The food abides…

Wine

Road Trip – 2015 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 20th Anniversary Photo Round-up – Now with bonus swag!

With the holidays firmly in the rear-view mirror I once again have a little bit of time to give some credit where credit is due to the remarkable event and menu planners at Disney’s Epcot. They’ve pulled off another great International Food & Wine Festival for 2015 which also marked the event’s 20th Anniversary.

My friends and I managed to make it up there four times during the Festival season this year which afforded me the chance to try just as many dishes and drinks as last time if not more. So without further adieu, here’s a photo round-up of some of my favorite dishes and beverages from around the world.

New Dishes: These were either new to the 2015 menu or dishes I hadn’t had the opportunity to try before.

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Brazil – Pao de Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Bread paired with a Xingu Black Beer.

Bush Berry Shrimp

Australia – Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp w/Pineapple Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas paired with a Cooper’s Brewery Extra Strong Vintage Ale.

Chilaquiles de Pollo

Mexico – Chilaquiles de Pollo – Layered Corn Tortilla and Chicken w/Queso Fresco, Sour Cream and Fresh Cilantro

Lobster Roll

USA – New England Lobster Roll paired with a Goose Island Honker’s Ale (Though I will maintain until my last dying breath that cold lobster with mayonnaise is Lobster Salad Sandwich; it HAS to be hot lobster with butter to be considered a Lobster Roll).

Poached Salmon

Chew Lab Pavilion – Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fresh Corn and Pepper Jam

Beer Cheese Soup

Canada – Beer Cheese Soup paired with a Moosehead Lager

Teriyaki Gyoza Bun

Japan – Teriyaki Gyoza Bun – Steamed Rice Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and a Sweet Teriyaki sauce.

Ricotta and Zuchinni Ravioli

Sustainable Food Pavilion – Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (presented on sustainable VerTerra Dinnerware!)

Cheese Tasting Platter

Cheese Studio Pavilion – Trio of Artisan Cheeses – Karst Cave-Aged Cheese with Honey, La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese with Craisin Bread and Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese with a Berry Port Compote.

Cheese Fondue

Cheese Studio Pavilion – Another from the Cheese Studio, a Cheese Fondue with Sourdough Bread

Old Favorites: Returning dishes which I’ve really enjoyed in the past.

Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie

Ireland – Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie paired with a Kilkenny Cream Ale

Croissant aux Escargots

France – Croissant aux Escargots – Escargot Croissant w/ Garlic and Parsley paired with a Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 Ale

Tuna Poke

Hawaii – Tuna Poke w/ Seaweed Salad and Nori Strings paired with a Kona Big Wave Golden Ale.

Kung Fu Punch

China – Beijing Roasted Duck on a Steamed Rice Bun with Onions, Lemongrass and Hoisin Sauce paired with a Kung Fu Punch. Still my hands-down favorite dish three years in the running!

Libations:

Wine and Cheese Sampler

Wine Studio Pavilion – A wine sampler consisting of a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc, Still River Winery’s Apfel Eis (Apple Ice Wine) and a Sterling Vintner’s Cabernet Sauvignon paired with the above mentioned Cheese Trio from the Cheese Studio

Belgian Beer Flight

Belgium – Belgian Beer Flight – Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde, Palm Speciale Beige Amber Ale and a Stella Artois Cidre

Craft Beer Flight

Craft Brew Pavilion – Florida Harvest Craft Beer Flight – Brew Hub’s Keybilly Island Ale, Two Henry’s Blueberry Vanilla American Wheat, Orlando Brewing’s Grateful Pumpkin and a Swamp Head’s Wild Night Honey Cream Ale.

Limoncello

Italy – A very blurry Limoncello in Italy . One of my favorite after-dinner cordials.

Oktoberfest

Germany – Because even though it’s available all year-round, no trip to Epcot is complete without a full-sized Altenmunster Oktoberfest enjoyed by the lagoon at sunset.

Deserts:

Creme Brulee

France – Crème Brulee Vanille Chocolat – Vanilla and Chocolate Crème Brulee with caramelized sugar.

