Category: General

Fordham/Old Dominion Brewery Tour, Saturday, January 12, 2013

 

Fordham & Old Dominion Brewery

Fordham & Old Dominion Brewery

Next time you pop the cap off a bottle of craft beer, take a moment to reflect on what you’re about to enjoy. I don’t mean chant om or get “Deep Thoughts With Jack Handy” philosophical about it. Just pause for a moment and think of all the time and effort that went into creating that amazing quaff you have sitting majestically in front of you.

What types of grains and hops went into it? How long did it ferment? More importantly, who created this and where did it come from? Craft beer drinkers are curious creatures, by nature, so knowing what you’re drinking is very important. Of course, you can go on-line or read books to research any craft beer that interests you. It’s really amazing how much you can learn about a particular beer from start to finish. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live near a craft beer maker, you can take a brewery tour and see the process in person (and smell that tantalizing cooked cereal aroma that hits you when you walk inside). A long weekend visiting family in Dover, Delaware, provided us with this opportunity.

The Sparge

The Sparge

Having been to Dogfish previously, we decided to stay more local and take a tour of the Fordham and Old Dominion Brewing facility located on the outskirts of town. Fordham, located in Maryland, originated in 1703 (when England’s Queen Anne commissioned Benjamin Fordham to start a brewery in the port of Annapolis, Maryland) and re-born in 1995 in Annapolis. In 2003 the company decided to move their operations to tax-friendly Delaware. In 2007 Fordham bought out Virginia-based Old Dominion Brewing and has carved out a niche in the craft beer world, distributing their beers throughout the Northeast.

The brewery offers tours six days a week and beer tasting events every Saturday.  For just $5 you’re given a four-ounce tasting glass, five wooden tokens to redeem for beer samples in the tasting room, followed by a tour of the facility. At the end of the tour, you simply turn in your sampling glass and you’re rewarded with a free Fordham pint glass. Not bad for five bucks.

After sampling several beers, our tour guide, Lee (who resembles actor Zachary Levi, but shorter and with a beard), took the 25 or so of us through the inner workings of Fordham Brewing, showing us step by step, beginning to end, how beer is made. It’s fascinating to see the process take place. If you’re the ambitious type and have ever taken a stab at home brewing, then you’re familiar with the process: the mashing in of the grains, the primary and secondary boiling, the sparging, the fermentation and the bottling. It’s been said, “If you can make oatmeal you can make beer.” Now, take your kitchen-sized brewing operation (one- to five-gallon production, most commonly) and expand that by thousands of square feet; add in boiling tanks large enough to swim in; booster rocket-sized 50- and 100-barrel fermentation tanks, plus the requisite bottling, capping and packaging equipment – and you can see for yourself that’s a whole lot of oatmeal. The entire tour, from start to finish, took around 45 minutes. 

Touring a craft brewery like Fordham puts the whole beer-drinking thing into perspective. And I can honestly say you’ll never look at a bottle of beer quite the same.

Fordham-Old Dominion beers available on tap in the tasting room:

  • Helles Lager – 5.4% ABV,; Brewed with Pilsner, Carafoam, Vienna & Munich malts; Perle & Hallertau hops
  • Oak Barrel Aged Stout – 6.1% ABV; Willamette & Cascade Hops; Pairs well with oysters, clams, brie cheese & chocolate; Serve in a pint glass at 50-55ºF
  • Dominion Lager – 5.3% ABV; Pilsner, Munich & Caramunich malts; Pairs well with Fish, Pork & Poultry as well as Havarti, Swiss & Gouda cheeses; Serve in a pilsner or pint glass at 40-45ºF
  • Baltic Porter – 6.1% ABV; Willamette & Cascade Hops; Pairs well with oysters, clams, brie cheese & chocolate; Serve in a pint glass at 50-55ºF
  • Hop Mountain Pale Ale – 6.6% ABV; Nelson-Sauvin, Cascade & Columbus Hops; Pairs well with Pan Asian cuisine & Poultry; Serve in a dimple mug or pint glass at 50-55ºF
  • Rams Head IPA – 7.5% ABV; Hops: Bravo, Chinook and Motueka; Malts: Pale, Munich and Rye
  • Copperhead Ale – 5.2% ABV; Brewed with German Magnum, German select & German Tettnang hops combined with Caramunich malt.
  • Rosie Parks Oyster Stout – 6.8%  ABV; German Pilsner, Crystal & Dark Specialty malts; Pairs well with grilled meats, hearty stews & even chocolate; Serve in a mug, tulip glass or pint glass at 45-50ºF
  • Millenium Ale – 10.2% ABV; 2-Row Muntons Pale Malt & Hallertauer Mittelfrühfull hops; Pairs well with sharp cheeses and a variety of desserts; Serve in a snifter or pint glass at 50-55ºF

