Articles from: 2010

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.

“The Art Of Wine & Food Tasting Series: Wines That Go Both Ways”—Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, August 26, 2010

Art of Wine & Food

Art of Wine & Food

If wine can be considered an art form, then it makes perfect sense that the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale would play host to an event billed as “The Art Of Wine & Food Tasting Series: Wines That Go Both Ways.”   This is an ongoing monthly event with this particular one focusing on wines that transition from the summer to fall.   The tasting/pairing event offers patrons the opportunity to sample wine and food in an austere environment like MOA Fort Lauderdale.

Host Stephanie Miskew, a South Florida food and wine blogger, offered three wines to pair with delicious food prepared by local chef John Paul Kline. The 50 or so in attendance began the night with a 2008 Morgan “Metallico” (not the heavy metal band’s own private stock) un-oaked Chardonnay, paired with a deconstructed lobster bisque. The Morgan is comparable to a French Chablis (according to the wine maker) and is a lighter Chard than

Deconstructed Lobster Bisque

Deconstructed Lobster Bisque

a lot of the notorious “butter bombs” that have become a staple of California Chards. There were hints of floral, grassiness on the nose; the taste, crisp and aromatic, with noticeable green apple and pear on the palate. The lobster bisque was sweet and spicy, and proved to be a nice accompaniment to the light, un-oaked Chardonnay.

The next wine on the menu was a 2007 Benziger “Sangiacomo Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay, paired with a green apple chicken curry and tomato eggplant chutney. The Benziger had a sweet aroma, with some pineapple notes and a hint of citrus. It was a sharp contrast to the Morgan Chard, though given our food pairing, the Benziger paired remarkably well with the spicy sweet curry in the chicken and chutney. Though I preferred the Morgan in terms of taste, the Benziger was a good choice for this particular food item. It

Green Apple Chicken Curry w/Eggplant Chutney

should be noted that between pairings, one of the hosts made his way through the tables offering patrons additional pours of each wine sampled, though despite our best efforts to get his attention, extra pours never came. Damn.

Our final wine sampling of the night was the 2006 Bearboat Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, paired with a chilled duck crostini with mushroom duxelles and black plum. The Russian River Valley produces some incredible Chardonnays, and given its cool climate and favorable terroir, is also the perfect location for growing Pinot Noir grapes. The Bearboat had strong hints of blackberry, cassis and dark cherries. The taste was clean and elegant, slightly more tannic than some Pinot Noirs we’ve tasted, but finished with a velvet feel on the tongue. This is a great Pinot Noir value ($22 retail) that should not be

Duck Crostini

Duck Crostini w/Mushroom Duxelle

overlooked. The crostini, with a generous slice of duck and topped with mushrooms duxelle, was by far the best appetizer of the three we sampled that night, and paired very well with the Bearboat Pinot Noir.

Overall we were pleased with the event, though for the $30 per person charge I feel like there should have been one or two more wine and food pairings, though it didn’t tarnish the event in any way. Still, a few extra wine pours would have been nice.

Mojo Restaurant, Ft. Lauderdale

A few months back we noticed a sign announcing the coming of a new restaurant in late summer.  After doing a little research we found the website and local restaurant news about Mojo that piqued our interest and we made a plan to try it out.  Described as “New American Eclectic cuisine,” Mojo is the latest incarnation of eateries to open at this location, which include the former George and Dragon Pub, 4140 and Jeff’s Beach House Grill…just to name a few.

Pulling into the parking lot we noticed only a few cars in the parking lot, though this may have been due to the inclement weather in our area that night. We walked in and were sat immediately. I appreciate getting a table right away just as much as anyone…but was this a good sign? Mojo’s décor is bright and cheerful (white walls, white furniture, a far cry from the brooding wood and brass we remember from the George & Dragon Pub), sporting an elegant beach resort motif – a carryover from the previous tenant. This may all change as Mojo gains popularity amongst Fort Lauderdale foodies, but only time will tell. We ordered the Tuna Tartare and wontons appetizer for the table. It was a generous portion served charmingly in a martini glass. Our server was quite accommodating and brought out three more wontons when asked. Speaking of service, although very enthusiastic, our server was obviously new and there were a few missteps for this level of dining.  For drinks our server suggested a pitcher of house Sangria, which was fruity and delicious. Mojo’s drink menu features interesting martinis, several domestic and imported beers, as well as a wine list featuring an eclectic mix of Old World and New World reds and whites. After sangria I ordered a glass of the 2009 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand), which was crisp and refreshing and proved to be a great pairing with my entrée.

