Category: Festivals

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.

New Times Pairings September 16, 2010

New Times Pairings Sep 2010

New Times Pairings Sep 2010

There are three to four major food and wine events that we mark on our calendar every year. We circle it in red, program it into our phones and make a mental note not to forget. The New Times Pairings event at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in September is one of these can’t miss events.

Now, despite what you may have read, or heard—or both—many of you devoted readers of this blog have some serious questions about the New Times Pairings event that need answering. We aim to inform, educate and entertain in this blog, when possible, and sometimes all three, if we’re lucky. The most common questions people have about an event like Pairings are: 1) Is there a lot of food and wine to sample? 2) Is it that good? 3) NT Pairings View from LoungeWill they run out of any food and/or beverage before I’ve had a chance to sample it? The answers to these questions are, 1) “Yup,” 2) “Hell yeah,” and 3) “Are you serious?” Pairings is all about over-the-top, too-much-is-never-enough eating and drinking, though most people pace themselves in order to squeeze in as much as possible during the night. Good luck with that. With over 30 local restaurants offering food and scads of wine, beer and spirits available, you’d do well to pick and choose what strikes your fancy and not try to taste everything on the sampling menu—though it would be tempting to try.

For the first time ever, Kim and I decided to splurge and buy VIP tickets to this year’s event. Though the $75 per person cost was a bit steep, and it may seem so, especially to the casual gourmand—it was well worth it. VIP attendees

Mushroom Ravioli from Sublime

Mushroom Ravioli from Sublime

were offered access to the event one hour prior to the general admission ticket holders. Nice. Next, VIP members enjoyed mezzanine level access to some of the higher end wines and beverages, as well as several private cooking demonstrations. Very nice, indeed. Kim and I had a chance to talk to Andrew Lampasone, owner and proprietor of  Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale, and he told us that the better wines we’d be taste this evening were VIP only, so drink up before heading downstairs to the general population. Damn, that sounded pretentious as hell, but when you pay VIP prices you expect VIP wine and VIP food, and that’s no L-I-E.

Among the whites in the VIP area worth noting: the Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Alsace 2008, which was sweet, but not cloyingly sweet; the Chimney Rock Elevage Blanc Napa 2007; the Cuvaison Chardonnay Carneros 2008, which was the least memorable of the whites, though is still a far superior Chard that you will find for just $18 a bottle.

Among the reds, the Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon Chicken Ranch Napa 2007 was quite remarkable, with hints of oaky vanilla and light tannins; and the 2008 Luca Malbec stood out as well, though its $32.50 bottle price may scare away even the most adventurous red drinkers. Perhaps the highlight of the VIP reds that night was the Domaine Serene ‘Evenstad Reserve’ Pinot Noir, a light-bodied Pinot with a complex flavor profile and strong hints of ripe cherry.

Once the trough went dry upstairs, which is no surprise given people’s propensity for getting their money’s worth, Kim

Solita Meatball & Ravioli

Solita Meatball & Ravioli

and I decided to make our way downstairs to join the crowds, who by now were well into the event and getting happy. We have to mention that more often than not these events can get a little chippy. Some folks who literally try to eat and drink their money’s worth forget all about manners and common courtesy and turn into loud, drunken morons. Oh, and some of them forget the proper way to approach a booth or table and plow their way into the front like a fullback on fourth down and one. But there was none of that rude behavior at this year’s event…everyone seemed relaxed and fully enjoying partaking in all of the food and spirits (literally). The former can spoil any event; the latter makes it fun and enjoyable.

There were some outstanding food samples worth noting: the chilled cucumber mint soup with spicy shrimp from 3030 Ocean; Chef Allens mango roasted pork loin with macadamia rice; the beef short rib Shu Mai with Taleggio and balsamic mini cheese tarts with fig from Georgi’s Alibi was nothing short of amazing; the Hong Kong City sweet pork with plum sauce was anything but “take out”; the roasted corn soup and jumbo lump crab

Georgis Alibi Short Rib Shu Mai

Georgis Alibi Short Rib Shu Mai

from Sea Level; the meatball and ravioli served up by Solita; and for the vegetarians, the arugula salad, mushroom ravioli and coconut cake from Sublime. And did I mention it was all you can eat, stuff or otherwise cram into your stomach? Again, it’s all about pacing and knowing your limit, though that all goes right out the window when you have this much good food staring you in the face and bombarding your senses.

