Articles from: February 2011

Beer –n-Bites 10 “Bee” My Valentine

Beer My Valentine

Beer My Valentine

Hostess Melanie’s delicious pairing event (her last at Crown Wine & Spirits, by the way) may have taken place three days after Valentine’s Day, but there was plenty of sweet love (of beer and food) in the air as more than 25 beer aficionados sat down to enjoy some remarkable craft brews and homemade food at Crown Wine & Spirits, in Fort Lauderdale.

In keeping with the sweet theme of the event, Melanie chose several honey-based beers to pair with her food items. Don’t let the honey beer connotation turn you off; honey can impart a totally unexpected flavor profile that can surprise and delight, if you let it.   Melanie provided us with a flier with tasting notes and recipes for the evening and we began the tasting!

Sunshine Nectar

Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar

Our first beer/food pairing was the Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar (8% ABV) which was something we hadn’t tried before.  This particular quaff is a melomel, a mead that contains any type of fruit. It was extremely light in in color and was slightly tart, courtesy of the apricots it was infused with.  Thankfully it did not have the extreme sweet we had experienced with other Meads.  Melanie paired the Redstone with a goat cheese, apricot jam and a toast point. The contrasting taste of the cheese and beer melded quite well on our palates.

Midas Touch

Midas Touch with Thai Avocado Shrimp Salad

Next came the Dogfish Head Midas Touch (9% ABV), always a favorite of ours, an unusual brew created from an ancient Turkish recipe allegedly found in the tomb of King Midas. Its unusual blend provides lots of layers and complexity.  It provided a nice balance to the Thai avocado and shrimp salad with its fresh lime juice and sweet chili sauce.

Brooklyn 'Local 2'

Brooklyn Local 2 paired with a Mushroom Ragout

Our next beer was the Brooklyn Brewery Local 2 (9% ABV), an ale that has notes of honeyed dark fruits, citrus and spices. It was slightly hoppy, but the aforementioned mix of sweet ingredients balanced out the tart notes of the hops. The Brooklyn paired really well with the delicious ragout of wild mushrooms Melanie prepared.  We could have eaten several bowls (with several beers, of course)!

Next, we moved onto the Dupont Biere de Miel (8% ABV), another new try for us, a classic Belgian-style brew that had hints of earth, herbs and white pepper, all mellowed by its subtle honey notes. I am not a huge fan of the Belgian style beers, but this one in particular changed my opinion immensely.

Dupont Biere de Miel

Dupont Biere de Miel paired with a Potato & Raclette Pizza

As a special treat (not mentioned in the flier we received at the beginning of the pairing) Melanie offered up a taste of Bell’s Hop Slam, the Holy Grail of honey-based beers, and easily one of the most amazingly complex IPA’s you will ever taste. It is brewed but once a year and released in small quantities across the U.S. Because of its cult-like following, it fetches nearly $20 a six-pack at liquor purveyors who are lucky enough to have it, but it is worth every penny. Melanie served up delicious coconut and passion fruit bars that accentuated the complex notes of the Hop Slam. After the event Melanie let us all purchase one bottle each of the Hop Slam, and we were all grateful to her for her generosity.



It is sad that this was Melanie’s last Beer –n- Bites at Crown, but she told us she would back with more pairing events at her new place of employ, Whole Foods Market, in Fort Lauderdale, where she will take over the beer-buying duties at this location. Thanks, Melanie, for some incredible beers and unbelievably tasty foods. Cheers!

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.

Crown’s Beer n Bites 9 – Hoppy Holidays

Hoppy Holidays!

Hoppy Holidays!

We were in a funk and needed to get into the “spirit” of the holiday season.  What to do?  Attend the 9th Beer n Bites “Hoppy Holidays” at Crown Wine and Spirits, of course!  Who better to lead us through the offerings but Chef and beer connoisseur Melanie.

To begin Melanie had placed brandied cheddar pub cheese on each table in advance.  To pair with the pub cheese had chosen the  He’Brew Rejewvenator.  The slight sweetness from the concord grapes in the beer (yes, grapes!) really pulled the Stilton blue flavor out of the pub cheese.

Next up was a beef and ale pie paired with a Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve.  This beer had much stronger hoppy notes to it and paired well with the savory pies.  The only thing missing for us was a gravy for the pies!

Beef & Ale

Beef & Ale Pie

Between each tasting Melanie would work our brains by asking a few beer related trivia questions.  Wanderlush Jen won a bottle of beer by remembering the New Zealand episode of Brewmasters and correctly identifying the tamarillo ingredient for the special collaboration brew between Dogfish and Epic Brewing.  We’re hoping she shares!

After the trivia we moved on to the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (our favorite!) paired with a trio of gouda cheeses served with a pear paste.   Each gouda brought out a unique quality in the beer.

