Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Winemaking, Film Making and Fun Making

Tasting with Markham Vineyards winemaker, Kim Nicholls
If you haven't seen the PBS documentary Vintage: Napa Valley 2012, put it on your list. Even if you are not a lover of the vines, you will love this story and its cinematography. 

Camera's closely followed three women winemakers during harvest, the most stressful and most exciting time of the year for their wineries. The behind the scenes look is fascinating, you'll never look at the wine in your glass the same after knowing all it went through to get there.

I was introduced to the film along with the three winemakers featured in it, at an event in Naples recently and was in turn able to tell the story in the current edition (May/June 2015) of Bonita Estero Magazine (page 68).

Sooooo.....I got to meet some great women, drink their amazing wines with them, was able to tell their story to those who weren't there, and for the cherry on top.....a wine dinner has been planned, based on my story and these women's amazing wine. Southern Wine and Spirits has teamed up with Blue Coyote Sanibel to feature delicious selections from Chimney Rock, Markham Vineyards and Rutherford Hill. 

I sat in on a tasting with the chef and managers, while they brainstormed on what wines to serve and what dishes to prepare for each. While I don't know the final outcome, if it is anything like what I heard, it is going to be spectacular. Make a reservation for the June 18th event by calling 239-472-9222. I'll see you there.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More Than Meat At Ted's

Ted's new Farmhouse Salad
With Memorial Day weekend just days away, and the beginning of the summer season, many restaurants are shifting their menu's to reflect seasonal items and dishes that are suited for warmer weather.

I recently got to try a sampling of the new summer menu at Ted's Montana Grill at Coconut Point Mall in Estero. A little bit of trivia, this was the very first restaurant to open with the mall and nearly nine years later, it is still thriving.

The new salads with kale should be keepers! The Farmhouse was my favorite, kale and romaine, with chicken, cucumber, tomato, Gruyere, bacon, roasted corn and pecans tossed in a fresh lemon vinaigrette that had a nice kick. The dressings are made in house each day and they are delightful.
Ted's new Smoked Trout Dip
The new smoked trout dip for an appetizer is perfect for sharing. With a touch of paprika, this is not a dip where the smoke overpowers the fish, it has a nice balance.

As for drinks, all of them are made with fresh squeezed fruit juices, not bottled. What IS bottled is Ted's own label of wine. Bison Ridge comes in a chardonnay that is citrusy and fresh, with a sightly creamy finish. The merlot smells like chocolate and plum and tastes of cherry and herbs. And the cabernet sauvignon is full of cherry and red fruit, very pleasant with the bison burgers.

Bison Ridge wine is exclusive to Ted's
Bison is the big draw here but if you aren't interested in it, all burgers also come with the more traditional Angus Beef. Another plus for alternative burger connoisseurs, Ted's veggie burger is moist, flavorful and delicious, no hockey pucks here.

Of course there are lots of lighter items for the summer that involve fish and chicken, all made fresh everyday, nothing here is frozen. The atmosphere is always welcoming and chef Juan Rangel has a great story. Check out more on the Ted's Montana Grill location at Coconut Point in my latest 10Best article: Click here.

Don't forget dessert: strawberry shortcake on homemade biscuts 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hangin' With The Vanderbilts.

I'm at the Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC to celebrate the legendary property's 30th anniversary. And what better way than to hang out on the farm with a "real" Vanderbilt.

Chase Pickering is a fifth generation Vanderbilt (George's great great grandson) and recently returned to the estate as a marketing manager. Such a lovely person to spend the morning with.

As we took a behind the scenes tour of the land and learned its farming history, he regaled us with tales of growing up on the grounds of "America's most beautiful mansion." We heard lots of great stories, like how he and his friends would jump on the feed bales until the split open, how fun it was to watch the filming of the many famous movies shot here, traveling the world on projects to protect the environment and animals, working at Walt Disney World, pointing out his favorite trees including the one he proposed to his wife under, and most importantly how excited he was to be home and promote the beloved family estate.

