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Louis Latour Tasting at the Atlantic Hotel June 1, 2012

Louis Latour Portfolio Tasting

Louis Latour Portfolio Tasting

Thanks to the generosity of our good friends, we were recently invited to a Louis Latour Portfolio tasting at the East End Brasserie lounge in the Atlantic hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach.  Although we do appreciate and buy “fine” wine, we are much more familiar with New World wines and wouldn’t necessarily know a Grand Cru from a Motley Crüe. That being said, we welcomed an opportunity to learn (and sample, of course!) more about the Louis Latour portfolio.

Crowds are always a concern during these get-togethers, but since this was not an ordinary Crown tasting event—and because the lounge isn’t that large to begin with—attendance was limited.  We entered the event a bit timidly but were pleasantly surprised by the exuberance of the wine representatives and the politeness of the crowd as we navigated the tasting.  We spent a good amount of time with several experts that were more than willing to explain the nuances of the region and the wine we were tasting.
Some interesting points about the Burgundy region that were new to us:

  • The grapes from the Burgundy region are primarily the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
  • Burgundy wines are classified mainly on the geographic location within the region, as opposed to being classified by the producer.
  • The quality (Regional Cru, Village Cru, Premier Cru and Grand Cru) classification of wines in this region was begun by monks.

For this tasting there were five stations setup across the bar.  Starting at the beginning of the bar, we were handed a white wine glass and proceeded through the two sections set aside for the white wines.  Our favorites:

  • Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Premier Cru  “Fourchaume” (100% Chardonnay, 40 year old vines – Fruit forward, smooth) $28
  • Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru “Morgeot” (100% Chardonnay, Aged 8-12 months in oak (30% new oak) barrels – Lush, exotic fruit notes) $47
  • Louis Latour Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru (100% Chardonnay, Aged 8-12 months in new oak casks – Minerality yet creamy with nut and succulent fruit notes) $200

Once we had completed the series of whites, we were handing a red wine glass to complete the next grouping of red wines.  Our favorites:

  • Louis Latour Pommard   (100% Pinot Noir, Aged 12 months in oak casks – Dark fruit with slight spice) $44
  • Louis Latour Beaune Premier Cru “Vignes Franches” (100% Pinot Noir, Aged 12 months in oak casks – Cherry, Floral with slight spice) $48
Louis Latour

Louis Latour

After completing the tasting, we both agreed that we much preferred the whites.  However, the reds we tried were young as we unfortunately missed out on the earlier vintages by the time we arrived.  We found none that were a “must have” for us but we did appreciate the complexity of the region in not only what we tasted, but what we learned.  We thoroughly enjoyed the Louis Latour portfolio tasting and our foray into the Burgundy region.

 

Wine Watch Oregon Pinot Noir Tasting Wednesday, April 18th

Wine Watch

Wine Watch

Pinot Noir may be one of the most enjoyed red wines amongst wine aficionados, but it is probably one of the more mysterious varietals in its complexity. This Old World grape has been transformed in the U.S., especially in the Central Coast of California and Oregon. Understanding and appreciating Pinot Noir is an acquired skill, and at times can be downright mystifying…but hugely rewarding.

So when Andrew Lampasone, owner/proprietor and resident wine expert of Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale, held an Oregon Pinot Noir tasting at his establishment located in the historic Progresso Plaza, naturally we were intrigued.  Wine Watch had three stations set up around the plaza, with 20 Pinots available for sampling. Oregon is well known for producing some of the most sought-after Pinot Noirs worldwide, mostly from the famed Willamette Valley (pronounced Will-am-ette, like “damn it.” ) Yes, we’ve all been mispronouncing the name, so Andrew was quick to point this fact out to us during our sampling. Two members of  the Wine Watch staff prepared appetizers for attendees to nosh on during the event, which included: Wild mushroom & Mascarpone Flat Bread; Asian Pork & Shrimp Sliders; Seared Ahi Tuna Lollipops with Ginger Ponzu; Duck Spring Rolls with  Sesame Plum Glaze. All were delicious and paired well with the wines.

We have somewhat refined our palates and can now begin to navigate our way through the maze of adjectives associated with Wine Speak. In general, we picked up black cherry, spice and toast notes typical of the Pinot Noir profile.  However, with each taste of the selections the nuance of each was apparent as hints of licorice, orange peel, exotic spices and even minerality were apparent. There were several Pinot Noirs that missed the mark (a few tasted younger, needing more time in the bottle), but all were fantastic in their own right. Of the 20 we tried, our three favorites (of which we purchased) are as follows:

2009 Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Noir Momtazi Vineyard McMinneville – $37.50
2009 Klee Pinot Noir Willamette – $24 –
2009 Soter Pinot Noir Mineral Springs Ranch – $52

Andrew was a great host and was eager to impart his wine knowledge to all of the patrons (us included). Pinot Noir is a little less mysterious to us after this tasting, but will still require more research – research that we  are more than happy to conduct. Cheers!

