Category: Food

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.

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.

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.

13 Even Wilton Manors

According to the superstitious (i.e. neurotic), 13 can be an unlucky number. For the owners of 13 Even located in Wilton Manors, it is anything but unlucky.

In fact, most nights if you’re lucky enough to drive down Wilton Drive and pass by 13 Even there’s a good chance you’ll see most, if not every one of its tables and bar, filled with eager patrons enjoying a glass of wine amongst friends; a fine craft beer; one of 13 Even’s signature small plate dishes – or a combination of all the above.

It is not a large establishment. And that’s a good thing. Where many gastro pub/bistro wine and beer bars can be noisy affairs, 13 Even is a little haven away from the hustle and bustle.  Nestled quietly among other small shops, at the far end of Wilton Drive, 13 Even sits waiting to be discovered.  

Having opened less than six months ago, we were both eager to try it out after checking out their fairly extensive wine, beer and food menu on-line.  The first time we went to 13 Even was during a late-afternoon, early evening walk into Wilton Manors.  We were only planning on have a glass of wine but temptation overruled and we decided to share the pork belly and watermelon salad followed by the BBQ chicken, gouda and jalapeno flatbread.  We were hooked at first bite.  The pork belly melted in our mouths and the flatbread, although lacking the expected spice from the jalapeno, was also quite good.

On our next visit, after perusing over the menu we finally decided on the patatas bravas (roasted potatoes in a spicy red sauce topped with a sunny side up quail egg) and the chicken empanadas.  We could have had several of the garlicky, spicy patatas bravas – and for a moment considered licking the bowl clean of the sauce. The empanadas were light and flaky on the outside and savory within.

13 Even is a friendly, charming place with something to satisfy every palate. Whether you’re in the mood for a red or white wine, maybe something a little sparkly, or if you’re looking for a good craft beer, chances are you’ll find just what you’re looking for on the menu. The prices are reasonable; the staff is friendly and will treat you like you’re a regular, even if you are a “newbie.” Oh, and if you’re dropping in to have a drink, chances are you’ll be justifying having a second one.

 

 

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.

 

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