On Saturday, Downtown Ft. Lauderdale was flooded with beer enthusiasts and local breweries for the second annual FemAle Brewfest. It was a sunny day – perfect weather to throw back a cold one!
The outdoor event moved to Huizenga Plaza in downtown Ft. Lauderdale this year. The new venue allowed for more breweries and more than doubled the capacity. This not-so-secret gem of a festival was brimmed with tasty local breweries. And the best part is that this Brewfest was specifically aimed at highlighting women in the beer industry as all the businesses were women-owned or founded. One brewery featured a female master brewer, Kayla Brogna, of Bousa Brewery in Miami. We tried their coffee stout and found it was the perfect sip to start the day off!
Next, we tried the Pomegranate Passion Fruit Evil Kiss. A Berliner Weisse by Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing Company.Tart yet full-bodied, the German-style beer awakened our taste buds!
There were people from all over the state in attendance, including Dana who recently moved to Florida from Colorado. She was involved in the Colorado beer scene and said this event was the first of its kind that she’s ever experienced. Dana told us she was really happy to see this event celebrating women in an industry normally dominated by men.
By far, our favorite beers of the day came from MIA Brewery in Miami. We kept coming back for their crisp and refreshing ‘Hard Water’ series so often that they gave us a can! A low calorie, gluten-free, low carb beer with only 5% alcohol, it’s great for a long day at the beach. We suggest the Cucumber and Lemon Lime flavor.
Finally, what beer fest would be complete without some beer-infused sweets? We found this eye candy by Lola The Baker at the festival. Her beer cupcakes are divine and come in fun flavors including; Fruity Pebbles, Chocolate Raspberry, French Toast Maple Bacon, and Chocolate Cookie Dough. Her custom bakery in Miami even has gluten-free and vegan desserts!
The second annual FemAle Brewfest boasted live music, outdoor games, a Jameson Whiskey-sponsored tent (with free shots), and great vibes. We recommend getting your tickets early next year because it’s only a matter of time until more people find out about this intoxicatingly fun and lively Brewfest.
It’s been some time since my last post. It’s that time of the year again when we get so crazy busy with all the wonderful food and wine events to cover on top of all the extra visitors who come into town and book us for our culinary tours and experiences. We have been working hard on creating a brand new website which will soon be launched and we have been growing our company both geographically as well as team members, but more on that in the next newsletter.
Today, it’s all about our visit to Coastal Restaurant located inside the Atlantic Hotel on Ft. Lauderdale Beach. I was invited to experience the brunch there by the PR firm representing the restaurant, which is located in the previous Beauty and the Feast spot, for those of you who remember that one.
I love brunches, particularly buffets (as opposed to a la carte) and especially ones that have as great a variety as Coastal. What I REALLY liked about Coastal’s brunch was that in addition to the marvelous options on the buffet, they have a menu of select a la carte plates every Sunday with a couple staple items that appear each Sunday such as bananas foster french toast and chicken & waffles and other specialty items such as eggs benedict, tacos and pancakes that change each Sunday. On this day, they were serving a crab cake benedict, pulled pork taco and chocolate chip pancakes. Lucky for me, they make these a la carte items in really cute small portions so you can try one of each (like I did) without feeling (too) guilty. LOL!
The pricing is extremely reasonable for just $39.95 per adult and $19.95 for children 12 & under. You can add bottomless Bloody Marys, Mimosas, & Bellinis for just $18.98 or $5/glass. What’s more, they offer 3 hour complimentary valet parking! How great is that?!? They have live music too. The buffet is available from 11am – 3pm. Definitely worth checking out!
Well, there you have it. Not only does Coastal have a great view of the ocean, but the decor is clean and inviting, the staff is friendly and attentive and the food is excellent. What more can you ask for? If you’re looking for somewhere to go this Valentine’s Day, they have some pretty awesome couples packages available, including a Gourmet Picnic Dinner on the Beach, Oceanfront Dinner at Coastal, and Three Spa Atlantic Packages, starting at Only $120. Valid Feb 11th – 18th, no overnight stay required.
On Friday, October 6, 2017, more than 500 guests filled Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. to attend the Ann Storch Center’s 24th Annual Celebrity Chefs Food Tasting & Auction to dine on the delicious culinary delights of 26 of South Florida’s most innovative and celebrated chefs; The participating restaurants included: Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, Aruba Beach Café, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Bob Roth’s New River Groves & Terry’s World Famous Pies, Bravo Peruvian Cuisine, Brimstone Woodfire Grill, Casa D’Angelo Ristorante, Coastal, Crave Rum, Hard Rock Cafe, Hickory Sticks BBQ, Honeybaked Ham, I Heart Mac N Cheese, Jason’s Deli, JOJI Yogurt, Mimi’s Ravioli, Native Brewing Company, Riverside Market South, Roho Kitchen, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Catering, Sweet & Savory Catering, Tarpon River Café & Absolute Catering, Tijuana Taxi Co., Tin Fish, Truluck’s Seafood Steak & Crab House, and Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille.