He was truly excited to share with us his love of the field to farm green house and hydroponics, growing canola for fuel, the excellent care given to the animals here, the land conservation and all of the attention to details most people don't get to see on a simple tour of the estate.

What an amazing place full of amazing people. More to come......

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Virgin Flight.....

I was commiserating with some friends recently about how flying just isn’t as fun as it used to be.

During a flight I took this week, I was particularly observant of fellow flyers, like the lady in security who put her bags on the belt then stood in front of a metal detector that was roped off. No matter how long she stood there, no one was going to open it up and let her through, but there she stood. Maybe she was hung-over?

Then the passengers in front of me (and behind), who loaded up the belt with goods to be scanned but never pushed them through, just walked away to the metal detector. Why sure, I’ll do that for you. Maybe you are hung-over too?

Then there was the wading through a throng of people who decided to wait for boarding in the busy concourse walkway, leaving barely enough room for the rest of us to pass (including the flight attendant who has carrying FOUR bags). I doubt they are ALL hung-over, just unaware perhaps.

And so was the girl waiting right by the boarding door (pictured by wardrobe only below), even though she was in zone FIVE.....the last one. 

Despite the weirdness, things were looking good during boarding. The six wheelchairs loaded with ease, there was plenty of overhead space and clean, polite passengers were seated next to me. Then I heard it …yip yip yip. The dog on this flight far outweighed the annoyance of a crying child; constant, yipping and yowling. I’m sure all of my friends reading this who fly with little dogs, have well behaved pets, or ones that are slightly drugged for relaxation.

It was so bad that the little boy behind me said rather loudly, “That dog is annoying.” He caught my ear. Usually I have ear buds in by this time but I left them behind and had been lamenting the oversight until this moment.

It was the boy’s first flight and I got a play by play, along with the rest of the plane, as his exuberant voice carried. When the flaps on the wings first moved he yelled WOAH! Then, “MOM WE’RE MOVING.” He also let us know we were turning, moving a little too slowly, and passing other planes, among other things.

While I was amused, the joy for me came in hearing his laughter, squeal and shout as we gained speed and took off. It was the best take off I’ve had in a long time, smiling laughing with every loud exclamation I heard from him.

And it continued through the flight with him questioning the “dings” heard over the intercom, asking his mom if we were going into space, if we had enough fuel, swearing he could see his house from the air and gasping when his view was suddenly erased by a bank of clouds.

Suddenly I didn’t hear the grating cries of that dog anymore, or the lady in front complaining because she would really like someone to take her middle seat so she could have an aisle (good luck sister). I actually enjoyed flying again because I saw the wonderment of it through the virgin flight of a little boy.

Thank you lil man.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

An Artful Weekend

Artists tents surround the warm shores of Lake Morton
For more than 35 years, Lake Morton (Lakeland, FL) has been overtaken on Mother's Day Weekend by artists and art enthusiasts from all over the country for the MIDFLORIDA Mayfair by the Lake.

This is widely considered the last major art show of the season in Florida. Many artists are quick to announce, they are ready to get home and often times, this translates into deals for buyers....  don't want to load up that big metal sculpture of a ballerina? I'll take if off of your hands.

Not only is the last of the season, this art show has become one of the most respected on the circuit. More than 150 artists from across the nation are here with everything from painting, mixed media art, jewelry, metal work, pottery and so much more.

Black swans, white swans, ducks, egrets and all kinds of birds also attend the show
Set on the shores of the lovely Lake Morton (downtown), spectators also get a show by Mother Nature. This area is known for its swan population and is a hot spot for migratory birds.

The art stretches around more than 3/4 of the lake, however, the center of activity is at the Polk Museum of Art, where shady oak trees keep festival goers cool while watching musicians, dancers and other entertainment on the outdoor stage.

Fun for the entire family and good for finding that perfect gift for mom this year.