Well, Broward County, it's official. You're now an integral — and, according to Robert Irvine, oft forgotten — part of one of the country's biggest annual foodie festivals.

"When they asked me to do this [event], it was an easy choice," said Irvine during a recent launch event. "This festival is really all about giving a shout out to the chefs of Broward County. They do an amazing job, and have been overlooked for a long time."

Indeed, this year marks the first time greater Fort Lauderdale is officially participating in the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, presented by Food & Wine. The inaugural event series lineup known as Taste Fort Lauderdale takes place February 24-28, and even starts one day before the launch of the Miami-based bash, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year.

Not to be outdone by the South Beach shows, the inaugural series of Taste Fort Lauderdale events range from oceanside dining and pairing dinners with celebrity chefs and bloody mary brunches with the cast of Chopped, to multisensory experiences designed to blow your taste buds away.

The kick-off celebration — which took place last night on Wednesday, February 24, at the city's historic Bonnet House Museum & Gardens — catered to chowhounds and foodies alike with a sold-out Seaside Eats, hosted by Robert Irvine.

Longtime SOBEWFF supporter and celebrity chef Irvine circulated the Bonnet House property grounds, visiting each restaurant's station throughout the evening, taste-testing along the way. Midway through the event, Irvine gave a speech praising the area's chefs, and thanking South Beach Wine & Food Festival founder Lee Schrager.

"[Lee] For 15-plus years, has given to so many charities through his hard work — and I'm talking 365 days a year — to pull these festivals together in order to give to others less fortunate. The festival moving into Broward was a long time coming," said Irvine. "So let's give him a big round of applause. And let's have fun tonight."

View complete article by Nicole Danna on the New Times website