Saturday, February 25, 2012

Burger Bash still dazzles as premiere event at Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

-Guy Fieri stacks the deck in his favor at his Burger Joint, Straight-Up with a Pig Patty!
-Steel drums on the beach kick off the Wine Spectator Trade Tasting
-South Beach Diet creator Dr. Arthur Agatston at the Burger Bash with his Feta-Stuffed Sirloin Burger with Smokey Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli
-The Ultimate Pairing-wine & cheese on the rooftop deck of The Betsy
-Chef Allen of the BurgerBar Palm Beach Gardens with his Beach Burger made with Short Rib Brisket, Prime Chuck Steak Burger and Applewood smoked Bacon
-Chef Morimoto in action with his Wagyu Burger & Pork Kakuni
-With The Hungry Hound, ABC7's Steve Dolinsky of Chicago
-Drew Nieporent, owner of Morimoto, NoBu, TriBeCa Grill, New York, strikes again!
-Searching for weird stuff to eat with Andrew Zimmern
-Sara Gorelick (r) mixes up a Margarita with Partida Tequila at the Wine Spectator Trade Tasting
-Bacchus and his "CRU"
-Bobby Flay shares his secret ingredients for his Buffalo Style Burger Crunchified with Blue Cheese Dressing and homemade potato chips at his Bobby's Burger Palace

MIAMI BEACH--Guy Fieri plied voters with free caps emblazoned with his spike-haired "Guy's Burger Joint" logo, in an effort to win the People's Choice award at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Amstel Light Burger Bash, sponsored by Pepsi Light and Allen Bros. Meats. Guy and fellow Food Network maven Bobby Flay were among the 32 chefs from around the country who showed their capability at elevating the lowly Burger to the heights of culinary expression. Although Chef Mark Bucher (his real name!), may have proven the point to a fault with his Wellington Burger topped with Foi Gras, wild mushrooms and caramelized onions. It was my personal favorite and I'll include the recipe at the end of the posting. Chicago chefs Rick Gresh of David Burke's Primehouse, Chicago, Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate and Ryan LaRouche of NoMi Kitchen, also of Chicago, showed they cold throw down with the best, including New York's eponymous Masahara Morimoto of Morimoto's, and, of course, Food Network's Rachel Ray, who spent the night sampling the competition while her husband helmed burger-slinging operations at her food stand. Once gain, Godiva Chocolates provided the piece de' resistance, along with hearty scoops of Mocha Almond Gelato from Bryan Petroff & Doug Quint's Big Gay Ice Cream. A handful of lucky patrons got to sample the burger creations in advance of the feeding frenzy crowd at a VIP Reception hosted by Rachel Ray to benefit her Yum-o! Foundation that feeds hungry kids and funds food education and scholarships.
Earlier in the day, the party kicked off under the Big White Tent on the Beach with the invitation-only Wine Spectator Trade Tasting, which drew a line of thousands snaking up and down Ocean Drive for two blocks! The Betsy hotel provided a much-needed rooftop retreat with spectacular views of the ocean and the white sands of South Beach at the Ultimate Beginnings Wine and Cheese party. Guests got a chance to ignite their taste buds before heading out for the evening's gastronomic olympics at the Burger Bash and the Wine Spectator's Best of the Best at the Fountainbleau with a celebration of the world's oldest and most perfect pairing with wine authority Josh Wesson and cheese expert Laura Werlin. It was the perfect start to a fantastic evening of wine, food and burgers on the beach!

As promised, here's the recipe for BGR The Burger Joint's The Wellington Burger from Chef Mark Bucher:

Wellington Burger


2 lbs. of ground beef (50 percent 80/20 chuck, 50 percent sirloin)

clarified butter

1 white onion, diced

1 red onion, diced

4 cups of mushroom, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs of fresh thyme

2 Tbs of fresh rosemary

1/2 cup of duck pate

2 Tbs of dijon mustard

4 brioche sesame seeded buns

1/4 cup of blue cheese

Method of Preparation:

-Begin by shaping the burger pattie. Chef Mark says to mark a small dimple in the center so the meat does not shrink while cooking.

