Photo Credit: Seth Browarnik/WorldRedEye.com
Rachael Ray is famous for whipping up delicious meals, but this time, the honored dinner guests were four-legged friends. Rachael Ray’s third annual Yappie Hour was the most yap-pening place to be at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. This highly anticipated event combined the ideal sunny day, cute dogs, cute puppies, and a hip happy hour that you could actually bring your dog to. Humans enjoyed mixed drinks and wine, while the canine patrons sampled fine cuisine from Racheal Ray’s premium Nutrish dog food line—yum-o! The Paw-purr-azzi were there in force, and it’s easy to see why—these cute dogs are sure to end up on the best-dressed list and the who’s who of the SOBEWFF. Every dog’s personal style came out, from the Lab in shades to the small breed decked out in pearls and a sailor shirt.
The setting for the afternoon was perfect—waterside at The Standard, a hotel and spa that’s well-loved by locals. There were cute dogs of all sizes and breeds, and their senses must have been on overload as they mixed and mingled. Not only were there new cute puppies to smell, but the event was set up like a canine wonderland. The centerpiece was a giant 4-foot-tall burger that was decorated with layers of new Nutrish dog treats like Savory Roasters chicken recipe, Burger Bites with beef and bison, and Pawsta beef-stuffed “rigatoni.” Just a few feet away was a help-yourself treat-vending station filled with these three plus savory pepperoni Deli Cuts and home-style beef Meatloaf Morsels for an eclectic gourmet treating experience. There was also a multi-tiered taste-testing zone where pups could chow down on everything from Nutrish Zero Grain dry food to soft dog food entrees with names like Beef Stroganwoof, Chicken Paw Pie and Chicken Muttballs with Pasta. Pet parents of these cute puppies were offered unlimited rounds of savory appetizers, cake pops and iced cookies shaped like bones and paw prints, while dogs were busy licking the fire hydrant ice sculpture and biting treats off the giant burger. And afterward, you could step into the open-air photo booth with your favorite furry pal to commemorate the day.
The best part was that Rachael Ray was right there in the middle of the crowd—America’s favorite culinary guru, cookbook author, talk show host and kitchen mentor. If you didn’t already know, she’s a genuine dog lover, so it’s no surprise that she would combine her two main passions to create not just Nutrish, but several lines of pet food, including DISH with real ingredients you can see, Just 6 limited ingredient recipe, allergy-friendly Zero Grain and nutrient-dense PEAK. Each meal is inspired by Rachael’s own recipes and made with real, wholesome ingredients.
The idea for Nutrish came about from Rachael’s desire to provide natural, great-tasting food for her four-legged friends—real recipes made from real ingredients that are real good. After seeing news stories that featured kibble full of harmful additives and unregulated ingredients, Rachael wanted to offer a safe and nutritious alternative. “I decided to start cooking for my dog and trying to find a company that loved to cook for animals as much as I love to cook for humans.” And so it began. Her husband searched for a like-minded pet food company, and found Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, makers of safe, quality pet food and treats with over 80 years of experience.
The test recipes were based on recipes that Rachael had written for dogs in her magazine, Rachael Ray Every Day. “So they made “Muttballs” instead of meatballs and made all these samples, and I fed Izzy with them, and I said, well let’s see if it works,” said Rachael. Her vision was clear: “If you can read it like people food, like a menu, we’re cool.” A portion of the proceeds from each Nutrish product sold goes to The Rachael Ray Foundation, which helps animals in need through Rachael’s Rescue. To date, they’ve donated more than 17.5 million dollars to animal rescue organizations. The money is used for “non-kill shelter relief for all animals, mobile units for adoption and transportation for animals that are separated in natural disasters,” explains Rachael. “We work with a network of great people saving everything from llamas to three-legged goats. It’s fantastic. All because people are buying really good food.”
Rachael came up with the idea for the event, and SOBEWFF’s founder Lee Schrager, a fellow dog owner, was all for it. Now in its third year, Nutrish’s Yappie Hour is still going strong, with 300 pet-loving attendees that brought along their VIP four-legged friends. So, what’s Rachael’s favorite part of the event? “Just having dogs allowed to be in the same space as humans. We should be allowed to bring the dogs we love everywhere we go.” And we happen to agree (we bring our own dogs to work with us every day).
Nikki Naser, Pet Central Senior Editor
Instead of owning 30 cats, Nikki has an impressive collection of 30 cat-themed T-shirts, and just 4 pets—a ginger-haired senior cat, a senior Maine Coon, a middle-aged Choodle, and a young kitty who showed up one day on the back steps. A former Orlando resident, Nikki worked on several tourism publications before moving to South Beach. When she’s not stopping to take pics of community cats to post on Instagram, Nikki spends her time with the office pets at Chewy, writing for their Pet Central blog.