We each ordered different entrees in which to sample and taste. I had the free range “Mili,” which is a panko and parmesan crusted chicken breast pan seared and served with chimichurri sauce and an arugula salad. It was delicious, and the portion size was perfect. Another in our party had the jumbo lump crab cakes. The seasoning and preparation brought out the flavors of the crabmeat, unlike many restaurants that simply over-season to mask the taste of inferior crabmeat. The only disappointment in the night was the scallop appetizer special.  The scallops were nicely prepared and served in a light watermelon broth.  However, they were on the cool side by the time we received them and the broth seemed to overwhelm the scallops.  It wasn’t bad, just not as stellar as everything else we had that evening.  The other annoyance of the night was the Mojo house salad with the addition of shrimp for an extra $6.  The salad arrived and only included three shrimp (we later learned the chef will prepare as many shrimp as you’d like, but additional shrimp would raise the price of the salad). We all enjoyed what was perhaps the best entrée of the night: the pan roasted duck breast, which was served medium rare (per the chef’s recommendation) and came with sautéed red sauerkraut and apples, cauliflower – goat cheese puree and raspberry butter. After dinner our server suggested some positively decadent dessert choices, but, with all of us well sated from a delicious dinner, we simply didn’t have room. Maybe next time. And there will be a next time. Mojo is a delightful restaurant, and with the onset of fall and winter (i.e. tourist season), opened at just the right time to enjoy what they hope to be an infusion of new customers seeking a great meal. Though, looking back, we all didn’t mind walking in that evening and getting sat immediately.

Mojo Restaurant
4140 N. Federal Hwy.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
(954) 568-4443

Caliente Kitchen Restaurant & Lounge Delray Beach, Florida

Caliente Kitchen

Opening a restaurant/lounge in Florida, just like anywhere, takes a great deal of time and effort. Coming up with the next popular “place to see and be seen” in South Florida is especially tough. Which is why when our friends invited us to attend a private grand opening event for a new and exciting restaurant/lounge in Delray Beach, we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Our friend Rob, a true entrepreneur in every sense, along with several business partners, opened Caliente Kitchen, an upscale Mexican eatery and lounge on trendy Atlantic Avenue, in Delray Beach.

This particular night was billed as an intimate, private event for close friends, families and associates to see the restaurant, take in its rustic ambience, and enjoy some cool margaritas while sampling a fixed tasting menu featuring a sample of several items from the regular menu.  Walking in to the restaurant you really do get the sense of being transported into a rustic hacienda in Mexico.  The decor features heavy wood furniture with burnt red leather upholstery and tin light fixtures.  The main focus at the front is a gigantic wood framed mirror that takes up a large expanse of the wall across from the bar.   The pleasing effect makes the front area feel much larger than the actual space.   There are several high bistro tables in this area which are removed later in the evening to allow for a dance floor.  This is where we were seated for the evening.  There was definitely a keen eye for detail in the interior design of the space.

Caliente Tasting Menu

Our server, one of several in this very attractive bar (all bearing “Papi” name tags!) and wait staff, immediately took our drink order and brought us a bowl of fresh tortilla chips and homemade guacamole along with chicken nachos to munch on prior to taking our entrée orders.  Both were delicious and paired well with our large, frosty cold margaritas.  Another round of margaritas later our entrees arrived.  Like the appetizers, they didn’t disappoint. The tacos were generously filled with a choice of marinated, shredded chicken, ground beef and homemade pico de gallo or grilled vegetables and queso fresco; the Dos Equis marinated sautéed chicken breast was probably the most interesting and tasty of the main courses.  We finished the meal by sharing coffee flan and tres leches desserts.  Both were good but the tres leches was by far the favorite of our table.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening.  There were a few minor issues with service and presentation but that is to be expected at a pre-opening event.  The missteps were small,  and the great food, service and atmosphere far outweighed them.   We can’t wait to try the regular full menu once they have gotten into their regular groove.  We didn’t get to partake in the night club aspect of the establishment, but it was a “school night’ after all and even us Wanderlushes have to consider the consequences of overindulgence.   By looking at Caliente’s Facebook page you can tell the nights are already going strong.

