Category: General

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.

Sonoma Wine Country Visit May 12, 2013

It’s been a while since our trip to California Wine Country but the experience has stayed in our minds; the memories still fresh.  We last wrote about Napa, which was the first area we had a chance to explore.  We began our next day with the plan to explore Sonoma.

As with our Napa adventure, we had to seriously narrow down our plan to visit just a few places.  Looking at our massive list we had no idea where to begin.  Thankfully we had some help in the way of a local connection who pointed us in the right direction.

Recommendations and plan in hand, we started by heading to the northern most point we planned on visiting, Healdsburg.  Once we got off the highway we were immediately driving through farm country and vineyards were everywhere we looked.  The weather was beautiful and the scenery was breathtaking.

Our first stop was Mazzocco Winery, known for their Zinfandels, located up on a hillside. We entered the quiet tasting room where we were greeted and offered our first taste of their portfolio immediately.  No pretense here at Mazzocco; just plain and simple wine tasting.  And taste we did!  After going through several of their wines we decided to purchase our favorite (2011 Seaton Zinfandel) and head on down the road. 

Next up was the Hawley Tasting room in downtown Healdsburg.  The Hawley Tasting room was a small warm space filled with artwork and woodwork created by various Hawley family members.  We learned this from Dana Hawley, the winemaker’s wife and local artist, who walked us through the tasting and the history of Hawley wines.  It was a truly unique and lovely experience.  Again, we narrowed our purchase down to our favorite (Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah) and left to wander the town a bit.

After visiting some of the local antique stores and markets we got back in the car and drove to Iron Horse Vineyards in Sebastopol.  Getting to the actual tasting room was challenging. Off the beaten path would be an understatement.  However, after driving up the single lane, bumpy, dirt road and arriving at the top, we could truly appreciate that it was worth the trek. Looking out across the rolling hills and into the valley covered with vineyards was awe inspiring.

Iron Horse is known for their sparkling wines and we were lucky enough to be there on a day when they had The Oyster Girls on hand, a traveling oyster bar serving freshly shucked oysters.  Oysters and sparkling wine = perfect day!

At the end of the day we convinced ourselves that we needed to move to Sebastopol, buy a farm, raise goats and grow our own vines.  Who knows? Maybe one day we will…

Hall Winery Rutherford Tasting & Tour May 11, 2013

Napa Valley is a place where wine lovers can happily get lost. Stray off the familiar path of the Silverado Trail or CA 29, and you can find yourself in unfamiliar, yet exciting places. Hall Winery, in Rutherford, is truly off the beaten path – and definitely a good place to find if you’re looking for a small, intimate wine tasting experience. 

Hall Rutherford, unlike their larger production winery in St. Helena, is dedicated to creating rare and single vineyard wines. The main building sits far above sea level, offering spectacular vistas of Napa Valley. Hall Rutherford boasts 14,000 square feet of caves (which were designed by Friedrich Gruber of Gutenstein, Austria). Making our way into the tasting room we noticed a rapid temperature drop (from near 90 degrees to 61) and the striking handmade reclaimed Austrian brick walls and ceiling.  We were told that the Austrian government had one stipulation for Hall Winery repurposing the bricks; that the Habsburg name and family seal, which are etched into each individual brick, could not be displayed and therefore were installed backwards. Of note is the fact that Kathryn Hall served as the US Ambassador to Austria under Bill Clinton. The Vienna Boys Choir performed live at the grand opening of the winery!

Once inside the tasting room, the first thing you notice hanging magnificently over the large tasting table is a chandelier designed by Donald Lipski and Jonquil LeMaster, comprised of hundreds of Swarovski crystals, that simulates the roots of a tree coming through the ceiling of the cave.  When we began the Hall experience touring the vineyards, our host pointed out a Meyer lemon tree at the top of the hill and told us to keep it in mind.  It turns out that the sculpture sits directly below the actual tree.  We didn’t ask how much this hanging artwork cost, because if you have to ask, well…never mind.

Then it was on to the wines! The first Hall wine we tasted was the 2012 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (a crisp, refreshing SB with hints of citrus and green apple – excellent) which was given to us upon our arrival.  As we waited for other guests we were able to wander the main building and terrace.  For the tasting itself, we were treated to some of Hall’s signature Cabernet Sauvignons, including the 2007 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon; 2012 Jack’s Masterpiece Cabernet Sauvignon; and as a special treat, the 2009 Segassia Vineyard Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. All are deeply complex, fruit-forward Cabs that taste amazing now, but can be cellared for a few years to soften the tannins a bit, according to our host. Hall wines are lush and delicious, and if you have an opportunity to experience any of these high-end bouquets, do so.

Sure, there are many other large-production “mega wineries” in and around Napa Valley, but if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone and lose yourself, you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly rewarding wine tasting experience. Hall Winery, in Rutherford, is a pretty good place to end up.

 

Bottle Rock Festival Napa Valley May 10, 2013

It’s not often when you can say you were a part of music history. So, when we heard about the first-ever Bottle Rock Napa Valley 2013, a four-day festival of music, comedy, wine and food taking place May 9-12 at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds (bottlerocknapa.com), we jumped at the chance. They had us at Napa, really, but when we found out that Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes were going to be there we knew we were all in.

