food-festival

TODAY gets piggy with it at the South Beach food fest

Feb. 27, 2012 at 10:05 AM ET

Al Roker served up his Pulled Pork Sliders at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. "Not only did Al hold his own but his Pulled Pork Slider was the b...
Max Paul/TODAY
Al Roker served up his Pulled Pork Sliders at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. "Not only did Al hold his own but his Pulled Pork Slider was the best thing we ate that night," said TODAY producer Jackie Olensky. "The line in front of his booth was constant, and Al not only fed fans, he graciously posed for picture after picture."

Fine wine and delicious swine were the name of the game at this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami. Pigs can ruin a party, but not when they’re rubbed with seasoning, grilled, braised or smoked to perfection.

TODAY contributor Jill Martin was a judge for the burger bash competition, tasting 32 burgers. "Jill, who had been a vegetarian for a few months, agre...
Max Paul
TODAY contributor Jill Martin was a judge for the burger bash competition, tasting 32 burgers. "Jill, who had been a vegetarian for a few months, agreed to fall off the wagon for the night," said TODAY producer Jackie Olensky, who adds that even she couldn't stomach all those burgers, so she just "bit and spit."

At Thursday’s popular barbecue event, known as The Q, they went through 5,500 pounds of pork ribs, 1600 pounds of pork butt and 160 pounds of bacon. Not a body part went to waste, and I had more than my fair share: By the time I left, my pork belly was full. Happy thanks to Chef Scott Conant and his crispy pork shoulder and Al Roker’s pulled pork sliders.

People's Choice winner, the Porky Burger, courtesy of chef Michael Symon.
Max Paul/TODAY / Max Paul/TODAY
People's Choice winner, the Porky Burger, courtesy of chef Michael Symon.

The next day, at Friday’s Amstel Light Burger Bash competition, I wasn’t looking for the beef. Who cared? It was all about pork. For the third year in a row, Iron Chef Michael Symon won the People’s Choice for his Porky Burger – a pork and bacon burger topped with pulled pork and slaw – and sealed the deal with a side of Pork Cracklin’. But the judges, including TODAY contributor Jill Martin, chose the Crispy Shallot-Bacon-Swiss Burger from Whisk Gourmet Food & Catering as their winner.

While it didn't win, this traditional bacon cheese burger on a soft white bun from the Shake Shack was a favorite of TODAY producers Jackie Olensky an...
Max Paul/TODAY
While it didn't win, this traditional bacon cheese burger on a soft white bun from the Shake Shack was a favorite of TODAY producers Jackie Olensky and Max Paul.

Another standout was Iron Chef Morimoto’s Wagyu Burger & Pork Kakuni. I didn’t love the burger, but I thought the kakuni – a Japanese braised pork dish that originated in Nagasaki – had potential. My favorite was the Shake Shack’s SmokeShack Burger with American cheese, applewood smoked bacon, cherry pepper relish and their special ShackSauce.

TODAY producer Max Paul poses with Paula Deen at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami.
Courtesy of Max Paul
TODAY producer Max Paul poses with Paula Deen at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami.

Pork was also a major component of Guy Fieri’s Straight-Up with a Pig Patty Burger. It’s a bacon patty on top of ground chuck slathered in donkey sauce. I didn’t ask Guy what donkey sauce was, because sometimes it’s best not to know: Just go with the old adage that everything is better with bacon. It worked for me.

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