Belgian Waffle

Belgium – Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream

Chocolate Covered Cannoli

Italy – Cannoli al Ciaccolato – Chocolate Covered Cannoli

Bonus Photos: Swag! – I walked away with a lot of extra stuff this year, some related to Food & Wine and some just purchased during the Festival. Most of it was worth noting.

Passholder Glass

Food & Wine 20th Anniversary Commemorative Passholder Wine Glass – The Passholder Wine Glass was awarded to Annual Passholders who attended the Food & Wine Festival at least three times during the season. There was a rigmarole you had to jump through with lines and stamps in order to verify your attendance each time, but you don’t go to theme parks if you’ve got a major problem with lines so it was worth the wait.

2015 Pint Glass

Brews Around the World 2015 20th Anniversary Pint Glass – I’ve been collecting the Brews Around the World pint glasses for quite a few years now. The 20th Anniversary glass is special because they’ve added a round blue glass disc to the bottom making it unique from past years’ glasses in more than just the graphic design.

2015 Pint Glass 2

Rear view of the pint glass with all participating countries.

Food Tray 2015

2015 Festival Sampling Tray – If you’re going to sample both food and alcohol (pairing as the festival menu designers intended) you’re going to need a tray. In the past these have just been plastic plates with a cutout for drinks, but this year they went above and beyond. These resin trays are sturdier than in the past with full-sized cup holders designed to accommodate any size beer, cocktail or wine glass.

Rose and Crown Hat

Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room Distressed Ball Cap – Totally loved the look of this hat. It is now mine. Free advertising for the Rose & Crown Pub? Maybe. Still a great hat.

Bass Ale

England Souvenir Tall Beer Stein – And speaking of the Rose & Crown. Bought an ice-cold Bass Ale. Got to keep the glass.

And there you have it folks. This is the second year I’ve sung the praises of the Food & Wine Festival. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check it out, it’s expensive, but worth the money. If you’re an annual passholder and don’t have to pay for a ticket on top of the food, there’s little reason not to try it at least once.

My sole recommendation would be to avoid Saturdays. As the annual passholder numbers grow and as more and more people learn about this Festival, Saturdays tend to look like a Zombie herd from the Walking Dead at certain points during the day and the food lines get very long. You’re better off going on a Sunday which is much less crowded as it tends to be a travel day for vacationers, or better yet taking a day off during the week where occupancy is at its lowest. But no matter what day you go, just go.

Tried the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Review – 100 Montaditos

I tend to shy away from chain restaurants and their cookie-cutter menus but 100 Montaditos is an exception in almost every way possible. First, it’s a primarily European chain with only two other US locations, one in NYC and another in DC so it’s not exactly like a Chipotle. Second, their menu, is so huge you could eat there 1000 times and never get the same combination twice. Third, I’ve seen the menus for their other locations and there are definitely some variations. All of which, coupled with the incredible flavors of their food, garnered the need for a review…

100-montaditos sign

Literally translating to “100 small sandwiches,” I probably wouldn’t have attempted to seek out 100 Montaditos on my own (and if it wasn’t for the fact that it opened up right next door to the Wiregrass Brass Tap that I frequent every other weekend I might not have ever tried it). When explaining it to others, the best description I can give is “Spanish Sliders.” I love choice when it comes to menus and this place serves it up in droves.

With a decidedly Spanish décor, 100 Montaditos is another type of half-service location where you order at a counter and they bring you your food. Because the selection is so large, they give you a paper menu and a pencil and you check off what you’d like (as if you were ordering sushi). With a number of different kinds of breads, sauces, meats/fishes, cheeses and toppings, the flavor combinations are outstanding.

100 Montiditos 4

My first time there I tried the #15 (Baby Shrimp, Lettuce and Ali Oli), the #71 (Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Arugula), and the #77 (Anchovies, Fresh Tomato, Mayo and Spanish pickles). On the side I just ordered some fries with their incredibly spicy Serrano Ketchup and a small bowl of their Spanish Olives.

