I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. -- Oscar Wilde
From February 23rd to February 26th, I enjoyed incredible sunshine, warm people and some of the world's best food and wine at the 2012 Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival. It was the perfect way to rejuvenate, while also networking with established and emerging talents in the world of wine and food. To put it more succinctly, it was "Simply the Best!" Here are some highlights:
Checking in at the legendary, recently-renovated Fontainebleau Miami Beach, I was greeted by professional and welcoming staff who belied the cool, sophisticated elegance of this landmark hotel.
Here is a balcony view from my hotel room in the Tresor Tower, which is, as its name suggests, a hidden treasure, a little tucked away from the main hotel. This view alone was a signal to exhale, relax and decompress from the hustle and bustle of getting everything squared away at home in order to take this mini "work-cation." And that is exactly what I did on Thursday evening.
On a perfectly sunny Friday morning, I combined a little exercise with sightseeing and strolling around the center of town to take in some of the local highlights.
The Van Dyke Cafe on Lincoln Avenue is the perfect lunch stop for Mojitos, ceviche, fried calamari and people watching.
Friday night was the official kickoff of the weekend at Wine Spectator's "Best of the Best" event sponsored by Bank of America. Luckily, I didn't have to go far, because it took place in the Fontainebleau Grand Ballroom.
First stop, a cold, palate-refreshing taste of Henriot Champagne. Couldn't decide on Brut or Rose, so tasted a little of both. Hard to go wrong with either, but I think the Brut Souverain, made from 100% Chardonnay was my favorite. Its focus, precision, elegance and depth set it apart from some more commercial, mass-produced brands. "Time is our ally and patience our secret," says Joseph Henriot. "They are the fundamental elements to our success."
A visit to Chef Bill Telepan (Telepan Restuarant, New York City) for Smoked Trout w/ Sweet Onion Sour Cream and a Potato Chive Blini was a really good move and nice pairing with the Champagne.
The mellow, smoky and earthy 2001 Baron de Chirel Rioja Reserva by Marques de Riscal, Rioja's oldest bodega, was a very special treat and a perfect pairing witth Chef Michael Cimarusti's (Providence Restaurant, Los Angeles) beautiful and delicious Japanese Sword Squid and Chorizo a la Plancha.
Le Dix de Los Vascos, a Chilean joint-venture with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), is an intense purple Cabernet Sauvignon that can hold its own with some of the best from around the world, including classified Bordeaux. It was great with Lamb Tartare & Pickled Cauliflower, prepared by Chef Michael Solomonov (Zahav Restaurant, Philapelphia).
"What happens when you combine a creative, adventurous spirit with an unbridled passion for wines of quality and character?" "Les Ruchets" Cornas is a deep, dark delicious Syrah by Jean-Luc Colombo, fequently hailed as "the winemaking wizard" of the Rhone.
Chef Michael Pirolo (Scarpetta at Fontainebleau, Miami) is making me laugh. But in the kitchen, he is no joke! He made a mean delicious Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli with Marsala Reduction, Creamy Polenta and a Fricassee of Truffled Mushrooms at "Best of the Best."
DJ K- Razor set the tone for the evening by spinning cutting edge tracks
Last, but not least, I ended up at home with Napa legend Robert Mondavi. His Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic. This man just gets it!