While most South Florida residents are counting down the days to Christmas and New Year’s festivities, Kate Reed and Phillip Marro have their eyes on the calendar for different reasons.

The duo is the founders of the Visit Lauderdale Food & Wine Festival (VLFWF), rapidly approaching on Jan. 9 – 15. 

Formerly known as the Greater Fort Lauderdale Food & Wine Festival, VLFWF promises to be the signature culinary event of the year in Broward County with dozens of tastings, intimate wine dinners and hands-on classes for foodies of all ages.

Marro explained, “It was always the plan to get to this point and having a great partner like Visit Lauderdale [the county tourism marketing agency] makes it easier to do that. It’s time people knew that we have awesome restaurants and chefs right here in Broward.”

More than 3,500 people attended the Grand Tasting at Las Olas Oceanside Park (LOOP) earlier this year and the organizers expect 4500 on Saturday, Jan. 14 to enjoy tastings from local restaurants, cooking demonstrations and live entertainment on Fort Lauderdale Beach. General admission tickets are $55. VIP tickets have already sold out.

“I’m always most excited about the Grand Tasting,” added Reed, “because we have more than 50 restaurants participating. I love watching the chefs interact with the public. It’s kind of crazy and chaotic, but so much fun for everyone.”

Other signature VLFWF events include:

At Bar Fight! A Spirited Competition, Jan. 11, 2023 at 7 p.m. at Rooftop @1WLO, local mixologists will face off in a head-to-head, no-holds-barred matchup to declare the “Official Cocktail of Downtown FTL.” Tickets start at $65.

Local pitmasters will then compete at the Poolside BBQ Battle at Hyatt Centric Las Olas on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at 7 p.m. All smoke and no mirrors here, as these pros showcase their best BBQ in a quest to be crowned 2023 champion. Tickets start at $75.

“My pet project is the BBQ battle. The BBQ community is really special – they adopt each other as a family. It’s a good vibe and a good night, especially because we’re raising funds for Joe Dimaggio Children’s Hospital.”

Rounding out the week-long festival is Picnic in the Park presented by Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital on Sunday, Jan. 15, also at the LOOP. Future foodies and parents alike will enjoy a curated lineup of food trucks, hands-on culinary classes for all ages, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, a Kid’s Zone, and local artisan vendors. Admission is free.

“We’ve worked so hard to offer literally something for everyone,” Marro promised, adding that tickets are selling out fast and the growing festival’s reputation continues to spread.

The Visit Lauderdale Food & Wine Festival will be held Jan. 9 – 15 at various locations in Fort Lauderdale. For a complete schedule and tickets, go to VLFoodWine.com.