You would think three tiny sandwiches wouldn’t be much, but once it’s on the plate it’s actually quite a lot of food. Everything was fresh, from the meat to the sauces to the bread. My favorite of the bunch was the # 77. The anchovies and the pepinillo pickles were extremely flavorful (and I don’t normally reach for mayo when I make a sandwich).

100 Montiditos 2

On my second shot, I tried the #25 (Tuna, Fresh Tomato, Arugula, Spanish Pickles and Ali Oli), the #66 (Manchego Cheese, Fresh Tomato, Green Pepper and Anchovies) and the #75 (Smoked Salmon, Blue Cheese, Arugula and Olive Oil). This time I tried the Bravas Potatoes instead of the fries and while I wanted to try to Ali Oli sauce as a side, the spice-o-holic in me couldn’t tear myself away from the Serrano Ketchup.

Again, nothing short of a flavor explosion. The #66 was my favorite in this bunch although the Tuna in the #25 held it’s own. The Bravas Potatoes were a little more robust than the fries and I will probably stick with those on future visits.

For those with a proclivity for red meat, there are plenty of options from traditional Spanish meats like Chorizo, Serrano Ham, Salchicho, Lomo and Christorra as well as more American fare like Philly Steak, Meatballs and BBQ Pulled Pork. If you’re looking for something other than a sandwich, they do have salads and a number of appetizers and small plates like Tortilla Espanola (a type of Spanish egg fritata), Crispy Calamares, and Croquetas.

If you want to have a drink, a selection of beer, wine and sangrias are available. While I was waiting, I did hear someone at the table next to me comment on how much they loved the sangria, so take from that what you will.

100 Mondatidos also has specials on Wednesdays and Sundays with Wednesdays being 1.00 sandwiches and Sundays a 2 for 1.

montaditos-dulces

And while I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, their Chocolate Montaditos look kind of amazing. Chocolate bread with different combinations of fillings like Sweet Cream, Hazelnut Spread, Chocolate/White Chocolate, Spanish Almonds and Oreo Cookies look like they will win over desert lovers everywhere.

As you can probably tell from my above photos, I’ve preferred to take their food home rather than eat in-house and 100 Montaditos just might have become my Sunday night go-to, when I just don’t feel like cooking. Although at some point I’m pretty sure I will order takeout again, bring it the 10 steps next door to the Brass Tap and eat it there. Pairing this food with a spicy beer like 5 Rabbit’s 5 Vulture Oaxacan Dark Ale or Pair O’Dice’s Mexicali Jalapeno Lime Pale Ale would be nothing short of astounding.

Tried 100 Montaditos? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Road Trip – Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Photo Round-up

Yes I’m quite aware this is about six weeks overdue, but with the holidays starting right after the end of the festival, this has literally been my first free weekend. Fear not though; the experience is still fresh in my mind. That’s the kind of impact Disney leaves. The chefs and event planners do a phenomenal job and I can’t stress enough how much this event is worth the cost, pricey though it may be.

So here’s a photo round-up of some of my favorite dishes and drinks gathered over three vists:

Steamed Green Lipped Mussels

New ZealandSteamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Bread Crumbs – The photo doesn’t quite show the scale, but these mussels were huge and packed with flavor.

Turkey and Mushroom Bobotie

AfricaSouth African Bobotie (Egg Quiche) with Turkey and Mushrooms. An interesting combination of flavors and textures and not at all something I would expect food from Africa to taste like.

Grueyre and Mushroom Wheat Pasta

FranceGratin de Crozets de Savoie – A semolina wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyère cheese. Paired with a Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 beer. The wheatiness of both made for an excellent pairing.

Escargot

FranceTartlette aux Escargots – Escargot tart with garlic, spinach, bacon and parmesan cheese (removed the bacon because I don’t eat red meat). Because what’s France without some snails?

