Keep Your Eyes open for these upcoming Events


Check out what is happening October 27th! It's a field trip!
More Info to Come, just starting to gather info now. Plan is to rent a van and have it tote us around, stopping at Tequesta Brewing Company, Bx Beer Depot, World of Beers, Due South and do tastings at each location. Like I say, I am just starting to do the legwork now, so just save the date now.wine-making state.
Let me know as soon as you know you are interested so I can plan accordingly
the cost of this event will be in the range of $30-$35. Purchasing beer at the stops will not be included so that you can budget your flights or single pints for yourself. Your price will include a delicious "lining your bellies" lunch at the Serenity Garden Tea House and your transportation for the day. Timeline and More to come

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Winner of the Gulp Holiday Food Pairing is….

I love this time of year!  I love the music, the lights, and the parties!  As a Gulper one of my favorite parties of the Season is our annual Food and Wine Pairing Competition.  Interested competitors put a team together decide on a tasting dish and pair a wine with it, then they prepare enough for all the judges, (about 20), and the winner gets a prize.  It is win-win for everyone.

This year there were 5 teams which translated into Good Eats for this blogger/judge! 

Team 1 - Deb Knepp, Alicia Lee Bray Brand, Chris Pawlowski and Heather Hatter, aka, Team Pinot Envy presented a bacon stuffing croquet with a cranberry, Gran Marnier and truffle glaze.  Along with that was a mushroom stuffed with goat cheese.  Oh yeah is was good.  It was paired with your choice of either a Mirassou Pinot Noir or a Wild Haven Pinot Grigio.teamPinotEnvyNow I have to tell you I got one of the first croquets of the evening.  I don’t think the oil was hot enough because it was greasy.  Later I went back for another on the recommendation of fellow competitor and judge Barry and it was hot crispy and the glaze set it off with a tangy, smoky sweet addition.  It was really good.  The mushroom was stuffed with goat cheese.  Need I say more?  Oh yes I do because when I tasted it with the glaze it was a wow!  I chose the Pino Noir for the pairing and loved it.  The light oak and deeper berry flavors of this very drinkable wine matched the smoke of the bacon and the sweet of the glaze.  Really nice job by the team with the best name of the night, Team Pinot Envy. 


Team 2 - Jimmy Brogan, Kelly Schultz Brogan, Luna Primerton, Wally Lurz  presented the crowd with a meaty take on a sweet treat, bacon lollipops.  With my first bite I was transported back to my childhood at the legion hall baseball snack stand and eating a Slow Poke.

baconpopsLike my childhood treat the bacon pops were chewy, chocolate-y, caramel-y salty goodness.  You, (okay I), couldn’t eat just one.  This treat doesn’t send you into adult delights until you pair it with a Bridgman Syrrah.  The woodsy blackberry notes bring it all together.  The salt mellows out, the chocolate is a little richer and the smoke of the bacon pops.  This was seriously delicious.


Team 3 – Coreen, Barry Imhoff, Serenity Garden Tea House, Chris Bryan put together a beefed up grilled cheese sandwich with a side of rainbow chard and bacon.  This uber sandwich was filled with short ribs, pickled onions that got then a carmelized treatment, arugula, and if all that wasn’t enough they threw in bacon!  One would think the little side of rainbow chard was extraneous when in fact it was a perfect accompaniment. 

grilledcheeseThe fresh flavor of the greens cut the richness of the short ribs and cheese bringing balance to what would have otherwise been a heavy, heavy sandwich.  They paired this with a Gulp favorite, Federalist Zinfandel.  The Federalist also lightened the sandwich and added a needed acidity that brightened every bite.  


Team 4 - Kelly Lee, Tracy Cottle, Michelle Getty, Adriel Wright, Mariana Nascimento put together what I thought was the prettiest presentation with all the tulle and silvery Christmas tree.  Their food would not be ignored either.  Succulent chicken, veggies and light sauce were enveloped in an eggroll wrapper to create beautiful chicken pot pie bundles. 

chix pot pie bundlesIt was wonderful and I think what made it most fun was I could pick it up and eat it without all the filling oozing out everywhere.  It made me think of 18th century England and street vendors selling savory pies to Victorian shoppers.  It was warm, comforting and perfect.  They paired it with a clean and crisp Hugl gruener veltliner.  It lightened the richness of the gravy while the food gave the wine a buttery quality.  It was an excellent pairing.  This group didn’t stop there.  They included dessert.  Oh yes they did.  They made a pecan pie bar.  Holy nutty sweetness that was good!  I will say the wine didn’t pair as well with the dessert.  I just put my glass down and munched away.


