Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Craft Spirits Festival Grand Tasting 2015

Alex, I'll take hand-crafted spirits for $2000. The clue: An Event South Floridians have been waiting for all year. What is The Craft Spirits Festival Grand Tasting taking place in Coconut Grove next Thursday, October 8, 2015?!?!?!

Last year, Ed Roberts and I checked out the second annual Craft Spirits Festival at the luxurious Cruz Building, and we'll be going back again for year three as well. The Craft Spirits Fest was designed to educate and celebrate Craft and Artisanal premium spirits and cocktails. In addition to the Grand Tasting, you can check out other seminars, dinners and happy hours by getting your tickets here.

The Cruz Building is one spectacular venue! Stained glass, long bars, awesome wooden staircases, just a beautiful place, super unique! And the vendors are super-passionate about their spirits. You will taste some killer spirits and some of the best cocktails, learn how they are made, and even have the opportunity to snack on light bites from local restaurants. If you don't believe me, check out this event partner list (which I'm betting isn't even complete)!

For more information, you can find Craft Spirits Festival...

Twitter: @SpiritsFest

FaceBook: fb.com/CraftSpiritsFest

Instagram: @CraftSpiritsFest

I highly recommend checking this out and hope to see you there!

Here are a few cool pictures from last year in case you're too lazy to click through the recap of last year above...


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pura Vida Tequila

I didn't take this photo! Surprise. Was in a Dropbox I was allowed to use. But I could have!
Pura Vida Tequila sent me a few press releases recently about some of the projects they are working on right now. Of course, Pura Vida is the brand that has the face (so to speak) of ZZ Top's Guitarist Billy Gibbons! I did some research a few years ago on this tequila and thought it would be fun to try to recreate some of the cocktails that define the brand (and of course try to "one-up" the professional photos). So I asked for a sample. And Voilà, Silver arrives a few days later!

Pura Vida is trying to establish their own state-of-the-art facilities in Mexico, so they established an Indiegogo Campaign (don't wait) to try to raise some funding. Any fan of this band or tequila in general will love some of the perks! Besides Billy, Godsmack Musician Sully Erna has also joined the cause. Both are offering signed guitars and tequila barrels, concert passes, and some really fun stuff to people that join the campaign. I have my eye on the Mexican Mule stainless steel drinking mug with Founders Club benefits too!

Billy has always been quite the entrepreneur: a branded line of clothing, his BFG brand of sauces and Rev. Willy's Mexican Lottery guitar gear were apparently just the start! I bet he just got a tequila because Justin Timberlake has one too! Actually, it may be the other way around. Anyway, Pura Vida makes their Silver, Reposado and Anejo along with a few aged and flavored specialties.

So what cocktails are we going to make? Billy Gibbons and Pura Vida CEO Stewart Skloss met and created "The Gibbons" at Laurenzo's El Tiempo Cantina a while back. So yeah, that.

The Gibbons, my version
¡The Gibbons!
1.5 oz Pura Vida Reposado Tequila
1 Fresh Lime Wedge
1 Fresh Lemon Wedge
3 oz Topo Chico (Mineral Water)
2 Fresh Jalapeño Slices
In a shaker with ice, combine tequila, juice of lime and lemon wedges. Shake to combine. Pour into a highball glass filled with ice and top with Topo Chico. Add two fresh jalapeño slices.

The Gibbons, Pro Version
In addition, Sully Erna from Godsmack has a cocktail called Sully Summer Smash! (Definite Watch!) And you'll also need to watch the video to compare his cocktail to my version below! BTW I used fresh Florida oranges in my cocktail!

¡Sully Summer Smash!
2 oz Pura Vida Silver Tequila
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1 oz Grenadine
Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake to chill and combine. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Pour grenadine over the ice. Garnish with a couple cherries and an orange wedge.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cochon555 Miami 2015


Sunday afternoon, my wife and I attended this year's Cochon555 event at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Miami is actually the ninth stop of ten this year before the Grand Cochon finale takes place on June 20, 2015 in Snowmass/Aspen. Hurry, there's still time to sign up for the final event in Chicago this coming Sunday, April 26, 2015!

In each city, 5 Chefs put together dishes made from 5 Heritage Breed pigs in a competition to be crowned the Prince/Princess of Porc. They are accompanied by 5 Winemakers, thus the "555" part, duh! It would be pretty funny if they added one more of each, at least I think so. In addition to the cooking competition, there were several other stations with fun things to see and do. Let me get this out of the way now... I ate like a pig, totally pigged out!!! I had to do a double workout the next day!

Since I'm a beer guy first, big shout out to Diego and his team from Miami's Gravity Brewlab for being the only beer sponsor and absolutely rocking with their Sunshine State of Mind Wheat Ale! I'm such an idiot that though I was talking to them the entire night, I never bothered to take one photo. But I did score a "take home" bottle for a review on DailyBeerReview, so hopefully that will suffice.

