Category: Food

“Taste of Napa” Pairing Dinner, Ruth Chris Steakhouse March 14th, 2013

MenuIf you can’t make a trip to Napa Valley (but any wine enthusiast will tell you it’s practically mandatory), it is good to know there are local food and wine pairing events like the “Taste of Napa,” a five-course pairing dinner that took place at Ruth Chris Steak House, in Fort Lauderdale. It was the perfect opportunity to experience several Ruth’s Chris dishes paired with some top-notch Napa Valley wines, including Beringer Vineyards, Stags’ Leap Winery, Etude and St. Clement Vineyards. Local crooner Tony Martelli was also on hand for the event, entertaining everyone throughout the night with his soulful renditions of great American lounge music standards.Arugula Salad

After listening to a brief introduction from our host, we watched a short 10-minute video that highlighted all of the wineries involved in the event. Then, it was time to eat! The menu, by course—

  • First Course: Roasted Asparagus & Herbed Goat Cheese Arugula, mustard vinaigrette, kalamata olives, paired with Beringer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
    (The earthy tastes the goat cheese and saltiness of the kalamata olives contrasted nicely with the citrus notes of the Sauvignon Blanc.)
  • Second Course:  Snow Crab Bisque Spiked with brandy & chardonnay, garlic croutons, paired with St. Clement Napa Valley Chardonnay
    (The sweet and tangy bisque and the Chardonnay were an exceptional pairing – wish we could have had another bowl!)
  • Third Course: Warm Cremini Mushroom Tart Balsamic beurre blanc, spring vegetable chutney, paired with Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
    (The surprisingly strong oak and caramel notes of the Etude Pinot Noir never took away from the earthy flavor of the mushroom and the spiciness of the chutney.)Mushroom Tart
  • Fourth Course: Filet Mignon with Cabernet Onions served sizzling with butter and parsley, paired with Stags’ Leap Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 
Accompaniments included a creamed spinach with bleu cheese gratinée and Pecan crusted sweet potato casserole
    (This was, by far, our favorite dish of the night. Though there was a small mix-up when servers brought our steaks, it didn’t take away the fact that Ruth Chris offers amazing cuts of beef. Juicy and flavorful, the filets paired nicely with the bold, intensity of the Stags’ Leap Cab. The sides? We could have made a meal them and only them!)
  • Fifth Course: Cheesecake Brûlée Chewy gooey chocolate-walnut cookie, rhubarb compote, strawberry sauce, paired with Beringer Nightingale Semillon Sauvignon-Blanc
    (It would be nice to say we finished dessert and enjoyed every bite, but honestly, we didn’t. By the time dessert arrived we were stuffed, literally. That’s not to say we didn’t try. But after enjoying four amazing courses and the seemingly never-ending glasses of wine – dessert was an afterthought.)

The “Taste Of Napa” was one of the more enjoyable food and wine events we’ve attended in some time. Ruth Chris Steakhouse, whose reputation for fine dining goes without question, was the perfect forum to hold such an event. This was one of several events that Ruth Chris has planned for 2013, so if you have an opportunity to go, definitely do it.
Snow Crab Bisque   Cheesecake BruleeFilet Mignon

Garden To Glass Event at Miami Beach Botanical Garden Friday, February 22, 2013

Garden to GlassThe South Beach Wine & Food Festival may be all about wine and food, but there is something to be said about enjoying amazing mixed cocktails, especially when they’re served under the stars in one of the most beautiful and unique settings in South Florida, the Botanical Garden of Miami Beach. And so it was with the Garden To Glass event hosted by legendary chef Emeril Lagasse, along with the talented mixologists from Bar Lab and food provided by Chef Sam Gorenstein and South Beach’s My Ceviche. Miami Beach Botanical Garden

We arrived around 9:30 (the event started at 10 p.m.), found parking nearby and took our places in line outside the front gates. Walking in we noticed tables stocked with liquors, napkins, etc. all set up on the grass close to the sidewalks that wind through the gardens. One table seemed to have more traffic than the others. As we made our way closer, we knew why: People were there to catch a glimpse of Emeril Lagasse sitting at a small tiki-style hut with a bartender at a station to the right serving up cocktails. It was a crowded scene with semi-buzzed patrons all jockeying for position at Emeril’s table.  We managed to work our way in closer, meet Emeril, grab a cocktail and move on to the next station, leaving the chaos behind.

