Category: General

2015…A Year of Living Decadently

So, for any visitor to our site it must be obvious that we have been a bit neglectful in our updates.  As with many people, life, work and all the things that go with living it got in the way!  The good news is that we really enjoyed the living part this year and plan on doing more of the same next year.  Our intention is to actually add things as they happen, but we’ll just have to see how that goes!   Anyhoo…without further ado, our 2015 in photo review.  We hope you get an idea of just how much we savored it!

Funky Buddha Brewery Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Festival

FB2If craft beer makers are the new rock stars, Funky Buddha has gone platinum. Saturday, January 10, Funky Buddha held its second annual Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Festival at its Oakland Park brewery, which seems to be growing by leaps and bounds as demand grows for their myriad of one-of-a-kind craft beers.

Looking at the crowds, this year’s event easily eclipsed last year’s in terms of attendance. The city of Oakland Park closed down the street to accommodate the throngs of craft beer lovers. Several food trucks set up shop along the street, giving attendees some tasty eating options, including Chaco’s Chinese Tacos and Diablo Dogs. Craft beer and street food just go hand in hand. For ease in operation and to speed up sales, tickets are sold for $5 each, with beers sold one per customer – no exceptions. Bottles of the precious Maple Bacon Coffee Porter were sold between noon and 3 p.m., with pick-up from 4 – 7 p.m. Unfortunately we arrived later that afternoon and never had a chance to buy any bottles. Damn. Maybe next time.10866055_766364990121851_153536580750934960_o

But back to the beer. FB’s Maple Bacon Coffee Porter may be the star, but there were over 50 craft beers to choose from; most of them Funky Buddha signature beers, some specialty brews, plus several guest taps including several Florida beer makers such as Due South (Boynton Beach), Wynwood Brewing (Miami) and Angry Chair (Tampa). Unless you have a second liver or are resistant to the effects of alcohol, there is no conceivable way to try every beer on the menu. We each had a Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, which was delicious and true to its moniker, tastes just like breakfast in a glass. As we started surveying the options, we realized that almost all the earlier timed releases were sold out. Not to be deterred, we formulated our plan for the next release as we sipped a Dredd Pirate Robert’s Imperial Stout (9% ABV), which had strong hints of chocolate, raspberries and coconut. Next up was the Up Pip’s Kriek American Sour on oak and cherries (5.4% ABV), which, like most good sour beers make you pucker up and smile. With “appetizers” out of the way, we then focused on Funky Buddha’s timed-release beers.

0110151646Standing in line, shoulder-to-shoulder, like die-hard fans waiting to score concert tickets, the countdown begins and then it’s release time! We had a game plan and put it in action. We anxiously awaited as the countdown began in the tap room, looking forward to a pour of the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV). Sweet, complex and boozy, the NV takes on the characteristics as it ages in the Bourbon barrel, with strong hints of vanilla caramel added to what is already an incredible beer. Outside at one of two beer trucks, a similar frenzy was building. There were so many great choices but this time we were after the Chocolate Basil Porter (6.7% ABV). This was easily one of the standout beers of the festival with a flavor profile that struck a nice balance between the cocoa and basil.

IMG_2725We met up with some fellow beer-loving friends during the event, which gave us all an opportunity to sip and savor other beers we may not have a chance to try. We sipped and strategized for the 7pm release which was going to be tricky. There were several beers at each timed release station that we wanted to try that were, most likely, not going to last long. We split up and headed to our respective stations. Thankfully, we were able to get each beer we were after.

The Uncle Vucub’s Imperial Stout, which is made with cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa nibs and habanero. Sweet, spicy and strong with its 9% ABV, Uncle Vucub’s Imperial wakes up your taste buds from the first sip. Stepping outside of Florida we also enjoyed a Toppling Goliath PseudoSue Pale Ale (5.8% ABV) from Iowa and a name any Star Wars geek can appreciate: Revolution Deth’s Tar IRS Imperial Stout Heaven Hill and Old Forester barrel-aged (11.4%) from Chicago. The Force is with this craft beer maker, for sure. Both of these beers lasted only a short time and we considered ourselves lucky to get to try them. The piece de resistance was the Last Buffalo in the Park Snowed In Imperial Last Snow Porter (11% ABV) aged in Buffalo Trace Whiskey barrels. It doesn’t get better than that so we decided to call it a night on this high note.

If you appreciate good craft beer, the Funky Buddha Brewing Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Festival is a once-a-year event worth checking out. Just make a point to arrive early, park and by all means, pace yourself. Cheers!

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.

New Belgium Brewing Lips Of Faith Series Beer Review: Transatlantique Kriek and La Folie Sour Brown Ale

Transatlantique KriekTransatlantique Kriek Ale

New Belgium Brewing, like any other cutting edge craft beer maker, isn’t afraid to take risks to create new and exciting beers. Their Lips Of Faith Series of beers have forged new territory, with both good and not-so-good results, depending on whom you ask. They teamed up with Brewerij Boon of Belgium to create Transatlantique Kriek, an ale they call, “a spontaneously fermented Lambic Ale” made with Polish cherries.

Bright red in color and a dead ringer for a Lambic (think of Raspberry 7-Up but slightly darker), the Kriek is equally effervescent and pours clean into the glass, never really achieving a foamy head. Then the welcoming gurgling subsides and there is the unmistakable (yet pleasant) cherry aroma. It’s like smelling Sweet Tarts in liquid form. The taste, as you would expect, is crisp and clean (that would be New Belgium’s golden lager tempering the sour cherry) and has a sweet mouth feel. The cherry tartness never lingers and produces a satisfying finish.  This is a great summer sipper that’s worth trying.

La Folie Sour Brown AleLa Folie

The next Lips Of Faith Series ale we tried in a fortnight was the La Folie, which is French for “The folly.” This latest New Belgium creation is a sour brown ale that’s aged for one to three years in large, oak barrels called foeders, creating a deep mahogany ale. I’ll admit I have been hesitant to drink sour ales, farmhouse or otherwise, for some time. La Folie, however, changed my mind, and will do the same for you – if you give it a chance. The sourness hits you right away on the opening sip, but once the assault on your taste buds subsides, things begin to mellow as the complex flavor profile begins to take shape. I noticed strong hints of sweet fig and plum, plus some green apple thrown in just to remind you that you’re drinking a sour ale. Let this sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving; allow the ingredients some time to “stretch their legs” before enjoying this great new addition to New Belgium’s Lips Of Faith Series. Cheers!

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.

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