Cochon555 Miami 2017

The Ritz-Carlton South Beach was once again host to the ultimate culinary pork cooking competition last Sunday! Cochon555 is a celebration of Heritage Breed Pigs in a nose-to tail cooking competition which supports safe, honest food in support of family farms and the Piggy Bank charity. This year’s Princess of Porc was Chef Paula DaSilva. Check out some photos of the awesome food, bourbon, rum, tattooing, wines, and hotties!

 

 

 

 

Sprung! Spring Beer Festival 2016

This year’s Sprung! Spring Beer Festival had a new home: and old RC Cola Plant in Wynwood (Miami)! Sounds sexy, right? But it makes perfect sense with the craft beer boom in Wynwood. Wynwood Brewing is across the street and Concrete Beach and J. Wakefield Brewing are just a few blocks away. And after a super soggy and muddy Grovetoberfest a few months ago, it’s cool that this one changed venues to a concrete base!

My wife and I arrived promptly on time, one of my best virtues! First stops, J. Wakefield and Concrete Beach, right next to each other. And we hit Wynwood Brewing shortly after, duh, locals first! I was actually sporting about a month of unkempt beard and an unruly head of hair so I could fit in with the Wynwood brewers (along with MANY others). My wife hated that, so call it a sacrifice!

Along with the Wynwood favorites, lots of other local and Florida breweries were representing: MIA, Big Storm, Barrel of Monks, Hatuey, Coppertail to name a few. There were also dozens of awesome must stops at every beer festival. Founders, Green Flash (including that awesome Alpine Brewing), Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas (thanks to the girl there that helped me kill the Apple update out of nowhere), Saint Arnold and Sweetwater to name just a few.

Cooking and beer demos, a really nice lineup of food trucks (yum, roasted corn on the cob), fun games including one that reminded me of the sweeper arm in that show WipeOut, homebrewers, a fun band, and of course the VIP Area. For me, the VIP area compared to prior years was a little different. We thought (and overheard many similar remarks) that the food part was a bit of a letdown while the VIP beer offerings were a major upgrade. Think Black Ops and some rare sours and other specialty options, was great. And the VIP area also offered some shady relief on a super angry hot day!

We saw some old friends and made new ones. I also took pictures of some really cool t-shirts the attendees were wearing! Check those out and the photo album below. I’m definitely a fan of the new location too! A must drink Miami event! See you next year!

SOBEWFF Amstel Light Burger Bash 2015

Friday night, a friend and I had the chance to attend the SOBEWFF Amstel Light Burger Bash. Of course, being allergic to sub-par beer, we decided to check out the newest brewery in Wynwood, J Wakefield Brewing for some pre-gaming. Seriously, check that place out!

And while J Wakefield had what looked to be a pretty awesome food truck outside, what it didn’t have was a Ritz-Carlton beach full of awesome chefs preparing gourmet burgers! Oh, or the hot chicks, spectacular band, celebrities (yeah, I got my picture taken with Al Roker and Morimoto!), and thousands of people.

Honestly, you can see who won here. I was a little disappointed with the star power that I and other people love to meet (though not burger quality) compared to when I went in 2013. That year, Morimoto was there but was joined by Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Scott Conant, Michael Symon, Geoffrey Zakarian, Andrew, Zimmern, Anne Burrell, The Sandwich King, and more.

My favorite and the one I cast my vote for was Prime One Twelve (Prime 112). That burger was so juicy and cheesy and delicious! I also enjoyed Red Robin’s burger and Shake Shack too among a handful of others.

Anyway, here are some pictures! I hope to go again next year!

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Eats & Beats 2015

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After an unplanned tour of Little Haiti in Miami last night, my wife and I gave in to technology and plugged in the address of The Moore Building in Miami’s Design District into the phone. After all, we didn’t want to be late to the second annual Eats & Beats culinary and musical event taking place from 7:30 until midnight!

Whew! Just made it on time, and someone was nice enough to leave a parking space right in front of the building for us. We met the organizers on the way in and then got started tasting some great dishes, sampling some terrific spirits and cocktails, and being entertained with some great music and ambiance.

The pink lights flashing on the very unique architecture of The Moore Building made me feel like I was back at a club in Paris I visited a few times in the 90’s. Eats & Beats took place on all 4 floors, which each have a 360 degree balcony overlooking the center of the building. Pretty cool!