This year’s event was a resounding success, earning more than $230,000. The event would not have been possible if it were not for the generosity of the many wonderful sponsors who supported the event. Guests also enjoyed a silent auction reception and photo booth throughout the night. For more info about this event and a complete list of sponsors, click here.
Until we eat & drink again (while giving back to our communities)…
Today I am sharing my recent dining experience at McCoy’s Oceanfront Restaurant. Located inside the Marriott Pompano Beach, the resort’s signature beachfront restaurant and lounge pays homage to its Prohibition-era namesake. Some of you may recall a post I did on McCoy’s back in April of last year when I was still blogging under BocaFoodFinds. New year, new blog and new Executive Chef at McCoy’s. His name is Eric Kaszubinski and he has been with the Marriott chain for like a gazillion years. Chef Eric was appointed Executive Chef of McCoy’s this past April and has been turning up the heat and blazing a new trail in the food and beverage scene ever since.
Chef Eric oversees the culinary execution of the resort’s food and beverage program, which includes McCoy’s Oceanfront, in-room dining and catering for meetings and events. My dining companion and I were greeted at our table by Chef Eric who took the time to share with us his journey here and how excited he is to be able to explore his creativity and applying his love of the ocean to the dishes they’re serving in McCoy’s. He goes on to tell us how Pompano Beach has so much to offer by way of fresh, local ingredients and that it gives him such pleasure to live here and to be able to give guests a taste of this great city.
Chef prepared a variety of items from their lunch menu for us to taste. While we waited, we were presented with a cocktail & wine list. After scanning the menu up and down, my eyes kept returning to the Harlemese Sangria, a beautiful drink comprised of Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, fresh fruits, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and garnished with HUMONGOUS blackberries, fresh strawberries and mint. It was practically a meal in itself.
The first item the Chef brought out was the local fresh ceviche. The fish changes daily and on this day, we delighted in the Corvino which sat in a bath of coconut, rum and slivered red onions (a little too many onions for my liking) served with some lovely plantain chips; but overall, the dish was very flavorful and we both liked it very much.
Next item to hit our table was the Ale Braised clams. These clams happen to come from Cedar Key and were accompanied by pork belly and a broth made with Cigar City Maduro craft beer, garlic and fennel. First of all, full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of steamed clams (or oysters or mussels for that matter). These clams were a little bit on the small side and my companion and I decided that their choice to stay local probably had a lot to do with that. Aside from the size, the combination of flavors and the other components on the plate certainly made up a well balanced dish. We both agreed that the broth resembled something of a French Onion soup-type flavor, which we both thought was delicious.
As part of its commitment to sourcing fresh, local products, McCoy’s is now home to an Urban Garden, located at the front of the restaurant, where fresh plants and herbs grow and ultimately make their way into the dining menu. McCoy’s has partnered with Tampa-based Uriah’s Urban Farm to source local products. Plants are changed weekly and Chef Eric is more than happy to guide guests through the uses for each. We had the opportunity to sample the fresh from the garden Strawberry & Citrus Salad made with arugula, fennel, orange, pistachio, feta cheese and tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. It was very light and well composed and just screamed FRESH!!!
Undeniably one of our favorite items we tasted throughout the day was this scrumptious crispy Rock Shrimp tacos. Served in a corn tortilla with an avocado “butter” (I’d say a more accurate description for this “butter” might be avocado crema), jicama slaw, and tossed in a sweet Thai sauce. The shrimp are from Florida. The shrimp were cooked to perfection. They were crispy but not laden in a heavy batter. I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I’m usually the biggest wimp in the world when it comes to heat, but…they could stand to add a little heat to the sweet Thai sauce. The lovely jicama slaw would be right there to help soothe some of that heat. But believe me, this is a super delicious dish as is.
Now, having just returned from New England, I had “chowda” on the brain. I saw this offering on the menu and asked Chef Eric if it would be ok to try his version. I’m sure glad we did. It exceeded both our expections ten-fold. It was chalk full of seafood – ground conch, rock shrimp and local catch (in this case the Corvino was used) along with sofrito (A colorful blend of red, green, orange, and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, green onions, tomatillos, and garlic), veggies, potatoes, saffron and rum.
