Tag Archives: food

Chilean Wine Tasting at Barrel Wine Cantine

27 May

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Last Wednesday my friends and I attended a free Chilean wine tasting at Barrel Wine Cantine. Barrel opened on April 16, 2012 at 3622 NE Second Avenue, on the cusp between midtown and the Design District. The space, formerly W Wine Bistro, has been transformed into a dimly lit, sexy, Old World meets New World wine cave. In fact, owner Victor Passalacqua says it’s not so much a restaurant as a “wine cellar with a restaurant in it.” I did my best to capture the casual elegance and ambient warmth with a few images, attached here.

The Wine

The variety of Chilean red wines, provided by the Botalcura winery, were tasty and diverse enough to help us learn more about the craft of wine tasting. We were so pleased to enjoy our complimentary glasses of Cabernet, Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon with the Botalcura wine representative, who had oodles of information to convey. As there weren’t many patrons at the moment, she pleasantly guided us through the tasting of each glass by pointing out commonly experienced aromas and flavors that we may not have noticed before. My pallet picked up delicious hints of spicy and earthy green peppers. The most poignant lesson I took from the rep was that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’  complexities one can glean from a vintage. Each bottle of wine is a work of art; it’s up to the individual to interpret what the bottle is saying.

After our wine guide moved on to another table Passalacqua, who had been sitting next to us at the communal table the entire time, turned to us and begin discussing his thoughts on the complex variations of wine. He explained, in his opinion, that wine is like women. He uses the same approach to judge each. “I can get a sense of what this wine is going to be like within the first 5 minutes of tasting the glass. 5 minutes can tell me everything I’ll need to know.” We chuckled as he poured us each a new glass so we could test his (either jaded or wise) theory.

The Foie Gras

While sipping, we also snacked on their lovely brie which was served with rosemary-infused crusty baguette and apple slices. The brie was delectable, and we began discussing his other edible offerings with Passalacqua. We had questions, we aren’t culinary experts. One friend asked, “What is the difference between a foie gras made of duck and a duck liver pate?” Passalacqua, after asking if any of us were sensitive to animal abuse topics, hurdled into a lecture on how foie gras is produced, harvested, and presented to him . After which he told us about how he cooks with fat to create his locally-famous foie gras terrine (Sidenote: the harvesting of foie gras is gruesome, and I had never heard it described in such detail. Passalacqua did not hold back. Nonetheless, foie gras is one of my favorite dishes and I will certainly be back to try his homemade portion of terrine for only $14). Unfortunately we already had post-wine tasting dinner plans, or else we certainly would have stayed to try one of the rotating specials, fresh sandwiches, or more cheese and charcuterie. I noted how affordable the prices were, considering the quality and handmade care put into each item. Also, regular priced glasses of wine ranged from $6-$9, shockingly great prices.

The Grocery

After promising to contact my friend the next time he makes duck confit, a table-wide favorite of ours, Passalacqua was beckoned to the kitchen. We finished up our brie and final glasses, and browsed the small selection of bottled and pickled gourmet foods they had for sale. My English friend noted they sold very specific and hard to find pickled goods from a factory in Tiptree, adjacent to where he grew up. He was very pleased, which to me was a testament to just how thoughtful and carefully curated the selection at Barrel Wine Cantine is.

On April 16, Passalacqua said to a Miami New Times reporter, “It’s not a restaurant, it’s a neighborhood place, somewhere to come in, get a bottle of wine with some cheese or charcuterie, empanadas, or, if you want something more substantial you can get that too. It’s about wine, food, and friends.” Indeed, my experience at Barrel was outstanding. Barrel plans to host free wine tastings on a monthly basis, which is great news. I’m surely bringing all of my family and friends here when they visit.

Saturday May 19 Pickle Recap: Local Lineup and Tale of Us

21 May

My dear friends J. and D. took me to the Electric Pickle Saturday May 19 for an unforgettable experience.

We arrived at 7 p.m. to hear local DJs throw a free party in celebration of a couple birthdays and graduations. The party lasted until midnight and was outside on the back patio. The lineup included: Basti, Uchi, Jonny Cruz, Baez, Jeremy Ismael, Robert Tellier, Chung Arguello and Jeremias.

This was my first time hearing most of these DJs live (I had seen a few spinning at last weekend’s Wynwood Art Walk) and I was over the moon at how well-curated the sets were. The mugginess from sporadic evening showers didn’t stop everyone from dancing their little behinds off. J. and D. told me the Pickle was like home to EDM fans in Miami, and most of the local DJs were like family. This was clear to a newcomer like myself; I fell instantly in love with the absence of any pretense. I was welcomed with open arms.