Lola’s On Harrison—April 14, 2012

Lola's on Harrison

Lola's on Harrison

Hollywood…Florida, is a town that, in the interest of fine dining, is not going to be outdone by its more well-heeled neighbors Fort Lauderdale to the north and Miami to the south.

Lola’s On Harrison (2032 Harrison Street, Hollywood, FL) is the type of restaurant that you’d expect to see nestled amongst the numerous chic South Beach eateries, or in Fort Lauderdale’s case, beautifully situated on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Chef/owner Michael Wagner, however, seems to prefer the “quiet bustle” of Hollywood, setting up shop along Harrison Street, much to the delight of locals looking for a fine dining experience in the downtown area.

We decided to head to Lola’s for a 9 p.m. dinner this particular Saturday. A pleasant young hostess greeted us at the door, but told us our table wouldn’t be available for a few minutes. She suggested we wait at the bar and enjoy pre-dinner cocktails. The drink menu at Lola’s has an amazing array of choices to suit whatever strikes the fancy, including an eclectic who’s who of craft beers in the bottle. Not wanting to fill up on beer, we all decided to keep things light and order cocktails.  All were delicious and refreshing.

The food at Lola’s is simply incredible. Chef Michael Wagner is well known for putting his own fun, creative spin on traditional dinner plate items. We skipped appetizers and ordered entrees straight away (though looking at some of the apps on the menu, I was temptingly close to ordering one or two—especially the half portion of the “Falling Off The Bone Beef Short rib).

At last we were ready to order. Kim ordered the Milk Fed Veal Chop “Oscar,” which the chef prepared medium rare. A good choice. The veal was tender, and the sweet super lump crab meat and garlic roasted asparagus (covered lightly with an herb Hollandaise) made a fine accompaniment. I ordered the Grilled Rainbow Trout, but was told by our server a short time later that the kitchen had run out of the trout. Not troubled, I ordered the Chicken Breast Milanese, which I was quite happy with as a substitute. The chicken breast was prepared with a basil cracker crust, then topped with a light spring leaf salad; tomatoes and mozzarella cheese cubes are playfully arranged along the perimeter of the plate and drizzled with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette. Jen ordered the Grilled Skirt Steak, which also included parmesan potatoes au gratin and caramelized brussels sprouts (substituted for the sauteed broccolini without issue).  Every restaurant has its signature dish, the one food item that sets them apart, and Lola’s is no exception. Chef Wagner has taken BBQ Beef Ribs to a whole new level. His center cut ribs are not only slow roasted; they’re slathered in his secret recipe Coca Cola BBQ sauce. The contrast of tangy and sweet can’t be understated. The ribs also come with large buttermilk onion rings and herb creamed corn (both delicious), but it’s the ribs that steal the show. At one point Mitch picked up one of the large ribs on his plate and the meat—without sounding too cliché—fell right off the bone. Satisfied and full, we skipped dessert and finished our drinks.

If you enjoy fine dining at a reasonable price, Lola’s On Harrison is a great choice. The food and drink menus are varied and all delicious, the atmosphere relaxed and unpretentious. Lola’s is a Wanderlush friendly place indeed.

 

Jupiter Craft Brewer’s Beer Festival – January 28, 2012

Jupiter Beer Festival

Jupiter Beer Festival

Regardless of what you may think of craft beer, it’s hard not to like what’s going on across America, and the world, for that matter, with regard to the popularity of craft beer.

In our little sparging tank of the world (South Florida) we’re fortunate to experience beer-tasting events like the annual Jupiter Craft Brewer’s Festival, located in Jupiter, Florida. Taking place in the more favorable mild winter temps of January, over 40 craft brewers descend upon Roger Dean Stadium this time of year to ply their wares to the most ardent beer aficionados.

Blue Point Toxic Sludge

Blue Point Toxic Sludge

For the uninitiated, the Jupiter Fest is a large, well-organized and well-attended event that never disappoints. Besides the beer itself, there is always food on hand, along with live music and a “Silent Disco” (don’t ask). True, there were some noticeably absent craft brewers like Flying Dog and Bell’s at this year’s event, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have more than our fair share of beer choices available. With our event lanyards draped across our chests and plastic steins in hand we proceeded to sip, sample and savor a good amount of some of the finest craft ales, pilsners, stouts and wheat beers the country has to offer.

Crowd Waiting for Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Porter

Crowd Waiting for Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Porter

Several local and state breweries were there as well, including Cigar City, Dogfish Head, Funky Buddha, Stone, and Blue Point. Of these, The Funky Buddha, located in Boca Raton, Florida, by far had the most unique and best-tasting beers of the lot. The Funky Buddha No Crusts (PB & J in a bottle – brilliant!) and Maple Bacon Porter were hands down the most sought-after beers of the event (as judged by the throngs of tipsy festival goers acting like orphans seeking their next bowl of gruel), and went quickly as the kegs were tapped. The one drawback to these events is the limited availability of certain high-demand brews. Several brewers had message boards posted stating when their specialty brews would be put on the public tasting block. We missed out on the Cigar City White Oak Peach IPA early in the afternoon, but were well rewarded with the Funky Buddha offerings later in the day.