We made our way to Napa Friday morning. The drive from our hotel in Petaluma to Napa was spectacular. The hills and mountains leading from Sonoma County into Napa Valley are lush, fertile and dotted with wineries large and small. Getting to Napa was half the fun. Once in town we decided to get some lunch at the famous Oxbow Market. We shared a freshly baked bread, burrata and prosciutto at an Italian eatery called Enoteca Ca Momi. Everything was fresh and delicious. Then it was time to park the car and head into the festival. Speaking of parking: To ease over-crowding in town, festival planners set up a large parking area outside of Napa. Shuttle buses took concertgoers to and from the event throughout the day and evening. This was a minor inconvenience logistically, but understandable given the amount of people expected to attend the festival over the four-day period (over 100,000). We purchased tickets for the day both were performing which was the second day of the event. Of the 16 acts performing that day we our goal was to see the blues rock quartet Vintage Trouble; Alabama Shakes; The Shins, The Black Keys and The Flaming Lips.

Let the music begin! Vintage Trouble went on around 2:15 and rocked the house, though at this point people were still filing in. At around 4 p.m. Alabama Shakes took the stage and really got the crowd involved. Once their set was finished, The Shins took the stage just after 6 p.m. and played for nearly an hour. The headline act that Friday were The Black Keys. In between, we wandered to the one of the other stages to see The Flaming Lips. By the time The Black Keys came on stage at around 8:30 (it went from very warm during the day to chilly as soon as the sun went down), the field was packed with people. Speaking of people, Bottle Rock was an eclectic mix of young and old; hipsters and tree huggers – and, scores of “patients” who brought their medical marijuana to the festival. People watching was just as interesting as the bands themselves. Throughout the day we also managed to visit several (many, really…) winery booths, the shopping village and the local stage where an impressive local band, Buttercream Gang, was playing. Bottle Rock was a large event, but it had an intimate feel to it.

The food and drink choices were plentiful. Over 30 restaurants and eateries as well as over 40 wineries in the Napa Valley area took part to give concertgoers a wide array of eclectic menu options. The short-rib and arugula pizza we ate from Travigne was delicious, as were the sticky ribs from Morimoto, definitely several notches above typical festival choices. We expected as much as Chef Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill) was involved. A perimeter of tents was set up around the grounds to allow easy access to wine and beer; food was available in a dining area close by the three stages with plenty of picnic tables available and a video screen showing the main stage. Winery partner booths that we visited included Gloria Ferrer, Grgich Hills, Priest Ranch and Silver Oak. Prices for the food were reasonable but some of the wines by the (small) glass were exorbitant. Because of the warm weather during the day we ended up drinking more of the sparking and white selections. The reds were perfect when the temperature started going down, though.

All in all Bottle Rock Napa was a lot of fun, and a tremendous success for the town of Napa and the first time organizers. Bottle Rock Two is scheduled for the same time next year, so we’re seriously considering attending this amazing festival again. Our only knock, and it really is a minor one, was the parking situation. Next time we’ll take our private helicopter.

 

Tipsy Boar Gastropub, Hollywood, Florida

If you enjoy fine craft beer and bar food, you may want to check out the Tipsy Boar (1906 Harrison St., Hollywood, FL), the latest gastro pub experience that just opened in January 2013, and is located at the former Luce Italian restaurant site on Harrison Street.

However, be aware that even the best eateries go through growing pains. The Tipsy Boar is no exception.

The craft beer menu is stellar, with a whole host of choices from some of the finest craft beer makers in the industry. Mixed drinks and wine are also available, but our attention was focused on the beer and the food, of course. The food menu isn’t your typical “pub grub,” though The Tipsy Boar has burgers, sandwiches and pizza, in case you were wondering.

For appetizers, we ordered an arugula, apple and shaved parmesan cheese salad, which wouldn’t win any awards for presentation, but did have a good flavor, was lightly seasoned, but most importantly, the arugula itself wasn’t soggy from swimming in too much dressing.  We also tried the deviled eggs with jalapeno and bacon.  They were tasty but didn’t have any of the heat you would expect from the jalapeno.

Next we ordered short rib croquets, but received chicken balls instead – not a deal breaker. The chicken balls had a spicy Buffalo wing flavor and came with a small side of hot sauce, crumbled bleu cheese and celery. Again, not what we ordered but they were quite delicious.

For our main dish we ordered a duck confit, caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza which was very good. The crust was crispy on the outside and light in the middle. There was a good duck-to-cheese-to-onion ratio on top, which made for a complex, flavorful pizza. We definitely would order this again.

As good as the food was, we were a bit put off by the service. We were seated at our table promptly when we arrived, but didn’t receive napkins or silverware until we asked, which was nearly 15 minutes into the experience. Everything took a while to come out and the timing was off. As soon as we finished, our plates were literally whisked away to the point we started joking that they needed them for our next item. The manager stopped by and asked us how everything was and we expressed our concern about how long it took for the food to come out. He blamed it on the server not putting the order in the right way(?!) to ensure when we received our food, which one would assume would be the kitchen’s respsonsibility. Not totally deterred by how things went, we ordered one more round of drinks and then paid our check.

Our server, although pleasant, seemed a bit nervous, preoccupied even (maybe she was new to waiting tables). After taking our food and drinks orders, we hardly saw her. Two other servers delivered our food. She did return some time later to check on us and ask how the food was, which is when we told her about the chicken balls/croquets mix-up. She insisted we received the short rib croquettes which we knew was not the case. To make matters worse, as we were leaving we saw several daily specials posted on a menu board that were never presented to us.

We’re still on the fence about this place. We’d like to think we’ll give it one more shot and head back to the Tipsy Boar one of these days, but part of us thinks we may not – at least not until they get through the growing pains.

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