In my opinion, the crowd-pleasing Jason Baez was the highlight of the early party, as he channeled the energy of the warmed-up crowd and gave us the beats our bodies had been searching for and building up to. Jeremy Ismael also threw down some funky jams that really resonated with the heady atmosphere. At one point I remember telling D, “That’s some funky shit!”

The early party was winding down so we left Pickle for food around 11:30. A lovely interlude at trendy eatery GiGi (check out more recs on my Bon Apetit page) offered much needed rest and fresh, innovative cuisine. We then made the smart decision to head back to the Pickle to see Tale of Us play in the upstairs main room, the highlight of the night, the main event. Honestly, we were on the fence since we had been partying there all evening, but the rest of J. and D.’s friends were there.

Tale of Us

I am so glad we did. I haven’t been to such a fun party in a long time. In New York I see EDM shows at a variety of venues, including but not limited to Good Units, Yotel, The Marcy Hotel, Submercer, WIP, Cielo, Music  Hall of Williamsburg, and a variety of rooftops and warehouses in Bushwick. I am by no means the most experienced partier there is, but in my opinion no one does it quite like the Pickle upstairs. I think the combination of intimacy, great sound and tasteful lighting makes for an environment that just feels right.

The three of us quickly realized how packed upstairs was as we had to fight our way to get there. Once there, our voices were drowned out by the insane volume and it remained difficult to speak for the next few hours. The hairs on my arms danced in sync with the bass which was so mind-blowing and body-shaking, one of our friends actually felt sick from it. But not I– I was in heaven.

We made our way up to the DJ booth to say hello to some friends and I was pleased by the sexiness of the crowd. Bathed in red light, with the occasional dose of projected smoke and just the right amount of laser light, these people were having a blast and looked like the kind I wanted to stop and chat with. I’m not saying there weren’t sketchy people present (there are always some at these parties), but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a jam-packed intimate room full of such awesome looking folks. This feeling was bolstered by the fact that despite the room’s crowded-ness, I was never once hit on or inappropriately confronted. Winning.

Our group was perched on benches along the far wall, so we had a nice aerial view of the scene. Tale of Us worked the room, it’s no wonder to me that they are taking the EDM scene by storm right now. Back in January I tried to see them at a warehouse in Bushwick, but one of the duo couldn’t make it due to illness (it was a Tale of One). For the next three hours I was in a dance trance. The closeness of the room and the energy of the other dancers created an irresistible vibe. As it neared 4:30 a.m. we had to force ourselves to leave, as the unwavering bass was finally too much to handle.

I hadn’t been to the Pickle since a year before, but my previous experiences there had been nowhere near this caliber. The Tale of Us party was one not to miss. I like TOU in an intimate setting, and I will be sure to see them again when they come back to the Pickle.

Check out their track, ‘Dark Song.’

Wynwood Whispers

17 May

I go to the Wynwood District daily, to grab a guava and cheese pastry (the best I’ve ever had, and only 50 cents!) at the Cuban bakery on NW 28th St. and NW 2nd Ave. or to read and enjoy a beer in Lester’s. (I am looking forward to Lester’s One Year Anniversary Party which is Saturday May 26th. I couldn’t find details online, but the in-store flyer mentions a daytime BBQ, live bands and DJs, and drink specials all day long. Mark your calendars, should be a great time!)

So, yesterday. The skies were gloomy. The streets were nearly empty and, coupled with eerie silence, the whole thing made for a reverential experience. I took pictures of moments that inspired me, and then married them to quotes that seem fitting. I hope you enjoy the pairings as much as I do.

“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something that one finds. It is something that one creates.”–Thomas Szasz, well-known social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the State University of New York

“If I wasn’t making mistakes, I wasn’t making decisions.”– Robert W. Johnson, founder of Johnson & Johnson

“Flops are part of life’s menu and I’ve never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses.”-Rosalind Russell, Golden Globe and Tony award-winning American actress

“The inmates are ghosts whose dreams have been murdered.”- Jill Johnson, about Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric wards

“Nothing happens until something is sold.”

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Cook It Raw: Chefs are the New Rock Stars

7 May

Watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on Travel Channel is one of my favorite ways to feel enlightened and get inspired. Each hour-long episode chronicles Bourdain’s journey through an exotic part of the globe.

