Monday, February 26, 2007

SOBE 2007

Culinary decadence, celebrity sightings and legendary wines. Our first SOBE Food and Wine Festival experience was a feast for the senses and a roller coaster of delights.
We left the icy city of DC Friday morning and were greeted by the warm Miami sun. Our first stop - Azul. We walked into the modern luxury of the Mandarin Oriental hotel where Azul is housed. Paul and Andrea were seated outside at one of the four tables balcony tables overlooking the bay. After ordering a Rudd Chardonnay, we noticed boxing legend Oscar Del la Hoya was taking the seat to our left. He was impecably dressed in a light gray Italian suit. We later found out he was in Miami for a press conference about his latest fight.

From Azul we headed to our hotel the Standard in Miami Beach. A bright sun yellow vehicle was parked out front, and we noticed Hulk Hogan with his entourage of yes men climbing inside. After a brief time to rest, we dressed and headed to the Best of the Best located inside the American Airlines arena. Tasting tables from top chefs like Nobu, Todd English and Marcus Sameulson and top wine makers such as Caymus, Dom Perignon and Haut Brion were all located in the executive suites that circled the arena. Here are just a few snap shots from Friday's event:

Pictures in order: Luke and Marcus, Char and Michael, Paul and Michael

Saturday we hit the spa for massages and then headed to lunch at the Tide's Inn. From there, we headed back to our hotel where wer saw Martha Stewart checking into our hotel. She needed to hit the spa. We had a short chat with her as she asked us if it was a nice hotel or not. Of course we answered yes, and she was on her way.

Saturday afternoon's wine seminar started with a flight tasting of seven Far Niente in a classroom style setting. Larry McGuire of Far Niente and Thomas Matthews of the Wine Spectator walked us through the entire tasting. From there, we headed to the next class where we next Andrea's favorite - Chuck Wagner of Caymus.

Andrea and Chuck

After tasting the beautiful wines of Chuck Wagner, we headed to another flight of seven, this time from Italy, and then to the one we were all waiting for...the flights of Cheval Blanc and Chateau d Yquem. ah! We had been worried about the timing, that we may missed the final tasting in order to make it to the Tribute Dinner. Luckily, with a bit of sweet talking, Paul got is in to our final tasting. The four of us sat in the giant classroom, among the hundreds of glasses ready for the students. We sat down and swirled, sniffed and tasted the best sauterne of our time just the four of us. It was perfect!

From there, we had enough time for the Tribute Dinner to Le Bernadin. Where I will pick up or story tomorrow with more photos of our trip. Util then, enjoy fine wine!

Friday, February 09, 2007

2 weeks and counting

It's exactly two weeks before we head to Miami for a weekend over culinary indulgence. We feel like kids waiting for Christmas to arrive! Here is a brief rundown of our weekend (you can see why we're so excited!):

Fly to Miami and upon retreiving our luggage, head straight to Azul at the Mandarin Hotel for lunch with our culinary cohorts!
After lunch, head to the Standard Hotel in Miami Beach and check in. After getting ready, sip Champagne poolside over looking Biscayne Bay, then get car service to the Best-of-the-Best event where we officially kick-off the festivities.

Who and what is the Best-of-the Best??? Here's what/who we'll be tasting:

Alfred Portale (Gotham Bar and Grill, New York)
Andrew Carmellini (A Voce, New York)
Andrew Swersky (The Forge, Miami Beach)
Anita Lo (Annisa, New York)
Cindy Hutson (Ortanique on the Mile, Coral Gables)
David Chang (Momofuku, New York)
Douglas Rodriguez (Ola on Ocean, Miami Beach)
Edgar Leal (Cacao Restaurant, Coral Gables)
Fabio Trabocchi (Maestro, McLean)
Floyd Cardoz (Tabla, New York)
Gabrielle Hamilton (Prune, New York)
Govind Armstrong (Table 8, Miami Beach)
Hedy Goldsmith and Michael Sabin (Nemo, Prime 112, Miami Beach)
Howard Kleinberg (The Food Gang: Surfside, FL)
Jean Paul Desmaison (La Cofradia, Coral Gables)
John McLean and John Nicely (Levy Restaurants at American Airlines Arena)
Johnny Vinczencz (Johnny V’s, Ft. Lauderdale)
Jonathan Eismann (Pacific Time, Miami Beach)
Marc Vetri (Vetri, Philadelphia)
Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit, New York)
Maria Frumkin (Duo Restaurant & Bar, Miami)
Mark Militello (Mark’s, Las Olas, Cityplace, Mizner Park, South Beach)
Michael Mina
Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s, Miami)
Nobu Matsuhisa (Matsuhisa international)
Scott Conant (L'Impero, Alto, New York)
Stefan Kauth (ENVY The Steakhouse at the Renaissance, Las Vegas)
Thomas Valenti (Ouest Restaurant, New York)
Todd English (Todd English's Tuscany at Mohegan Sun, Uncasville)
Participating Champagne Houses:
Champagne Gosset
Champagne Lanson
Champagne Laurent Perrier
Champagne Louis Roederer
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte
Champagne Perrier Jouët
Champagne Pommery
Dom Pérignon
Participating Wineries:
Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards
AP Vin
Au Bon Climat
Beaulieu Vineyard
Beringer Vineyards
Bodegas Caro
Charles Krug Winery
Chateau Coufran
Chateau de la Gardine
Chateau Haut-Brion
Chiarello Family Vineyards
Col Solare
Daedalus Cellars
Diamond Creek Vineyards
Domaine de la Vougeraie
Far Niente
Gypsy Dancer Estates
Hanzell Vineyards
Hitching Post
IL Borro
Jordan Vineyard and Winery
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
La Misión Aut.-Brion
Lancaster Estates
Landmark Vineyards
Loring Wine Company
Maison Louis Latour
Marchesi Antinori
Markham Vineyards
Marques de Riscal
Nickel & Nickel
Pali Wine Co.
Qupe Wine Cellars
Robert Mondavi Winery
Roessler Cellars
Schrader Cellars
Silver Pines Vineyard
Tandem Winery
Tor Kenward Family Wines, LLC
Trinchero Winery
Vine Cliff Winery
Wines from the Wagner Family