Team 5 - Pam Schuster, LeBeau, Ashley Renee Wall, Natalie Rogers were our late entry of the evening.  Even though I am an impatient judge their offering was worth the wait.  They created a spicy pork bun with pickled vegetables and drizzled it with a habanero hunan sauce.  It was spicy, tangy, and crunchy with a hint of sweetness.porkbunsThey enrobed all that porky, crunchy goodness with a steamed bun.  With that warm, soft sweet bread and the filling, I was in food heaven!  They paired it with a Penfold Shiraz.  I am not sure it worked as well with the pork bun as it could have.  I would have gone with a Sangiovese for a red option or maybe a Savignon Blanc for a white.  The shiraz was just too heavy for the bright bite of the pork bun.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I didn’t put either the bun or the wine down.  I belonged to the clean plate and glass club!

Now for the drum roll please!!!!

The winner of the 2013 Gulp Holiday Pairing is:…..wait for it…..anticipation…………Team……the suspense is killing you, isn’t it?……….the winner is:  Team 3 with their grilled cheese with short ribs and carmelized pickled onion sandwich!!!!  And the crowd goes crazy!  Ticker tape is flying!!!  Woo HOO!!!  Congrats to Coreen, Barry, Bryan and Audrey for their winning pairing!

Team 4 won a $20.00 gift certificate to Hullabaloo’s for 2nd place.  Their pretty table display edged them over the competition to win this coveted award!

In the words of our Founder and Head Gulper, Coreen “Everyone is just getting better and better at this whole thing, making the competition very tough to vote for all of us. But I hope everyone had fun, I know I did! Happy Holidays to Everyone!!”

See you next year!! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gulpers took a fieldtrip

Yep, you read it right we went on a fieldtrip this month. 

Veteran’s Day was a  beautiful Sunday afternoon when a small group of Gulpers got on a bus hired for the day with a driver.  Let me just say now how wonderful it was to have a driver for the day.  It was a real treat I recommend highly.  Coreen made sure there was plenty of cold water in the bus to enjoy between stops.  Our driver Johnny was great.  He was funny and charming and made sure we got everywhere on time. 

Barrel_GrainOur first location was a funky little place called Barrel & Grain.  This new gastropub is located behind E.R. Bradleys on  Datura Street in downtown West Palm and overlooks Meyer Amphitheatre.  It reminded me  of a couple of pubs I visited in Ireland.  When we walked in we were immediately greeted by the man behind the bar who invited us to come sit.  When we explained we were meeting people he directed us to the hightop tables.  Our waitress, Cass was friendly and attentive.  She pointed out the brunch menu with johnny cakes, smoky devilled eggs, and fresh baked corn bread.  They also had specials on the blackboard behind us.  She mentioned another brunch special; for $9.00 you could have unlimited Bloody Marys or Mimosas.  Coreen ordered the devilled eggs and Johnny had the B&G burger, both from the brunch menu .  I ordered the pumpkin, feta and almond soup from the blackboard.  We all ordered the unlimited Bloody Marys.  They used a jalapeno vodka and garnished it with a pickled celery.  They were delicious and strong.  When the food came we ooohhed and ahhhed over the pretty presentation and did it again after tasting.  The eggs were super creamy andB_G food the bacon was a perfect touch giving you breakfast in a bite while the paprika oil gave an extra punch of flavor.  Johnny’s burger was also delicious and the pickled green tomato lightened up the rich burger with a nice tartness.  It is important to note: the sign of a good restaurant isn’t just how great the food is but what happens on occasion when things aren’t quite perfect.  The bottom bun was very soggy and falling apart making the burger not so easy to eat.  When we let Cass know she insisted on replacing the whole plate!  Johnny got a fresh meal toot suite and this time everything was perfect.  My pumpkin soup was luscious and silky.  The feta gave a wonderful tang to an otherwise slight sweet soup.  The almonds were a crunchy element so I got crunchy, sweet, tangy and creamy all in one slurp.  Damn near a perfect bite.  The only criticism would be I would have liked it hotter in temperature but I didn’t put my spoon down long enough to ask to heat it. 

