Lucky me! Last weekend I got to tag along on another one of Charlie's business trips. It felt a lot more like a vacation to me though. Charlie's company was a sponsor of the Food Network's South Beach Wine & Food Festival. It is a fantastic event! I was actually a little jealous that Charlie was working at this festival while I was laying by the pool!
We landed in Miami on Thursday afternoon and checked into the Hilton Vacation Club in South Beach. It was the perfect location, right on Ocean Drive and just yards away from the beach. (One side of Ocean Drive is lined with vintage Art Deco hotels, shops & restaurants and the other side is the beach.) The Hilton was perfect because we had a suite, so there was a kitchen and an extra room which made it much easier to put Isaac to bed.
Charlie headed off to the Burger Bash, hosted by Rachel Ray. They had dozens of famous chefs, and restaurants from around the country competing to make the best burger. Here's a few that Charlie tried:
- Morimoto- Saga Wagyu Burger (Saga Wagyu patty topped with barbecue saga wagyu slices, served with shredded cabbage and sweet red miso sauce)
- Love Food Cafe Burger - Cheddar Jalapeno Burger (Aged cheddar, fresh salsa, lettuce, sour cream, served on a NY roll.)
- SW Steakhouse Wynn Las Vegas - Ground Prime Sirloin Burger (Robiola cheese, black truffle mushroom duxelle on girdled muffin)
- Ubuntu - Vegan 'Boudin Noir' (Apple, Sauerkraut, and Caraway)
Yeah, I wouldn't have minded "working" that night either! He said the event was a lot of fun and his favorite burger was the Cheddar Jalapeno one. As Rachel would say, Yum-O!
While Charlie was gone Isaac & I headed out on our own little adventure. We hit up the McDonald's a few blocks away and shared some cheeseburgers & fries. Almost as good as the Burger Bash, right? Then since we were still on CA time we walked the path along the beach and then stopped for Isaac to play on the swings & the playground. We had the playground all to ourselves, the weather was perfect, and we could feel the breeze from the ocean and see all of the night life across Ocean Drive.
Every morning we all went out for breakfast at one of the many restaurants on Ocean Drive. Most of the crowd there is visiting from somewhere much colder, so everyone sits out on the patios in the sunshine. Just the fact that everyone there is on vacation makes the whole vibe of South Beach so relaxing and fun.
Isaac & I spent most of our time at the beach or the pool. The ocean was much too cold for my taste (I am pretty picky about this) but I don't think Isaac would have gone in willingly no matter what the temperature! When we were in Hawaii last year Isaac loved the beach. Every chance he got he would crawl straight towards the ocean. And he didn't mind the sand one bit. Apparently he has changed his mind. In Miami he did not want that sand to touch his feet and refused to even try walking in it. And when we got close to the ocean he was clinging to me like crazy. I finally got him to put his feet down in the wet sand but as soon as the water touched him he freaked out. Oh dear! I have exactly eight weeks to get him over this problem before we leave for Kauai. Anyone want to go to the beach with us?
The nice thing was that most of the hotels in South Beach rent lounge chairs & umbrellas out on the beach. Why don't they do this in CA? Anyway, Isaac was able to safely up on the chairs and away from that awful sand. It was actually quite nice! I had planned on having to chase him all around and instead I just got to sit and relax. We ate lunch and watched the sea gulls and Isaac waved hi to all of the topless ladies on the beach. Yes, apparently topless is okay in Miami.
Our hotel did not have a pool but someone from Charlie's PR firm was staying at the Loews and gave us his pool key. Thank you Mr. Glass! We loved this pool and here is why. 1) It had a kid section where the water gently eased into the pool and was only inches deep. It was perfect for Isaac to splash around in. 2) The water was heated. 3) It had a great ambiance. 4) The best part of all were the lounge chairs! They were padded and the pool attendants came and put fresh cozy covers on for us and brought us clean towels. The weather was gorgeous and it was so relaxing to lay out and enjoy the sun and the palm trees and a few airplanes passing by for Isaac to point out and get so excited over. It took Isaac a little while to warm up to the idea of the swimming pool again, but once he did he had a blast. And I must have worn him out pretty good because he even sat & relaxed in the lounge chairs with me afterwards. It was so funny to see this tiny little guy just chillin' in such a big chair. I wished Charlie could have been there with us.
I couldn't go to any of the Festival events because I had Isaac with me. Next year we will have to bring a baby-sitter along. (Any volunteers?) But one morning Charlie gave me his pass to go check out the Grand Tasting Village before all of his work stuff started. It was even better than I had imagine! They have these huge white tents right out on the beach and there is all of this cool stuff going on. There are three stages and each one has a celebrity chef cooking before a live audience. I got to see Martha Steward, Rocco DiSpirito, and Rick Bayless! There was a book signing tent, a Paula Deen tasting tent, Evian had this cool lounge area with big round bean bag chairs to relax in, and so much more! My favorite was the Whole Foods tasting area. You just went through a line and got to sample all sorts of cheeses, fruit, pastries, the "chef specials", salads, drinks, etc. It was just too bad my plate was so little! Then behind all of this is another set of tents where all of the real tasting goes on. I was there early so everyone was just setting up, but it was booth after booth with tons of gourmet food & wine samples. I probably would not ever pay the $200 to get in, but it was fun to get a free sneak peak.
Another dinner that Charlie had to go to was the Emeril Lagasse Tribute Dinner. This dinner was a $550/person event. Again, there were all sorts of famous chefs preparing the menu and it was a big five course meal. Charlie reported the food to be pretty average tasting, and the old saying held true: the higher the price, the smaller the portions! It was a long drawn out event, but he did get to have dinner with Emeril, Martha Stewart, Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and a few others.
I got to experience a new luxury on this trip. A First Class airline seat. With Charlie's Executive Platinum status comes free upgrades whenever there is a seat available. They normally will not allow me to be upgraded because I am flying on a reward ticket, but they made an exception. And now I really don't want to go back to coach! Because First Class just has so much SPACE. And FOOD. The regular airline seats can feel pretty cramped, especially when you are sharing yours with a wiggly toddler. But First Class? The seat was like a double-wide, but that barely mattered because there was also floor space so Isaac could sit or stand down there all he wanted. And the food - it just kept coming. Nuts (they are warm), salad, rolls, sandwich, ice cream, cookies, chocolates, drinks, more drinks, bottled water, and warm wash cloths. And much nicer flight attendants. Like I said, I'd really rather not go back to coach.
Unfortunately, my renewed appreciation of American Airlines came to a screeching halt about 10 minutes after we landed. Because then we got our stroller back and it was broken. AGAIN. We didn't even bother arguing with baggage services this time. And I don't think we'll be buying this same "fragile" $70 stroller again.
Even with the stroller casualty, it was a great trip. It felt like a mini vacation for me. But before you start thinking that Charlie has a dream job, let me just say that he really was working most of the time. And this is by far his most fun event of the year. At least I think so!