Tickets on Sale for WineQuest

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tickets are now on sale for the 15th annual WineQuest, which will be held June 10-12 at Grande Lakes Orlando. The wine event, which benefits Quest, In., an organization that assists the disabled, will feature a Grand Tasting and Auction on Friday, a Saturday night farm-to-table dinner with wine pairings, and a Sunday brunch at in the garden at Primo.

This is one of the better wine events in the area, and the grand tasting last year had several noteworthy wines.

Advance ticket prices are $75 for the grand tasting, $155 for the five-course dinner and $55 for Sunday brunch. Ticket prices go up after May 9. Visit to see the  complete schedule and to purchase tickets. Or call 407-218-4300.


Capital Grille Offers Limited Artist Series Wine with Label by Florida Painter

Written by Scott Joseph on .

tableCloseBeginning today, the Capital Grille will be offering its second annual Artist Series Wine Event, which features a specially crafted wine sporting an original label designed by Florida artist Patricia Timbrook. Timbrook’s design was chosen from among others entered in a competition held last fall by the Orlando-based restaurant brand.

According to a press release, Timbrook’s painting, titled Pairings, was chosen “for the way the bold colors and fluid lines perfectly complement the robust flavors and subtle undertones of the wine.” The wine is a cabernet sauvignon from winemaker Thomas Peffer of Atalon Vineyards in Napa Valley. Fewer than 1000 cases will be produced, all exclusively for Capital Grille. The wine sells for $75 per bottle, and Darden will donate $25 from every bottle sold to Share Our Strength, a national charity that works to end childhood hunger in America.

“In addition to supporting our national charity, Share Our Strength, we are proud to recognize and celebrate talented artists like Patricia Timbrook,” said John Martin, President of The Capital Grille.  Timbrook is from Parrish, Florida, near Bradenton.

The Capital Grille is located at Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-370-4392.


Beaujolais Nouveau Release Will Include Orlando Party

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Nouveau_CirqueWell, looky here at the calendar. It’s getting to be the third Thursday in November, and you know what that means. No, not Thanksgiving; that’s the fourth Thursday. And not the Third Thursday art stroll downtown dealie. The third Thursday in November is the official release date of Beaujolais Nouveau, one of the all-time greatest marketing gambits. The French government, by making it a law that the newly fermented grape juice of the Beaujolais region could not be released to the public until midnight (actually, one minute past midnight, to be precise) of that specific day, created a sense of intrigue and anticipation. Tell people they can’t have something and they suddenly must have it.

Whatever. In this country it’s created a good excuse for wine lovers to have celebrations and parties to taste the new release. Americans love to co-opt other countries’ commemorations for their own celebrations, especially when the consumption of alcohol is involved (see: Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Lithuanian Arbor Day). Of course, usually the Beaujolais Nouveau festivities are in major cities such as New York. The best parties are put on by the folks associated with Georges Duboeuf, one of the largest producers of BN. I attended one a couple of years ago where the cases of Beaujolais Nouveau were delivered by a gang of motorcycle-riding chefs to a restaurant in lower Manhattan.

But this year the Duboeuffers are fanning out across the country with the celebrations, and one of them is going to be right here in Central Florida at our own Funky Monkey Pointe Orlando. The theme is Nouveau Cirque, which should give you an idea of what to expect. There will be acrobats, jugglers and other performers. And of course, the wine, which will flow freely. Well, not freely in the sense of cost, but for $15, which includes food and entertainment, as well as the wine, it’s a pretty darned good deal. But even better: 100% of the funds will go to Second Harvest Food Bank. So come on out, be among the first to taste the new Beaujolais 2010 and do something good, to boot.

The party is from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, November 18, at Funky Monkey Wine Company, 9101 International Drive, Orlando. For tickets, which are limited, so get cracking on this, go to


Grand Marnier and Other French Delicacies

Written by Scott Joseph on .

If you’re looking for Food & Wine bargains, head for France.

Wait, wait...don’t browse over to the Air France Web page. I’m talking about the France pavilion and Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, which concludes its six-week run on Nov. 14. There’s lots going on all over the theme park, of course, but I really like the things I’ve been seeing at France.

I had a terrific time at the Grand Marnier Taste, Shake and Indulge like the French event on Saturday. This was a new event this year, and it appears to
Each place was set with cocktail shakers and Madeleines to nibble on.
have been a rousing success. And, as I said, a bargain. For $45 guests had the opportunity to taste three Grand Marnier samples: the Cordon Rouge, aged 10 years in the barrel; the 100th anniversary, aged 30 years; and the 150th anniversary, aged 50 years and probably worth the price of admission right there. It was enlightening to taste the three side-by-side and compare the characteristics of each. Not surprisingly, the complexity of the orange-flavored liqueur grew more intense with more aging.

We also got to make and shake our own Grand Marnier cocktail, made with lemon, mint and, of course, Grand Marnier. It was sort of a precursor to the mojito. We were lead by Axelle Rayrolles, a French born Orlando resident with a lovely accent and good-natured patter who had an easy rapport with the guests who packed the upstairs Bistro de Paris. During the tasting of the three GMs, Rayrolles gave a history of the luscious liqueur and asked at each seminal year in the company’s past if the crowd knew who was president of the United States at the time. It may have been intended as a good-natured jab at the average American’s grasp of our own history. But luckily there was one woman in our group who knew the answer to each one. (Rayrolles finally asked if the woman was a history teacher; the lady replied that she wasn’t a teacher but was a one-day Jeopardy champion, which doesn’t explain how she knew the answers, but it was a crowd-pleasing answer.)

Waldorf Astoria Pours Sparkling Wine with Edible Bubbles

Written by Scott Joseph on .

A couple of weeks ago the Waldorf Astorians threw a bash to show how they throw a bash. They invited a bunch of people responsible for organizing banquets and holiday parties and fancied up one of their ballrooms. They also served a lot of food and drinks.

But one drink in particular caught my eye -- and my buds of taste. It was a glass of sparkling wine with edible bubbles that pop in your mouth, which is not as rude as it sounds. The bubbles are called Cointreau Molecular Pearls. We may need a new name for them. I know that molecular gastronomy is all the rage, but there’s something quite unromantic about the word molecular. Even more so when it’s paired with gastronomy. For the technical details, I’ll let Waldorf Astoria beverage manager Henrique Viotti explain:

“We create a mix utilizing the Cointreau liqueur, Evian water (which is high in calcium) and what we call Spherigel.
Henrique Viotti, beverage manager for Waldorf Astoria, pours champagne into a flute with Cointreau Molecular Pearls.

After making this mix, we add 24k gold flakes to garnish and drain the mix on a calcium bath.
The finish is almost a cointreau caviar concept, which burst in your mouth with an orange flavor.
We utilize champagne or sparkling wine to enhance the experience. The effervescence wraps around the pearls and dance on the glass.”

Spherigel makes molecular sound absolutely sexy. And I wonder if a calcium bath is anything like a Calgon bath. “Calcium, take me away.” Just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Of course, the quality of the sparkling wine is an important factor in the enjoyment of the  pearls, but if you get a good quality sparkler, I think you’ll love the experience. It’s sort of like bubble tea for grown-ups. It’s bound to be a hit this holiday season.