After three and a half hours of sampling fine brew, it was time to call it a day. With our stomachs full and a pleasant buzz in our heads, we all headed south to grab a late afternoon bite to eat at Sweetwater Bar & Grill, located in Boynton Beach.

Sweetwater

Sweetwater Bar & Grill

Sweetwater is a charming bar and eatery that boasts an excellent beer and drink menu while serving up some amazing food. Among the most notable items were the scallops on the half shell special topped with a topping similar to dynamite you would find on some sushi dishes; tangy, sweet chicken wings; mini burgers and fries; belgium battered octopus, and Korean beef soft tacos that were to die for.

We will definitely keep Sweetwater Bar & Grill in mind during our next adventure on the Wanderlushes highway.

Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon – Wanderlush Style

South Florida Lazy Sunday

South Florida Lazy Sunday

I am not a firm believer in preventing a hangover via the “hair of the dog.” To me, it simply delays the inevitable – so why put it off? A better cure is to absorb any traces of alcohol in the system by a strict adherence to being lazy, eating rich food and imbibing (responsibly) in the curative properties of more alcohol. This method is unscientific at best, and to my knowledge no data exists to support it. But it sure makes for a fun and filling Sunday.

Bloody Mary at Sea Watch

Sea Watch Bloody Mary

Which is where we Wanderlushes found ourselves this particular January Sunday. Every so often we like to throw caution to the wind, venture out and do a modified version of a pub crawl in our town. Ours started with breakfast, or in this case a brunch of lobster benedict and Bloody Marys at one of our favorite Fort Lauderdale beachside restaurants, Coconuts. The weather was ideal for sitting outside, but even the booths indoor offer a favorable glimpse of the beautiful Fort Lauderdale intracoastal.

Sea Watch

Sea Watch

After brunch we drove north along A1A, breezing through Fort Lauderdale into smaller seaside towns like Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton. We decided to make a pit stop at one of Pompano Beach’s oldest and most frequented beachside eateries: Seawatch. Still full from our brunch at Coconuts, we ordered four Bloody Marys and sat outside on the upper deck patio/dining area that offers unbeatable vistas of the grassy dunes and beach. It’s days like this that we’re grateful to be living in South Florida and not digging out of three feet of snow in sub-zero temperatures somewhere else.

Sea Watch

Sea Watch

After sipping on our drinks and enjoying the gorgeous weather, we piled back into the Wanderlushmobile and headed north along A1A to Boca Raton, admiring many of the multi-million-dollar homes situated on either side of the street. It’s staggering to think how much people pay to live along the beach in South Florida, though it must be worth it because, as the late comedian George Carlin quipped, “You only have a**holes on three sides of you.”

Biergarten

Biergarten

We made it to Boca Raton and stopped by the Royal Palm Plaza to check out an arts and crafts fair taking place in the parking on the Federal Highway side of the shopping center. There were people there selling original art, clothing, homemade pickles and jewelry. We wandered around for a while checking out the wares and decided a little snack was in order, so we ended up ordering some noshes at The Biergarten Boca Raton. The décor at this Boca newcomer is decidedly hofbrauhaus, with waitresses clad in festive Oktoberfest dresses and a menu consisting of German and American bar bites and pub grub. We ordered beers, a plate of chicken wings, sausage bites with mustard dipping sauce and bier cheese fries, which were good, but were served sundae style and with a thin cheese sauce. Overall the Biergarten is a fun place to enjoy some lighter fare and beers, especially outside, weather permitting.

Biergarten Apps

Biergarten Apps

Most people would be sated at this point and call it a day. But not the Wanderlushes. With the sun still shining we were bound and determined to make the most of this lazy Sunday, so we headed over to Mizner Park to check out the Cheese Course.

Cheese Plates

Cheese Plates from The Cheese Course

This establishment does wine and cheese right. Not only do they boast a world-class array of some of the finest domestic and imported cheeses, they have an eclectic wine selection so you can purchase and enjoy both on the premises. A pleasant woman working behind the counter offered samples of three delicious cheeses, which we all tried.  After sampling the Cahill Porter, Cacio di Bosco (Truffle!) and Teahive cheeses we decided we had to share  couple of cheese plates to complete our evening.   We looked for a nice bottle of red to accompany our selections and settled on a bold and zesty Sebastiani California Zinfandel.  We then sat down at a long, rustic wooden dinner table (country style) and enjoyed our cheese, bread and wine feast. Whatever traces of hangover or blahs we had in the morning were long gone by the time we left Boca Raton early that evening. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday, in our book.

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