Archive | February, 2013

2013 Annual Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival




What a busy, fun, and informative wine filled weekend! Starting on Friday 22, until Sunday 24, Miami was buzzing with wine geeks, wine aficionados and food and beverage Industry professionals. In my opinion, this annual Festival can be somewhat exhausting and overwhelming, so I like to selectively choose the specific seminars to attend. My idea of an event of this sort is for learning purposes so I love to go to the seminars. Every specific wine has a story behind it and hearing it first hand from the vintners and winery owners makes these events that much more personal.

Starting on Friday, I had the opportunity to taste a range of vintages from Fattoria Fontodi, and their Iconic Flaccianello Della Pieve. This much smaller and intimate event was held near downtown Miami away from the hustle bustle of South Beach at Wines by the Bay which is a small, quaint Miami wine bar/wine shop owned by Stefano Campanini of Italy. These Fontodi wines were provided by the sole U.S. distributor Vinifera Imports. The wines were amazing and Everyone at the event seemed to have had a very enjoyable experience.

The next day, I was signed up for the wine Spectator seminars which I find to always be very professional. This event took place at the James Royal Palm Hotel and was presented by Bruce Sanderson who is the Tasting Director for Wine Spectator. It was treated as three different events encompassed into one larger event.

First off, Enguerrand Baijot, who is Chateaux Lanson’s Brand Director for the Americas in New York, gave attendees some very interesting insight into Champagne Lanson. Founded in 1760, and currently owned by the LVMH Group, Lanson is the champagne house with the longest lasting wine maker Jean Paul Gandot (who has been with Lanson for 41 years). I can imagine they keep him quite content…

Lanson’s signature non-malolactic fermentation wine making style is all about freshness, fruit and power (made primarilly of Pinot Noir). We learned that these wines have excellent aging potential and pair really well with creamy cheeses and smoked fish. I found these wines to have a firm attack on the palate and a very clean finish. We even got a special treat which was a taste of their 1976 vintage (one of the best vintages of the last Century)!

After this, everyone switched over to the next ballroom, for the Pinnacle Wines of Washington and Oregon. Invited guest speakers were Mark de Vere, Gary Horner, and David Merfeld, who are the actual wine makers from Erath wines, Northstar and Col Solare (which I found out is a fifty fifty collaboration with Villa Antinori of Florence Italy). The interesting wine making philosophies and passion of these young wine makers made for a very special treat (and by the way these wines are highly commendable).

Next and for the final portion of this Wine Spectator event, Cristian Ridolfi (Winemaker) and Stefano Mangiarotti (Export Manager) from Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella were invited to give some insight on their very meticulously made wines. According to Cristian and Stefano, Bertani Amarones are “powerful wines but not loud”. Bertani (located in the romantic city of Verona) as well as most fattorias making Amarone, use the “ripasso” method of drying out the harvested grapes over straw mats. This method concentrates the flavors of the grape and their sugar content. The result is not of a dessert wine but of a wine with lovely raisin characteristics with the subtle flavors of the straw used in drying. The blend in their wine is of eighty percent Corvina and 20 percent Rondinella. The wines are fermented dry in order for them not to become too sweet. My favorite was the 2003 which was apparently an extremely hot year but showed great evenness throughout the growing season and it definitely reflected in the wine.

An amazing weekend overall which everyone seemed to have enjoyed. So, if you are a wine novice or wine geek like me, why not give this fun wine filled event a try next year?

Brick Oven Thin Crust Rustic Dough



Been a while since I shared an amazing recipe and wine pairing suggestion. This one is from my culinary and hospitality days… It is a huge hit and will be the talk of your next home entertaining. I imagine, everyone loves a brick oven pizza but are unaware of how to make a delicious, rustic, artisanal dough right? With this recipe, you will achieve restaurant quality results… I hope this will demystify your in-home pizza making.