Our favorites were the Oak Barrel Stout and the Baltic Porter. Each boasts distinct coffee and chicory notes, plus hints of caramel and spice. One of Fordham’s small batch seasonal beers (and one of the most popular amongst local beer aficionados), the Scotch Ale, wasn’t available in the tasting room. Fortunately for us, the night before we enjoyed it on draft at a local eatery called Restaurant 55. Unfortunately, after two drafts the keg of delicious Scotch Ale kicked. Maybe next season.

d.b.a./cafe, Fort Lauderdale – Saturday, January 5, 2013

d.b.a./cafe

d.b.a./cafe

Restaurant ownership can be a fly-by-night industry. It’s “Here today, gone today” in many cases, with the most promising of chefs packing their knives and owners counting their losses.

So when we heard about d.b.a./café opening up in the location of two former restaurants, we were hopeful this new venture would work out since it was being helmed by Executive Chef Steve Zobel.

Oyster Stew

Oyster Stew

Formerly of East End Brasserie, located in the Atlantic Resort & Spa, Zobel’s food never disappointed.  His departure was evident the first time we dined at East End under a different chef and menu. Although we didn’t know that was the situation at the time, we all noticed that something was off.  Nothing we had that evening compared to what we had previously from Zobel’s kitchen.

He is doing things a little more down tempo with his all-new d.b.a./café. The restaurant is located between ABC Liquors and Dick’s Sporting Goods in a non-descript shopping center located on North Federal Highway in Ft. Lauderdale. The location was once home to Asahi City, a Thai cuisine and sushi restaurant. Then, when that folded, Café Jamm opened their doors.  We moderately enjoyed both but neither stood out among other restaurants in the area.

Their loss is d.b.a./café’s gain. It’s easy to walk past this non-descript location, but it would be a shame, because the food is outstanding. Inside it looks more Bohemian than five star, with unfinished wood plank tables; napkins that look more like dish towels and a laid-back staff  whose service was more off-the-cuff  than urbane, which we appreciated. There are bookshelves stocked with an odd array of paperbacks, toys (one in particular, a small plastic “device” looked more suited for an adult than a child, no comment)…plus we noticed several guitars hanging on the wall. If you didn’t smell the delicious food being prepared in the back you’d expect to see people with laptop computers hanging out, taking advantage of free Wi Fi and drinking coffee.

Apricot Glazed Duck Confit

Apricot Glazed Duck Confit

The menu is an eclectic blend of comfort food and haute cuisine. There are a number of appetizers and entrees to satisfy most palates: from chicken and seafood to hearty meat and pasta dishes. We decided on a bowl of oyster stew to start that was savory, delicious and most importantly, didn’t lack its star ingredient. The wine menu isn’t lacking either, offering a number of choices—depending on one’s taste and budget—in whites and reds, and even sparkling wine. We ordered the Y3 Red Blend from Napa Valley, which was quite drinkable and would pair well with our dinner choices. Strangely enough our original wine choice was out of stock, so the Y3, at about the same price, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Carnival Chicken

Carnival Chicken

Our entrees not only sounded delicious as described on the menu, they were nothing short of spectacular (note: entrée items are served half and full sizes; a nice option for those who like to order multiple small dishes to share).  The entrees our table chose included the apricot glazed duck confit served over an acorn squash crepe and brussel sprouts. The duck was cooked and seasoned to perfection. Another stellar choice was the “Carnival Chicken”, buttermilk-battered fried chicken and maple-glazed funnel cake (a whimsical take on fries chicken and waffles) which was flavorful and delicious. Next up were the braised short ribs, which came with a truffle potato puree and sautéed spinach. Our group’s short rib aficionado said it was one of the best he’s ever had. Lastly, but most certainly not least, was the pecan-crusted grouper with a buerre blanc, served over mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. The grouper was flaky and delicious, and the pecan crust gave it a nice crunch. The risotto was also well prepared.

All in all, d.b.a./café has all the ingredients to be a success. So, ditch the coat and tie, forget all the hard and fast rules regarding fine dining, and just enjoy it for what it should be known for: great food in a comfortable, laid-back setting.

