February 17, 2009 / 7:27 PM / in 10 years

Dine like a king with one at Florida food festival

MIAMI (Reuters) - Several hundred people will dine with a king, and eat like one as well, when Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and his queen attend the South Beach Wine and Food Festival on Thursday.

The king and Queen Sofia will attend one of the marquis events the annual culinary festival and those who can still splurge for $1,000 a plate will join them in a feast featuring the wines and food of Spain.

Money from the event will benefit Florida International University’s school of hospitality and tourism and Fundacion Espana-Florida.

Some of the events at one of the largest food festivals in the United States have been sold out. But festival founder Lee Schrager said attendance will likely be flat from a year ago at a still robust 50,000.

Pedro Subijana, who runs the Michelin three-star Akelarre in San Sebastian, will prepare a dish featuring monkfish with cockles and olive oil pearls, a dish which he says reflecting the flavor the northern Spanish Sea.

“Every time I have tried to bring very special touches in all the dishes I have prepared for the king,” said Subijana, who has cooked for the king several times before.

The dinner’s other chefs Jose Andres, Daniel Garcia and Francisco Torreblanca will show off their interpretations of regional Spanish dishes like gazpacho.

Given the focus on Spanish food and wines, it was not a tough job to convince King Juan Carlos to attend, according to Schrager.

Schrager met with the king at his palace more than a year ago after formally inviting him and the queen to the dinner.

“It wasn’t a hard sell,” Schrager said. “We talked about great food, great wines and great cigars.”

Asked what would have happened had the king declined the invitation, Schrager replied: “We weren’t going to have the dinner without the king. No question.”

Reporting by Richard Leong, editing by Leslie Gevirtz

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