-Then, season the meat with salt, pepper, and an all spice blend and grill.

-Next, prepare the wellington topping. In a hot pan, add clarified butter and sauté white and red onion and season with salt and pepper. Also, toss in mushrooms, garlic, thyme, rosemary, duck pate and dijon mustard.

To Plate:

Make sure to toast the buns. Then, at the restaurant they spread their mojo sauce and add blue cheese, the burger meat and wellington topping. You can also serve a side of sweet potato fries.

Serves: 4

Friday, February 24, 2012

Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival lets Chicago chefs shine among national stars

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

1. Dwight The Wine Doctor with The Neely's
2. With Wine & Food Festival Founder Lee Schrager
3. Chicago's Girl and the Goat's Stephanie Izard
4. Al Roker's
5. Making friends with the Q sponsor, Allen Bros.' mascot
6. Party Time!
7. Chicago's Yoshi Katsumura of Yoshi's Cafe
8. Oyster "Q"
9. Lady Godiva in action
10. Food Cart maven Roy Choi of L.A. with Dwight The Wine Doctor

MIAMI-Charlie Trotter will be recognized for his career-long achievements as the industry's guiding light from his namesake eponymous Lincoln Park Chicago restaurant at a star-studded dinner Saturday night at the legendary Fountainbleau. Stephanie Izard of Chicago's Girl and the Goat on "Restaurant Row" on West Randolph near Oprah's Harpo Studios and Yoshi Katsumura of Yoshi's Cafe, the Lincoln Park mainstay on North Halsted, were slinging ribs, seared ahi and pulled pork right along with the likes of Emeril and Guy Fieri and "big bat" celebrity chef Roy Choi, of Koji BBQ, who is credited with starting the food cart craze with his operations in L.A., at the newly inaugurated Q event, which was the star-studded opening to the 2012 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Now in its 11th year, the festival is turning up the heat with new events, new stars and a lineup of events designed to take foodies to the outer reaches of sensory overload.

Festival Found and Organizer Lee Schrager, greeted me in the VIP Hospitality suite at Loew's Miami Beach, the festival's headquarters hotel and filled me in on some of the changes designed to make this year's festival as intriguing as possible. "You'd think that after ten years, people would get tired of turning out for yet another food event, but we manage to keep it fresh with new ideas and new people (like Roy Choi), that keep it interesting. Before he could finish his sentence, we were interrupted by the arrival of the Neely's, who will appear at the festival at the Biltmore in a special evening of Down Home Blues and Barbecue in an interactive cooking experience. "We just got finished traveling,"Gina Neely said, shying away from my ever-present camera. "I haven't had a chance to put on my "celebrity face" yet. So hold off on the pictures!"
Pat was as affable as ever and said he was hoping he could meet the President, who was staying at the Biltmore for a fundraiser during his whirlwind tour through Miami. "We tried to contact his people to see if could stop by for some of our Down Home ribs. I saw that at the White House last night, he already loves the blues."
Later that evening, in a huge tent behind the Delano Hotel under a spectacular crimson sunset, the Q got underway with thousands in attendance. The event replaces the veteran BubbleQ as the official opening of the festival. Featuring Barbecue creations from the nation's top chefs and Food Network stars, with Emeril and Guy Fiori presiding, it was the premiere opening event of the festival which brought out the nation's well-heeled foodies (at more than $400 bucks a pop, including the VIP tasting and Q After Dark) and partiers who hung out well into the night at Q After Dark. Moet Champagne and a variety of wines from their label and cocktails created by celebrity mixologists from their lineup of distilled spirits and premium liquors rounded out the party. NBC Today's Al Roker was among the celebrities who surprised everyone by dispensing his own signature Barbecue rib sandwich from his booth near Godiva Chocolate and the Moet Hennessey VIP Cabana.
Actor Antonio Banderas is the highlight of the festival's opening day, with a presentation of his new wines from Spain and later tonight, the action gets hot and heavy at the Ritz with the Burger Bash in the tent on the beach with Rachel Ray returning to preside over her signature event, which she missed last year. Also new is the Farm to Table Brunch at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, with everything that will be eaten grown right at the botanical gardens. Closing night also brings another new event, Trucks on the Beach on Sunday night, with 23 of the top food carts in South Florida and one from outside the area for a rousing finish to the biggest wine & food party on the beach anywhere!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Seven Sisters of South Africa bring "freedom's wine" to America

