Category: General

Beer Reviews: Napa Smith Lost Dog Red Ale & Twisted Pine Hoppy Boy IPA

NAPA SMITH LOST DOG RED ALE

Kim and I saw the Napa Smith Lost Dog Red Ale (Napa Smith Brewery, Napa, California) on tap at a Boca Raton eatery last month, and we were both intrigued by the name and its point of origin, which begs the question: Can a good craft beer come out of the Mecca of American wine production? Yes, it can. The Lost Dog is smooth drinking ale with hints of caramel followed by a sweet, hoppy finish. With an ABV of 7.2%, the Lost Dog is mellow, easy to drink, and paired well with the artisanal grilled cheese sandwich and fries we shared. Find this Lost Dog, if you can – it’s a good companion that begs to be enjoyed and won’t wake the neighbors. Cheers!

TWISTED PINE HOPPY BOY IPA

I stumbled upon the Twisted Pine Hoppy Boy IPA (Twisted Pine Brewing Company, Boulder, Colorado) at Total Wine & Spirits recently and had to buy a six-pack based on the name alone. I enjoy IPAs greatly, so when I saw the cascade hops on the label and read its description, a purchase was in order. It didn’t disappoint, hop heads. If you like the tart, pungent bite of an IPA—start to finish—the Hoppy Boy is one beer you should make your friend. Colorado is quickly becoming the epicenter of craft brewing, shedding its Coors-or-nothing image in favor of finely made beers of all varieties. The Hoppy Boy is fine on its own, but would pair well with any spicy food, pungent cheese or even a bag of your favorite kettle-cooked chips. If you like a flavorful beer drinking experience, the Hoppy Boy will make the most ardent IPA lover happy. Cheers!

Jupiter Craft Beer Festival

Jupiter Craft Beer Festival

Jupiter Craft Beer Festival at Roger Dean Stadium

Brew it and they shall come…

Every hop head in South Florida (and even parts elsewhere) circle it on their calendars, etch in their Stone Pale Ale, then commit it to memory and save the date: the annual Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival, which takes place at Roger Dean Baseball Stadium, in Jupiter, Florida.

We Wanderlushes piled into our vehicle and made the hour-long trek to this grand tasting event, which attracts thousands of beer aficionados, craft brewers and the beer curious alike.

The weather was perfect this particular Saturday, with highs in the low 70s, sunny blue skies and a light breeze—perfect for beer drinking. Learning from the previous year’s festival we all decided we would pace ourselves accordingly and limit our alcohol intake, drink plenty of water, eat some food and…oh well, that’s all great in theory until you see the galaxy of beer choices staring you in the face.  We were issued badges and small 8-ounce plastic sampling steins, and then it was drinking time!

Terrapin Booth

Terrapin Booth

The beer stands were well laid out and accessible, though standing in line creates traffic jams with tipsy patrons meandering their way through the throngs of people anxiously awaiting their chance to sip and savor. Patience may be a virtue, but at an event like this it’s an absolute necessity. Alcohol, besides its mood-altering properties, also helps you maintain equilibrium with the environment. After a few hours of tasting you realize through half-closed, bloodshot eyes it’s not you who is teetering and tottering, it’s everyone else…and maybe the earth has fallen on its axis.

Our new Wanderlushes-in-training, Joel and Anelena, also came to the festival. In addition, we saw some other familiar faces at the event. Our friends in the “beer biz,” Blake, Ryan and Melanie, were all in attendance as well. We took a moment to chat with them and compare tasting notes. Like fine wine, everyone has a particular favorite style of beer (I prefer IPA’s because of their citrus-like hoppy tart taste and pronounced finish). After half an hour of tasting we decide to get some grilled sausage sandwiches to help offset the lingering effects of the beer, many of which hover at or above 10 percent ABV. This isn’t a place where the Coors Light/Schlitz chug-a-lug drinker can get away with the usual ball game 12-pack lazy Sunday and expect to save face.

Funky Buddha Booth

Crowd in front of Funky Buddha Booth

Some of the beers of note:

  • Inlet Brewing Monk IPA
  • Terrapin Rye Pale Ale
  • Southern Tier Mocha Java Stout (very, very good)
  • Funky Buddha Ginger Lemongrass Wheat & Maple Bacon Porter
  • Blue Point Hoptical Illusion & Rastafa Rye Ale
  • Bold City Cask Rosemary Mad Manatee IPA
  • Dogfish Head 60-Minute served through a Randall Hops filter (unique and zesty, to say the least)
  • Brooklyn Brewing Local #2
  • Cigar City Asian Saison & Vuja De (Collaboration with Saint Somewhere – made with hibiscus, cane sugar and elderberry flowers)
  • Left Hand Brewing Wake Up Dead
  • Stone Cali Belgique (excellent melding of Belgian and IPA brews)
  • Saint Somewhere Anne
  • Holy Mackerel Panic Attack (a strong favorite)
  • Big Bear Brewing (Coral Springs) Decade Double IPA & Dopplebock