By 9:30 or so Kim and I just couldn’t eat or drink any more. As much as we hated to stop, we were stuffed. And, as tempting as it was to sample more, we just couldn’t do it. So we made our way (slowly) back to the car, well sated, and both agreed that this year’s Pairings event was a great success. It’s already penciled in for next year.

Las Olas Food & Wine Festival, May 15, 2010

Las Olas Food & Wine Festival

Events like the Las Olas Food & Wine Festival make us sad, that we as human beings, do not possess a second (larger) stomach, four arms (with 12 fingers) and an auxiliary liver.  And with good reason: with so much great food and wine choices available to us this particular night, a larger than normal capacity for eating and drinking would have been a welcome anomaly, though it certainly would draw attention to us…and not in a positive way.

So Many Wines to Try...

So Many Wines to Try...

Physiological limitations aside, we thoroughly enjoyed this year’s incarnation of the festival (the 15th), a culinary gauntlet which meanders its way down Las Olas, the toniest boulevard in all of Broward County, much less South Florida.  The event planners know how to put on a grand fete.  Ticket sales are limited to keep the crowds from bloating (literally) the boulevard.  Restaurants and shops along the street are open for business as usual, but curious patrons hoping to score a free nibble and sip here and there were kept at bay because they didn’t possess the one vital fashion accessory that binds all LOF&W foodies together: the day-glo orange disposable wrist band signifying them as paid attendees.  Simply put, if you don’t pay you can’t play.

Street View of Las Olas Food & Wine Festival

Street View

Due to space limitations and the sheer amount of participating food and beverage vendors, stands were spaced apart strategically.  This allowed easier access for everyone to both move about or stand in line, and not feel cramped (though several times throughout the night we were privy to cell phone conversations which, though interesting as they may have been, we could have done without hearing.)

If you’ve been following our blog then you know the rule of thumb at these events, as is par for the course at any large food and wine gathering, is to pace yourself accordingly.  We had a well thought-out plan to try specific foods and wines along the way.  If something looked or smelled tantalizing, we stopped and tried it.  If there was a significant wait at a particular station, be it for food or wine, we simply kept walking.  The crowds were quite relaxed and friendly this night, which makes an event of this kind easier to stomach (pun intended).

Bombay Sapphire Lounge

A view inside the Bombay Sapphire Lounge

There was also live entertainment to help set the mood.  On one side of the street Bombay Sapphire had set up a chill lounge, complete with DJ, couches and bar tables, and of course, loads of free samples to try.  We enjoy a nice cocktail every now and then, but with our stomachs reaching near bursting proportions at that point in the night we decided to decline the hard stuff and opted for water instead.  Just temporarily, of course.

As the event started winding down, the VIP lounge set up earlier on the grassy plain where O’Hara’s Lounge and Café Europa once stood for so long was now converted into a large gathering area for festival goers, complete with a DJ spinning all the overplayed cruise ship/wedding/bar mitzvah tunes you could stomach (again, pun intended).  We used this time to settle down and drink copious amounts of water to maintain our sobriety and help digest all the incredible food we sampled that night.   As we stood at the table, groups of ladies started forming on the dance floor,  which elicited the usual hoots and cries from those gathered around. Clearly they didn’t care, and I can’t say I blame them.  Events like this are all about letting loose and enjoying yourself.

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse Grilling Station

The Las Olas Food & Wine Festival is most definitely Wanderlush approved.  The food, wine, beer and the overall atmosphere made for a very enjoyable Saturday night.  The only thing we would like to see next year would be more elegant choices in food and presentation by some of the restaurants.  Come on Mangos, pita chips & hummus, really?