Tuna Poke

Hawai’iTuna Poke – Marinated tuna with seaweed salad and fried lotus root chips. – I’ve never had Tuna prepared like this before and the lotus chips were particularly unique.

Fisherman's Lobster and Seafood Pie 2

IrelandLobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie – Lobster, scallops and other seafood with melted Irish cheddar and browned mashed potatoes. Paired with a cool Guinness Stout of course.

Veggie Haggis

ScotlandVeggie Haggis with Neaps and Tatties – A spiced vegetable cake with rutabaga and mashed potatoes. Always wanted to try haggis, but the red meat prohibition stopped that from happening until now. Paired with an Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer.

Potato Cake with Smoked Salmon

ScotlandPotato Pancake – Also from Scotland, a potato pancake with Scottish smoked salmon and herb cream cheese. No recommended pairing but the Innis & Gunn worked quite well with this one too.

Tilapia Coconut Lime Sauce

BrazilMosequa de Pescada – Fresh tilapia with a coconut lime sauce, hearts of palm and steamed rice. The hearts of palm were a particularly nice flavor enhancement. Not pictured, but I paired this with a Xingu Black Beer.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

USA – Baked Lobster Alfredo – Another shot of the lobster mac & cheese. The Samuel Adams Octoberfest with it couldn’t have been a more perfect pairing.

Hoisin Duck

ChinaBeijing Roasted Duck – A roasted duck sandwich with red onions and lemongrass with a hoisin sauce on a steamed rice bun. This may very well have been my favorite dish of the entire event. The duck was tender, the hoisin sauce was savory and the steamed rice bun was like biting into a sweet cloud.

Bear in mind this is just a small sampling of some of my favorite dishes. I do not eat red meat but there were plenty of dishes for those who live on the bloody side of being a carnivore. Some of the more appetizing dishes included, Beef Empanadas from Patagonia, Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies from Australia, Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies from Poland and an interesting Kimchi Dog with Spicy Mustard from South Korea.

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And of course this is the International Food and WINE festival so there was plenty to drink. It’s no secret that Disney prepared for the global wine shortage long before it had an impact, hence the appearance of beers in just about every country in addition to the wine. As the craft beer movement has exploded over the last few years this was a good move and much appreciated by a xythophile like me.

Hungarian Wine

PolandDonausonne Blaufrankisch – Being a beer aficionado I stuck mostly to brews but this Hungarian “bull’s blood” style wine was amazing.

German Flight

GermanyBeer Flight #2: Altenmunster Oktoberfest, and three beers from BraufactuM, the Roog, Darkon and Progusta IPA. There are two flight choices in the German Biergarten and I went with the darker of the two. The Roog was a smokey brown ale and was one of my favorites from the bunch.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Craft Beer BuildingDogfish Head Punkin’ Ale –  They have an entire building dedicated to craft beers and since the festival takes place during my favorite beer season, I had to do at least one pumpkin ale.

Blood Orange Margarita

MexicoBlood Orange Margarita – Okay so technically this is not a Food & Wine festival item as it can be purchased all year-long at the Tequila shop inside the temple in Mexico. But this tart blood orange margarita with whipped cream and a cinnamon rim was so much like a desert I had to get one.

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As you can see there’s a lot to taste at the Epcot International Food & Wine festival and there’s something for just about everyone. I recommend this to anyone who can swing the cost of it (Epcot Park Admission plus the cost of food and drink). It can get expensive but it’s worth it.

And speaking of worth it, you may also notice the plastic dish in most of the photos. They’re available for sale at a kiosk right as you’re walking into the World Showcase for about 4 bucks. I highly recommend picking one up as the thumb slot for stabilization and the drink holder that fits every beverage cup in the park makes it much easier to eat (and take photos if you’re THAT guy, like me 😉

Been to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…


Wine and cheese on a stormy Saturday afternoon

Wine and Cheese

It’s was a very stormy Saturday afternoon in Tampa Bay but a couple bottles of wine, some greek olives, smoked almonds, stuffed grape leaves, edamame hummus and a few different kinds of gourmet cheeses definitely ensured the afternoon was not wasted.