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We met some very nice people, both vendors and other guests alike. If I were forced to pick some favorites, I’d have to choose Chef Adrianne Calvo (who also made a spectacular dessert at the Five Cubed event a few days ago), the food from Segundo Muelle Peruvian Restaurant, Red The Steakhouse, Brother Jimmy’s, and Havana 1957. Oh, and the cupcakes from Ana Paz Cakes and Slice of Art!

And on the spirits side of things, I loved the Zafra rum, both on the rocks and as a cocktail. Not to be outdone were the terrific mojitos that the folks from Nikki Beach were making. Not only did both of those vendors make a great tasting drink, but they went all out with their presentation and overall experience.

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IT Espresso Lounge also made a very nice prosecco based drink, quite refreshing. And as the “beer guy,” I have to give a shout out to the only beer vendor there–Modelo! I personally would have like to have seen a few more strong brands, especially considering the emergence of craft beer on the Miami scene. But hey, that’s probably just me.

All the vendors were friendly, knowledgeable, and wanted to share their products with you. And to the army of people that made the event happen, congratulations! Can’t wait for Eats & Beats 2016!

Love & Wine, a Rooftop Wine & Spirits, Gastronomic Affair

Saturday night, my wife and I attended Love & Wine, a Rooftop Wine & Spirits, Gastronomic Affair on the roof of The Collection Building in Coral Gables. The event paired awesome local chefs and restaurants with some premium wines and spirits. Live music, cigars, awesome cars, models and a beautiful view also made for a nice night. Not even the mega wind could put a damper on the fun.

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Miami Culinary Tours: Wynwood Food and Art Tour

Today my wife and I did the Wynwood Food and Art Tour in Miami. This is a weekly event done by Miami Culinary Tours and is one of many versions around Miami set up to help you appreciate what the city has to offer. You can read a detailed review over at my DailyBeerReview.com website, but I decided to post an extensive gallery of photos here for you to see. Check out this and some of the other tours available! Enjoy!

Chilean Wine Seminar and Tasting Hosted by ProChile in Brickell

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Yesterday evening, the ProChile Trade Commission in Miami hosted a Chilean Wine Seminar and tasting at the Conrad Hotel in Brickell. Chilean Winemaker Santiago Margozzini from Montgras Estates and Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer conducted an educational presentation titled Chile: Land of Diversity and a Paradise for Viticulture. My wife and I arrived (on time) to a beautifully presented room set up to accommodate 60 or more guests interested in this stop in ProChile’s Chilean Wine Tour.

Santiago went through a slide presentation that highlighted just how diverse a country Chile really is, from the temperature to the rainfall to the geographic landscape to the soil. All of those factors have an extremely important impact on the country’s 16 wine-growing regions. And though diverse, the climate and isolation of the country is ideal for growing grapes. In addition to gentle winters and moderate summers, the lack of phylloxera, hail and bird attacks also contributes to the success of Chile’s growth in wine making over the past several decades. Twenty years ago, there were seven wine regions; today there are 16. Santiago explained that though it took some convincing, the regions are now classified in three groups based on the characteristics of the wines. That was done so wine makers could easily speak about their wines in such a way that would help promote their vineyards in a meaningful way. Those classifications are Costa, Entre Cordilleras, and Andes.

That’s when we began tasting the eight different wines in front of us, each chosen to represent the different viticulture regions of Chile. Santiago and Fred both led the tasting, speaking about the wineries and characteristics of each wine and how it was made. We started with a Sauvignon Blanc from Siegel made in the coastal area of Leyda. It was explained that the cold temperatures from the Pacific Ocean were key to growing this grape to perfection. Sauvignon Blanc is the #1 exported grape variety from Chile.

 

We were then asked to compare two different coastal Pinot Noirs from Valdivieso and Tabali. While I’m not exactly a wine expert, it was not difficult to see and taste the differences. Fred explained that one of the areas had more variations in temperature and wind than the other. In addition, the soils in the two regions are very different and impart different characteristics to the wines. So same grape but different outcomes.  Pretty cool!

ProChile Wine Seminar 2

Fred continued “geeking out” on soil as we tried a Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Morande, grown in the “alluvial” soil of Maipo, representative of the foothills of the Andes. We were then given a Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blend from Viu Manent which sparked a little comparison to the Malbecs of Argentina. We were told that some of the best Malbecs in the world come from this Chilean region called the Colchagua Valley. However, these wines are very different than what you would find in neighboring Argentina as the climate and soil and age of their vines are not the same.