The food and drinks were all very good, the service, prompt and friendly…and the vibe is exciting and upbeat. We wish Rob all the best with this latest business endeavor. Though, with Rob’s “Midas Touch” sensibilities and his astute business acumen, we expect Caliente Kitchen will be a great success.

Dogfish Head Beer Tasting at Morton’s Steakhouse

Off centered ales for off centered people...

Several weeks ago we decided to attend a Dogfish Head beer tasting at Morton’s Steakhouse, located in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Blake, a Fresh Beer Inc Rep, craft beer Jedi-In-Training and an all around highly evolved individual, hosted the event.  Having lived in Delaware, we were already very aware of Dogfish and had been lucky enough to visit both their Rehoboth Beach Brew Pub and the Milton brewery.

We were running a little late to the event, but once we arrived we were greeted warmly at the door by Valerie, the event’s coordinator.  We were issued wine glasses (what, no mugs?) and our Dogfish Head tasting was underway.

Midas Touch

We started off with the Midas Touch (9.0% ABV).   Dogfish uses an ancient Turkish recipe that is apparently the oldest-known fermented beverage in the world.   We picked up a definite sweetness with hints of honey along with a slight earthiness.    Notes from Dogfish: Pair with Pan-Asian dishes, risotto, curries, baked fish and chicken.   Wine Comparison:  Sauterne and Champagne

Raison D'etre

Next up was the Raison D’Etre (8.0% ABV).   This is a Belgian-style Brown Ale brewed with beet sugar, raisins and Belgian-style yeast.   There is a slight sweetness again but many more layers in this complex beer.    Notes from Dogfish: Pair with wood-grilled steak.

Moving on to the 90-Minute IPA (9.0% ABV) we were definitely starting to appreciate the Dogfish way.

90 Minute IPA

This beer was hoppy but not as much as you would think.  It had a nice balance of the bitter andsmooth.   Notes from Dogfish: This Imperial IPA was brewed to be savored from a snifter per Dogfish’s website.   A big beer with a great malt backbone that stands up to the extreme hopping rate.    90 Minute IPA was our first continually-hopped beer, which is a method of hopping that allows for a pungent, but not crushing hop flavor.

Palo Santo Marron

The final beer for the evening (and our favorite) was the Palo Santo Marron (12% ABV).  We definitely picked up caramel and vanilla in this brown ale.  Notes from Dogfish: An unfiltered, unfettered, unprecedented brown ale aged in handmade wooden brewing vessels.  This beer comes from the exotic Paraguayan Palo Santo wood from which these tanks were crafted.  Palo Santo means “holy tree” and it’s wood has been used in South American wine-making communities.   Wine Comparison:  Oak Aged Cabernet   Food Pairing Recommendations:  Steak, chorizzo sausage, cajun cuisine, farmhouse cheddar

Lamb Chop & Assorted Cheeses

Morton’s pass around appetizers to accompany the event were plentiful and very tasty.  We dined on  several mini flat bread pizzas topped with Salmon; grilled lamb chops, tenderloin sandwiches, four beer friendly cheeses and tuna tartar served on thinly sliced cucumber.   Also, a big shout out goes to  our new friend in the biz, Blake.  He was very generous with the pours and offered a lot of background on each of the beers and shared a unique blending of the the Palo Santo and 90 Minute IPA.

Most, if not all, of the guests in attendance appreciated the beer 101, if not the beers themselves.  At the end of the event we had a chance to talk more in detail about beers we enjoy with fellow enthusiasts.   The extra post-event beer pours were much appreciated, too.

Tenderloin Sandwich

Our only “beef” with the event, and it’s a minor one, was how many glasses of unconsumed beer we saw sitting on the tables.  I have no problem with leaving a half-empty mug of Bud or Coors (hell, I’d leave those full). I take umbrage at anyone who would leave a sip, swirl or swig of a fine craft beer like Dogfish Head behind. Are these people crazy? You can’t muster up the will power and stamina to finish even the tiniest bit of beer sitting at the bottom of your glass? That’s blasphemy in our house.  This was a quaint event that had good food, great company and of course, outstanding craft beer.

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