Category: Beer

New Times Pairings Event, Thursday, September 15, 2011 Broward Center for the Performing Arts

VIP Pairings Lounge

"VIP" Pairings Lounge

Septembers in South Florida can be brutal. High temperatures and humidity levels prevail, leaving everyone wondering when we’ll get a welcome relief from it all. September also means it’s time once again for the New Times Pairings, an annual wine and food extravaganza held at the Broward Center For The Performing Arts, in Fort Lauderdale.

View from the Top

View from the Balcony

We did our homework, as usual, gathering a wine barrel’s worth of information on the wide variety of wines, food, etc. available during the event, most notably in the V.I.P. section, which always boasts some incredible high-end vintners (presented by Wine Watch) and amazingly delectable food.

However, that said, the 2011 version of the V.I.P. section, which was located in a different area from last year, felt less top end and more like “V.I. Paid For This”? It wasn’t bad, per se, it’s just that in our minds it didn’t merit the cost ($75 per ticket) to get a one-hour head start on the general admission folks to eat, drink and rub elbows with the Real Housewives of Broward County, cougars and a few middle-aged hipsters. Sure, we sampled an impressive array of high-end wines and nibbled on some delicious food, but overall we were under whelmed. On a negative note: there was a gentleman serving wine at one of the tables who felt texting on his phone superceded his actual job, which was to serve pours of wine and answer questions, if needed. Several people remarked on his lack of professionalism.



In spite of the V.I.P. area let down, this year’s Pairings was a lot of fun. Meandering past the food and wine stands throughout the night (too many to sample), it seemed less crowded and there was a more relaxed vibe to the event. Trash piling up was a problem in certain areas, and that’s to be expected to an extent, but it was especially prevalent in the V.I.P. area where there were fewer tables to bus.  At several times during the night we noticed people putting plates on tables when there was a trash can nearby.   Really?!  You couldn’t walk the few feet to the trash can?  We also chatted with our craft beer expert friends Blake and Ryan, who, per usual, were quite generous with their pours.



It’s impossible to list everything we tasted, but among the stand-outs in the VIP area:

2009 Roessler Blue Jay Pinot Noir Anderson Valley $36
2009 Roessler Pinot Noir Laurellwood Willamette Valley $36
2006 Vinoce Cabernet Franc Blend Mount Veeder  $58
2007 Vinoce Cabernet Franc Blend Mount Veeder $58
2008 Vinoce Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder $58
Green Range Farms Florida Wagyu Ribeye/ Truffle Creamed Corn/ Bordelaise Sauce – Melted in the mouth with a creamy lushness.



Among the stand-outs in the general admission area:

SAIA: Scallop  & Victory Prima Pils
Profiteroles with Lavender Honey & Parlay “the Bookmaker”  $25
Sette Bello: Escarole & Sensorium Syrah/Grenache/Marsanne/Viognier Blend 2008  $30
Casa D’Angelo: Roasted Veal Risotto Timbale & Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino 2005  $40
3030 Ocean:
Pumpkin Soup w/Pumpkin Ale
Bhudda Sky Bar:
Vinoce Sauvignon Bland Napa 2010 $22
PL8: Shrimp Bruschetta 2009 Hahn Pinot Noir Monterey  $12
Rok:Brgr: Lobster corn dogs & Ayinger
Bravo Ristorante: Pollo Scarpariello   Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2006 $31
New River: Spellbound Petite Sirah Reserve $49
Kilwins Las Olas: Dow 10-Year Tawny Port $33

Once again, Pairings didn’t disappoint. The wine and food were plentiful, the atmosphere friendly. We’ll be back next year, to be sure, though we may just have to forgo the extra expense of the V.I.P. treatment. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Cirque Eloize ID at the Adrienne Arsht Center & Haven Nightclub Saturday, September 3

Cirque Eloize IDCIRQUE ELOIZE Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami 

“The valet is closed. They’re not parking any more cars,” a rain-soaked man told us Saturday evening as we were 10 minutes late for the 8 p.m. start of the Cirque Eloize show at the Adrienne Arsht Center, in Miami. Life may be about the journey, not the destination – but try telling that to anxious ticket holders like us who drove all the way from Fort Lauderdale in a blinding squall (at night, mind you), and who just waited 20 minutes in the Valet line and want their damn car parked to the tune of $25 so they have an opportunity to see one of the more unique Cirque du Soleil shows to come along in some time. 

Luckily, the rain slowed enough that we were able to park the car, scamper across the stree and make our way to the entrance. The show had already started at that point, so the usher waited for a break in the action to put us in seats that far exceeded what we had purchased. 

Cirque Eloize is the younger, hipper cousin to the Cirque family of shows, which are a fusion of operatic drama mixed with amazing acrobatics. The website calls it “a spectacular, mind-blowing fusion of new theatrical circus and urban dance.” Less dramatic and light on the visuals, Eloize is the story of a typical day in the life of a large metropolitan city, see through the eyes (and actions) of its street goers. Eloize’s story is told through a playful mix of choreographed dance routines interspersed with awe-inspiring feats of acrobatic prowess – all set to a thunderous soundtrack of break beats, hip hop and EBM. Several of the slower routines were in the vein of the Cirque drama, but were a welcome segue to the more up-tempo numbers. Overall, we were very impressed with Cirque Eloize. 

HAVEN NIGHTCLUB Lincoln Road, South Beach—

Pop Drop Cocktail

Pop Drop Cocktail

The opening of a new nightclub in South Beach is akin to a Sarah Palin verbal gaffe. It’s not much in the way of news. Interesting, perhaps – but not enough to pique your interest in an earth-shattering way. 