After a short pickup stop to gather the rest of our group we headed to BX Beer Depot wheGulpers at BXre a homebrew competition was under way.  You all know how much we love Sally and the crew, many hugs and laughs were exchanged.  It felt like a homecoming.  Out behind the store various tables and awnings were setup hosting the brewers’ and their hoppy goodness.  For $10.00 we became judges and tasted over 20 different brews from Rum Cake Brown Ale to a Pumpkin Porter to a Bourbon Imperial Stout.  Steve said, “$10 is terrific for tasting all these brews.  I love the Maple Brown Ale!”   I, your friendly blogger loves BX Beer Depot!  It is always filled with interesting and passionate people talking about and sharing  their brew obsessions.  Every contestant loved their creation and were so proud of their accomplishments. BX Competition      First Place in the Open Judging, aka, people’s choice was the Siracha Honey Ale followed closely by the Cream Soda Ale which I think was Adriel’s favorite pour of the day.  

Back on the bus with two more Gulpers we headed to a late lunch at Serenity Tea Garden House.  Boy, Audrey serenity tea houseFarrelly I love your place!   It is a slice of whimsical, Beatrice Potter and English Rose Garden all rolled into one.  This quaint and picturesque location is tucked away just off Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach.  My experience began upon walking up to the door.  A small front garden  welcomed us, inviting me to sit at a cozy and brightly covered garden table for a spot of tea and crumpets.  Why did a bunch of winos and beer drinkers stop at such an unusual place for grub and what does this have to do with the field trip?  Well, I’ll tell you. Gulp isn’t just about drinking.  We are about pairing food and libations.  We love new experiences and we believe in supporting each other in new ventures.  Our fellow Gulper Audrey just took the tea house over in 2013 and we wanted to share her amazing place!  Walking through the door it is like entering a Victorian home with cabbage rose fabric, lace doilies, tiffany style lamps and tea pots….everywhere!  I just wanted to pull out my book, order high tea and read for the next five years.  Audrey made us box lunches containing a duet of pork sandwiches, a Mediterranean pasta salad, and a blueberry scone with clotted cream and jam. We made ourselves at home at one of the larger tables.  As we sat we noticed the lovely touch of Sunday hats.  Audrey invited us all to wear them as we enjoyed our meal.  Bryan looked especially Jackie O in is pillbox hat.  sunday hatsWe tucked into our sandwiches while Audrey served a selection of iced teas.  The pulled pork sandwich in smoky sauce included a special crunchy element with pickled cucumber and it paired wonderfully with the green tea lemonade.  The slow roasted pork sandwich was savory and then amped up with pickled onions.  Dang delicious.  I liked the mango tea with that one.  The best part of the meal though was the blueberry scone with clotted cream. It was so delicious I forgot to take a picture!  (Desserts are very distracting to me. I grabbed the picture below from Audrey’s facebook page). With my first bite I was back at Dromolond Castle in Ireland  having high tea with my sister Margaret.  I loved it with the cardamom berry tea.  I took some of that with me when we left.

food and more

After waving our goodbyes to Audrey we headed Due South, pun intended.  Due South Brewery is a new comer to the brewery scene in South Florida.  Opening in May of last year they have been mixing it up ever since.  Located in Boynton Beach this busy brewery also touts a taproom where visitors can come in and taste what they are cooking up.  For $6.00 you can order a sampler flight and taste 4 different brews or select from the blackboard any of 11 Due South brews and 4 guest taps.  Coreen had the Coastalisious Apricot Ale which she loved.  If anyone else wants to add what they liked best from Due South please feel free to add a comment here.  Next to the seating area was a corn hole court where a few of us sipped our libations while tossing bean bags at boards with holes in them. due south I loved it!  Johnny and Michelle kicked me and Tracy’s butts.  We will get you next time guys!