Seven Sisters Wine of South Africa: A taste of freedom comes to America

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

-Dwight The Wine Doctor with Dawn, one of the Seven Sisters

-Seven Sisters 2010 “Dawn” Pinotage/Shiraz

-Valery Jo Bradley, co-author, Harlem Travel Guide with Vivian

-Dawn with “Dawn”

-The Seven Sisters at home in Paternoster, South Africa

NEW YORK--It all began in 2005, when Harvard MBA Selena Cuffe took a sip of Rose wine made by a black winemaker from Soweto. When she asked where she could obtain the wine she was tasting in the state’s, she was shocked to learn that she would be hard pressed to find it anywhere, even in South Africa. That single sip started a tsunami of activity on her part. She gave up her six figure sales job at Procter& Gamble, convinced her husband to dip into their life savings, and began a corporate venture to distribute South African wines in the U.S. market through their company, Heritage Links Brands.

Less than 2% of the wineries in South Africa’s three billion dollar wine industry are owned by blacks, which comprise 85% of that country’s population. Now, with distribution nationwide in a thousand whine shops and retailers in 40 states, the company hopes to change the landscape of opportunity for black South African winemakers, with a projected one million dollars in sales this year.

One of the company’s latest offerings is Seven Sisters wine from South Africa’s fertile Cape region.

On a recent visit to Harlem Vintage and Nectar Wine Bar on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, owners Eric Woods and Jai Jai Greenfield welcomed one of the “seven sisters,” Dawn, who presented her namesake Pinotage/Shiraz.

The story of Seven Sisters wines is in many ways indicative of the struggles blacks have faced in South Africa. Growing up in the picturesque fishing village of Paternoster, on the Cape’s West Coast, the Brutus sisters, along with their baby brother John, were evicted from their home after his father lost his job of 20 years with a local fishing company. Now, 25 years later, their wine brand marks a change in their destiny. Founded in 2007, the wines are sourced from vineyards in the West Coast area. According to founder and CEO Vivian Brutus Kleynhans, the wines are truly a celebration of sisterhood. “Each wine is carefully selected and styled to match the personality and character of each of the sisters. The wines celebrate our bond and devotion to one another, even under the most difficult conditions.”

Starting the winery was not only a means of reclaiming the family’s birthright; it was a tribute to their roots. Now, the sisters return often to Paternoster, not to mourn the loss of their family home, but to celebrate their new lives and to spend their weekends kayaking and feasting on crayfish, bokkems (salted dried fish) and other local delicacies along with their delicious wines.

A sampling of Seven Sisters wines began with her own, Vivian, the 2009 Seven Sisters Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99), the first South African wine ever to be selected by American Airlines to be served on their flights. Vivian, the wine, is an absolute delight! It’s a nicely balanced, golden colored, full-bodied beauty, much like its namesake. The wine has a pleasant sweetness on the tongue, but its more from the taste of the grapes, which were hand-harvested at the peak of ripeness and then left on the skins to give them greater richness before the golden honey juice was pressed and placed in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation at low temperatures helped the wine to maintain its blossoming bouquet of fruit flavors and delightful aromas of tarragon and sage. Imagine accompanying the Brutus sisters on one of their seaside feasts and sipping a chilled glass while hovering over a steaming pot of crawfish.