One other item that caught my eye, which wasn’t on the lunch menu, but was featured as a starter on the dinner menu was the local burrata, tomato jam (with caramelized red onion), fig balsamic & lemon oil. Had to have it. So happy Chef Eric was able to accommodate. Yay! It was terrific. A must-try for sure.
And speaking of dinner menu: highlights from the new dinner menu include the Ale Braised Clams with pork belly, garlic and fennel (pictured above); Florida Pompano with sautéed fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus, wilted greens and lemongrass herb butter; Farro Risotto with day boat scallops, gulf shrimp, English peas, summer squash, baby spinach and pancetta; and Lake Meadows Chicken with haricot verts, goat cheese polenta and her jus.
We concluded our tasting with the Black Forest Cheesecake, which you can have for either lunch or dinner (who knows, maybe you can even have for breakfast if you ask Chef Eric nicely enough) lol. This little masterpiece is made in house and has a delicious oreo crust and bourbon cherries. It was rather addicting.
I want to thank Chef Eric for really extending himself and providing my guest and I with a wonderfully personalized tasting experience. One that we will remember for a long time and new memories we look forward to creating there in the future.
Chef Eric recently rolled out brand new breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour menus. If you haven’t been to McCoy’s or if it’s been a while, I highly suggest you head on over and give them a try. I know there are so many choices to go, but trust me on this one, it’s a great find.
McCoy’s is located 1200 N. Ocean Blvd. in Pompano Beach, just south of the 14th Street Causeway inside the Marriott, right on the beach. For more info, you can visit their website or call (954) 782-0100.
On Tuesday, March 15, 2016 Thasos Taverna opened its lovely doors to host local news reporters & bloggers for a tasting of the Island Gems of Greece luncheon and presentation, which I had the distinct pleasure of attending. Special guest Chef Athinagoras Kostakos was flown in for the occasion all the way from the island of Mykonos, Greece where he has worked for the past eight years as the executive chef of Bill & Coo Suites and Lounge.
Before we were formally invited to take a seat for our lunch and presentation on the Island Gems of Greece, guests were treated to some signature cocktails made with Greek FOS Mastiha Liqueur. The Mastiha tree is a small evergreen shrub, also known as “lentisk”, with a lifespan of more than 100 years. Apparently this tree can only be found on the Island of Chios Greece, which controls 100% of the world’s production of Mastiha. FOS Mastiha liqueur is a clear spirit with a sweet taste – a full range of herbal tones and tree essences, which are really enhanced when served in a chilled glass over ice. I had the pleasure of trying “The Detox” cocktail made with cucumber puree, thyme, lime and ginger ale. This tasty cocktail was created by Lef Kraounakis, head bartender at La Mar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami.
During the four course lunch, guests were able to get a real taste for Chef Kostakos’s passion and flare for authentic Greek food with a twist. Our first course was a delightful cup of Chilean sea bass soup with mussels and rice. I love Chilean sea bass and never had it served in such a way before. My tastebuds were jumping up and down in joy!
Next, Kostakos served what appeared to be a Greek twist on a traditional Italian Caprese salad made with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, capers, thyme and olive oil. This dish was packed with flavor; one of my favorite courses of the afternoon for sure!
The main course consisted of an herb crusted lamb chop with lamb baklava cooked slowly and presented inside a flaky pastry with yogurt cumin sauce.
For dessert, the chef presented the guests with a strawberry and mastiha soup topped with almond meringue. Having soup for dessert was a definite first for me and I have to give kudos to the Chef for enlightening me to this concept through this perfectly executed dish.
The unique combination of flavors in each course as well as the attention to detail conveyed through each item was impressive. Kostakos’s dishes represent a new breed of Greek cooking that is influenced by old world styles, which has evolved into a hybrid that merges tradition and ingenuity. His culinary creations make food look like an art form. Kostakos prides himself on using only the best ingredients, “The most important thing are the ingredients. They come together to create pleasure in your mouth.”
Although Chef Kostakos has since left Thasos and returned to his home in Greece, co-owner and Executive Chef Sophia Mylona ensures guests will have a special dining experience at Thasos that embodies Greece’s customs of using top quality fresh ingredients, with a menu that emphasizes herbs and spices complemented by simple preparation that lets the flavors stand out.
In addition to their made to order craft cocktails, Thasos offers more than 250 labels of wine from Greece and the rest of the world. The restaurant is a two-time recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
Thasos is located at 3330 E. Oakland Park Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant and bar are open Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 11pm and Friday and Saturday from 5 to midnight. There’s live music nightly. Complimentary valet parking and self parking are available. For reservations or more info, call (954) 200-6006 or visit: http://www.ThasosTaverna.com.