Articles from: October 2011

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!

Naked Grape Wine Bar New Tapas Menu

Naked Grape Wine CompanyTim and Caleb, the friendly and accommodating owners of the Naked Grape, a well-established wine bar/lounge in Wilton Manors, Florida, talked for years about serving a full food menu at their previous location. So, instead of trying to add a kitchen to and going through the usual delays, red tape, etc., they decided moving would be a better alternative. It was a wise decision.

Now newly located just a few blocks down from their old stomping grounds, Naked Grape is as popular as ever with locals. The new space still retains its intimate, candle-lit vibe, but boasts more counter space for its staff, and feels less like a retail store that also serves wine, and more of a wine bar that happens to sell wine retail. Now, with a new kitchen in place, plus the advent of tapas and small plates added to their eclectic wine and craft beer arsenal, Naked Grape should enjoy a flourishing patronage.

Joined by our fellow Wanderlushes Mitch and Jen, the four of us decided to stop by and try some small plate items on a Saturday. The place was filled, but we still managed to join two small bar-height tables together. Owner Caleb came to our table moments later and asked that we critique his food as honestly as we saw fit. We were all quite hungry at that point, so we ended up ordering four items: a small market salad; flat bread with caramelized onions and a mild goat cheese; Panini with prosciutto, fig jam and arugula on an asiago foccacia served with a side salad; plus a cheese plate with cheddar and humboldt fog goat cheese served with crackers, peppadews and gherkin pickles. All of the plates looked and tasted fantastic, though the side salad that came with the Panini was a bit on the salty side and the Panini itself smaller than expected for a sharing portion.

All in all, Naked Grape’s new tapas and small bites menu is a welcome addition to this quaint and friendly little wine bar within stumbling, I mean walking distance.

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.

Wanderlushes

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