Monday, February 21, 2011

Taste Of Love

Taste of Love is an annual event raising money for the Special Equestrians. Special Equestrians is a therapeutic horseback riding program for both kids and adults, who live with a wide-range of disabilities. The stories of how riding a horse can change the life of a participant are amazing. If you are looking for a charity to give of your time and resources, please consider this one.

I helped to emcee the event last night with Jay Severson and while the numbers are still coming in, the volunteers were very happy with the tally at the end of the night. Besides bidding on art, jewelry, vacations and more; ticket-holders were treated to delicious food and wine pairings from a dozen local restaurants and caterers.

I loved the flavorful Patatas A La Brava and the creamy Croquetas de Queso con Ali Oil served by "Trattoria Cafe Napoli". It was paired with a juicy Vina Roja Tempranillo. "Sasse's" served up Sicilian Sweet & Sour  Braised Short Ribs that melted in my mouth!. The dish was paired with a Masciarelli Montepulciano. Bistro 41's chef Reiner said he worked for four days preparing his Sauerbraten with Red Cabbage. The surprise ingredient was amazing; ginger snaps! "Angelina's Ristorante" never disappoints with it's ravioli but this year added Lobster Risotto Fra Diavolo for a spicy treat. I nurtured the glass of The Villa Erbice Valpolicella Ca Panvinio that was poured with it.

The event is held at the Design Studio by Raymond. It's a building showcasing different styles of kitchens, the latest designs and accessories. It will make you want to remodel for sure! It's a perfect venue for a food and wine event. I could go on and on about the food and wine; and of course the charity. Bottom line....don't miss this event next year!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spice Is Sooooo Nice

Like it or not, packaging effects our buying habits and our perceptions of products. I found that to be true even at the wine tasting I went to this week at the Morgan House in downtown Fort Myers.

The last bottle on the tasting table was a  Shooting Star Cabernet from Steele Winery. I looked at the wine rep and said "That label looks like cinnamon, does it taste like cinnamon?". He said, "See for yourself." and poured me a glass.

Sure enough, I tasted cinnamon. I was left wondering whether or not I tasted what I wanted to taste; that which I was looking for. To quenched my curiosity I went to Steele's website and looked up the winery tasting notes on Shooting Star. I found that the Lake County Cab was blended with a small percentage of Merlot and Cabernet Franc to round out the flavors.

Guess what else I found: "This wine has aromas of dark fruits with some mint and cassis."  Come on, blend mint and cassis and for sure you get a flavor similar to cinnamon! Vindication!

The Morgan House will host it's next tasting in the roof-top bar on March 15th, St Patty's Day week!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From Cab to Coffee....

It's great to see small, locally owned businesses thriving. Congratulations to Bennett's Fresh Roast on your three-year anniversary! We celebrated the occasion Friday with a jam-packed wine tasting at the world famous coffee shop, downtown Fort Myers. My favorite wine of the night was the Sequoia Grove Cabernet from Napa.

It was nice and dark with intense black fruit and a little tobacco. Some California Cabs will knock you over but this was nicely balanced and very drinkable! It'll cost you $35-$40 retail.
As I was drinking the wine I recalled visiting Sequoia Grove's Tasting Room in Napa some 15 years ago. I remembered it being quaint and friendly so I went online to do a little reminiscing. At first I was disappointed to read that the facility had been remodeled. Disappointed because so many in Napa are abandoning their small, cozy tasting rooms; remodeling them to look more trendy and austere. But as you can see by the photo, the new tasting room appears to be quite warm and inviting.

Funny how Bennett's coffee shop can be turned into an inviting tasting room too! Over the years I've been accused of being biased towards Bennett's. After-all, I've had a 20 year friendship/partnership with owner Bob Grissinger. We are all biased towards our friends and the people we love. However, history and friendship aside, Bob and Frankie have made Bennett's Fresh Roast a place like very few others in Southwest Florida. The attention to detail, unique products, the great staff and of course the amazing donuts and coffee.You'll discover a new love for donuts after tasting his hand cut, from scratch varieties. And I bet you've never had coffee the way it is really suppose to be made and served until you've had Bennett's. See for yourself and if don't agree, then you can call me biased. I wont be holding my breath :-)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Elvis Lives!!!!

Elvis lives! He lives in the form of a delicious new donut unveiled this week at Bennett's Fresh Roast in downtown Fort Myers. "The Elvis" is a hand cut from scratch donut, filled with vanilla custard and fresh banana's. Then it's topped with delicious chocolate icing and peanuts. My eyes rolled to the back of my head after the first bite and I had to sit down. Have it with a cup of his freshly roasted Columbian Blend and you will be set for the rest of the morning.

This Friday is Bennett's Fresh Roast Wine Tasting and Anniversary Celebration from 6-9. Space is limited so you should buy tickets ($20) in advance, at the shop.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bargain Bottles

Last week I said to a friend, "I need to buy some more wine." (Insert sound of  record scratch here.) Her mouth opened slightly, a brief pause, then loudly "YOU HAVE AN ENTIRE CELLAR OF WINE!"

Yes I said but it is in my so-called cellar for a reason. I want them to age a little more. What I really want now is some "everyday" wine. Gulf Points Liquors (off of McGregor in Fort Myers) puts on nice a tasting the last Thursday of the month. I went last week and picked up a few bargains that I want to share: 2007 McManis Syrah ($9.99), 2009 Grayson Cellars Cabernet ($10.99), 2009 Laurel Glens Reds ($10.99), 2006 Fantail by Morganhof (14.49).

For just a few dollars more  I REALLY enjoyed: 2009 Paulo Scavino Rosso ($20.99), 2009 Juan Gil Monastrell ($19.99), 2008 Clos La Coutale Cahors ($18.99), 2005 Hartenburg Wine Estate Ecurie ($20.99).

People often ask me to recommend good, reasonably priced wines. I have a standard list but these were all affordable, yummy for the money and easy to find. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sunset Snackin'

I took a drive to Sanibel Island yesterday for a little therapy, some decompression. It had been a long day and a slow drive so I stopped at the Sunset Grill for a sunset snack. The Grill is just before the bridge over Blind Pass into Captiva.

I've had great food at this restaurant in years past but wanted to check it out under the new management. "Sexy Eyes" by Dr. Hook was playing on the radio as I was seated on the outside deck; I wanted a view of the beach across the street. Truth is every seat, inside or out, has a view of the Gulf of Mexico through the sea oats.

The appetizer menu was tantalizing. I settled on the Lobster Crabcake and a glass of Girard Sauvignon Blanc. The crisp wine was perfect for the beach and a fair accompaniment to the rich sauces drizzled on the plate. One was a vanilla beurre blanc, the other mango. When mixed together they almost tasted like an Orange Dreamsicle.

The first couple of bites were amazing but by the end, the sauce had become a little too sweet for my palate. My very attentive server tried to tempt me with "homemade desserts" but I had someplace to be....across the street for the sunset!

My appetizer and glass of wine cost as much as an entire meal at some restaurants but it was therapy after-all (and still cheaper than my usual "shoe" therapy). By the way; the brilliant purple, red and orange sunset turned out to be the perfect dessert!

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