There were some cocktails we enjoyed, but considered them just average in terms of spirits, mixers, ingredients, etc. By that, I mean these were drinks you’d expect to find around town (and most likely, overpriced, depending on the establishment). On the other hand, Bar Lab’s cocktails were the hit of the night, as evidenced by the long lines and scores of return patrons (us included) at their bar. Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, the mad scientists of mixology and founders of Bar Lab, have built up quite the following in South Florida.  All of the six offerings were good but the Oaxacan Palate (blood orange, smoked ancho chili, coriander bitters w/Zignum Mezcal) was our favorite of the night. Bar Lab

One knock on this event was the lack of food. My Ceviche was a big part of the festivities, providing trays of various ceviche and light bites. They were hard to find and what samples they did offer were quickly snatched up by hungry, drunk patrons – oftentimes before the servers had a chance to move through the crowds. This was a disappointment, and we hope they’ll remedy this for future events. Oaxacan Palate

All in all we enjoyed Garden To Glass. A little more organization is needed to make this one of the more memorable events during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, but still, there could be worse ways to spend a Friday evening sipping cocktails amongst a lush tropical garden under a starry Miami night. The Gardens

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.

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

Lucky Rice Festival November 30, 2012 at Soho Beach House

Lucky Rice Festival

Lucky Rice

According to its website, the LUCKYRICE Festival can be best described as an “Epicurean cocktail feast on the beach” with “a spotlight on Asian-inspired tastings and cocktails from celebrated chefs and buzz-worthy bartenders.”

So, how could we not attend an event with “feast” and “buzz worthy” in the very same paragraph? Superlatives aside, did I mention all of this was taking place in Miami Beach? (FYI: The LUCKYRICE Festival is held in five key U.S. markets – New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and now Miami.)

Poolside Stations

Poolside Stations

We’ll be the first to admit that a food and cocktail event like this can be a pricey, stuffy and pretentious affair, especially in image-conscious place like South Beach – a town where appearances count for everything (and cost a lot to maintain). But much to our surprise, we thoroughly enjoyed LUCKYRICE. The staff, chefs and bartenders were all quite friendly and accommodating. It should be mentioned that The SoHo Beach House, in Miami Beach, made for an ideal event venue. Besides its impressive beauty, the hotel offered ample space and incredible aesthetics. There were several cocktail and food stations located poolside; a tiki bar, as well as a large food and drinking tent beachside in which to sip, sample and savor. It was a bit windy this night, but that didn’t create any issues for the chefs and bartenders.

We’re not ones for the spotlight, but an event like LUCKYRICE is a haven for foodies, bloggers and other media types. At one point as I reached for a food sample I found myself staring like a deer with the glare of a camera’s spotlight less than two feet from me. Turns out it was a local entertainment show. My 15 seconds of fame done with, we meandered from station to station, eating and drinking some truly delightful offerings. Everything was fresh and delicious. By 10:30 we could take no more, so it was time for us to say goodnight. And what a good night it was.

Thank you, LUCKYRICE and SoHo Beach House, for putting on such an amazing event.

Food Favorites:
Wonton  with Mochi Rice, Mushroom Duxelles, Shallots, Umami Sauce by Makoto
Marinated Pork Belly Skewers with Burmese Sticky Rice, Coriander, Fish Sauce by Khong River House
Smoky Mojo Pulled Pork Sandwich with Aji de Chicharron by Suser Lee
Nantucket Bay Scallops Ceviche with Celery Root and Black Garlic by Douglas Rodriguez
Happy Pancake with Smoked Tilefish, Okeechobee Shrimp, Fish Sauce Caramel and Herbs by Norman Van Aken

Drink Favorites:
The East Garden (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Honey, Fresh Yuzu, Herbs) by Elad Zvi of the Broken Shaker
Tequila & Vinegar (Corzo Reposado Tequila, Pineapple Vinegar with Ancho Chilies, Fresh Lime) also by Elad Zvi
The Killer Bee (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Fresh Pressed Lemon Juice, White Pepper Ginger Syrup) by William Rivas of the Khong River House
Butter Me Up Martini (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Butterscotch, Lemon, Ginger Air) by Ben Carlotto
Szechuan Basil Smash (Bombay London Dry Gin, Fresh Pressed Lemon, Szechuan, Peppercorn Syrup, Thai Basil) by Rick Nani of the Soho Beach House

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