Seven Sisters 2010 Dawn Pinotage/Shiraz ($9.99), a blend of 60% Pinotage, 40% Shiraz caught my attention with its rich Ruby color. If you’re a newbie to red wine, this might be the one to start with. I actually think this is a red that can be served lightly chilled. It’s certainly a great all-around wine for a summer feast and would make a great beach wine or pass-around wine at a barbecue. It’s got terrific aromas of blackberry and pepper and a nice, fruity taste like wild blackberries or wild strawberries or those really dark raspberries you can only seem to find at a roadside fruit stand. It’s a surprisingly agile and versatile wine for a red and full of surprises.

No doubt, I’ll have many opportunities to taste the remaining Seven Sisters portfolio. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, in the company of the seven sisters themselves, on the beautiful beaches of Paternoster.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grands Crus De Bordeaux on U.S. Tour de Force

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

1-5 The many faces of Bordeaux lovers

6. LAURENT lebrun-Chateau Olivier-Grand Cru Classe de Graves, France

7. Shelford Trotman -Sommelier Galleria Liquors

8. Ken Frandsen (left_in hat) L&L Tavern, Lakeview, Chicago

Mike Sidel-(r) Manager, Hugo Frog Bar & Chop House Des Plaines

9. Alain Crohem- Chatueau Grand-Puy Ducasse-Pauillac, France

10. Dwight The Wine Doctor with Philippe Dambrine-Chateau Cantemerle Margaux, France

CHICAGO—One hundred and thirty-two of France’s greatest winemakers and chateau owners were in attendance in great numbers for the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux 2009 Vintage Tasting. This was a chance to rub shoulders with the owners and creators of the wines of such storied Chateaus as Chateau Croizet, Lynch-Bages, Mouton Rothschild, Giscours, Beaumont and Lagrange, among so many others. Accompanied by groaning sideboard of exquisite French cheeses, cured meats and cornichon and other light fare, the wines had an opportunity to shine in their best light. 2009 is already being heralded as one of the great vintages of all time, with deep flavor expression and a lasting impression in the mouth that speaks to the rare combination of terroir, climate, exceptional grapes and, of course, the art of the winemaker, and growing regions seasoned by centuries of winemaking skill and lore.

Founded in 1973, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is an association representing estates with the highest standards of quality located in the finest appellations of the Gironde department: Medoc, Haut-Medoc, Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Sauternes, Barsac, Saint-Emilion, and Pomerol. Besides sharing the wine, the members also enjoy sharing the centuries-old culture that surrounds it. As ambassadors to their craft, they travel extensively, sharing their unique gift with the wine lovers of the world.

To single any of the wines out individually would almost be a disservice as they were each distinctive in their own way. Each spoke to the terroir and the technique of the winemakers, who use both traditional and modern techniques to bring forth the complexities and characteristics of their wines. There were several, however, that attracted my attention and, after a careful perusal of the entire collection, commanded mention as my personal preferences.

Chateau Cantemerle($36), a fifth-growth estate of the Haut-Medoc, was the proud offering of winemaker Philippe Dambrine. “We are in the heart of the Haut-Medoc,” Dambrine proudly proclaimed. Historical records date the estate’s existence back to the 12th century, which made it seem rather odd that the creators of the first Bordeaux Official Classification map of 1855. Subsequent maps corrected the oversight.

“On average, the vines are 30 years old. We use a blend of 50% Cabernet, 40% Merlot, with the rest a balance of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged in new French oak.” The resulting wine is rich and fruity with an overlay of oak and spice. The color is a deep. Ruby-red, so characteristic of great Bordeaux. This is a wine for aging, which will reach its peak in 8-10 years. Only 25,000 cases have been produced, and much of it has already made its way to the cellars of fine restaurants and avid collectors.

Only Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and New York were the cities fortunate enough to host this premiere league of wine legends. Bordeaux wines are memorable for their exceptional quality. Learning of their varied qualities first-hand from the winemakers and owners added to the rare pleasure of tasting them.

A special treat were the wines offered by the 15 estates representing the Sauternes or Barsac. These are generally sweet white wines ranked as Premiere Cru Classe. Consisting primarily of a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, they are among the most coveted of all dessert wines. A half bottle can run into the hundreds of dollars, depending on vintage. Fona Perrin Birken is the US Brand Ambassador to Chateau Guiraud ($18).

