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Wandering Wynwood

Wynwood Brewing CompanyAfter playing taxi for relatives going on a cruise last Sunday, we decided on a whim to take a detour on the way back to Fort Lauderdale and explore the Wynwood Arts District.  It had been a while since we had been in the area and we were impressed by the changes.   We could have spent hours just walking the blocks taking in the murals covering almost every space.  Unfortunately, we had limited time and had to narrow down the jaunt to drinks and lunch.  These are just two of the many places we could have chosen to go but that is just another reason for us to take the quick 25 minute drive back down!Wynwood Beer

Wynwood Brewing Company 

It’s no secret that the craft beer industry is growing exponentially across the country. Once lagging behind, Florida is finally getting its feet wet and diving headlong into unchartered territory. Closer to home, Wynwood Brewing Company, Miami’s first craft production brewery, took the leap and began its brewing operation back in 2011. Located in the heart of Wynwood Art District, Wynwood Brewing is a family owned and operated facility that is chugging out some remarkable craft beers in and around South Florida, both to locals and tourists alike. Their 15-barrel brewhouse is surrounded by former clothing and shoe warehouses, but are now the canvas for local artists who have painted some truly amazing graffiti art.Our Beer

The taproom is small, but comfortable and well lit, and offers craft beer lovers an opportunity to see the brewing operation first-hand behind large glass windows in the back of the bar. There is some eclectic art on the wall at Wynwood Brewing, and it definitely has a laid back, do as you want feel. The staff is very friendly, and on this particular day they were dealing with having to tell everyone that it was cash only since the network was temporarily down.  Lucky for us, we had cash in hand.  Now, on to the beers…The Wynwood IPA (7.2% ABV) is just what you’d expect: Bitter on the open and middle with strong hints of pine, grapefruit and floral notes, followed by a nice mellow finish.  La Pantera (The Panther 6.5% ABV) Coffee Stout is a collaboration of sorts, between friends, using Panther Coffee as the base for an amazingly complex brew. Yes, Panther Coffee. Like most stouts, La Pantera hits your palate like a strong jolt of Cuban Coffee (Que Bola!), then throws in some malty cocoa notes just to bring your tastebuds back to earth. Of the two beers we tasted this Sunday, La Pantera clearly was the favorite.Wynwood Mural

Kush by Lokal 

Kush by LokalSpray painted in bright red on a brick wall in Kush Wynwood is a simple, yet prophetic adage every craft beer lover lives by: “Cheap beer ain’t good, good beer ain’t cheap.”  Fresh from our craft beer tasting at Wynwood Brewing Company, it was time for a bite to eat. Checking for nearby restaurants, we found ourselves heading a few blocks over to Kush by Lokal, a funky little eatery and craft beer establishment that boasts some of the best burgers in the area along with an impressive draft and bottle beer selection. The bar/restaurant is very small, with only a few tables situated along the walls and a modest bar. There are tables outside, but on this 90+-degree South Florida day, we decided indoors was a better dining option. Seating at Kush is first come, first served, so as soon as you walk through the door, be sure to get a staff member’s attention so they can offer you a place to sit when it becomes available. We got lucky when a couple at a counter near the bar had just finished and were paying their check.

Kush BeerKush’s beer menu walks a fine line between the beers you know, the beers you’d like to know and the beers you simply have to try.  We ordered the Victory Dirtwolf Double IPA (8.7% ABV), a one-two punch of strong hoppiness that assaults the palate, and the Mikkeller George Imperial Stout (12% ABV), a chocolaty, malty complex stout that is rich and deep in dark flavors without being cloyingly sweet.

Kush FoodKush’s menu has plenty of options to satisfy any palate: from the South you can nosh on alligator bites (fried and served with creamy garlic and spicy mayo) to pork sausages and fried pickles. But Kush is known for its burgers, so we decided to split Kush’s award-winning Johnny Utah (I am an FBI AGENT!), which was recently voted best burger in Miami by New Times weekly. Johnny Utah, the burger, not Keanu’s free spirited, surf obsessed federal agent character from “Point Break,” is a quarter pound of beef cooked to order and topped with hot pastrami, LoKal Sauce (don’t ask), sliced tomato, diced white onions and cheddar cheese. One bite and you can taste why the Johnny Utah burger won the award (yet, despite his duty, wouldn’t bring Bodhi in). Flavorful and juicy, savory and spicy – whatever adjective describes awesome – the Johnny Utah is without a doubt one of the best burgers we’ve had in some time. With food of this quality and a beer menu that will satisfy even the most discriminating of craft beer drinkers, Kush by Lokal is perfecting its art in Wynwood.

