Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kentucky Derby Day 2012 - Bourbon Steak, Aventura, FL!!!

Race fans and bourbon fans take heed!  The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, May 5th!  This year we will be heading back to Bourbon Steak in Aventura, FL for another fantastic Derby Day experience.  Last year was an awesome time.  The ladies came dressed to impress in big hats, and the fellas enjoyed the $5 mint julep specials while hoping their horse came in for a nice payday.  Blind Tastes will be giving away more prizes this year!  Once again, we will be randomly handing out numbers for the field of horses numbered 1 through 20 for the first 20 attendees to show up.  The holder of the number with the winning horse will win a prize!  We'll also have a prize for best hat that will be determined by a number of factors so complex they can't be divulged in advance!

The kind folks at Bourbon Steak will once again be opening up at 5pm and offering $5 Mint Juleps!  Derby Day attendees can also take advantage of May being National Hamburger Month by wolfing down one of Chef Gabe Fenton's BBQ BLT Burgers. Betting, Bourbon, and Burgers is the trifecta lock of the century!!! It doesn't get better than that!  Wait, maybe it does!!  Bourbon Steak is also holding a horse betting workshop with Ron Nicoletti, handicapper for Gulfstream Park, this Friday!  Stop in and learn the ins and outs of the Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta bets to make your Derby Day experience even more enjoyable*!

Stay tuned to Blind Tastes for more Derby Day fun facts and trivia leading up to the big race on Saturday and be sure to be there LIVE at Bourbon Steak this Saturday to watch the race! 

*Blind Tastes thoroughly enjoys gambling and encouraging others to take part, responsibly of course.  We are total enablers and fully believe that any sporting event is way more fun when there's money on the line.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bourbon Bargain Alert - Evan Williams 1783

The boomerang effect: When you share knowledge and have the luck to have knowledge come back to be shared with you.  That's what happened a few weeks ago when I got an email from Dad titled, "Just in case...".  It was a forward from his buddy Denny who had found a new love and that love was Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Bourbon.  You know, "just in case" I needed to add another bottle to my collection.

Included in the email was a lengthy review of the product with history of the distillery (1783 was the year it was established), tasting notes, and the 10 year length of time that this bourbon has sat in the barrel aging.  It sounded good enough to seek out and try. 

I happened to be headed to Total Wine and Spirits in Fort Lauderdale the day after I received this email.  Lincoln Henderson, Master Distiller for Angel's Envy, was holding a tasting and I thought it would be cool to meet him.  What a great guy.  We chatted for a few and then I headed to the bourbon section to see what else was on the shelf.  It was there that I saw Evan Williams 1783 Number 10 Small Batch Bourbon.

It was also there that I saw the one bit that the review I'd read did not state...

The price was $9.99 for a 750ml bottle!!

Upon returning home, I was eager to give it a shot.  Could a bourbon at this price actually be decent?  I grabbed a glass, twisted off the screw cap (yup, $9.99 doesn't get ya a cork), and poured myself a couple fingers worth.  The nose was oaky with hints of sweetness, vanilla and sweet corn seemed to be what stood out most.  Surprisingly, chocolate appeared when I took the first sip along with some hints of pepper, allspice, and more oak.  The finish had a little spice to it along with some nuttiness but it faded fast and I found it thin and kind of lackluster.  At 86 proof, it was smooth as hell though.  Later in the evening, I made myself an Old Fashioned with this juice and it wasn't great.  Just not enough spice to counterbalance the sweetness of the drink.  Perhaps without muddling a sugar cube and merely adding bitters and an orange rind it would fare better?

I've found myself stepping away from the more expensive bourbons and ryes lately, instead focusing on value in the category.  I'm here to tell ya - there's a lot to be had at under $30 and even under $20.  Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Bourbon proves that you can still find a decent quality bourbon at a price under $10 too!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bits and Bites's been a real busy start to the year.  I've been on the road a ton and been occupying my weekend time shooting clays at the range and shooting pars (or attempting to anyways) on the golf course.  As usual, I have managed to have some good bites over the past few months.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich from Maurice BBQ, Columbia, SC
About twice a year I make my swing through the Carolinas, working my way from Charlotte, NC on down to Charleston, SC and then swinging through Columbia, SC on my way to Greenville, SC.  Lemme tell ya, it's a lot of windshield time.  Or, as my sales rep likes to call it, "chasin' white dash-ed lines".  The best part about this run is getting to eat at some of my favorite spots in the country.  One of these spots happens to be Maurice BBQ which has a chain of BBQ joints all over South Carolina.  We usually hit the one in Columbia for lunch and this little number - a sandwich made up of tender pulled pork basted with my favorite SC mustard based BBQ sauce - really hits the spot.  I picked up a bottle of sauce this time and hope to get after using that soon.

Foie gras mousse, maple whisky jelly, rabbit rillette, granny smith apple, pine nut praline, truffle aioli from Edge Steak & Bar, Miami, FL
Soon after I returned from my run through the Carolinas, I found out that Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons in Brickell was hosting a Macallan dinner.  I knew from past visits that Chef Aaron Brooks would be sure to put out a badass meal so I had to check this out.  This dish, composed of a rabbit rilliette round flanked by a pine nut praline and slivers of granny smith apple, resting upon a foie gras mousse with whisky jelly and studs of truffle aioli was phenomenal.  Edge has got some great steaks (I recommend the Butcher Cut Filet) but my favorites on the menu include a lot of the seafood items - littleneck clams, tiradito sampler, and the turbot.  Their bartenders also make a great Sazerac.  The outdoor patio is now open and offers great views.  Definitely make it a point to visit this hidden gem.

