Category: Events

Mollydooker Wine Pairing Event, Epic Hotel Miami, Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sparky Marquis, owner of MollyDooker Wines (McLaren Vale, Australia-mollydookerwines.com) is living the dream. If that dream includes making exquisite, award-winning wines in one of the most beautiful regions of Australia, being married to your college sweetheart (who is also the mother of two active, smart and funny children) and oh yeah, “employing” your mother as your top ambassador and marketing agent. If that is indeed living the dream, then yes, Sparky Marquis is your proof.

The Blending Begins

The Blending Begins

Sparky and his mother Janet make frequent trips to the United States to host MollyDooker wine pairing/blending events across the country. It offers them both a chance to come to America, see the country and meet scores of adoring wine aficionados nationwide and talk face to face about their passion: wine.

So it came as no surprise that when Sparky and Janet were hosting an event at the gorgeous Epic Hotel in Miami one Saturday, well, it was a given that the Wanderlushes would must attend. We had a chance to be a part of one of his blending events a few years ago in Fort Lauderdale.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting Sparky and Janet, while learning all about these incredible wines from the winemaker himself.

More Wine!

More Wine!

Second Round of Tasting

Second Round of Tasting

This was a larger event, though, with about 100 guests in attendance. At each table were placemats, along with four “stations” designated for each of the MollyDooker wines to be blended that evening for a personalized version of MollyDooker’s Two Left Feet: The Scooter Merlot, the Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon and the Boxer Shiraz. Each wine is unique and amazing in and of itself. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try these wines, pick one up and enjoy all the subtle nuances and complex flavors a MollyDooker wine imparts.  After a brief introduction and speech from Sparky, the blending commenced. The idea of mixing the wines like mad Bacchanalian scientists is to achieve an altogether new and exciting MollyDooker wine. Couples at each table would blend different percentages of each together in beakers and vote on the results. The couple whose wine garnered the most votes at the table would win a prize. So, we ruminated over what would make the best tasting wine and went to work.  The other couples we were sitting with blended some solid fruit-forward wines, but in the end  our fellow Wanderlushes Jen and Mitch’s blend proved to be the winner. They were each given sporty black MollyDooker baseball caps as the winners!

Dessert

Dessert

The Main Course

The Main Course

After the blending, new wines were laid out and the waiters then brought out plates of food; an entrée of chimichurri steak and au gratin potato made with both white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Both were delicious, but the chimichurri sauce overpowered the wine just a bit. Dessert consisted of a delicious chocolate mousse, which each of us devoured (and which paired remarkably well with the wines.) During the evening Sparky gave a very heartfelt and genuinely moving speech, talking about the austere beginnings of MollyDooker wines and how grateful he was to Americans in general for appreciating his wines. One turnoff, however, was when several wine-soaked attendees insisted on talking loudly during Sparky’s speech.

After dessert Sparky brought out the “Party Wines,” which include the Gigglepot Cabernet Sauvignon; the Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz (our favorite); the Enchanted Path Shiraz/Cabernet; Carnival of Love Shiraz and the Velvet Glove Shiraz. With only one bottle per table, we were all quick to pour…

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

Riverside Market Wine Vs. Beer Event, October 15, 2011

Riverside MarketIf you’re a serious South Florida beer aficionado looking for the next big thing in hop heaven, chances are you’ve stumbled upon the Riverside Market, a small craft beer and food establishment in Fort Lauderdale’s plush, historic Sailboat Bend neighborhood. If you haven’t, then you are truly missing out this unique gem of a beer-drinking joint.

Cheese & Pretzels

Cheese & Homemade Pretzels

The Riverside Market is a throwback to a bygone era, looking more like a local country store or bait shop from the outside. Getting there is like entering a time portal into Fort Lauderdale’s past as you make your way through Sailboat Bend, surrounded by amazing vegetation, passing several small mom and pop stores and crossing over an old turn-style bridge. But once you find the Riverside Market, you will not be disappointed. Owner Julian boasts one of the most eclectic retail beer collections you’ll find anywhere in South Florida. Riverside has gained quite a reputation as a quiet, laid-back place to enjoy a fine craft beer amongst friends and “soon to be friends.” The beer selection is a microcosm of the microbrew world, with many familiar faces and an eclectic array of unfamiliar (yet inviting) ones all sitting quietly behind glass in the Riverside Market’s large refrigerators. What’s even better, if you see a beer you really like, grab it, uncap it (using one of several bottle openers conveniently hanging in several areas of the store) and enjoy. Patrons bring their empties to the front and pay on the way out.

Beer Selections On this particular Saturday night Riverside Market hosted a Beer vs. Wine food-pairing event, pitting  several craft brews and wines against each other for alcohol supremacy (honestly, though, I don’t believe there are any real losers in this battle—except maybe brain cells). Both were paired with several appetizers and small entrees prepared especially for the event.Fish Selection

The pours were quite generous throughout the night. The only real knock we had for the evening was the quality of the food. Which isn’t to say it was bad, really, only that is wasn’t very good (the cheese course looked like it came straight from the Publix Deli, sans plastic tray). A couple of the entrees seemed a bit pedestrian, not just in taste, but in presentation as well. Surprising considering the quality of the food we have previously had at Riverside Market.  Also, the beer choices seemed out of context with the wine and food.  If it was an attempt at offering a glimpse into seasonal craft beers, it only mildly passed the test.  We looked longingly into the coolers containing a myriad of exceptional craft beers wondering why better selections had not been made for the pairing.  It struck us that perhaps the host for the evening,  a local wine distributor,  was not truly a beer fan.