Rain or shine… the food abides…


Review – The Stein & Vine

Have you ever heard the phrase undiscovered hideaway? Whoever coined it could easily have been describing the Stein & Vine and they wouldn’t have been that far off the mark.

DSC_3718

My introduction to the Stein & Vine was for a friend’s recent birthday. They had been there once before and loved it so it was their location of choice for the festivities. They really built it up so I’ll admit that my expectations were kind of high, but it totally delivered.

Off of King’s Highway in Brandon, tucked in between a gun shop and a dollar store with only a simple red neon sign that says “PUB” visible from the road, you’d never know that the Stein & Vine was there if you weren’t told about it beforehand. However the humble and unassuming location belies an amazing establishment once you walk through the doors.

The Stein & Vine is decked out in brick, hardwood and industrial fixtures, with a large granite bar as the focal point of the establishment accented with Bavarian steins and rare wine bottles. Two large chalkboards tower over a decorative fireplace and advertise the evening’s current selections.

DSC_3678

As the name suggests, the Stein & Vine features a wide selection of draft beers and rarer wines, many of which are in a constant rotation. I happened to visit again two weeks later and only about half of the same beers were still there on the second visit, the rest being replaced by newer selections. As someone who loves trying new beers and wines, this is something that will keep me coming back again and again.

DSC_3690

Tried a Green Flash Palate Wrecker and loved it. This was a deep brown ale with a nice bite to it and it went really well with the drunken shrimp we ordered as an appetizer.

Speaking of food, the menu, while on the smaller side is rather impressive. They could have easily done standard pub food that could just be thrown in a fryer, but the owners made a wise decision to go with some really unique and tasty choices.

Pig Wings (fried pork ribs with served with a number of different sauces), Drunken Shrimp (cooked in Curious Traveler Shandy or fried in a batter with Cigar City’s Maduro Brown Ale) and a Spicy Buffalo Chicken Philly Cheesesteak are some if the items you’ll find on the menu. Additionally, they will sometimes create special dishes for certain events. During July’s New Belgium Brewery Welcome Party, they offered a Meatloaf Sandwich that was marinated in Fat Tire Amber Ale. I do not eat red meat, but the sight of that dish nearly drove me to break a twelve-year moratorium on beef.

DSC_3685

I went with the Baja Fish Tacos. As I’ve mentioned before, fish tacos are my hamburgers and I’ve got to try them everywhere I go. Served with Roasted Corn Salsa and an Avocado Salad these were just about as good as a fish taco can get and again, it’s something you wouldn’t expect here; every member of our party absolutely loved the food.

It’s important to note, that as small as this establishment is, they still took a reservation for 8 people on a Saturday night. This was a very good thing as I noticed it started to fill up pretty quickly as we headed farther into the dinnertime hour. If you’ve got a larger group, I’d recommend giving them a quick call.

After dinner we retired to a little area in the back with a couple of dart boards and some hightops where we were able to just relax, have some drinks and throw some darts in peace. Great night, great birthday fiesta for my friend and a great establishment. If you’re in the Brandon area or you’re just looking for an undiscovered hideaway to brag about, give the Stein & Vine a shot.

Tried the Stein & Vine? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…


Review – Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant and Winery

Coopers 1b

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant recently opened a Tampa location within a relatively close proximity to my office (yes the Food Dude has a day-job) and a co-worker gave it a shot and really liked it. A couple of weeks later another friend of mine was talking about it and she was absolutely raving.  This had me more than a little curious. A quick internet search yielded a whole lot of people echoing the same sentiment so I resolved to give it a try.

After paying them a visit with a couple of buddies, I can happily report that it’s everything it’s been hyped up to be and more. If there’s a phrase that applies to Cooper’s Hawk, it would dining experience.

I love it when a culinary experience is about more than just food. It’s a rare thing when ambiance, character, flavors and personality all come to to provide a level of immersion that you don’t find very often.