Gimme some head!  Half goat's head w/ fried brains, braised tongue & cheek from Cobaya Sustain
I returned from my next lengthy road trip to a gluttonous week of eating.  First up was our latest Cobaya Experiment (#23!) at Sustain in Midtown Miami.  Chef Alejandro Pinero had let us know he would be putting together a Southern Italian-inspired meal and the consensus was that he killed it.  This dish, a goat's head split down the middle, was definitely the most aggressive dish we've had at a Cobaya dinner and really hit the mark in terms of flavor and playing-with-your-food fun.  The dish was served with inside facing up with the brains fried and laying in a pool of francaise or caper butter sauce.  Once those were finished diners were instructed to flip the head over and play surgeon, using fork and a sharp knife to dig out the tongue and cheek meat that lay within.  Great dish.

"The Instagram" from Chef Jeremiah's Harding Series Popup Dinner

Beet composition from Chef Jeremiah's Harding Series Popup Dinner

Duck pastrami from Chef Jeremiah's Harding Series Popup Dinner

"Arepa" from Chef Jeremiah's Harding Series Popup Dinner
A few nights after Cobaya Sustain a new dinner series "popped up".  Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, one of my favorite chefs, put together a dinner at the Harding Ave location formerly known as Chow Down Grill (and soon to become Josh's Deli by day).  To me, this was Chef Jeremiah's best stuff.  The guy is just insanely creative without getting overly clever and losing focus on flavor.  So, I've included four pics from that dinner.  The "Instagram" showcased Bullfrog's creativity by which diners were instructed to combine a little gram baggie of Miami's finest...baking powder...with a concoction of gin and citrus and begin whipping up their own Gin Fizz.  From there we moved on to a composition of beets that had an awesome earthy flavor.  After that it was duck pastrami, my favorite dish of the night.  This was just some awesome stuff.  We had 5 people at our table and 11 slices of duck pastrami.  I was glad that the other four diners took the diplomatic, "somebody finish off that last piece", approach.  I was ready to stab one of them for it.  Another one of my favorite ingredients - corn - was prominently featured in my second favorite dish of the night, a modern take on an arepa.  I was surprised at how much the corn shoots here were loaded with flavor.  I just love corn.  Phenomenal dinner.

This little piggy went to some tattoos and then off with his head!
My gluttonous week of eating ended with a great event at the Four Seasons in Brickell.  Cochon 555 is a culinary competition that pairs 5 winemakers, 5 chefs, and 5 heritage pig breeds in order to raise awareness for high quality, humanely raised pork products raised by small and medium sized independent farmers.  It's also an awesome opportunity to taste what makes pork that damn good!  The Miami stop on the tour featured Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink paired with Ossabaw pork, Chef Aaron Brooks of Edge Steak & Bar with Berkshire pork, Chef Michelle Bernstein of Michy's paired with Hereford pork, Chef James Petrakis of the Ravenous Pig (Orlando) paired with Swabian Hall pork, and Chef James Strine of Cafe Boulud (Palm Beach) with Large Black pork.  Each chef receives a whole pig and from there they break it down and make use of the whole hog when creating dishes.  It was a pig out event, that's for sure!  Added bonus was a bourbon bar serving up cocktails (giddyup!) and then the mother of all bacon products - Allan Benton's Bacon - overflowing from jars used as centerpieces on tables for dining.  If you've never tried Benton's bacon or ham products before, I strongly encourage you to do so.  This is the best stuff I've ever had and nothing else even comes close.  It's so awesome that I ate 4 pieces that night and when I spotted one lonely piece in a jar at the end of the night I folded it into a napkin and stuffed it in my pocket for a take home treat.  Later that night at my place I was sipping some bourbon and heard that bacon calling me.  At first the plan was to save it for the morning and eat it before my 6:00am flight to Atlanta but I thought it would be ok to take one bite.  Ok, two bites.  Ok, I ate almost the whole damn thing.  But I did save this little nugget as a welcome home present for when I returned.  It's that damn good.

Bacon of the gods
Luv dem bones!

No trip that I take to Atlanta goes without a visit to one of my favorite restaurants in the country, Holeman & Finch Public House.  From their locally-sourced ingredients to their house-cured meats to their "parts" menu to their acclaimed burger to their bourbon menu, this place has everything I could want in a restaurant.  I always tell myself I'm going to write about it yet I never do.  I guess that's a good thing because I'm wordy enough as it is and that post would be a small novel.  Anyhow, Holeman & Finch has the best marrow bones I've ever had.  These bones are colossal and loaded with savory marrow that gets spread on some housemade sourdough and then you chomp it all down.  Delicious!

It's been nice to have been home in Miami for the past two weeks.  This week marks the return of NAOE, opening up at its new location on Brickell Key.  I can't wait to dive into a bento box and get some of Chef Kevin Cory's sushi.  Then it's off to San Jose, San Fran, and Seattle for more work and great eats.  Until next time...