“The wine is made from estate vine plantings, consisting of 65% Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc. It’s unique for dessert wine in that it is very fruit forward with rich fruit flavors and a natural crisp acidity that cuts through the sweetness and leaves you with a delightful, natural fruit flavor.” With its flavors of lemon-thyme and gooseberry and its lovely sage color, this is an exceptional wine with unique character. As someone who normally shies away from sweet wines, I felt it was telling that I often returned to Fiona’s table for a refreshing “sorbet” between tasting flights.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Taste of the NFL a Super Bowl climax of super chefs, celebs,football legends

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

-Official Super Bowl XLVI cake from Cake Boss
-A face in the crowd
-Dallas Cowgirls on the prowl for Auction Bidders
-Buffalo, New York's Famous Beef on Weck from Charlie The Butcher
-Ann Curry and Al Roker of NBC's Today at the Taste of the NFL, Super Bowl XLVI
-Dwight The Wine Doctor with Shaun Gayle of the Super Bowl XX winning Chicago Bears
-Austen Lane, Defensive End, 2010 Jacksonville Jaguars
-Michael Nahabedian, owner, NAHA of Chicago with his Slow Roasted BLT with Watercress Aioli
-The irrepressible Drew Nieporent of New York's famed TriBeCa Grill and NOBU

Indianapolis--Super Bowl Week climaxed with a cataclysmic fusion of charity, celebrity and cuisine at the Taste of the NFL's 21st Annual Party with a Purpose. Held for the first time in the event's history at a meaningful venue that symbolizes hunger relief, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, one of the largest food depositories in the U.S, was the host venue.

Gleaners will receive 30% of the proceeds from the evening, which brought out the likes of NBC Today Show's Al Roker and Ann Curry, Food Network's Ted Allen, who acted as Culinary Host and Laura Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012 and a host of NFL Legends, including Hall of Fame members and Celebrity Chefs from famous restaurants representing every city that has an NFL team. NAHA restaurant of Chicago's River North was represented, along with Shaun Gayle, a veteran of twelve seasons with the Chicago Bears, including one as a member of the Super Bowl winning squad of Super Bowl XX in 1985.

Some of the nation's hottest restaurants and chefs were represented and cooked their specialties on site. Drew Nieporent and Chef Stephen Lewandowski of New York's famed TriBeCa Grill presented Bershire Pork and Gulf Shrimp Gumbo with Bill Ard of the New York Giants All Century Team signing football autographs nearby. Whitehave Sauvignon Blanc ($14), was the wine pairing. Chef Carrie Nahabedian of Chicago River North's NAHA prepared Slow Roasted BLT with Watercress Aioli. Chef Troy Guard of Denver's DISH prepared one of the hits of the evening, Szechuan Colorado Bison Short Ribs with Cauliflower Puree along with Don Miguel Gascon Malbec ($11) of Argentina. E&J Gallo and Pernod Ricard sponsored the wine and libations, along with KROGER, American Family Insurance and PepsiCo as partners and sponsors for the strolling wine dinner that was the climax of Super Bowl Week activities before Game Day at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI a surprising mix of sights, sounds, sensations

Photo essay and story by Dwight Casimere

1. Dwight The Wine Doctor at Monument Circle, downtown Indianapolis
2. Mark Radford and his Boogie Burger
3. John Gibson, an Indianapolis institution, greets visitors to the Canterbury Hotel
4. Canterbury Executive Chef Erenst Luster mans the VIP Lounge in Diann's
5. A Turner Woodard original
6. A denizen of Super Bowl Village comes out in his party regalia
7. Canterbury Hotel creator and artist Turner Woodard with Dwight The Wine Doctor
8. Donny McClurkin and the NFL Player's Choir at the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration
9. This is what it's all about, a Super Bowl Ring
10. Larry Lee, Colts '87, shows off his hardware

Indianapolis---From riding the first-ever urban Zip Line 14 stories above Super Bowl Village, to rubbing shoulders with NFL Legends proudly displaying their Super Bowl rings and sharing their stories of past gridiron glories, to dining on fine Tuscan inspired cuisin one night and then on the world's most massive burger the next, Super Bowl XLVI is a showcase for contrasts in this historic, yet vibrant city.