Pecan Crusted GrouperBraised Short Ribs

Yellow Green Farmers Market

Yellow Green Farmers Market

Yellow Green Farmers Market

Having grown up in a rather rural environment, a place where it was not uncommon to see a stand in front of someone’s yard bearing fruits and vegetables from their garden (with an honor system for paying), I jump at the chance to check out advertised “farmers markets.”   I usually drag my friend or significant other on these escapades.  The day usually ends with some degree of disappointment at the reality that the “markets” offer nothing unique, but are more glorified flea markets.  I am okay with this, as long as it is billed as such.

Front of Market

Front of Market

This particular Saturday, I convinced my friend that we needed to check out the Yellow Green Farmers Market.  I had seen the advertisements, visited the website and felt fairly confident that it would be as advertised—a little bit of kitsch, vendors selling their wares and farmers market, all built into one.  We finally found the somewhat hidden drive to to the market. As we approached the building with cow statues and wagons in front, I did a little happy dance!

Fruit & Vegetable Stand

Fruit & Vegetable Stand

We parked, headed inside and began walking through the warehouse-size building. As we ventured down the aisles, vendors were happy to share samples with us and information about their offerings.  We encountered everything from speciality teas, breads and olives, to dried and fresh fruits, vegetables, sausages, plants, herbs, pottery, jewelry and clothing.  With so much to see, smell and taste, we ended up doing a circuit of the market, deciding what we were going to buy and picking up a complimentary market bag to hold it all.  Going back through the market we met up with several characters that seemed natural in this quirky market.

After filling our bags and heading back home we vowed that this would not be our last visit to this charming market!

    

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.

 

Sugarcane, Miami—April 28, 2012

In the “here today, gone tomorrow” world of South Florida eateries it’s easy to adopt a jaded attitude toward the maverick chef who dips his toe into the cold, unknown waters of self-ownership – only to see it go bust in less than a year, or even a few months.

Tim Balloo, executive chef, along with the developers behind Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill (creators of Sushi Samba), not only had the ambition to establish a tapas/small plate style restaurant in Miami, they’ve seen their brainchild grow into one of the most popular award-winning establishments around. And with good reason: Sugarcane’s décor and ambiance are chic and hip, but the food and drinks are the real stars.

Beef Tartare

Beef Tartare

But as successful as Sugarcane is, a laid-back eatery of this type could easily morph into “the place”—a hodgepodge of Ed Hardy T-shirted, Axe Body Spray-saturated tools sipping on martinis, checking out the eye candy – you know, the type of place you tend to swear off forever.

Not Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. This trendy, hip eatery clustered in Miami’s Midtown area has maintained its cool vibe, never compromising its menu to appeal to the latest gastronomic fads or flavor-of-the-month in the culinary world. They have stayed loyal to what works, creating  small plate items that are the talk of the town.

Scallop Crudo

Scallop Crudo

This particular evening Saturday we were joined by our friends Hugo, his wife Dolly, along with Joel and his wife Analena. Hugo was celebrating a belated birthday and was anxious to try Sugarcane.

Keep in mind that Sugarcane gets crowded on the weekends. This Saturday was no exception. We were seated outside in a long picnic-style wooden table that sat under a large awning. There was a threat of rain (which we experienced later in the night), and it was windy, but this didn’t deter us from enjoying a beautiful South Florida evening.

To get things started we ordered from Sugarcane’s drink menu, which has enough choices to satisfy everyone, from the casual to the more sophisticated drinker. Our choices included the Rum Sazerac (amazingly strong but smooth), Mojitos,  a Blackberry Toast (bourbon & blackberries) and the Hemingway (Zafra 21 year Panama rum, lime juice and egg whites) all of which were enjoyed. It was a bit of a wait for the drinks given how crowded the restaurant was inside and out, but they were well worth it.

Duck & Waffles

Duck & Waffles

When it was time to order plates our server suggested ordering a few plates at a time rather than all at once. Logistically this is a good idea since it would be a nightmare for any server to carry dozens of small plates at a time to a table, plus it gives patrons a chance to savor each delicious item, then order more if desired.

Among the standout items:

  • Steak Tartare (topped with a raw quail egg)
  • Scallop Crudo (apple, black truffle, lime and jalapeno)
  • Goat Cheese Croquettes
  • Duck & Waffles (served with maple syrup and topped with a fried duck egg)
  • Pork Belly (prepared over a Robata Grill, served with mustard seed slaw

From our table on the patio we watched amazed as Sugarcane had a steady stream of patrons coming in up until the time we left, which was about 11:30pm.  One thing of note is as crowded as Sugarcane was, we never felt rushed to finish.  Our server was extremely accommodating and friendly.  There was a delay between some of our courses, but we attributed that to the kitchen rather than the server.  It was a beautiful night in Miami and no one, including us, was in a rush for the evening to end.

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