Finally we arrived to a wine made by Santiago, MontGras Antu Syrah. “This is the best wine of the night, hahaha,” quipped Santiago. He explained this was grown on a famous hill in the volcanic soil of Colchagua and would be classified as an Entre Cordilleras wine. My wife and I actually agreed that the sweet fruity aroma and delicious flavors made this our favorite of the evening. Also from Colchagua, we tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from Montes. Fred said this is a very well-known wine in the United States.

Our final wine of the seminar was another from MontGras, their Reserva Carmenere. We were told that Carmenere grapes are unique to Chile, though originally a French grape variety that was killed by phylloxera. Apparently, Chilean wine makers thought they were making Merlots though it was discovered that in fact it was a Merlot/Carmenere blend. Today, the best Carmenere wines are grown in sandy soil in a warm and sunny climate that allows the grapes to grow to a very ripe stage. This ensures a wine with round tannins and uniquely spicy characteristics. We liked this wine a lot too.

The evening then shifted to a tasting with many Chilean wineries. We tasted some additional wines and learned about some of the goals that each winery was pursuing. For some, it was just to get their name out in front of importers. We ate some cheese and fruits and hors d’oeuvres and mingled. It was an educational evening and fun to learn about one of Chile’s most important products!

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Miami Rum Renaissance Grand Tasting 2014

Yesterday, April 26, 2014, I attended the first day of the Miami Rum Renaissance Grand Tasting (Check out my recap). Except for all of the vendors simultaneously running out of rum a bit  early, I had a terrific time. And I definitely had enough rum for any one individual. Here are some photos of the event.

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Wynwood Night Time Graffiti Tour

I recently went to an event in Wynwood thrown by Goose Island Beer Company. After it was over, Ed Roberts and I walked over to Wynwood Brewing for a beer (and back). I took a lot of pictures of the graffiti since I had never been in the area before. I know, I’m probably the first person to post a bunch of these pictures, right?

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Cochon 555 Miami 2014

Goose Island Beer Company welcomed hundreds of guests to The Four Seasons Hotel and Cochon 555 this past Sunday afternoon. Cochon 555 is a tour that celebrates the sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs. Five chefs, Five pig breeds, Five wineries.  A cooking competition between five local chefs was the centerpiece of the event, but there were plenty of other activities and stations to check out.

My wife and I started with the Goose Island “Goose Nest” where the brewery paired two of its vintage ales with Foie Gras and other Duck items. But the rest of the event was focused on the pigs. Chefs Aaron Brooks, Conor Hanlon, Bradley Herron, Dena Marino and Jose Mendin each made five or six dishes for the guests to try. They were scattered throughout the banquet hall with other areas of interest to visit in between.

One of my personal favorites was “The Perfect Manhattan” station which was serving up terrific cocktails made with Templeton Rye and a few other terrific bourbons. There was a “Pop-Up Butcher Shop” where one of the pigs was butchered in a demonstration benefiting Johnson & Wales University. The butchered pig was sold on the spot. Oh yeah, and before the pig was cut up, the dudes from Miami Ink tattooed it with a Cochon 555 themed piece of art!

A cocktail competition called Punch Kings was another very popular spot. Five drinks using Breckenridge Bourbon were created for everyone to try. There were cheese stations, oysters, killer Prosciutto by Prosciutto di Parma, and several wineries. I did not miss the opportunity to sip on some Four Roses Bourbon either.

In the end, Chef Jose Mendin from Pub Belly prevailed as the winning “Prince of Porc!”

Great event! Can’t wait for next year.

Goose Island Beer Company Presents Cochon 555 at Four Seasons Miami

photo (12)Just cracked open a beer and poured it into my Goose Island beer glass. I know you think that’s just me lying for a good segue into this article, which is precisely why I took a picture to prove it to you!

OK, so seriously, I’ll be going to the Cochon 555 event on Sunday. And it’s going to kick ass! Read about the event, the chefs, the bourbon below. After the event, I’ll be posting pictures, entertaining commentary (duh), and whatever else I can think of. Since Goose Island is going out of their way to show you how to pair their vintage line of beers (which I adore) with all the pork, I’ll be talking about that part of the evening on my DailyBeerReview.com site. Tickets are still available. Click the link above to go to the event page if you’d like to purchase them. And heck, you see what I look like, so say hello! I’ll be the guy with the hot 40 something chick!