Morning massages, lunch at Tides Hotel, the a Wine Spectator professional tasting seminar, followed by a black-tie tribute dinner honoring Eric Ripert - Le Bernadin. Here's what we'll be tasting at the Spectator afternoon tasting:

Evolution in Oakville: 15 Years of Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage after vintage, Oakville has proven itself to be the epicenter of the most exciting Cabernets being produced today. Far Niente President and CEO Larry Maguire will lead a rare tasting of the Oakville winery's Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon spanning 15 years from the 1990s into the 2000s. Showcasing hallmark vintages over two decades, the tasting will illustrate how Oakville fruit, estate vineyards, meticulous farming and intuitive winemaking combine to create Cabernets in the legendary, luxurious Far Niente "house style."

“Wines of the Wagner Family”
Family, farming and fine wines are the foundation for everything the Wagners have created during their more than 100-year history in the Napa Valley. Best known for the Cabernet Sauvignons he makes at Caymus Vineyards, Chuck Wagner will not only prepare a tasting of the 1994 and 2004 Special Selection Cabernets, he’ll also proudly pour wines made by his sons Charlie (Mer Soleil Chardonnay from Monterey County) and Joseph (Belle Glos single-vineyard Pinot Noirs.) Having started Caymus with his mother Lorna, and father Charlie, Chuck knows the family is onto something: Wine Spectator recently recognized Caymus Vineyards for producing the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley since 1990.

“The Best Italian Wines You’ve Never Heard Of”
Most wine lovers have heard of Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany and Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont; however, Italy produces outstanding wines in all twenty regions. Join us to discover delicious wines from Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Basilicata, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia selected by Southern Wine & Spirits Italian Wine Specialist Cesar Basurto. The tasting will be conducted by Master Sommeliers Laura DePasquale, John Blazon and Eric Hemer. All the wines to be poured won the top award “Tre Bicchieri” (three glass) awarded by the prestigious Italian publication Gambero Rosso.

Château Cheval Blanc & Château d’Yquem
Needs no explanation!!!

Tribute dinner for Eric Ripert:
New York Magazine’s Insatiable Critic Gael Greene hosts the Festival’s Tribute Dinner paying honor to the team Eric Ripert and Maguy Le Coze of New York’s legendary four-star restaurant Le Bernardin. The pair will be feted with an unforgettable meal prepared by some of their friends, among them Daniel Boulud (Daniel, New York), Laurent Gras (formerly of Fifth Floor, San Francisco), Elena Arzak (Restaurante Arzak), Marc Ehrler (Loews Miami Beach), Tony Esnault (Alain Ducasse at the Essex House), Norman Van Aken (Norman's, Coral Gables) and Le Bernardin’s own pastry chef Michael Laiskonis. Yum!!!

Up and at 'em and head to Daniel Boulud's latest restaurant: Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach

That evening - head home to DC!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Culinary Controversy

As most of you know, Chicago’s City Council banned the sale of foie gras not too long ago. Even our beloved Charlie Trotter's jumped on the band wagon to ban our favorite delicacy. But thank goodness someone is coming to their senses! Could it be that they just couldn't stand it anymore. Their taste buds are fighting back?

Whether it be their pocket books protesting (after all this had to have an affect on their bottom line) or just that it's dawned on them it was a bad idea...local restaurateurs are fighting back. Can we say HOORAY?!?!

A lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court by the Illinois Restaurant Association and a corporation owned by Chicago chef Allen Sternweiler of Allen’s claims the ban is unconstitutional. Other chefs continue to sell the delicacy, despite the ordinance. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who calls the ban "the silliest law" the Council ever passed, complained to the Chicago Sun-Times: "We have children getting killed by gang leaders and dope dealers. We have real issues here... And we're dealing with foie gras?"

Exactly my point! If they would have just listened to us sooner.