Being both a restaurant and a winery, Cooper’s Hawk includes a shop and tasting room. The shop sells various wine accessories and of course you can purchase bottles of their wine. My friends and I decided to show up about 45 minutes before our reservation to do a tasting. Tasters are given multiple options for a tasting; whites, reds, a mix of both, desert wines and seasonal samples comprised of some of their limited offerings. 

Coopers 2

We went with the mixed sampler composed of both reds and whites. There wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch. Our server was knowledgable both about the history of the winery as well as the wines she was serving us. She also allowed us to substitute a Sangiovese for an Orange Muscat that none of us were interested in and it turned out to be my favorite of all the reds. I never once felt like it was just a gimmick to get you to buy their wine.

Our table wound up being ready shortly before our tasting was done but we were told we could come back after our meal to finish up, another great service move.  I would still recommend showing up at least an hour ahead of time if you would like to do a tasting in order to get the most out of it and not be rushed.

The restaurant itself is casual but the design is so contemporary it has an almost an upscale air to it. Our server knew her stuff and was quick to explain the menu concept. Each dish is prepared by the chef to work with a particular wine, with certain specials coinciding with seasonal vintages. Each dish has an associated Bin number which is the pairing suggestion they recommend.

There are also wine specials. On the server’s recommendation we all decided to try the Vintner’s Blend which was a red table wine made from five noble grapes. Once again adding to both the value and the experience, she brought us each a sample so we could taste it before committing to a full glass. Hands down one of the best glasses of red that I’ve had in a long time.

Coopers 3

For an appetizer we decided to try their sampler platter which included their Over the Border Egg Rolls, Tenderloin Sliders, Chicken Potstickers and Mini Crab Cakes. Far from your standard greasy pub food, the flavors went perfectly with the Vintner’s Blend.  The potstickers, crab cakes and eggrolls were excellent and although I don’t eat red meat, my compatriots stated the sliders were phenomenal.

Coopers 5

For dinner I decided to try the Roasted Eggplant Ravioli. This was a ravioli stuffed with eggplant, squash, zucchini, red onion and mozzarella and it was served with artichokes, kalamata olives and goat cheese in a San Marzano tomato sauce. Perfectly executed, this was a really flavorful dish and my iPhone photos do not do it justice. The tomato sauce was light and not acidic at all and the goat cheese gave it a creamy balance.

Coopers 4

This dish was paired with their Lux Pinot Noir that had a slightly spicy finish to it and it could not have complimented the meal better. When they say they build the menu around perfect pairings they’re NOT kidding.

Portion sizes were spot on which was something I was worried about before the food came because one of the first things I noticed about the menu was how reasonably priced it was. I fully understand that the booze is what they’re making their money on but oneophiles know what kind of pricing to expect when drinking wine. The fact that they offset that by making their food prices as reasonable as possible is a great business plan. So if you’re not a wine drinker, Cooper’s Hawk is some incredible food at a great price.

After the disappointing visit to the Cigar City Brewpub, a similar concept that was executed very poorly, I couldn’t have been more pleased with my first  visit to Cooper’s Hawk and intend to return multiple times with more wine-swilling friends in tow. If you like wine or contemporary american cuisine, give them a try some weekend. If you like both, give them a try NEXT weekend.

Tried Cooper’s Hawk? What did you think? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…


Fish Night – Tilapia

I had the day off yesterday and indulged quite a bit when it came to my calories so I kind of  wanted to keep it light tonight.

Fish Night - Tilapia

Cooked up some fresh tilapia tossed in the same seasonings that I used for fish tacos a few of weeks ago (celery salt, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, black pepper and sea salt) . Stayed light for my sides as well; grilled asparagus that I marinated in just a little oil, vinegar and sea salt along with some white mushrooms sautéed in a bit of worchestire sauce, white wine and garlic.

I never bought into that snooty “only white wine with fish” thing so I served this with a glass of  2011 Route 40 malbec and it went perfectly.

Not bad for keeping it light, huh?

And remember… the food abides…