Showing posts with label Belvedere. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Belvedere. Show all posts

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Tales Balancing Act in New Orleans

I was quickly thrown into the fire on my first day of Tales of the Cocktail and I was determined to act like less of a (Tales) virgin on day two. It's all about balancing the fun with the rest, or so I'd been told.

I started with a healthy breakfast in the Reincarnation Room at the Hotel Monteleone, also known as the place many journalists went between all night partying and all day drinking.  I happen to like my sleep too much for that. With about six hours under my belt, I was the most rested in the room as I had yogurt, fruit, a muffin and a few cups of coffee and water (alternating the two works best) to get ready for the day.

The Hotel Monteleone was filled with tasting rooms and I wandered through them for awhile. Lilett had a popular one, with a nice spread of fruit and cheese that included a delicious baked brie in crust. They also had some interesting cocktails to taste.

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao also had a tasting room where they were promoting Curacao Orange in cocktails. They weren’t bad, but couldn’t compete with the Marie Brizard room where the Chocolate Royal Liqueur Crepe had people getting back online for seconds.

I headed down to the Royal Sonesta Hotel for a seminar called “Drinking the Panama Canal.” I thought it would be about the wine and spirits of the area, but it turned out to be mostly a history lesson on the actual Panama Canal. Fortunately, I had sat in the back so I was able to sneak out for something a bit more lively.

Since it was my first trip to New Orleans, I decided a little exploring was in order. I walked up and down Bourbon Street for awhile taking in one of the most unusual cities I'd ever seen. I could certainly understand how this was the place to have an event all about cocktails!

The Make A Splash Belvedere Pool Party was on the rooftop of the Omni Hotel. I stayed long enough to have a Belvedere Lemon Tea and tonic and mingle a bit with the large crowd. It was very humid and it was more an “around the pool” than “in the pool” party.  I decided the time I had until my next obligation would be best spent napping so I went back to my room at the Hotel Monteleone.

My catnap lasted a few hours more than I expected and I grabbed a quick slice of pizza before heading onto the Brugal Extra Dry Bus at 10:30 pm. This party bus went out every hour each night during Tales, taking revelers to some of the local hotspots while introducing them to Brugal Rum cocktails.

I sampled Brugal straight first and found it to be very smooth and not at all sweet like rum. Too me it was more like gin (without the juniper) or vodka, something neutral that would make a great cocktail.

I loved the bus as much as the spirit and hung out with Liza, a fellow writer from Boston who writes for Whiskey Advocate.  We got to sign the barrel tops on the bus and really enjoyed the Dehumidifier, a Mojito-like concoction. We also got to meet Brugal’s Master Distiller Gustav Ortega.

I only got off at one stop, Cure, a bar known for its cocktails. I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with Cure. It was an average looking cocktail lounge with some interesting drinks. I did enjoy my Blue Note (blueberry and cucumber shrub, sparkling wine and mint), but I expected more on the menu. It wasn’t until I got back on the bus that I was told the great part about Cure was what wasn’t on the menu. It seems that they make their own bitters and mixers, and the bartenders pride themselves on creating a drink on the spot after you tell them a bit about what you want.

By the time I got back to the hotel it was 2:00 am. I was glad I didn’t have an early wake-up call, but I knew I did have another big day ahead of me so I took full advantage of the chance to sleep.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Starting South Beach with The Q

February is one of my favorite months because it is the time of one of my favorite events. There is nothing that quite compares with the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival for bringing together chefs and industry insiders.  This was my third year in a row attending and I was especially excited that I would also be covering for Ocean Drive Magazine.

My flight was running a bit late, but I arrived in time to get changed for The Q. I was staying at The National Hotel for the first time and was happily surprised at the locale – right in the center of all the events. I had a very nice room with a view and best of all it was just a quick walk out the back door to the beach. It happened to be the same beach The Q was set up on, at the Delano.

The Bubble Q had been my favorite event that previous years.  I had been disappointed to hear it would be cancelled, but happy to find out the new event, hosted by Moet Hennessy and called simply “The Q” would be very similar. I found that was certainly the case.

Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri hosted The Q, which served as the festival’s kickoff party. It was an eating frenzy, with some of the country’s best chefs serving a special barbecue dish of their choice. In addition, Moet Hennessy’s sponsorship of the event meant plenty of Belvedere Vodka, Moet Champagne and Hennessy Cognac.

As much as I hate to waste food, I did really want to take at least a bite out of as many items as possible. Here’s a sampling of some of the most memorable…

Chris Lilly passed out Big Bob Gibson barbecue, which was delicious, but was very rich so it was easy to leave it behind;

Dean Fearing of Fearings in Dallas had a superb BBQ Beef Taco that was a combination of sweet and savory;

Chef Yoshi Katsumura made Barbecue Wagyu Spareribs with Yuzyu sauce and candied skin, served with a Scallion Pancake and Watermelon Salad. It was terrific;

I really enjoyed my conversation with Nadja G. (check out my story at Cocktails and Joints). She is just so much fun and the pork belly she made was excellent;

The Hill Country Barbecue of New York offered some tender and tasty meat;

Chef Michael White prepared a yummy Grilled Pancetta with glazed figs and roasted pistachios;

Celebrity Cruises brought out a most delicious Spring Roll with white truffle barbecue sauce;

And, co-host Guy Fieri wowed all with food from his Tex Wasabi restaurant -- a Banh Mi Taco, served with barbecue chicken fried rice. 

For dessert, Godiva Chocolate had sweet treats for all, from drinks to mousse, to samples of their Belgium chocolate. Also there all the way from New York was the Big Gay Ice Cream truck, a big hit on a hot night.

Since the party was also the first night of SOBEWFF, many of the festival’s stars stopped by to visit the participating chefs. Andrew Zimmern, Robert Irvine and Rachael Ray were just a few who chowed down with their friends.

I stayed until the end and then headed back to The National Hotel for some rest. Day two at the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival was going to be a big one for me that included lots of interviews, some time with Antonio Banderas, and more food, wine and spirits than you could ever imagine.