So, after the Cirque Eloize show Saturday we decided to head over to SoBe’s newest night spot, Haven. Located just north of most of the retail stores and restaurants on Lincoln Road, Haven is a welcome addition to the plethora of South Beach late-night venues. There was a doorman at the front of the establishment, which didn’t bode well at first (I thought he looked like a “yacht club cocktail party casual” ESPN sports anchor Scott Van Pelt, in his white pants and navy blue blazer). He asked us if we had reservations, which we did not. Inside I spoke to a young girl who said we could grab a table if, and only if, we were out of the place in two hours (apparently Haven’s tables are a premium as the South Beach nights heat up).

Slider & Tots

Slider & Tots

Our feeling was this was going to be a colossal time suck, but we ventured in and were seated. Besides the usual good-looking patrons, we were quick to notice the incredible (and elaborate) light and sound system inside the club. A DJ stationed in the back was spinning a sultry mix of down tempo house and trip hop music as people noshed on tapas-styled appetizers and mixed drinks. Haven bills itself as a “digital intimate Hi-Fi lounge serving fresh organic small plates and innovative cocktails.” For drinks, Mitch and Jen both ordered the Elevate, a delightful blend of pineapple-sage infused partida silver, lime and agave nectar. Kim ordered the Pop Drop, a complex, cold martini comprised of Tito’s handmade vodka and cucumber juice, garnished with a playful basil popsicle. Both drinks were incredible. I settled for a Brooklyn Lager. For food, we decided on the XL slider lamburger, which is topped with lavender-coriander honey, apple-fennel slaw and ouzo mustard; the XL Prime Beef slider, with neuskes bacon, guacamole, tomato and Vermont cheddar cheese melted on top. We also shared two orders of tater tots, topped with Maytag bleu cheese, chives and balsamic ketchup. Overall, the food and drinks were quite good, though a bit pricey, which is what you come to expect in South Beach nightclubs. The staff was friendly and accommodating – and at no point did we feel rushed or uncomfortable in our surroundings. Haven is a welcome addition to the South Beach scene, with great drinks, delicious food – all without the attitude.

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


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!


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!

Beer –n-Bites 10 “Bee” My Valentine

Beer My Valentine

Beer My Valentine

Hostess Melanie’s delicious pairing event (her last at Crown Wine & Spirits, by the way) may have taken place three days after Valentine’s Day, but there was plenty of sweet love (of beer and food) in the air as more than 25 beer aficionados sat down to enjoy some remarkable craft brews and homemade food at Crown Wine & Spirits, in Fort Lauderdale.

In keeping with the sweet theme of the event, Melanie chose several honey-based beers to pair with her food items. Don’t let the honey beer connotation turn you off; honey can impart a totally unexpected flavor profile that can surprise and delight, if you let it.   Melanie provided us with a flier with tasting notes and recipes for the evening and we began the tasting!

Sunshine Nectar

Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar

Our first beer/food pairing was the Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar (8% ABV) which was something we hadn’t tried before.  This particular quaff is a melomel, a mead that contains any type of fruit. It was extremely light in in color and was slightly tart, courtesy of the apricots it was infused with.  Thankfully it did not have the extreme sweet we had experienced with other Meads.  Melanie paired the Redstone with a goat cheese, apricot jam and a toast point. The contrasting taste of the cheese and beer melded quite well on our palates.

Midas Touch

Midas Touch with Thai Avocado Shrimp Salad

Next came the Dogfish Head Midas Touch (9% ABV), always a favorite of ours, an unusual brew created from an ancient Turkish recipe allegedly found in the tomb of King Midas. Its unusual blend provides lots of layers and complexity.  It provided a nice balance to the Thai avocado and shrimp salad with its fresh lime juice and sweet chili sauce.

Brooklyn 'Local 2'

Brooklyn Local 2 paired with a Mushroom Ragout

Our next beer was the Brooklyn Brewery Local 2 (9% ABV), an ale that has notes of honeyed dark fruits, citrus and spices. It was slightly hoppy, but the aforementioned mix of sweet ingredients balanced out the tart notes of the hops. The Brooklyn paired really well with the delicious ragout of wild mushrooms Melanie prepared.  We could have eaten several bowls (with several beers, of course)!

Next, we moved onto the Dupont Biere de Miel (8% ABV), another new try for us, a classic Belgian-style brew that had hints of earth, herbs and white pepper, all mellowed by its subtle honey notes. I am not a huge fan of the Belgian style beers, but this one in particular changed my opinion immensely.

Dupont Biere de Miel

Dupont Biere de Miel paired with a Potato & Raclette Pizza

As a special treat (not mentioned in the flier we received at the beginning of the pairing) Melanie offered up a taste of Bell’s Hop Slam, the Holy Grail of honey-based beers, and easily one of the most amazingly complex IPA’s you will ever taste. It is brewed but once a year and released in small quantities across the U.S. Because of its cult-like following, it fetches nearly $20 a six-pack at liquor purveyors who are lucky enough to have it, but it is worth every penny. Melanie served up delicious coconut and passion fruit bars that accentuated the complex notes of the Hop Slam. After the event Melanie let us all purchase one bottle each of the Hop Slam, and we were all grateful to her for her generosity.



It is sad that this was Melanie’s last Beer –n- Bites at Crown, but she told us she would back with more pairing events at her new place of employ, Whole Foods Market, in Fort Lauderdale, where she will take over the beer-buying duties at this location. Thanks, Melanie, for some incredible beers and unbelievably tasty foods. 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.

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