Category: Events

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.

 

“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

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

House Of Walker Event Temple House, Miami Beach 11/10/12

Johnnie Walker

House of Walker

When you’re Johnnie Walker, one of the oldest, most well established whiskies in the world, staying fresh in a rapidly changing world of distilled spirits and marketing your product to the next generation of loyal consumers isn’t always easy – especially to hipsters with their hands clasped firmly around cans of PBR.

Still, with its well-earned reputation for creating fine spirits (and deservedly so) Johnnie Walker is a favorite amongst whiskey drinkers today, and has been since the 1800’s. Now Johnnie Walker has taken its name and reputation on the road with a unique branding campaign called “House Of Walker.” This particular Saturday’s HOW event took place at a beautiful South Beach South Beach residence called The Temple House.Johnnie Walker

The event was gratis, so we Wanderlushes made our way down to South Beach and pulled up to the front of the Temple House where a valet (sporting all black and a heavy Russian/Eastern European accent) gave us directions where to park (strange, but doesn’t valet involve someone parking your car for you?). After a few turns down some side streets we finally found the parking lot, dropped the car off with the next “valet” (who proceeded to drive the car two spaces back) and made our way back the three blocks to the event with trepidation.

Black Label Wild Scot Cocktail

Black Label Wild Scot Cocktail

Upon entering we were greeted by several young women who gave us wristbands and four “tickets for each of the whiskies we would be sampling during the night. We were then seated in a small room and told we would be watching a brief introduction video featuring actor Robert Carlyle (“Johnnie Walker: The Man Who Walked Around The World) focusing on the history of Johnnie Walker. After the video, we were ushered into a small room with about eight bar-height tables containing two small glasses of Johnnie Walker whiskey, ice and water. The host for the evening, Stephen Wilson, Johnnie Walker Ambassador, entered the room and spoke briefly about Johnnie Walker the whiskey brand, how and where it’s made – but most importantly, tasting and appreciating this famous whiskey.

Black Label Tasting

Black Label Tasting

When the tasting was over we were led into a large concrete-floored room with a high ceiling and a loft area on the far end. It was here where we redeemed our tickets for various samples of Johnnie Walker whiskey (Red Label, Black Label and the top-shelf $200 a bottle Blue Label). All were delicious and went down smooth. As for the venue, Temple House (www.thetemplehouse.com) was perfect for this type of event. The residence is chic, tastefully designed and offered more than an ample amount of room for the 75 or so attendees who were there this particular Saturday. There were bottles of Johnnie Walker signature whiskies on display, including a bottle dating from 1808 that was for sale at the budget-friendly price of $30,000. And yes, that price is in dollars, not pesos, in terms of whiskey currency. Ouch.

The event ran until around 11 p.m. The event staff wasn’t shy about letting everyone know it was time to drink up and get out. They weren’t out and out rude about it, but this clearly was a case of being told in no uncertain terms, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” All in all, we Wanderlushes enjoyed the “House Of Walker” experience. I personally am not a huge whiskey drinker, but I do appreciate Johnnie Walker more after learning its history and sampling some of its amazing offerings.

 

 

 

 

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