10 top bites from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival

 <span class="cutline_leadin">CLOWNING AROUND</span>: Food Network star Damaris Phillipps, left, cannot get a bite in without the watchful eyes of chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Aaron Sanchez, right.
CLOWNING AROUND: Food Network star Damaris Phillipps, left, cannot get a bite in without the watchful eyes of chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Aaron Sanchez, right.

The 13th annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival induced plenty of food comas and adult-beverage hangovers from its 70-some events spread over four days. It also raised about $2 million for Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Here are five of the best dishes I tasted at this year’s festival (no order). For a complete list visit

1. Stephanie Izard’s skate wing croquettes with avocado and grapefruit were a perfect bite at Best of the Best on Friday night: hot, cold, crispy, soft, salty, sweet, acidic. They’re on the menu at her restaurant Girl and the Goat in Chicago.

2. Trevor Kunk from New York’s Blue Hill served green-wheat soup with crunchy bits of bacon, hazelnuts and fresh herbs. It was a cool, refreshing change of pace at Best of the Best.

3. Barbecue master Hugh Mangum from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ in New York wowed me with his smoked beef cheeks with preserved lemon and chili sauce at the Q on Thursday night. Crazy tender with a little heat that the lemon cut right through.

4. Fried chicken and waffles took a flavor journey to India in the hands of Asha Gomez, who runs Cardamom restaurant in Atlanta. She coated boneless thighs in herb-laden buttermilk, spiked the waffles with cardamom and garnished the plate with crispy curry leaves for the Fried and True seminar on Sunday.

5. The aroma of black winter truffles on a filet of red mullet jumped up and punched me in the nose at the Tribute Dinner on Saturday night at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Loews chef Frederic Delaire amped up the dish’s savory factor with leeks cooked in French butter.

Deen gets standing ovation

Embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen reemerged in the food-world spotlight Saturday and Sunday at the Wine & Food Festival, thanking her fans who supported her through a racial-slur scandal.

"We love you, Paula!" an audience member shouted during Deen's chicken-and-dumplings cooking demonstration Sunday afternoon at the Grand Tasting Village.

No hecklers or protesters piped up; but Deen's security team had to escort an overly enthusiastic fan away from Deen's husband, Michael Groover, and her mother.

Deen, 67, was embroiled in a racial-discrimination lawsuit last summer that alleged she used the word n----- in front of her employees. In a deposition, Deen acknowledged using the term. A judge dismissed the case, but many of Deen's corporate sponsors dropped her.

The Food Network canceled her television show. This month, a private-equity firm said it would invest $75 million to $100 million in her comeback.

Lee Schrager, the festival's founder and director, said Sunday that Deen is a friend of his and of the festival, and that "as long as I'm around, she's always welcome here."

A full crowd at the demo tent gave Deen, who was looking slimmed-down and tan, a standing ovation. Before she stepped behind the stove, she asked the group if she could "get serious for a minute."

"We have come off of a very hard summer, my family and I," she said. "I want to apologize to those that did not hear me apologize."

Evan Benn covers the economy and reviews restaurants and craft beer for the Miami Herald. Follow him on Twitter: @EvanBenn .

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