On to the pink elephants…Delirium Noel!  We often drink Delirium Tremens and now will be drinking the Noel when available.  It has the sweetness that the Tremens has but also a caramel note that worked great with the sticky toffee pudding which was so good I was tempted to lick the bowl!  I restrained myself, though.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The final taste for the night was a Lindemans Framboise Lambic and Creme de Cacoa shooter.  Wanderlush Tim called it when he described it as a tootsie pop in a sip.  It was a great way to end the event.

This is the second Beer n Bites we have attended and we will definitely be going to more.  The good-natured comaraderie with fellow beer enthusiasts along with good food and drink is the best pairing of all.

Wanderlushing through EPCOT

Epcot Food & Wine Festival

15th Epcot Food & Wine Festival

The first weekend of this past November we jumped in the car and headed to Orlando for our annual weekend trip to one of our favorite guilty pleasures, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. Our room was reserved, our bags were packed and our bellies were ready for sampling.

Having gone to the festival several years in a row we had it down to a science.  The first necessity was to reserve a hotel in the Epcot resort area. The ability to walk to the park, especially since we would definitely be sampling some “adult” beverages, was a must.  This year it was Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, which put us in easy access to the International Gateway entrance of Epcot.  Being slight control freaks, we had also prepared a list of the food and drinks we wanted to try and booked our  wine and food seminars in advance.  Finally, and most importantly, we had our handy wristbands ready to charge up for quick draw payments.  We knew our hands would be too full to reach into our pockets!  After checking in to the hotel we headed over to the Epcot ready to start our gluttony for the day.

Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's Pie

Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's Pie

Our first order of business?  Get a drink—fast.  We knew that we’d be encountering large crowds, so our goal was to relax, not rush, and just go with it. We had two days to drink and eat our fill, so we made it a point to pace ourselves accordingly. Drinks in hand, we started our trip around the world on our way to the Festival Center to attend the first of several “Deminars” we would be attending.

Wine Seminar

Schweiger Vineyards

What is a “deminar”?  Visiting wineries and chefs come to Epcot to give hour-long presentations and offer samples to the audience.  In previous years there was no charge for these events, but always a long wait.  Two years ago Disney instituted a charge of $8 to $12 for these events. This greatly cut down on wait times and crowds, but disappointingly the sample amounts did not change.  After attending this year’s event, we will probably stick to the visiting chef events in the future as wineries participate and offer attendees larger pours and nice size food samples.

American Cheese Tasting

Cheese Tasting with David Gremmels

In addition to the aforementioned presentations, there are also special events throughout the weekend at an additional charge.  This year we decided to attend a Saturday morning (10:30am) cheese seminar presented by David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery.  As we stood in line sipping our coffee and waiting for the event to open, we noticed large plates of cheese and glasses of wine on the tables and thought we would never be able to finish all of it.  We underestimated ourselves.  Once we started the seminar and the sampling all we wanted was more.  And more is what we received.  The wine was flowing and the extra plates of cheese were passed around. By the time we were done we were walking on the clouds and feeling no pain.  What next?  More sampling, of course! We meandered our way back through the World Showcase trying as much as possible.  Once we had our fill, which was much later, we headed back to the hotel for one last beer at Big Bear Brewing Company, then back to the hotel.

Roasted Duck with Figs

Roasted Duck with Figs

As always, we had a great time.  The festival is somewhat smaller and you can see a change in the chef and winery participants, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.  The wineries are smaller production but we loved the ability to try wines we were not familiar with and to learn more about these family-run vineyards.  Another thing we noticed was the more pronounced beer offerings from years past.  Boston Brewing Company, a perennial favorite, has always participated. But this year there were also two additional booths dedicated to beer – 15 Beers and the Brewers Collection.  We really enjoyed the availability of decent beer but wished they would lean a bit more towards craft brewed beers.  It was a welcome addition, though.  With all that being said we can’t wait to see what the festival will come up with next year.


Brewer's Collection

Brewer's Collection

  • Lobster & Scallop Fisherman’s Pie and a Guiness from Ireland
  • Cheddar Cheese Soup from Canada
  • Widmer Drifter Pale Ale from 15 Beer Flight Booth
  • Lamb Sliders w/Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet from New Zealand
  • Milbrandt Vineyards Riesling & Traditions Merlot
  • Grilled Beef Skewer w/Chimichurri from Argentina
  • Media Noche Sandwich & Mojito from Puerto Rico
  • Kielbasa & Potato Pierogie w/Caramelized Onions from Poland
  • Short Ribs & Kir Royal from France
  • Sausage Roll from the Oktoberfest Booth
  • Schlosser Alt from the Brewers Collection Booth
  • Schweiger Vineyards Chardonnay & Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill & Rogue River Blue Cheese at Cheese Seminar

Lamb Slider

Lamb Slider

Pierogies from Poland

Pierogies from Poland



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