Four Seasons Miami, Host Venue
February 9th, 2014

COCHON US TOUR & GOOSE ISLAND BEER CO. HUMBLY PRESENT COCHON555. Over 11 tons of heritage pork raised by family farms will be served across the country in a nose-to-tail touring culinary competition. Going on its sixth year, Cochon 555 is the nation’s premier culinary tour touting the flavor and health benefits of eating heritage breed pigs. The kickoff event features an all-star lineup of five chefs, five pigs and five wineries to celebrate breed diversity and family farming. A panel of 20 expert judges and guests of the event will vote for the city’s “Prince or Princess of Porc.”

This year’s competing chefs include Jose Mendin of The Pubbelly Group, Conor Hanlon of The Dutch, Bradley Herron of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Aaron Brooks of EDGE Steak & Bar and Dena Marino of MC Kitchen. The five chefs, champions to the pig, will battle it out in a friendly competition by preparing a maximum of six dishes each created from one whole heritage breed pig to win votes from a crowd of hungry gourmands and celebrated judges. Jason Pringle of db Bistro Moderne will also prepare a feature sixth pig.

Host Chef Aaron Brooks, Executive Chef at Four Seasons Hotel Miami, will lead the pack of judges in selecting Miami’s “Prince of Porc.” Other notable judges include David Thomas from The Bazaar by Jose Andres, Timon Balloo of Bocce Bar and Chef Norman Van Aken following the release of his new book, No Experience Necessary. The winner will go on to compete in the Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June for bragging rights as the “King or Queen of Porc” and a four-day wine experience to Rioja, Spain’s most prominent wine region.

“Heritage Breed Pigs celebrate the history of the animal and this humane treatment is something all chefs should be behind,” states Jose Mendin. “I grew up on an island where this practice is normal and eating pig is an essential part of the culture, so it just seems the only way to me. As for the event, I’m so excited to compete, I can barely stand it. Such a great line-up of chefs; I’m eager to see what everyone puts out. Game on.”

A 1200+ pound showcase of heritage pig carved into 30 chef-prepared dishes will also include: “The Goose Nest,” an area featuring the Vintage Ales of Goose Island Beer Co. paired with Hudson Valley Foie Gras; live butchering demonstration at the Pop-Up Butcher Shop with Thomas Griese of Michael Mina 74, benefitting Johnson & Wales University with the support of Williams-Sonoma; different ages of Prosciutto di Parma ranging between 14 and 30 months, sliced by a roaming Berkel and by hand off a bone-in leg; the “Punch Kings” cocktail competition featuring five local barkeeps presented by Breckenridge Bourbon; a welcome cocktail from Four Roses Bourbon; the Bourbon Bar presented by Breadcrumb by Groupon featuring Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Breckenridge Bourbon, Hirsch, Templeton Rye and Luxardo; libations including Crispin Cider, Wines of Rioja, Elk Cove Vineyards, Barlow Vineyards, and a Mezcal Bar with Fidencio and Mezcales de Leyenda; a TarTare Bar featuring Creekstone Farms; an artisan cheese bar with Rogue Creamery and La Brea Bakery; Swine & Sweets signature dessert course featuring Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Defending his title from last year, Host Chef Aaron Brooks will kick off the weekend on Friday night with a guest chef dinner at EDGE Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons. Event judges include David Thomas from The Bazaar by Jose Andres, Timon Balloo of Bocce Bar and Chef Norman Van Aken following the release of his new book, No Experience Necessary.

“I’m passionate about promoting food sources that support a more natural, sustainable food system,” explains Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon 555. “For the first time ever, I am very pleased to welcome Goose Island Beer Co. into the family of events as a presenting sponsor of the 2014 U.S. Tour. One event cannot change the system, but together we can celebrate the chefs and farmers who continue to tilt the scales back towards responsibly grown food.”

The COCHON 555 event is 100% inclusive and always on Sunday.