Well that wraps it for November my friends!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukah and I will see you in December!  If you are looking for some pairing ideas for the holidays stop on back and check out our wine list.  I really like a Gewürztraminer. Its spicy notes go really well with the turkey and gravy.  A sangiovese would be a lovely pairing with the cranberry mold and stuffing.

Next month is the annual Holiday party and pairing competition.  Get your teams together and start making plans for December 7th @ 6pm.  The location is the warehouse in Lake Park.  Can’t wait to see what you all create this year!  Who will top the tomato bacon jam crostini’s?

DSCN0731

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It was a Chateau St. Michelle Kind of Day

Chateau-Ste-Michelle-10001464Chateau St. Michelle began on the estate of Lumber Baron Frederick Stimson in the Columbia Valley of Washington State.   It is the oldest winery in Washington State, founded in 1954 when the National Wine Company and the Pommerelle Wine Company in 1954 merged.  They called it the American Wine Company.  In 1967 created a new line of premium wines called Ste. Michelle Vintners.  In 1976 the whole company took the name of their most popular wines and became Chateau St. Michelle.  With annual production of 2 million cases they are the largest producers of Riesling wines in the world, yes the whole dang planet. They make a really tasty Gewürztraminer too.  LeBeau has shared their wines at different tastings over the years,  (Wait a minute!  We have been doing these for years!  Holy Wine Drinking Batman!  It’s been 7 years!), but until this September tasting we hadn’t focused on a single winery let alone the Chateau.  It was a lovely treat to spend time tasting and learning how varied and delicious all the wines from one winery can be.

On to the tasting and more fun facts!

DSCN1375As we sat at our tables Lebeau gave us our first pour from Chateau St. Michelle.  It was from their Indian Wells line simply called Red Blend.    Merlot was the main grape at 68% with Syrrah following with 28%.  It made for a very fruit forward medium body wine.  The color was a soft purple and it smelled of raspberries and smoke.  The flavors were also berries and smoke with a hint of vanilla and maybe a little cinnamon.  Audrey said, “  Very Drinkable.  Deb followed immediately with  “Except for Deb.”  Yes she spoke of herself in third person.  I reassured her the Riesling was coming.

The First Course:  Before I describe this first course let me tell you Lebeau wasn’t the only one to narrow his focus to one  label.  Coreen paired all the lovely Washington State grapes with well known food from the same state.  She is very smart. Okay, now the food.  This first course was probably my favorite food of the day.  Coreen took pears frompear quesadilla Yakima, WA. diced them layered them on a tortilla with ham, bleu cheese and a little ginger then grilled them for one of the most unique and flavorful quesadillas I have ever had.  It was salty, sweet, savory, and tangy.  It amazes me how mellow bleu cheese gets when it is heated but how much more flavorful the pears are when they get the same treatment.  The ham pulled them together for a unified bite and I bit several helpings worth!  Lebeau paired this delectable treat with a Horse Heaven Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.  One first smell this straw colored wine was very green with notes of grass and green peppers and of course that classic Sauvignon Blanc aroma, cat piss.  On the tongue there was a slight effervescence and acidity. The taste was peaches and grapefruit.   When paired with the food the acid mellowed and the citrus really popped.  The food changed as well the bleu cheese became buttery and the ginger popped.  I thought it was a great pairing.  Mariana called it, “A melody of flavor.”  Steve Hussey didn’t like it quite as much.  He said,  “The pairing nullifies the sweetness in both the wine and the pears.”

salmonThe Second Course was another classic Washington State staple, salmon with a coffee rub on a crostini topped with an amaretto cream sauce.  The salmon was well prepared and the crostini was good and crunchy. Lebeau paired this with an unusual choice.  #1 it wasn’t from Chateau St, Michelle but Seven Falls, also a Washington State Winemaker.  #2 it was a Cabernet Sauvignon which isn’t a typical pairing for fish since it is such a big flavor. The salmon is a hearty fish with its own big flavor and with the coffee rub and amaretto sauce it matched the black cherry, coffee and smoke notes in the wine.  Wally loved this pairing.  I felt the coffee rub was too subtle and I wanted more salt.   Steve Hussey said, “The Cab removed the fishiness of the salmon and made it very edible from a guy who doesn’t really like fish.”  Sara also liked this pairing a lot.  She said the amaretto was a very nice note.  Brittany loved the salmon and the bread.

