the lifestyle. On being known as the “attention to detail” man: I live by the rule of thumb: a pound of ice per person and good lighting. On food bloggers: They’ve helped us get our message out quicker and to a larger base in a more timely fashion. I read some of them, whether their writing is good or bad and some days you like them and some days you don’t like them. But in the end, we wouldn’t have the success that we’ve had at our festivals, certainly in New York, nowadays without the attention of the bloggers. I think almost any press is good press. Almost.

On getting shit done: Listen, we’re raising money to fight hunger. We’re not doing brain surgery; we’re not planning your daughter’s wedding. We want to produce a good event at good value, fairly priced and we want it to be fun and that’s always been our goal. We didn’t want to be the biggest, we hopefully wanted to be one of the best, but that’s what we really strive for. We really want to put on a great event. Go-to spots in Miami: I obviously don’t have a favorite, I have many favorites. I mean I love Michael Psilakis’ restaurant at the Viceroy called Eos. I love Michelle Bernstein’s themed restaurant Michy’s, I love an Italian restaurant on Miami beach called Macaluso. I happen to love Hakkasan at the Fontainebleau and Scarpetta.