Tickets for Cochon 555 events are $125 (general admission) and $200 (VIP). GENERAL ADMISSION price includes over 30 dishes prepared from the entirety of heritage breed pigs from nose to tail, paired with premium wines, brews and spirits. Both ticket prices includes endless drink and tons of food. GA starts at 5pm. VIP starts at 4pm, and includes one-hour early access to all the food (premium access to limited experiences like Punch Kings, wines and spirits), a chance to hang with the celebrity chefs, judges and media. Everyone is invited to the After Party at Edge Steakhouse, as always.

This epic porc event is over 1200 pounds of heritage pig packed with 100% flavor! Please keep in mind we sell about 60% of tickets before the complete event details are ever released, so if you like what you see, we suggest not waiting so buy a ticket. If you are interested in being a sponsor of Cochon, please contact us.

“I’m passionate about promoting food sources that support a more natural, sustainable food system,” explains Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon 555. “For the first time ever, I am very pleased to welcome Goose Island Beer Co. into the family of events as a presenting sponsor of the 2014 U.S. Tour. One event cannot change the system, but together we can celebrate the chefs and farmers who continue to tilt the scales back towards responsibly grown food.”

Where: Four Seasons Miami Hotel
1435 Brickell Avenue, Miami, Florida 33131, USA
When: Sunday 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

 

Stache Opens in Ft. Lauderdale with a Visit from the Ardbeg Rocket

Saturday evening marked the opening of Stache, a bar in Ft. Lauderdale with a 1920’s speakeasy theme. The grand opening featured a visit from the Ardbeg Rocket, currently touring to celebrate the launch of some of its Scotch into space back in 2011. We were given the opportunity to sample four different Ardbeg Scotches as well as a few cocktails. The brand’s Consumer Development Manager Trisha Cancilla also made a presentation about the different products.

The bar was full of models dressed like astronauts in addition to all the employees in their 1920’s attire. I got to put on goggles and get a space gun for a studio portrait, too. In the end, my favorite Scotches were the Ardbeg Galileo, finished in Marsala casks, and Ardbeg Uigeadail, finished in Sherry casks.

The bar was beautiful. Two floors with great decorations. Very roomy and comfortable with a big back yard as well. Live music played. Great theme. Bar Stache is located at 109 SW 2nd Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33312, just south of Broward Blvd. If you go soon, you may see that the sign hasn’t been updated yet and still reflects the former tenant, Himmie Health Club. That’s the right place though!

Third Annual Grovetoberfest

Yesterday, the Third Annual Grovetoberfest took place at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove. Grovetoberfest is dubbed “Miami’s Beer Festival” and I must say they nailed it! Lots of beer, and beer from great breweries, local and national. You can read my recap on my DailyBeerReview.com blog, but I wanted to share my collection of beer t-shirt photos with you here.

Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum Launch

Mount Gay Rum had a party at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne two nights ago. I was in attendance with one of my friends and bumped into a few notable names. Let’s start with my bosses from Soul of Miami, James and Annette. James only wanted to know if I could be backup with the pics since his camera is on the fritz. I’ve got you covered, James!

No rum event is complete without an appearance by Rob Burr, and this was no exception. Rob let us know that this new Black Barrel Rum was a return to fine Barbados rum from a distiller that has a long history doing just that.  Oh, and the rum was really good too.

Hope you like my photos! I love you guys!

Argentina Wine Tasting Miami 2013

Last night I attended a wine tasting and reception designed to highlight and promote the wines of Argentina. Consejo Federal De Inversiones, a federal trade organization from Argentina, along with NewLink Communications, hosted 12 wineries for the event held at the St. Regis Hotel in Bal Harbour. After a tough afternoon shopping at Tifffany’s (not), my wife and I walked over from the cheap public parking lot to the venue.

We were welcomed at the door by Teresa Villarreal, the Tourism VP at NewLink. She let us know what we could expect from each of the wineries at this trade show. And she was totally on spot. Many if not most were looking for Importers or Distributors to start or expand their wine presence within the US, Florida being a potential new market.

My wife and I visited each of the wine exhibitors and learned about their product lines while tasting one or two wines from each of them. We had a few favorites which I will mention below, but each winery was engaging with their story and passionate about their wines. And really, there wasn’t a wine I tasted all night that wasn’t really good.