In researching how to get the best brick oven crunch and flavor for my home oven, I found these really functional, untreated quarry tiles from Kitchen Supply. Simply place these tiles on the bottom rack of your oven at five hundred Degrees farhenheit for about an hour and a half and place the dough on top of the tiles and voila. You have easilly achieved restaurant quality brick oven results! My wine pairing suggestion is the 2007 Bandinello from Villa di Geggiano (Rosso Toscano) for an ARP of roughly $19.99. This is a wonderfully aromatic, light bodied, easy drinking wine that really complements the flavours of pizza. So here it is…


2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 3/4 cups bread flour, or unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil.

In a 1cup measuring cup or bowl, stir sugar and yeast into water. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until foamy. Stir again.

To make dough, add yeast mixture to flour and salt in a large bowl and knead until dough is combined. Place dough onto a sanitized highly floured surface (marble surfaces work best). Pick up dough and throw it down hard 8 or 9 times, using dough scraper to scrape any dough stuck to surface. Knead several times, dusting with a little flour at this point if dough is still sticky to handle, and throw down again 8 or 9 times. Continue throwing and kneading until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Lightly oil dough and place in a bowl (preferably with high sides) large enough to allow it to double in volume. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature
for at least 1 hour, or until doubled in volume. You my also refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Please, do not get tempted to de-stress yourself after a long day by punching the dough down. You will be killing yeasts and overworking the dough!

With floured hands, gently pull dough down from sides of bowl, remove, and slice into 2 equal parts (or leave whole for a 1/4 inch pizza). Use immediately or wrap each section well in plastic wrap (leaving enough room for expansion). Place in refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Makes about 1 pound dough, enough for two 10-inch pizzas or one 14-inch pizza.

Wan’t some more fun and savory ideas to make with the dough? Fine chop some fresh rosemary and knead into the dough. Leave the dough in a elongated artisan bread shape and bake for some delicious home-made artisan bread. You can also make a hot and savory calzone. First roll out the whole dough as if making a pizza and top half with whatever you like leaving exposed edges in order for dough edges to stick together when you fold the top half over. After folding, crimp the edges to prevent all the internal toppings from oozing out. Use an egg wash of egg whites brushed over the dough before baking in order to give the dough a lovely golden color. Cin cin and buon appetito!

Refresh Miami Technology and Food






February 20 was a fun night of learning… And who doesn't love learning about new and fun topics right? I am registered on meetup which e-mails out events that meetups in your chosen area are having (highly recommend it) and this is how I heard of the event. This extremely interesting event was held at the Miami Dade College (Wolfson Campus) and put together by Refresh Miami and Chat Chow Tv. Refresh Miami is a a web and tech meetup community and Chat Chow Tv is a vivid, mouthwatering video podcast where they go behind the scenes with the chefs, owners and mixologists of the food industry. Entrance was free and VIP tickets were sold for a mere $25 for those who wanted to sit in the first two rows. I registered late, so I sat in the middle of the third row (great view by the way).

The theme of the night was “where technology meets food”. Invited chefs were Travis Starwalt from Tuyo Restaurant and celebrity chef Giorgio Rapicavoli of a Miami popup restaurant called Eating House. The third guest was Chuck Woodward, owner of ChillN nitrogen Ice cream Miami (who is still actually a Junior in college). Wow! What a fun line-up…

I learned how some not so commonly used but easy to find ingredients (such as xantham gum, tapioca, maltodextrin and agar agar) can change the texture and actual composition of food as we know it. Techniques such as spherification where juices and other liquids are transformed into small spherical beads were also demonstrated. By the way, I got to sample these delicious and very unique culinary creations including the Nitrogen ice cream and found them all to be amazing! Did you know that nitrogen is the same NOS product being used in race cars today? All-in-all this proved to be a very interesting and inspiring evening with some extremely innovative, young and talented chefs and entrepreneurs. What made it really special was that this event was treated more like a TED event. So what events are in your area? Why not find out!