Sitting in the VIP lounge of the Canterbury Hotel, overlooking the main plaza of Super Bowl Village, owner Turner Woodard reflected on the city's efforts to restore and revive its many monuments and historic buildings, while still keeping pace with modern times through the many soaring highrises that are monuments to the art of architecture. Turner, a developer who specializes in restoring and renovating historic properties is also a gifted artist who began his career as a teen-aged prodigy. His artwork hangs throughout the Canterbury Hotel, formerly the Warren Hotel, which he purchased and lovingly restored to its original grandeur."This is just a small part of what we're all about in Indianapolis. We're a great repository for the past, but, what we're showing here by hosting the Super Bowl, is that we're a terrific, modern city that's capable of orchestrating an event like this, while still portraying the hospitality and genuineness that we're known for."

Executive Chef Rino Bagilo of Osteria Pronto in Super Bowl headquarters JW Marriott hotel took diners on a culinary tour of his native Lake Como, Italy with his outstanding interpretation of nuevo Tuscan cuisine. "I do everything with a passion, especially when it comes to all things Italian, " he told me after flambeing an order of his Calamari Fritti in olive oil and flavored with pepperoncini, capolini onion and garlic aioli, followed by an exquisitely fresh Insalata Giglio, a composed salad of Bib lettuce, yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, and white balsamic vinegar reduction. The offerings reached a fever pitch with his Canalonis (Italian crepes) of braised, pulled pork stuffed with spinach and a creamy velloute white sauce, similar to a Bechamel followed by white and black ink raviolis stuffed with lobster and served with a roasted lobster tail cooked in Chardonnary, butter and lobster reduction. The Chianti Classico wine and bubbly Prossecco were the perfect accompaniments in this oasis just off the lobby of the Super Bowl Media Center and the Host Committee headquarters.

On the other end of the spetrum, a visit to the nearby trendy Broad Ripple district, brought a stop at Boogie Burger, an upscale eatery that specializes in custom bourmet burgers. Owner/Chef Mark Radford, an Indianapolis native, began nurturing the concept as a young executive for a major pharmaceutical company while living in New York. "I've always loved food. I started, watching my grandmother cook and then, when I live in New York, my aunt, Valerie Jo Bradley, at her brownstone in Harlem. I opened a catering company that provided light fare and sandwiches to corporate clients at the companies where my friends in the industry worked and it grew from there. When I left New York and that industry, I moved back home to Indianapolis and started lying the groundwork for what you see here. This has always been my drean and as you can see, its starting to bear fruit." Radford got behind the grill and made the larges burger this reviewer has ever had-the Monster Burger, complete with bacon, pastrami, cheddar cheese, onion rings, and topped with a fried egg. It would take a Super Bowl-sized appetizer to finish it all at one sitting!

The following evening saw the unfolding of one of the premiere events of Super Bowl XLVI, Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at historic Clowes Memorial Hall on the beautiful Butler University campus. Hosted by Rev Run and CeCe Winans, it featured Fantasia, the soul-stirring resonant voice of Natalie Grant, the electrifying three-tie Grammy winning Donnie McClurkin with the NFL Players Choir (yes, the choir is composed of all present and former NFL players, and they can really sing!) and the off-the-charts finale, led by Bishop Hezekiah Walker. The VIP reception, which honored sponsors Comcast, Verizon and American Family Insurance and the NFL, offered an opportunity to mingle with NFL alumni, several of whom shared their personal testimony of struggle, sacrifice and ultimate triumph onstage and flashed their Super Bowl rings offstage. It was the prelude to the exciting hours leading up to Super Bowl XLVI.