While we waited on the finishing touches of the pan sauce Coreen’s guest chef and Aunt was making; LeBeau shared some fun facts about Washington State wine growing.  The state is, in some views, even better situated for wine grapes than California, for instance:  Washington gets 2 more hours of sun each day.  The main growing area in the Eastern part of the state only gets 8 inches of rain per year.  More sun, less rain means the vines have to work hard for nutrients and water which means smaller more concentrated fruits at harvest which means more intense juice at fermentation which means…you get the picture.  porktenderloin

The third course arrived with oohs and aahs over the aroma of the pork with cranberry and portabella stuffing and drenched in a pan gravy made with butter, cream, rosemary and love from Chef Aunt Mo. While the first course was my favorite bite of the day this course was my favorite pairing. The pork was wonderfully tender and juicy and thanks to a previous pairing class I recognized the umami in the mushrooms which made me want more.  LeBeau paired it with the Chateau’s Cold Creek Riesling.  It is was no slouch in the aroma area either, slightly perfumy with peaches and spice.  The flavor doesn’t disappoint with a little bite of acid.  I took a bite of the pork, then a sip of wine and holy peach stones batman it was smooth.  I think I was the only one who tasted hay in the wine but I was raised in the Midwest and had four brothers.  I have tasted hay…it that too much information?  

apple crumbleThe final dessert course was classic Washington State.  Coreen made an apple cobbler with what else but Washington State apples.  She topped it with a crumble of oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Of course, it isn’t apple anything without a lovely scoop of ice cream and Coreen would never disappoint.  LeBeau paired it with a new Riesling from the Chateau.  It is called Anew and it was created especially for women.  The screw-cap bottle is designed with a lotus flower and the marketing program is targeting active women in the 25-45 year range who enjoy activities like yoga, and meditation.  I am chuckling as I write this.  Anyway, it is a nice wine with a light effervescence, drier than the Cold Creek and tastes of apples and grapefruit zest.  It would be great lounging by the pool with a good romance novel.  The wine complimented the dessert bringing out the cinnamon in the crumble and adding another level of juiciness to the apples.

 

Well there you have it my fellow Gulpers!  It was a fantastic day with good friends and even better food and libations.  Check out the pictures below of all those who attended enjoying the day.  See you next month for October and beer.  I know you knew I was going to say that one.

                    

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What is a Sunday by any other name? Why, it’s Gulp of course!

il_fullxfull_455716645_ea50We have paired wine with BBQ, Italian, Thai foods,  music and now Shakespeare!  Yep, Willy was the feature of this July’s Gulp.1005081_10200639040674312_1090327051_n

Under the cover of a pavilion in Jupiter’s beautiful Carlin Park we joined the cast of Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of “Coriolanus” for a preshow tasting.

Shakespeare was obviously a good eater since so many of his plays are full of food and drink references.  Coreen and LeBeau did a fantastic job of wading through all the possibilities to create a fun and light menu for a warm, breezy, Florida summer, afternoon picnic. 

Forsooth, let us move to the banquet and quench our curious minds and stomachs with all that delicious menu!

The First course was matched with a few quotes.  I liked As You Like it:  “Truly, thou art damned, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side.” IMAG0300

Coreen’s Aunt Buttons made a classic picnic dish, devilled eggs and Coreen added a splash of siracha for a special spicy kick.  This was a stand alone appetizer that several enjoyed an icy beer with.

Jim Brogan said, “Hail to thee cooking woman! I must needs know the preparation of these vittles.  I am bedeviled by the deliciousness of thee eggs.” (translation:  These are the best eggs I have ever had. Can I get the recipe?)