Hardy Park Bistro – Ft. Lauderdale

Psst. If you live in South Florida, don’t tell anyone about this tiny, out-of-the-way restaurant located in the vicinity of downtown Fort Lauderdale. It’s really, really good, but it’s not very big, see? Once word gets out about the quality of food, well, you know how it goes with popular places that start our charming and friendly but run the risk of becoming a “one and done” eating establishment you enjoy with the intention of returning to soon, but when you finally do, you realize that now there’s a long wait for a table, parking has become an issue and the clientele…well, you get the idea.

We’re hoping Hardy Park Bistro stays exactly the way it is: A charming, unassuming little place that’s big on flavors and attention to detail.

The restaurant (aptly named because it sits right across the street from a city park that bears the name) is Fort Lauderdale’s newest eatery that is worth checking out. This particular Saturday we arrived around 9 p.m. after attending a downtown art walk event. I must admit I didn’t think we’d get seated as quickly as we did. A young woman had greeted us at the door and told us they needed to clear a table, but it would only be a few minutes.

The restaurant is spare but elegant (it was a barbecue restaurant in its former existence), containing seven tables inside; two tables located on one side in the front outside; as well as a pub-height bench table and chairs on the other side. HPB’s staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The wine menu contained a respectable listing of reds and whites, all reasonably priced.

For dinner, we ordered the Grilled Octopus Salad with Arugula, Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Eggplant and the Grilled Salmon with Risotto Cake, Asparagus, Red Pepper Coulis and Basil.  Both dishes were excellent.  The salmon was cooked to absolute perfection. It was moist, yet flaky, and combined with the other ingredients, never felt overpowering. The Risotto Cake was phenomenal and contrasted nicely with the fish. We were both impressed. With dinner finished, our server asked us if we saved any room for dessert. We politely declined the offer, but perhaps next time we will take them up on it.

Oh yes, we will be back, Hardy Park Bistro…you can count on it.

Sunday Brunch at Red Cow, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Smoked Bloody MaryDon’t look now, but Sunday brunch is back. Well, sort of…not that it really went away. To the legions of late-night denizens, drunkards and party hearty types, Sunday brunch is an indispensable meal, more an event, really, that welcomes the brain dead back to the land of the living.

And, even if you’re like us, with more late night adventures behind than in front of us, Sunday brunch is a nice departure from the usual Sunday paper, coffee and bowl of cold cereal routine. And South Florida has numerous options available for the brunch crowd, including Red Cow, one of Ft. Lauderdale’s newest restaurants, located at the site of the former Texas Hold ‘Em.

Red Cow is known for its down-home barbecue fare, but on Sundays it transforms the usual eggs-and-bacon into something quite Dizzy Chicken Hashremarkable. The service is friendly and welcoming, and the day we dined there we were seated right away.

The restaurant looks like your friendly, neighborhood eatery, a comfortable place you can kick back and relax. Red Cow has a bar, complete with a respectable wine and beer selection. We ordered Bloody Marys, including one that features a smoke-infused vodka. Garnished with beef jerky and a pickle, both were delicious and satisfying.

AustinFor our meals, we enjoyed The Austin and the Dizzy Chicken Hash.  The Austin features two eggs cooked to order, jalapeno cheddar sausage, a cowboy potato cake and corn bread. It was incredible, to say the least. The Hash is a big, delicious mound of breakfast goodness piled on the plate, consisting of pulled rotisserie chicken, an egg cooked to order and fresh pico de gallo. I cleaned my plate, barely.

I don’t know if food can cure what ails you, but Red Cow offers up exactly the type of food you’ll enjoy eating on a Sunday morning or early afternoon – regardless of your condition. Red Cow is Sunday Brunch done right, and definitely worth trying.

Craft: Spirits & Beer, Miami, Saturday, November 9, 2013

What is craft? What does it mean to ply one’s craft? These were questions that would be asked throughout the Craft Spirits & Beer event held in November at Soho Studios, in Miami.

Craft, in the strictest sense, is defined as an activity involving skill in creating things by hand. During this inaugural event this idea was evident in the distillers and brewers in attendance. Complementing the craft beer and spirits were chefs and food purveyors that also embraced that ideal.

Over 30 artisans attended the event, though it never felt overly crowded in the warehouse space.  It was a treat to sample some of the stellar and rare offerings.