Anthony Bourdain

In tonight’s new episode, Bourdain heads to Japan for the annual Cook It Raw competition. Like many, I had never heard of this event before. Upon first visiting their website, I was met by what appears to be a sophisticated hippie culinary cult. Their manifesto claims, “In 2009 Copenhagen discussed climate change. at the same time, in the same city another type of discussion on the same subject was taking place, a non verbal discussion. A discussion that required you not to use your ears, but to use your sight. Your sense of smell. Your sense of taste.”

Ok, not too weird after all. So, who is involved with Cook It Raw?

The Brotherhood of the Raw

Participating chefs call themselves the Brotherhood of the Raw. About the Brotherhood: “Each time the Brotherhood of the Raw sets up a gathering, it delves into the fabric of some of the most sought after destinations on earth, and investigates its purest of traditions. After days of immersion and engagement, the chefs present their discoveries on a plate, allowing our guests, and worldwide following to have a different sensory perspective on a destination they may or may not be familiar with.”

First thought, whoa. Second thought, wow. I want to experience this sort of tastebud teleportation, pronto.

Bourdain’s insight and commentary demystifies the Brotherhood in a positive and humorous way. World renowned chefs meet in a chosen location, and begin foraging the natural environment and local markets for regional, fresh, and unavailable-in-other-locations ingredients. They must create a groundbreaking meal based on the ingredients they are able to gather and inspired by the local people and customs. An invitation only dinner is held on the final evening, showcasing the creative concoctions. Bourdain was comfortable amidst his peers, experimental and environmentally friendly minded chefs from all over the world, ready to get together, have a good time, and learn something new about their craft. One chef out of Charleston, South Carolina poignantly remarked, “I love taking a bite of a dish that makes me realize I know nothing about food.”

Cook It Raw: Miami?

In terms of events created to explore sustainable gastronomic creativity, Cook It Raw seems unparalleled and unrivaled.

New to Miami, I am delving into its rich culinary heritage with a zealot’s enthusiasm. But this episode of No Res has reminded me not to forget what’s on the epicurean horizon. So, what does Miami have to offer in terms of the latest and greatest in sustainable dining?

Little Haiti Farmers’ Market is currently closed for the Spring season, with Summer and Fall operation information TBD. Founded in January 2012, the market is new to the area and part of the Make Healthy Happen Miami campaign. The market is open at Toussaint Louverture Elementary School in Miami. I can’t wait to visit and explore local produce, prepared food, and wares, once it re-opens.

Sustain Restaurant + Bar in Midtown exemplifies sustainable chic in its menu and decor. Allow head chef (and trained microbiologist!) Alejandro Pinero wow you with his sophisticated spin on classic comfort food, while sipping a signature cocktail inspired by beverage director Daniel Toral’s extensive travels. Particularly interesting is the 50-Mile Salad, made with ingredients from within fifty miles of Midtown.

Area 31 Restaurant & Bar in Miami
Executive Chef E. Michael Reidt showcases pristine, sustainable seafood from the restaurant’s namesake, fishing Area 31. Located on EPIC Hotel’s 16th floor, in downtown, you can dine inside or outside on the breathtaking terrace.

Recommendations for other sustainable dining establishments in Miami are welcome in the ‘Comments’ section below!

‘Hup Holland!’: Critical Mass Bike Ride to Celebrate Dutch Queen’s Day

30 Apr

I always thought Critical Mass was some sort of Catholic thing that I didn’t want to be a part of. I’m not really a biker. But I’ve just moved to Miami and want to experience the city in every way possible, so I agreed to go on the Critical Mass bike ride last Friday, April 27, in celebration of the Dutch holiday Queen’s Day. An after party with food and beer, sponsored by Grolsch, was promised at the end. I had no choice but to give the ordeal a whirl.

I did a bit of research beforehand. What is this holiday? And why is the theme color orange? Queen’s Day is by far the most widely celebrated holiday in the Netherlands. On April 30, the Dutch celebrate Koninginnedag,”Queen’s Day,” a national holiday to commemorate the birthday of the country’s (former) Queen. Amsterdam festivities in particular rival those of Mardi Gras in New Orleans or New Year’s Eve in New York City. As such, Amsterdam is packed to the gills on April 30, welcoming up to two million party-going visitors. But the Dutch have some other interesting practices on this day: Koninginnedag is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt (“free market” or flea market), at which many Dutch sell their secondhand items. It is also an opportunity for “orange madness” or oranjegekte, for the national color, when the normally straight-laced Dutch let down their hair, often dyed orange for the occasion.

Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands, 1942, via Wikipedia.com

Across the ocean, thousands of locals gathered in downtown Miami at Government Center,150 NW First Street. Advertisements suggested you arrive by 6:20 or 6:30 pm in order to get one of the 800 free Grolsch t-shirts that had been made for the event. Not only were the t-shirts cool and bright orange, but you received a discount for wearing it, at the after party. We arrived promptly at 6:20 to find hundreds of cyclists already waiting.

The energy was high and positive in a way I had never experienced before. Like I said, this was my first Critical Mass, and already I could tell this experience might be my jam. The diversity of the crowd was particularly surprising; I really didn’t know what to expect, but I like what I saw. All ages, all walks of life, and everyone was down to have a great bike ride through the city together. Cyclists were not the only participants; people on blades and skateboards came as well. My good friend James, who is Dutch and the driving force behind this outing, taught me the phrase ‘Hup Holland!’ (Go Holland!!), which we began chanting to continue pumping up the crowd. (I was later informed this phrase might not actually be used by anyone in Holland. But it was fun at the time.)

An excited crowd decked in orange mingles before the Critical Mass, Downtown Miami, Florida, April 2012

The ride started promptly at 7:15, perfect timing to catch the sunset while biking through the Miami neighborhoods of East Little Havana, Miracle Mile, Coral Way, Shenandoah, Little Havana, and Downtown. The total distance was 12 miles and fortunately it was not too hot outside, so sweat didn’t make a personal appearance. James and I had invited a few friends, so we had a nice little wolf pack going on. Initially I was worried about running into other cyclists with my handlebars, since the ride starts off slow due to the mass of people. But I was pleased with how easy it was to ride along with the group. We organically transformed into a school of fish, riding in sync and moving with the flow while keeping safe distances apart.

Riding through Little Havana and Miracle Mile were by far the best stretches. Crowds of pedestrians lined the streets, cheering us on. We laughed about how victorious we felt, even though this wasn’t a race. As we picked up speed and each rider spread out, we were still close enough to each other to enjoy casual conversation. On the ride, I spoke with our friend Andy about where the term Critical Mass comes from. I learned it means you have gathered enough bike riders together (the mass) to make it critical for cars to yield, get off the road, and generally give bikers the right of way.

And indeed, the Critical Mass stopped traffic for miles around. Some drivers were yelling at us from their cracked car windows, but most were surprised and laughing as their cars were engulfed by the sea of riders. Cars were either stopped at lights, or were forced by the Mass to stop in their tracks in the middle of the road.

Critical Mass, Downtown Miami, April 2012

12 miles went by in a flash, and we made it to Grand Central Park for the after party. The first item on our group’s agenda was hitting up the Grolsch stand for some nice Dutch spirits. Long beer tent lines were expected, and we were not disappointed. Fortunately we had the Dutch-inspired apparel costume contest to watch, and we were able to listen to some tunes that a local DJ was spinning. As expected, the food was outstanding! Elwoods Gastro Pub, Sparky’s Roadside BBQ, Kork Wine & Cheese, and Puntino all had tents present. Elwoods Gastro Pub blew me away with their bratwurst with curry sauce, although for $5 the portion was disappointingly small. For my main course I tried the bbq brisket sandwich from Sparky’s, a local favorite. Not only were the Sparky’s guys awesome, but the brisket was amazing too; topped with coleslaw, bbq sauce and hot sauce, piled on a fresh bun, I was pretty much in heaven.

Many beers later, we decided to hop on the Party Bike (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_Bike), which is a bar on wheels, pedaled by the patrons on stools. Also called a beer bike, or a cycle pub, this ride was awesome, but actually hard work! I secretly wished there was a little engine hidden away that would carry our weight—but there wasn’t. We had an awesome spin around the block, after signing our lives away with legal waivers, and we even decided to try to climb a hill. It was this point where one of the chains broke. The night ended with a stalled out party bike at the top of a hill, but a sense of comraderie sunk in as we stumbled and pushed it down together.

P-Cubed= Pushing Party Pubmobile (down the hill), Downtown Miami, Florida, April 2012

The next Critical Mass in the Miami area is the Emerge Critical Mass on Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. Visit www.emergemiami.com for more details. See you on the road!