There was plenty of light food as well to balance all the wine. Ham, prosciutto, salami, cheese, risotto, ceviche, veggies and desserts, all very nicely prepared. We stopped by at least a few times in between the tastings. There was also a live band, violinist and all, though they didn’t really play very long. They just seemed to disappear after a few songs. And I didn’t even get to dance!

Apogeo was our first stop and their 2010 Malbec remained one of our favorites throughout the evening. Lightly spicy, smooth, rich, well balanced, great start. We were given a handkerchief with the winery name embroidered on it as a souvenir, a nice touch.

Another favorite was from the Bodega Del Desierto winery, their Desierto Pampa 2009 Malbec. Very spicy, smooth, nice tannins. We were told by the representative that you can purchase these wines online at The Country Vintner.

La Riojana Co-Op had two wines that we liked, one a fair-trade Malbec called Ecologica; however, we decided that we enjoyed the Malbec Reserva a lot more. It was quite fruity with excellent cherry flavors.

The representative from Don Cristobal was very nice and had a lot of great information about their winery. We tried their Triana, a blend of Malbec, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The cherry and spicy flavors along with a touch of oak were delicious!

Other wineries represented were Valcosta Estate, Bodegas La Guarda, Gouguenheim Winery, Muñoz de Toros Wines, Bodega Carelli, Rewen Estate, Mauricio Lorca, and Bodegas San Huberto. If you are in the wine business and looking to work with any of these wineries, don’t hesitate to contact them. They are eager to hear from you.

Thank you to NewLink for the invitation and my buddy Ofelia for making sure I’m on the right lists. And thanks to several of the wineries for sending me home with a parting gift to check out at a later time.

I will close this article with one question… Were the baskets of bread on all the exhibitor tables for decoration or consumption? My wife said the bread at the exhibits was a decoration after I said the piece I had just eaten was hard as a rock, but I still told her that was bullshit. Not sure who was right though. Don’t tell her I said that.

Graffiti Artist Futura Visits South Florida

Last Friday, Graffiti Artist Futura visited the North Miami Total Wine store. Futura started creating his graffiti art in the New York City subways of the 1970’s. His popularity grew to the point where he was touring with Punk Rockers The Clash, performing live graffiti backdrops as the band played. “So why was he in a liquor store in South Florida?” Excellent question, and the answer might not be what you thought.

Futura recently collaborated with Hennessy Cognacs to design a limited edition bottle for their VS product. I’m not really a graffiti aficionado, but the art is really colorful and interesting. Hennessy arranged a short bottle signing and tasting at Total Wine, and I was given an invitation to attend. You didn’t need an invite, but it was a nice touch.

I arrived early as prompted, with my cousin-in-law. We were first in line, too, typical. Hennessy didn’t just have a table and pen for this guy either. There were at least 4 or 5 models, a DJ, some decorations, some swag, velvet ropes to assist this giant bodyguard in protecting Futura (you know how rowdy Total Wine customers can be).

Anyway, I took a bunch of pictures, had Futura sign my bottle, a gift box and my newly acquired Hennessy cap. He was a soft-spoken guy, appreciative of fans coming down to support him and gracious and patient with the photographers. So I guess I can cross off “meet famous graffiti artist” from my bucket list. How about you?

Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge 2012

Last night I went to the Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge at The Blackbird Ordinary in Miami. Five bartenders had to create two drinks each and do so based on the inspiration of a particular song.

I’ve already written a detailed and more personal account of the evening on my blog, but I wanted to do a recap here to show you tons more pictures. Also, you know, because my bosses James and Annette were there and they are very demanding about my performance!

Local bartenders Cricket Nelson, Ben Clemons, Nick Nistico, Richie Petronzi and Rob Ferrara each created two unique cocktails featuring Appleton Reserve. The drinks were very complex and creative, and all of the competitors really went all out with their performances. My favorite drink on the night was Richie Petronzi’s Die Die My Darling, though I enjoyed all of them.

In the end, the judges voted to send Ben Clemons to New York for the US Finals, with that winner going to Jamaica for an international competition. I met a lot of fun people, stumbled into some old friends, and drank rum with Rum Royalty.

I hope you enjoy these photos. They are about 10% of the ones I took. The rest are blurry and/or terrible. If you are giving free photography classes, please contact  me!

 

Cirque du Soleil Dralion

New Year’s Eve 2010 I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza in downtown Miami. A few days later I was trolling around on Twitter and met my friend Ofelia over some of her photos of the event. We have other things in common, but our love of Cirque du Soleil still rides high in the book.