I think the Cochon crew could have even added another 5 to the mix, that being 5 whiskies! They had several vendors showing of their products, as cocktails or neat, very creatively incorporating bacon and other pig products. Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and Breckenridge Bourbons? Yes Please! The Perfect Manhattan cocktail station was a popular spot (for everyone but especially me).

They had an artisan cheese bar served with other gourmet deli items, an oyster bar, and the Punch Kings cocktail competition. There was a station serving caviar and another serving Prosciutto di Parma! Chef Jose Mendin, last year's Prince of Porc and 2015 competition judge, was cooking at a station as well. Double duty!

One of the favorite events events of the afternoon happened with one of the Heritage Breed pigs. Front and center, two of the guys from Miami Ink tattooed the pig MIAMI 555. The hum of the needles was never far away. Pretty cool. But what happened next was just as awesome. Cochon555 Founder Brady Lowe made some introductions and talked a little about the event. Then the "Tattooed Pig" was butchered in front of the crowd by Andres Barrientos of Miami Smokers, knives, hacksaws and all! The meat was sold in a Pop-Up Butcher shop, raising $880 for the culinary students of Johnson & Wales University.

Don't forget that while everything I already mentioned was happening, the 5 Chefs were serving multiple dishes created from their Heritage Breed pigs. Chefs Xavier Torres of Drunken Dragon, Todd Erickson of Haven South Beach, Jason Pringle of db Bistro Moderne,  Richard Hales of Blackbrick, and Lindsay Autry of Fin & Feather made so many tasty and fun dishes using every part of their pigs!

We started with the dishes of Chef Lindsay Autry. She was using the meat from a Red Wattle pig raised in South Florida, with the breed originating from the South Pacific. Fantastic Carolina BBQ and Delicious Porchetta is pretty much all I can say! Oh, and a heart-shaped liverwurst push pop! Oh, crap, almost forgot the SPAM in a can creation!

I also loved several of the dishes from Chef Richard Hales. He was using a Berkshire Heritage Breed pig originating from Britain. Delicious pork belly and other dishes too, and OMG the cookie with bacon is etched on my memory forever! Chef Jason Pringle also had some standout dishes using a Large Black Heritage pig. Great combination of flavors. But seriously, I didn't have one thing I didn't like all night. Great job to all the chefs in a pressure situation.

In the end, Chef Lindsay Autry of Fin & Feather was declared the winner. You probably will recognize her as a finalist from Bravo's popular TV show Top Chef, and she also worked for the famous Chef Michelle Bernstein before opening her own place. Can't wait to check out that restaurant!

I got to catch up with some friends and people I hadn't seen in a while. The hotel was awesome as always, attentive staff, terrific hosts. My guess is that you're really going to love my photos, but here are the professional ones as well (I have a cameo in #9 along with a hundred others, LOL)!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Miami Rum Renaissance Grand Tasting 2015

First In Line for the 2015 Miami Rum Renaissance?! Yep! Ed Roberts and I were only half an hour early Saturday afternoon but somehow managed to be the first ones through the door. After briefly surveying the floor at the DoubleTree Miami Airport Convention Center, we got to work. We did notice that the number of rum vendors was quite a bit lower than in 2014. It seemed that some of the bigger and many of the most well-known rum makers decided not to return. However, there were many new faces so we got the opportunity to hear new stories and meet some up-and-coming rum makers.

While Ed chatted about rum distribution, I made some new friends. You can see some of them below. We bumped into all of the famous Burr family: Rob, Rob and Robin! They are always fun to chat with and Saturday was NO EXCEPTION. Rob the younger gave us quite the lesson on flavored rums! Ed made some new contacts and solidified others for his day job--was funny, when they heard the Total Wine name, they stopped texting and gave their full attention! Seriously.

Some of our favorite rums were in the flavored rum category this year. I would say that in that category, Plantation Pineapple, Siesta Key Toasted Coconut, and Bayou Satsuma all hit home runs! I also got to take home a bottle of the Siesta Key rum, but that's because I was with Ed and I interviewed their owner for the Total Wine blog a few years ago!

Now... I like the hot rum models probably more than almost everyone there, but I was certainly OK with more classy sexy than risque skimpy. That was another noticeable difference than years past. And Captain Jack was there again this year which should be a requirement.

Other vendors that caught my eye... Stroh had a 160 (over)proof rum that Apothecary Cocktails Author Warren Bobrow was using to create a crazy-ass cocktail. I asked him if he brought the entire medicine cabinet before he pointed out who he was. It seriously felt like a science experiment! The cocktail was pretty good too, extremely interesting! Blue Water had two models with an Electric Blue Belle lipstick on (I did my best color match at BenjaminMoore.com). I'm pretty sure that every attendee stopped at their booth to check out the cocktail they had--nice and refreshing. A fun gimmick! And I got a T-Shirt for expressing my love for Yolo Rum!

Besides the rums above in the flavored category, other favorites included those from Opthimus, Mezan, Brugal, Plantation, and Diplomatico. I thought that the Plantation, Opthimus, Afrohead, Blackheart, and Skotlander presentations were also great, educational, and interesting.