We will definitely be back next year.  Kudos to the planners for the best run event we have attended this year.

Our Wine/Beer Highlights of the Night:
Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot
Buehler Russian River Chardonnay
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
Hook & Ladder The Tillerman
Lange Pinot Gris
Leth Gruner Vetliner
Peter Lehmann Layers
Southern Tier Raspberry Wheat Beer

Our Food Highlights of the Night:
Burgers from Charm City Burgers
Various Grilled Meats from Chima Brazilian Steakhouse
Pasta w/Veal Ragu from Valentino’s

Lions, Tigers & Beers…Oh My

The Venue

Some glaring facts of the “Brew At The Zoo” beer festival held May 1st at the Miami-Dade Metro Zoo: there was a giant fence surrounding all the inhabitants (non-electrified, thank God); frequent, loud and beastly cries were heard coming from this “cage”; there were security officials everywhere maintaining order.  Oh, and there were some choice odors wafting through the late afternoon Miami air—not all of them good.

Wanderlushing

Welcome to the “Brew At The Zoo” Beer Festival, presented by the Miami New Times, the first beer festival of its kind ever to be held at the Miami-Dade Metro Zoo.  And judging by the attendance, it probably won’t be the last.  But that’s not saying the Wanderlushes considered it a smashing success (some slurring, wobbly-kneed attendees proved our point) but it was an experience.

Due to liability concerns the actual festival was held outside of the zoo—after closing hours.  We can fully understand the zoo’s reluctance to hold an event of this kind inside the zoo’s perimeter.  Just imagine a bunch of drunk, “civilized” humans interacting with all those “wild” animals.  We don’t want to see anything flying through the monkey cages.  Monkeys are a clean bunch, for the most part, and don’t need to suffer such an indignity at the hands of inebriated humans.

Close to 30 beer vendors offered Dixie cup-sized samples of their brews.  We didn’t mind the cup size as much as we minded the fact that waiting all that time to try some of the beers was like waiting to get on a ride at Disney: it’s a long wait for a short thrill.  While in line we managed to chat up other patient beer lovers like ourselves, so it made the wait tolerable.  Several smart attendees brought two plastic cups in which to sample up to the vendor’s tables.  Two of the beer vendors were tapped out by the time we made it to the event which was around 6:45 p.m.  The event officially got underway at 5 p.m.  There was a large stage set up at one end of the venue.  A band played as we entered and then gave way to a “call of the wild” animal call contest a short time later.

For the hour or so we were there we managed to sample some great craft beers, though a good majority of them we’ve tried in the past or enjoy on a regular basis.  Some stands were out of some of their selections.   Food was available (albeit limited) but we didn’t partake in any of it.

When the sun went down we left in search of real food, in a clean, well-lit place with tables, chairs and generous-sized pint glasses of beer—all away from the maddening crowd.  We found it a short time later at Titanic Brewing Company, in Coral Gables (TARZAN YELL).

Zoo Brew

The Good:
-Great crowd – everyone was happy!
-Good beer – Our Favs:  Titanic Brewery Dubbel Trouble Ale,  Brooklyn Brown Ale, Holy Mackerel Golden Ale & Mack in Black, Zoo Brew (who knew?!)

The Bad:
-Some vendors gone (Monk in the Trunk) or out of some selections early (Raging Bitch) 
-Throw Away Tiny Plastic Cup (Take a lesson from the Jupiter Beer Festival – they had a mini-plastic pilsner with the event info printed on it that you could keep)
-Food Choices – Not bad but not much to choose from.

The Ugly:
-Standard Port-O-Potties – Spring for the upgraded version or move the locale to a venue with real bathrooms.

15th Annual Wine & Culinary Celebration at Museum of Discovery & Science, April 16, 2010

We aren’t ones to knock any fundraiser, especially one that offers plentiful food and wine all in the name of raising funds for local organizations but take issue when an event doesn’t seem as well planned as it should be.   Take the 2010 incarnation of the Wine & Culinary Celebration at the Museum of Discovery & Science, in Fort Lauderdale. 