So when we saw that the Circus was coming to Bank Atlantic Center a few months ago, we coordinated to go with our families on the same day, and as it turned out, she and her husband and son were even seated in the same section as my wife and me. Yes, of course we started the afternoon off with an awesome meal at the Grand Lux Cafe at Sawgrass Mills Mall. Guess what? All Hispanics aren’t fashionably late, despite what you might have heard. And the mega rain was truly an excuse this time, not needed.

Anyway, I know this is about the show, but let me give a thumbs up for the restaurant. The reservation for 4 I gave yesterday was an unplanned test when I showed with 5 today. Way to handle it perfectly! My BBQ Baby Back Ribs were spectacular. And that creative slaw, fries and corn bread you baked were fabulous. Everyone else loved their food too! Thank you for not bitching or rolling your eyes when I asked you to split the already un-split check. I will be back! And I digged the dressy gators out front of the restaurant.

Bank Atlantic Center. Premium parking is a rip! For $45 I’d arrive in a limo with a hooker the escort we saw some fat dude with. Well even the $20 basic parking was a rip-off, but it was raining hard. Thank God, NO RED. I’m a Flyers fan. Our friend’s son had to chug his Gatorade or dump it before passing security. Jeez. Oh, now I see why? Gatorades are $5 yet still better priced than the $9 Heineken pounders. I bought nothing inside. My wife decided she needed a $5 coffee, but OK, nothing.

The show started promptly, as usual, with the Clowns joking around with the audience. Pretty standard, comic relief, and lots of laughs. (Do they do that in other cities or just in Miami where inconsiderate people show up to a professional show 20-30 minutes late? This isn’t a little league game). They also of course picked out one unsuspecting dude from the audience to get picked on. Very good sport.

The first half of the show was a little slow to be honest. Obviously the skills were difficult for every event, but Cirque has a very high standard to reach for the guy who’s seen a lot of them. Other audience members agreed. I overheard at least 3 or 4 dudes in the enormous dude restroom line say the same thing. Best part was the trampoline act where two guys and two gals took turns flipping off the roof of a house, running up walls, narrowly missing each other, back and forth drama. All the while, a woman sang in the middle of them on a balcony. Great choreography, no collisions, really cool.

The juggler had a rough day today. He started off with some sweet moves, rolling the balls around his body. He did some kind of ball break-dance with his arms and hands, also very cool. He had an assistant giving balls from a rope high above him. What more could a guy want? But his finale, 8 balls, didn’t go awesomely. His first try was the best but he didn’t complete the routine. Three tries. Honestly, I felt the task was impossible, but then again I drink beer and cognac and don’t juggle.  Was a strong routine, regardless!

The first half also sported lots of double-people dragons, which I’m sure took enormous coordination. Big pole balancing guys. There was a guy in an egg that did some rotations around and around, but I think we were expecting fast and not precise muscle moves. And some chick a few rows behind me almost got in deep doo-doo for turning on her cell phone camera toward the end. Jeez, some people.

After intermission, I could feel the people asking for high-energy entries. I felt the second half started slow as well. While I think the lady twirling on the blue curtains was very talented and ballsy, the segment went way too long. But I thought the Yo-yo chicks were absolutely terrific throwing yo-yos into the air, catching them, and a zillion other really cool tricks. High energy, big smiles, and a really amazing performance. My wife and I thought that one was great!

Let’s talk about the clowns. They were entertaining. No doubt, despite their French chatter. And I loved their parody and mocking of all the other performers in one particular skit they did. Was great. Even the “audience member” that we chatted about earlier finally was identified as part of the cast, a clown, yep. And he was so believable at “Average Joe” too! But in the end, the clowns were too much of the show, seriously.

Other favorites from the second half included the “Diving Through Rings” acrobats, very entertaining. And the finale, the Jump Rope dudes, amazing coordination, strength and timing.

Everyone loved the music and the band was introduced during the show as well. Love that they had their “pit” below the house and you could see them and lights from there throughout the show. The singers were great as usual, no doubt about it.

Overall impression: I really enjoyed myself. There is nothing like Cirque du Soleil. There are many other shows I’ve seen that I loved, while this one was just comme ci, comme ça. Happy I went. Merci for reading.