Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Pure" Entertainment

Pure has one of the hottest night sceens at The Mercato Shops in Naples. What many people don't know is the chef is pretty hot also. Yes, Pure has a chef, a full kitchen and a menu that will leave you wanting more.

My parents were in town and wanted to take me out to celebrate some recent accomplishments so I suggested giving Pure a try, especially since managers are trying to get the "dining" word out.  We were escorted to a VIP booth in a prime location by the bar. It was plush, with over-sized pillows and enough room to more than double our small party. I wish I knew who to thank for the entertainment that night. Mom and Dad were treated to quite a fun show; a birthday party of beautiful girls with martini's, tugging their low tops up and their short skirts down; while striking silly duck faces for the camera.

We wanted to try a little of everything so asked for the Chef's Tasting Menu. We surrendered all control to the chef, Josh Mitchell, and he began sending out course after course of goodness. Starting with a trio of shrimp, we moved to salads (the Spinach was great but the Summer Salad rocked). Next up was beef in a veal reduction, then chicken with goat cheese and spinach, and finally a sweet apple fritter for dessert.

At 9:45 the music level started to rise, the ropes were up at the doors and we were feeling like dinner was definantly over. The once navigable bar had become packed. We weaved our way to the exit, leaving behind a coveted VIP table, now reserved for bottle service. Until next time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Is Fun, Especially With Rum

When I think of rum I remember my first booze cruise in Key West, then that awesome one in Mexico, ooooooo and sampling rum punch at every bar in the Abacos, looking for the best and then there was….well, you get the idea. Rum to me has always been just a fun party drink, until now.

I was among the first in the world (literally) to try Panama Red, an over proof rum from the makers of Panamonte. The first tasting outside of the distillery in Panama, was held last night at Hemingway's Island Grill in Coconut Point (Estero, FL). It was such a big deal that Master Distiller, Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez flew in from Panama for a rare appearance.

Upon arrival we were handed a delicious Cachaca Caipirinha then escorted to tables set with three glasses of rum. I had never even considered the possibility of a rum dinner until I was in the middle of one. We started with the Pyrat rum and a plate of crostini, salty Gouda and sweet honey comb; Salt and sugar is always an enjoyable combination. The second course of tropical fruits didn’t excite me much, however, the vanilla rum sauce was excellent with the Zaya rum. Next up, a jerk snapper with a yogurt thyme sauce, served with a Red Sky rum punch. Cooked perfectly, a big hit!  There's more. A dessert I could've drowned in; white chocolate bread pudding and a Bourbon caramel sauce, served with the star of the night; Panama Red rum

So why was is Panama Red such a big deal? Because of it's higher alcohol content, overproof rum is typically used for mixing not sipping; it was a challenge to pull off. Panama Red is made from sugar cane, aged in used Bourbon casks in small batches and then blended together. The rum was very complex with sweet vanilla, hot cinnamon and comforting spice.

After dinner, the force behind Panama Red and Hemingway's, owner Jim Wasson, treated those of us who were still there to a rare, 25 year-old, Panamonte Reserva. This rum had notes of a fine Cognac and we sipped it like one.

I have a new appreciation for rum after learning about the distilling and bottling process. I was amazed that unlike wine, heat is good for rum in the barrel. That’s why the best rums typically come from tropical climates. The shape of the glass and how you breathe into it increases your ability to enjoy rum on it’s own. I was told that white rum will entice vodka drinkers and that there is an actual Rum University.

Hemingway's will be the first restaurant in the US to serve this special rum. A few bottles were purchased last night ($25) but were quickly stashed in bags and whisked off to unknown destinations. The existence of the only bottle in Southwest Florida, that I can confirm at this moment, is the one in my in my personal bar; signed by Don Pancho himself. YES!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The "Cooooolest" Cocktail Ever

Just a couple of weeks ago I was sitting at the harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark; listening to live music, drinking champagne and enjoying a sunny, 70-degree afternoon. My friend Michelle and I included the duo next to us in a toast and struck up a conversation about sites to see and resturaunts and bars to hit while in town. Our faces lit up at the mention of the ICEBAR. Not just any ICEBAR but one from the original Icehotel in neighboring Sweden.

The first Ice hotel opened 22 years ago in the small village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. The story goes: In 1989 Japenese ice artists came to town to visit a cylinder-shaped igloo that had been created by a French artist. There were no hotel rooms available so they got permission to spend the night in the iced exhibition hall, in sleeping bags, on top of reindeer skin. Voila, the Icehotel was born. It is recreated every year from snow and ice blocks from the Torne River.

Spreading "coolness" the Icehotel began opening ICEBAR's around the world; Oslo, Tokyo and this one in Copenhagen. It cost about $30 for admittance and one drink, we paid a few dollars more and got two. That is about all one can stand, even with the heavy poncho's. The number of people allowed in at one time is strictly monitored.

 Booties are also provided for visitors without appropriate, cold weather foot-wear. Thick gloves are attached to the ponchos so you can handle your ice glasses. Yes, the glasses are literally blocks of ice that to me, had a slight "freezer" taste to them. The bar menu had numerous fruity concoctions, that tasted good and made a pretty picture. The bar  served other libations including champagne, my favorite. 
Copycat Ice Bars are popping up everywhere now, including Orlando, on tourist laden International Drive. The owners call it the largest permanent icebar in the world. It's not the original but for most of us, it's alot less expensive to fly or drive to Orlando than Scandinavia.

By the way: No, my tongue did not stick to the ice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pizza On Top Of The World

I am back from my Arctic Adventure! I can't wait to share more about my trip to Greenland but I am still digesting it. That being said:

In previous blogs I've shared my love of pizza with you and couldn't wait to write about the pie I ate in Kangerlussuaq. Kangerlussuaq is the hub for international flights into Greenland because of it's large runway and decent weather. Even though it's home to an International Airport, Kangerlussuaq only has a population of about 600 in the winter, 1000 in the summer. Dining options are fairly limited so when I was told about the small, take-away pizzeria just across the street from the airport, my expectations were fairly low.

The pizzeria was only open a couple of hours for lunch, and a couple of more hours for dinner. At least there was outdoor seating; two weathered picnic tables on the narrow porch. The Turkish/Danish owner was very hospital and offered a long list of pizza possibilities.

Wanting to try food from the region, we asked about the Muskox. The chef wasn't a fan saying it tasted like sheep. Not recalling having ever eaten sheep we inquired more, finally asking, "is it gamey". Response with arms flailing: "sheep, sheep; you know, baaaahhhh baaaahhh". Does the guy to the right look like any 'sheep' you've ever seen? We gave up and with a baaaahhhh baaaaaahhhh, and ordered the majestic Muskox.

Since the pizza joint only sold pizza and the neighboring grocery store had been closed since 2:00, our only option for wine or beer was the airport bar; we wandered over, ordered a couple of Tuborgs (Danish beers), asked for glasses and took them back to the pizzeria. It was obviously a laid back place.

We shared a picnic table with a couple from Switzerland, traded travel stories and inspected the Muskox Pizza. It was delicious! I was surprised by the nice thin crust; delighted by the flavorful cheese and enjoyed the heavy dusting of oregano. Oh, and the Muskox was amazingly mild and tender.

I can't imagine you would ever find yourself on a layover in Kangerlussuaq but if so, the pizza is worth a walk across the street....if you are lucky enough to land while it's open.