In addition to the tasting portion of the event, there were panel discussions, bringing experts in the field of beer brewing, distilling, as well as the bar and restaurant industry.  We attended a panel discussing the idea of craft and what the future holds for the craft ideal. Craft is a highly subjective term that means many things to many people, but this panel focused on what they defined as craft as it relates to their particular industries. Is it quality over quantity? The artisan creating something unique in a world of cookie cutter products? These questions may not have an easily defined answer, but the conversation is worth having.

Although it may not have been the intention of the organizers (perhaps it was due to lack of advertising) but the event was not a crowded affair. We were able to try samples at each booth or table without a long wait. This gave us an opportunity for more personal interaction with the representatives.

We’re hoping that the crowd present was at least enough to give event organizers a reason to hold it a second year. Maybe craft is too subjective a term to define in black and white, but we’re eager to learn (and try!) more.  Cheers to the artisans who epitomize the true essence of craft.

New Belgium Brewing Trippel Belgian Style Ale and “Lips Of Faith” Series

Craft beer drinkers in our area are celebrating because New Belgium Brewing (Colorado) beers have finally made their way to South Florida. Sure, we’ve enjoyed New Belgium’s signature Fat Tire Amber Ale on numerous occasions, but most hop heads would agree: In the world of American craft beers, the Fat Tire is serviceable, at best…a nice stand by ale with a familiar flavor and headiness you like. This isn’t a knock on the Fat Tire, but  a compliment on how consistent New Belgium is in creating an accessible craft ale year in and year out. However, New Belgium’s specialty ales and seasonal offerings are worth checking out.  We sampled several of the big bottle offerings in New Belgium’s “Lips Of Faith” series (love that name) as well as their signature Trippel.  Availability in South Florida limits us to only a few of New Belgium’s ales that we can try, but these are well worth trying if you can find them:

Heavenly Feijoa Tripel Dieu du Ciel! (ABV 9.4%)

The mad scientists at New Belgium brought together two innocuous flavor profiles to create one unique ale. The Heavenly Feijoa Tripel combines hibiscus flowers with Feijoa (pineapple guava). The melding of tart sweetness and exotic tropical flavoring makes for a unique, aromatic drinking experience. Like any Belgian-style Ale, the aromas and flavor came alive once it neared room temperature. The Heavenly Feijoa Tripel gets a 4 out of 5 bottle rating due to its flavor, color and complexity (5 being the highest rating on the Wanderlushes beer scale).

Trippel Belgian Style Ale (ABV 7.8%)

The Trippel Belgian Style Ale is a veritable hop lover’s delight. But despite how much hops you throw into the mix, a Trippel is a Trippel. The Trippel has a strong mouth feel, yet its unique Belgian yeast strain counterbalances the strong hop notes with a soft, fruitiness.  We could definitely pick up the traces of coriander that added just a hint more spiciness. The New Belgium Trippel gets a 3 out of 5 bottle rating.

Cascara Quad (ABV 10%)

This sweet, complex ale is brewed with dates and get this…coffee cherries. We weren’t sure what coffee berries were until we did a little research into and then it all made sense. The Cascara Quad is dark and it is strong, but it is also a delicate ale, believe it or not.  Malt is front and center with a bit of banana present in the quaff, as you’d expect, but there are also strong hints of clove, fig and caramel…especially when you let it warm up a bit in the glass. We were very impressed. The NBB Cascara Quad gets a 5 out of 5 bottles rating on the Wanderlushes beer scale.

Paardebloem Ale (ABV 9.0%)

After enjoying Heavenly Feijoa Tripel Dieu du Ciel and the Cascara Quad, the Paardebloem Ale was probably our least favorite of the Lips Of Faith series we tried. Brewed with dandelion greens for bitterness, New Belgium collaborated with Red Rock Brewing (Salt Lake City, UT) to create this Belgian-style ale. The wild Belgian yeast is evident at the beginning and middle – yet even with some wood-aged beer and grains of paradise added in, this ale fell short of our expectations. It’s not a bad ale by any stretch (any craft beer maker would be proud to create an ale like this), but it does lack complexity. The Paardebloem Ale gets a 3 out of 5 bottles Wanderlushes rating.

Pluot Ale (ABV 10%)

A plum and an apricot got drunk, hooked up and had a love child they called pluot. Sounds weird, right? But this hybrid fruit actually exists and is the basis for the New Belgium Brewing Pluot Ale. The aroma is unmistakably fruity. Combine this with Belgian ale yeast and you have an exotic little combo of flavors going on. The Pluot wasn’t our favorite of the Lips Of Faith series thus far, but it is by far the most complex and is worth trying. This could work as a dessert beer to be paired with slices of fresh apple or pear. The Pluot Ale gets a 4 out of 5 bottles Wanderlushes rating.

 

 

 

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