Food & Drink

A food and wine event with a heart

More than 400 wines will be available with innovative food pairings at Merrick Park at VeritageMiami.
More than 400 wines will be available with innovative food pairings at Merrick Park at VeritageMiami.

It’s not every day you can get a cooking class from an actual “Top Chef.”

Then again, VeritageMiami is not your everyday food and wine festival. The event, which runs Oct. 5-9, is a unique opportunity for lovers of great food and drink to feast on some of South Florida’s best fare, while also benefiting United Way of Miami-Dade.

Now in its 21st year, VeritageMiami has raised more than $500,000 net in each of the past two years, a total of more than $12 million since its inception. Events range from $55 to $500.

Four events over five days offer something for everyone, from an opening-night craft beer tasting with more than 140 different brews to a champagne Sunday brunch with a wine auction as the finale. In between, “Top Chef” winner Jeremy Ford will lead an interactive dinner. Tickets are available at

“What all the events have in common is great food, wine and beer, with the goal of helping the community,” said festival co-founder Mike Bittel, owner of Sunset Corners Fine Wine and Spirits.

Here are the highlights:

▪ Wednesday’s beer tasting at the Wynwood Walls is a walk-around event with tastings from several top restaurants, including KYU, Edge Steak & Bar, The Dutch Miami and Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. There will be a pop-up “beercade,” with arcade games as well as more than 140 local, regional and national beers.

“This is the event my son looks forward to,” Bittel said. “It’s just fun.”

▪ Thursday night is for wine lovers. More than 400 wines will be available with innovative food pairings at Merrick Park by restaurants such as Bocce, Bulla Gastrobar, Dirt, Pinch Kitchen and Zest, just to name a few. Among the wines are winners of this year’s Best in Glass, judged gold- and silver-medal wines by South Florida sommeliers who will put many of the wines on their restaurant menus.

Friday will belong to “Top Chef” winner Jeremy Ford, the head chef at Jean George’s Matador Room. He will host an interactive cooking event at downtown’s JW Marriott Marquis, where guests will prepare a three-course meal of dishes he makes daily in the high-end restaurant.

Tables of seven guests each will work with Johnson & Wales students as a sous chef, as they follow along with Ford to make, among the dishes, the controversial but delicious sweet pea and charred jalapeño guacamole that had Presidents Obama and Bush reaching across the aisle to declare peas have no place in guac. Ford disagrees.

“We’re going to have a blast,” Ford said. “All the things most home cooks burn or ruin, we’re going to teach them to do it properly.”

The event’s big finale is Sunday’s first-ever brunch at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, pairing Perrier-Jouët Champagne with a family-style Southern brunch with the fried chicken that put Yardbird (and now the new Spring Chicken) on the map.

“What better than fried chicken to go with Champagne?” Bittel said. “Works for me.”

Carlos Frías: 305-376-4624, @Carlos_Frias

If You Go

What: VeritageMiami.

When: Oct. 5-9

Where: Various locations, with the kickoff event at Wynwood Walls, 2550 NW Second Ave., Miami

More information: Ticketed events range from $55 to $500. Call 877-820-3378 or visit