After nearly four hours of tasting our way through the world of craft beers (or a small territory of it) we decided to head back home. We did stop in Lake Worth to enjoy some Mexican food at a famed local eatery Havana Hideout where we all ordered a small feast of tasty tacos, chips and salsa and empanadas. By the time we all made it back to Fort Lauderdale we knew our day was finished. But it was a good way to end an enjoyable Saturday of sipping and savoring some of the best craft brew this nation has to offer.

“The Art Of Wine & Food Tasting Series: Wines That Go Both Ways”—Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, August 26, 2010

Art of Wine & Food

Art of Wine & Food

If wine can be considered an art form, then it makes perfect sense that the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale would play host to an event billed as “The Art Of Wine & Food Tasting Series: Wines That Go Both Ways.”   This is an ongoing monthly event with this particular one focusing on wines that transition from the summer to fall.   The tasting/pairing event offers patrons the opportunity to sample wine and food in an austere environment like MOA Fort Lauderdale.

Host Stephanie Miskew, a South Florida food and wine blogger, offered three wines to pair with delicious food prepared by local chef John Paul Kline. The 50 or so in attendance began the night with a 2008 Morgan “Metallico” (not the heavy metal band’s own private stock) un-oaked Chardonnay, paired with a deconstructed lobster bisque. The Morgan is comparable to a French Chablis (according to the wine maker) and is a lighter Chard than

Deconstructed Lobster Bisque

Deconstructed Lobster Bisque

a lot of the notorious “butter bombs” that have become a staple of California Chards. There were hints of floral, grassiness on the nose; the taste, crisp and aromatic, with noticeable green apple and pear on the palate. The lobster bisque was sweet and spicy, and proved to be a nice accompaniment to the light, un-oaked Chardonnay.

The next wine on the menu was a 2007 Benziger “Sangiacomo Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay, paired with a green apple chicken curry and tomato eggplant chutney. The Benziger had a sweet aroma, with some pineapple notes and a hint of citrus. It was a sharp contrast to the Morgan Chard, though given our food pairing, the Benziger paired remarkably well with the spicy sweet curry in the chicken and chutney. Though I preferred the Morgan in terms of taste, the Benziger was a good choice for this particular food item. It

Green Apple Chicken Curry w/Eggplant Chutney

should be noted that between pairings, one of the hosts made his way through the tables offering patrons additional pours of each wine sampled, though despite our best efforts to get his attention, extra pours never came. Damn.

Our final wine sampling of the night was the 2006 Bearboat Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, paired with a chilled duck crostini with mushroom duxelles and black plum. The Russian River Valley produces some incredible Chardonnays, and given its cool climate and favorable terroir, is also the perfect location for growing Pinot Noir grapes. The Bearboat had strong hints of blackberry, cassis and dark cherries. The taste was clean and elegant, slightly more tannic than some Pinot Noirs we’ve tasted, but finished with a velvet feel on the tongue. This is a great Pinot Noir value ($22 retail) that should not be

Duck Crostini

Duck Crostini w/Mushroom Duxelle

overlooked. The crostini, with a generous slice of duck and topped with mushrooms duxelle, was by far the best appetizer of the three we sampled that night, and paired very well with the Bearboat Pinot Noir.

Overall we were pleased with the event, though for the $30 per person charge I feel like there should have been one or two more wine and food pairings, though it didn’t tarnish the event in any way. Still, a few extra wine pours would have been nice.

Mojo Restaurant, Ft. Lauderdale

A few months back we noticed a sign announcing the coming of a new restaurant in late summer.  After doing a little research we found the website and local restaurant news about Mojo that piqued our interest and we made a plan to try it out.  Described as “New American Eclectic cuisine,” Mojo is the latest incarnation of eateries to open at this location, which include the former George and Dragon Pub, 4140 and Jeff’s Beach House Grill…just to name a few.