15th Annual Wine & Culinary Celebration

This is a large annual affair that is always well attended and raises a lot of money for the Museum of Science & Discovery.  Great food from top local restaurants, great wine, all donated to a worthy cause: a win-win situation, right?  Well, sort of.   We were a bit reluctant, simply based on the $85 price tag for general admission (VIP tickets were $150 each, so we didn’t feel all that bad) and the torrential rains that literally flooded our area that evening.

We decided to brave the elements and go.  Rain be damned.  If it’s for a good cause, it’s worth a soaking.  Soaking is the operative word, as I’ll explain.  The doors opened at 7:30 p.m. for general admission ticket buyers.  However, for VIP ticket holders, the doors opened at 6 p.m.  I don’t begrudge these VIP’s for getting early access to the event.  That seems fair given the $150 per ticket price tag.  No, my beef is with the event planners that didn’t take into account the fact that people who enjoy wine and like to eat out will go out of their way to make sure they receive their money’s worth.  By that I mean if you were given a full hour and a half to indulge in all the food and wine you can handle before all the teeming masses had a chance to do so, wouldn’t you fill your plate and keep the juice flowing during that 90 minutes?  Hell, I’d probably do the same.

But we were part of the teeming mass of humanity who had to wait to lick the crumbs from the VIP tables and hope to swig on the backwash of all those near empty bottles.  And if we’re paying $85 a ticket to enjoy a sumptuous sampling of food from some of South Florida’s finest eating establishments, plus wine—well, we want in on this little feast.  The Museum of Discovery & Science is a fun and interactive multi-storied place designed for kids and adults alike—but probably one of the worse places for buzzed folk to try out the various interactive science exhibits.  That aside, everyone inside the venue enjoyed the food and wine and were taking it all in.  

The food samples were tasty, and plentiful.  The wine—what very little of it that was left after the VIP access—seemed to be an eclectic mix of reds and whites from around the world.    Out of the numerous tables of wines that had been there were only four or five that still had wine, and they ran out within 30 minutes of us arriving.  There was one table serving wine in particular that irked us both. We walked up to the table to try a Malbec, but the “pleasant” gentleman serving it ignored everyone until his fellow associate motioned for him to pay attention and serve the guests.   We were not happy.   This tended to be the mood of  many of the vendors  by the time we were meandering through the tables.  What had started as a less than memorable affair was quickly deteriorating into a full-blown disappointment.  

Wandering through the scores of people we sadly noticed all of the abandoned wine tables.  Bottles of delightful Cabernets, Merlots, Chardonnays and Pinot Grigios, were now lifeless hulks strewn about with appetizer plates, plastic ware and cups—nary a drop remaining in any one of them.   Many food vendors were also packing up at this point and we missed out on trying several of the offerings.  Luckily we found a young Latin woman serving up a Puerto Rican apertif called Tres Leches.  Ay caramba, it’s muy delicioso!  How best to describe Tres Leches the liqueur?  Think of a McDonald’s vanilla milkshake…but with a kick to your Ray Kroc.  And best of all, this young woman was offering frequent pours from her stock of bottles. 

After almost an hour and a half, we decided enough was enough.  In one way we felt good donating to a good cause, but in another way we felt like it was a bitter disappointment having missed out on many of the offerings (i.e. wine).  Yes, we plebes never stood a chance against those VIP’s (very inebriated people).  As much as we enjoy food and wine shindigs, the Wanderlushes will not make a return appearance at this annual event.

Highlights of the Event:
Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc
Tres Leches Liqueur
Goulash from The Ambry
Lamb Chop from Vienna Cafe & Wine Bar
Meatballs from Solita
Cupcakes from Hey Cupcake
Bruschetta with Tenderloin & Tuna “Cone” from the Coral Ridge Yacht Club
Crab Cakes from Truluck’s

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