Although I received my entrance to this event for free in order to provide media coverage and write this piece, please understand that my opinions and words are 100% my own.
If you've ever been to the famed art-deco district of Miami, you know two things. One: The view along Ocean Drive is absolutely gorgeous. Two: There are so many people, places, events, stores, hotels and restaurants that look wonderfully tantalizing that it is nearly impossible to decide what to do, see, or eat first.
Only about once a month do I get the chance to head into this area, and when I do, I make certain to choose where I spend my time wisely. Usually I spend about two-thirds of my time checking out new spots, and the rest of my time catching up at places I deem to be my 'favorites'.
During the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (which is a huge event hosted by +FOOD & WINE each year), I was invited to the Oyster Bash at the Hotel Victor so that I could cover the event!
With my love of food and my appreciation for art-deco firmly in hand, I headed to Miami Beach ready for a good time and excited to check out the beautiful renovations I knew had been done at Hotel Victor. I was certainly not disappointed.
When you first walk up to the exterior of the hotel, you feel slightly transported to a different time. The sidewalk behind you fades away as you stare up the gorgeous eight-story building; the jazzy type-font of the hotel marquee drawing one's gaze up to the eyebrowed balconies and ribbon windows.
Once indoors I was hit with the freshness of the place - tones of white, cream, and tan give life to the high-ceilinged lobby and the snappy marble floors. The staff was courteous in showing me up the stairs towards the roof-top lounge area which was my destination for the night. Situated on the second floor, the large balcony party area has a lead-out into the stylish hotel-pool along with a lovely view of the ocean and the famed Ocean Drive below.
Although the Oyster Bash event had been sold out, the rooftop had no trouble hosting the multitude of guests attending this long-awaited (and delicious) foodie-affair. Taking center-stage for the evening's festivities were big names in the oyster world: Chef Jeremy Sewall of +Island Creek Oysters was there with a crew fresh-sucking oysters into two large boats filled with ice all evening long. Famed Chef Ming Tsai was there promoting the Double Cross Vodka line while serving up a delicious oyster pancake creation. Chefs David Bracha and John England were there working side by side to represent The River Seafood & Oyster Bar. Top Chef winner Chef Hung Huynh from CATCH Miami was there serving up fresh-shucked oysters that he was searing in-the-shell over a hot bed of charcoal. And finally Chef Jeff Raider was there from Lure Fishbar serving up Kushi and Beau Soleil Oysters to provide event-goers with a taste of spicy and sweet.
I was amazed to be surrounded by so many well-known chefs of the foodie-world, and I was more than a little excited to get photos of them and with them all! As a matter of fact, I was enjoying myself so much, I nearly forgot to try the oysters! Upon trying the delicacies provided at each booth, it was perfectly clear to me why and how these chefs have managed to carve a name for themselves as top culinary experts. Not only did the oysters (provided by Island Creek Oysters) have a clean taste with a smoothly-crisp mouthfeel, but each chef's creation was distinctly different and made me feel like I wasn't trying 'just another oyster', but a new dish altogether.
At the end of the night I had a glass of some excellent wine by Cloudy Bay and went on rounds through the airy patio area to see what people had thought of the night and the beautiful location.
Chef John England had this to say as he and Chef David Bracha enjoyed a drink together at the end of the night: "Chef [Bracha] and I had a really good time here. It's a great event...great oysters, [Island Creek Oysters is a] great company to work with. And one of the biggest things is, for me, talking to these people - I'm spoiled. I sit on a deck, looking at the water, at 9:30 in the morning. I call these guys up and it's below zero, and they're getting my oysters. (Laughing) And so I just rub it in all the time. It's just nice to meet them in person. They're really, really great people. It's a great event. I'm really happy they invited Chef [Bracha] here to do this."
Before I left his table, I asked if he wanted to let foodies everywhere know anything about The River and he filled me in on their brunch: "We have brunch and it is kickin'-off. You never had to make brunch reservations until now, but you have to make reservations now because it's off the hook."
Brunch is available at The River Seafood & Oyster Bar on Sundays, but make sure to grab reservations if you want a table. And don't forget to invite your buddies when you go, because in the words of Chef England, "Brunch is about very good food with friends."
After speaking with the chefs I headed over to the covered area near the pool where people were taking great advantage of the wet-bar and plush, white relaxation area. One couple I met said that it was their second year attending the Oyster Bash at Hotel Victor and that it is their favorite event during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. "It is the best. It's the most accessible, it's super fun, it is amazing... and Ming Tsai loves me!"
The couple, Mary and Charlie, were there hoping to get pictures with famed Chef Tsai for the second year in a row and succeeded. They were more than pleased with the evening and spent their time after eating sitting in the lovely lounge area socializing with other couples who had attended the event for the evening. They were also hoping to win a Ming Tsai Aero Knife in a prize-winning game with the free spin each attendee was given. They got t-shirts, but Charlie did have this quote to send up as a shout-out to Chef Tsai: "I want the knife!"
One man they were speaking with, Joseph Hermann, summed the evening up in a spectacular way: "We're at the Ming Tsai Oyster Event. The big order tonight, is 'shuck and suck'. Shuck-and-suck oysters, and Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. It's a delicious combination: lovely evening, nice people, beautiful weather; welcome to South Florida."
Joe - I couldn't have said it better myself.
You can find out more about the Hotel Victor by visiting them at their website at www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com. Or, you can check them out in social media by following them on Facebook or Twitter!
Disclosure: Some posts on this blog are sponsored, meaning that I received goods, services, or monetary payment for my writing. My opinions however, are not 'purchased' and are always 100% my own. Posts contain affiliate links that I earn a commission on. This disclosure is done in accordance with the FTC 10 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.