Pulling into the parking lot we noticed only a few cars in the parking lot, though this may have been due to the inclement weather in our area that night. We walked in and were sat immediately. I appreciate getting a table right away just as much as anyone…but was this a good sign? Mojo’s décor is bright and cheerful (white walls, white furniture, a far cry from the brooding wood and brass we remember from the George & Dragon Pub), sporting an elegant beach resort motif – a carryover from the previous tenant. This may all change as Mojo gains popularity amongst Fort Lauderdale foodies, but only time will tell. We ordered the Tuna Tartare and wontons appetizer for the table. It was a generous portion served charmingly in a martini glass. Our server was quite accommodating and brought out three more wontons when asked. Speaking of service, although very enthusiastic, our server was obviously new and there were a few missteps for this level of dining.  For drinks our server suggested a pitcher of house Sangria, which was fruity and delicious. Mojo’s drink menu features interesting martinis, several domestic and imported beers, as well as a wine list featuring an eclectic mix of Old World and New World reds and whites. After sangria I ordered a glass of the 2009 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand), which was crisp and refreshing and proved to be a great pairing with my entrée.

We each ordered different entrees in which to sample and taste. I had the free range “Mili,” which is a panko and parmesan crusted chicken breast pan seared and served with chimichurri sauce and an arugula salad. It was delicious, and the portion size was perfect. Another in our party had the jumbo lump crab cakes. The seasoning and preparation brought out the flavors of the crabmeat, unlike many restaurants that simply over-season to mask the taste of inferior crabmeat. The only disappointment in the night was the scallop appetizer special.  The scallops were nicely prepared and served in a light watermelon broth.  However, they were on the cool side by the time we received them and the broth seemed to overwhelm the scallops.  It wasn’t bad, just not as stellar as everything else we had that evening.  The other annoyance of the night was the Mojo house salad with the addition of shrimp for an extra $6.  The salad arrived and only included three shrimp (we later learned the chef will prepare as many shrimp as you’d like, but additional shrimp would raise the price of the salad). We all enjoyed what was perhaps the best entrée of the night: the pan roasted duck breast, which was served medium rare (per the chef’s recommendation) and came with sautéed red sauerkraut and apples, cauliflower – goat cheese puree and raspberry butter. After dinner our server suggested some positively decadent dessert choices, but, with all of us well sated from a delicious dinner, we simply didn’t have room. Maybe next time. And there will be a next time. Mojo is a delightful restaurant, and with the onset of fall and winter (i.e. tourist season), opened at just the right time to enjoy what they hope to be an infusion of new customers seeking a great meal. Though, looking back, we all didn’t mind walking in that evening and getting sat immediately.

Mojo Restaurant
4140 N. Federal Hwy.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
(954) 568-4443

http://www.mojofl.com

Beer & Cheeeez with Friends

Chaumes with Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Jam

Chaumes with Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Jam

We tend to burn the candle at both ends in our never-ending journey to see, drink, taste and savor all the delights the world has to offer.  But every now and then we downshift to take time to appreciate good food, drink and friends.  A few Saturdays ago we did just that.

A little bit of background first.   We had attended the SOBE Food & Wine festival and received a flyer about a contest Ile de Franceon the Ile De France Cheese website.  We entered and gave another entry to our good friends.    They received a phone call several weeks later that they had won a cheese platter!  We were all expecting a small amount of cheese to share between the four of us.   We were wrong!  The package arrived and there were gigantic slabs of cheese enough for a small army.   What to do in order to not waste all of this amazing cheese?   The plan developed for a “Beer and Cheeeez Party”  with everyone coming up with recipes incorporating the cheese which we would pair with beer and Richard Cheese tunes.  This was the final menu:

St. Agur Blue on Crackers Drizzled with Honey

– St. Agur Blue Cheese drizzled with Cheese Honey on a Table Cracker 
– Cremier de Chaumes on toast points with Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Jam
– Mediterranean Pizza with Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts
– Pizza with Peppers and Caprice des Dieux
– Deconstructed Blue St. Agur Blue Cheese Burgers 

We started the evening with the cheese and crackers paired with a North Coast Le Merle Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale.   Next up were the mini pizzas.  

The Pizza Selections

 There were three choices of pizza on the menu this evening, including an amazing goat cheese, artichoke and sun-dried tomato pie.  It paired quite well with the Flying Dog Raging Bitch on draft.   As if that wasn’t enough, the grill was fired up for the next stage of our gluttony: mini burgers deconstructed and topped with bleu cheese and served on a puff pastry paired with Stone Smoked Porter.    My mouth is watering as I’m typing these words, so you can only imagine how good they tasted as they came sizzling hot off the grill.   

Stone Smoked Porter & Blue Cheese Burgers

With a continually filled plate in one hand and a beer in the other, it’s safe to say we all enjoyed the offerings.   After stuffing ourselves, we retired outside to listen to some music and talk. The weather was perfect: not too hot or cold, with a gentle breeze that kept the tiki torches flickering.

It’s always nice to slow down every once in a while and appreciate what we Wanderlushes have: good food, good spirits…and most of all, great friends to share them with.

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