Homemade Ice Cream

Homemade Ice Cream

Pork with Mustard Sauce

Pork with Mustard Sauce

Despite some of our misgivings about the selections, we the Wanderlushes, had a great time at the Riverside Market hanging with fellow beer and wine lovers in one of the most relaxed settings you’ll find – provided you can find it. Let’s hope this hidden gem stays somewhat hidden and unspoiled for as long as possible.

EPCOT Food & Wine Festival: Culinary Demo & Taste, Shake & Indulge Grand Marnier seminar

Food & Wine Festival
Culinary Demo:  Peng Looi – August Moon
Taste, Shake & Indulge Grand Marnier seminar at Le Bistro

It is raining. It is windy. Our shoes are soaked – soaked to the point that our feet go squish squish squish with every wet step we take. We’re in Florida (Lake Buena Vista, to be exact), so rain is not an aberration. But to us Wanderlushes, we always expect glorious, “wish you were here” postcard, chamber of commerce weather – and certainly not during the weekend of the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, one of the Grand Slam events in the Wanderlush events tour. But let’s back up for just a moment.

Fisherman's Stew

Fisherman's Stew

Walt Disney World Dolphin

Walt Disney World Dolphin

Our situation couldn’t have been any better upon arriving Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel, The Dolphin (located steps away from Disney’s Boardwalk), got settled and headed over to the park to taste some incredible food samples from around the world (the fisherman’s stew from Ireland paired with Guinness Stout was Erin Go Brav-OH Yeah!). On a side note: If you’ve ever spent a weekend experiencing the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, you know things move at a frenetic pace. So, unlike past years where we exhausted ourselves trying to cram too much EPCOT-ness into a short period of time, we decided one seminar per day on Friday and Saturday was sufficient. In retrospect, this was a wise decision.

Salad of Arugula & Espresso Infused Lamb Loin

Salad of Arugula & Espresso Infused Lamb Loin

Peng Looi

Peng Looi Demo

Our first and only seminar on Friday was a culinary demonstration by Asian cuisine chef Peng Looi, who owns several restaurants in the Mid-South, most notably the critically acclaimed August Moon, located in Louisville, Kentucky. Chef Looi prepared a delicious salad of baby arugula and espresso infused lamb loin hat was out of this world. The lamb was seared to perfection; the pineapple chutney provided a bit of heat, yet was balanced out nicely by the truffled pickled ginger vinagrette  tossed with the arugula. Because fine cuisine is meant to be paired with a great wine, a representative from Chateau Ste. Michele Winery was on hand to give us a brief introduction of the Eroica Riesling, which paired tremendously with Chef Looi’s amazing appetizer.

A breakdown of Friday night, after the seminar: walk, eat, drink, ride Soarin’ (love that ride), eat some more, drink some more; stop, contemplate, ask each other if we’re too full, head back to the hotel, stop at Big River Brewing Company to share an appetizer of crab and cheese dip paired with buttery sliced bread (that we probably didn’t need) and a couple of craft beers; pay the bill, return to our room to freshen up; head over the Kimonos at the Swan Hotel, drink more wine we don’t need, listen to drunk people sing karaoke (a few could actually sing), call it a night, then make our way back to the hotel room and crash.

Grilled Lamb Chop

Grilled Lamb Chop from Australia

Saturday was a complete rainout. A large, rainy system passed over the entire state of Florida and didn’t stop the entire day. We grabbed our umbrellas and ventured out late in the morning. It was downright nasty out (a little Seattle or San Francisco paired with London, in terms of rain), but the heartiest of souls don’t let a little bit of rain and wind deter them from enjoying their vacation, and neither would we. We slogged our way to the park and enjoyed more great food and wine/beer samples meandering through the world showcase, though enjoying it took a little more effort as we clutched our umbrellas throughout the day.

Grand Marnier Tasting

Grand Marnier Tasting

At 2:30 Saturday we headed over to Le Bistro Restaurant in France to attend the Taste, Shake & Indulge Grand Marnier tasting. I am not a huge Grand Marnier drinker, but being the curious Wanderlush that I am, I was looking forward to the event. Once seated, our hostess gave us a brief but fascinating history lesson about this world-renowned liqueur. Then it was time to taste. The first was the Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge (red ribbon), which is easily the most recognizable liqueur in the Grand Marnier family. Besides the strong alcohol notes, the tangerine peel and vanilla are unmistakable in the Cordon Rouge. Next was the 100, a more limited release version of Grand Marnier most people have never tried because of its higher price tag. The 100 was remarkably smooth, with less of an alcoholic taste and more citrus on the nose and palate.

Crepes Suzette

Making Crepes Suzette

The third and final Grand Marnier, le piece de resistance, was the 150. This is Grand Marnier’s premier liqueur. It is made with up to 50 year old cognacs and is unquestionably the smoothest of the three with rounded spices. Throw out the recipe book – you drink the 150 neat, preferably at room temperature, in a large snifter, sitting comfortably by a roaring fire as you read Voltaire or Sartre (cigar and smoking jacket optional). After the tasting, waiters prepared crepes tableside. I have never seen crepes prepared in this manner, though we were all somewhat baffled when waiters emerged from the kitchen with plates of freshly prepared crepes. Huh? Oh well, Garcon’s flaming crepe display was entertaining, so we fully understood preparing them this way for the sake of timing.

The Final Product

The Final Product

All in all, this year’s EPCOT Food & Wine Festival was enjoyable. Wet, but enjoyable. Kim and I enjoy the event every year, rain or shine – though we hope for more shine than rain. Cheers!

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.

Courtyard

Courtyard

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.

PL8

PL8

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.

SA1A

SA1A

Among the stand-outs in the general admission area:

SAIA: Scallop  & Victory Prima Pils
Alibi:
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—http://www.havenlounge.com

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.

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