The second course was inspired by a quote from Twelfth Night:  “I warrant there’s vinegar and pepper in’t.”

moscato and tartsThat could mean anything right?  Coreen took it to a really crazy and interesting place with a citrus peel tart.  She mairnated orange peels in vinegar, pepper, sugar and maybe a splash of juice then spooned the mixture into those cute little phylo tart shells.  I tried one and thought, “Hmmm, I am not sure about this. I get the pepper, not much vinegar and they’re bitter.”  Coreen said, “Wait until you get the wine and then try it again.”  LeBeau poured us each a lovely moscato  from Seven Daughters Winery.  It is made in an Moscato d’asti style with a light fizz which gives a crispness to the moscato grapes.  I took another tart and then a drink of the wine and “Oh Romeo, Oh Romeo!”  It was magic, like the light on Juliet’s cheek.  The bitter little tart became candy in my mouth.  Sweet, succulent and full of orange.  I must have eaten a half dozen of them with the wine.  When the next course was announced I mourned, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

 

The third course got it’s inpiration from Winter’s Tale, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV.  I liked the straightforwardness of R & J": brie and pinotblanc “They call for dates and quinces in the pastry.”  Coreen made a brie stuffed with dates and carmelized onions and served it alongside a crusty baguette.   I loved the mix of sweet and savory, creamy brie and crunchy bread.  LeBeau poured a pinot blanc from the Alsace Region of France.  I love this quote from wine-searcher.com, “Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco in Italy, Weissburgunder in Germany) is a white grape used in the production of still and sparkling wines around the world. The variety is a mutation of Pinot Gris which is a mutation of Pinot Noir – in other words it is part an ancient, genetically unstable, family of Pinot grapes.”   These bottles came from Trimbach Vineyards.  I found this strange bastard of the Pinot Noir grape to be lightly fragrant with peaches, the flavor was refreshing, with a touch of oak.  Paired with the brie everything smoothed out got creamy and luscious.  Oh so delicious!  Merrily we noshed and quenchethed our thirsts.

While we waited on the star of the day, the fourth course, Lebeau talked about how technology has changed they way we preserve wine.  Before refrigeration the large vineyards built caves or cellars to keep the fermenting juice and aging wine at a consistently cool temperature, around 50-60 degrees.  This was considered room temperature and it shouldn’t be confused with the temperature of a Florida home in August without air-conditioning.  Properly refrigerated wines can last a very long time.  He gave the example of a 200 year old shipwreck discovered off the coast of Finland in 2010. It was VERY cold water. The divers found over 160 bottles of champagne.   Some of the bottles of Veuve Clicquot and Juglar were still in tact.  The Cultural Authorities and a small group of journalists were allowed to taste 2 of the intact bottles.  They were perfect!  In the words of the Bard, “Things done well and with a care, exempt themselves from fear.”

And then came the bird.  The Shakespearean inspiration came from Henry IV, A' shall answer it. Some pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legged hens, a joint of mutton, and any pretty little tiny kickshaws, tell cornishgamehenWilliam cook.”   The cornish game hen was roasted earlier in a honeyed cardamom glaze and served at room temperature alongside a bed of citrus rice.  It was paired with a jammy Garnacha from Volteo Winery in Spain.  The tart cherry and pepper notes in this medium bodied wine enhanced the cardamom flavor in the  chicken which was still juicy and tender.  A renaissance Colonel Sanders would have said, “Hark, mine digits are licked clean by a greedy tongue.”

 

 

chocoberryfool

Finally, as with all Gulp Pairings,  Coreen is no fool and saves the sweetest of dishes for the last.  Inspired by Twelfth Night, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”  Dessert was a a cool, creamy chocolate berry fool.  A fruit fool is a dessert that goes back to Shakespeare’s time.  It is made by folding in mashed fruit, typically stewed, into a custard.  Coreen updated this recipe by folding the berries into a luscious chcocolate whipped cream and topped with a Nilla Wafers crumble.  LeBeau added the perfect accent with a little pour of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur.   With a sigh of pleasure I exclaimed,  “Now is the summer of my stomach’s content!  Those were some fine victuals!”

 

As the day came to an end some strolled the beach, others prepared for their parts in Coriolanus and some headed home with happy full bellies.   As I waved goodbye for another month Shakespeare came to mind one more time, “Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.”  See you in August!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

June was full of Summer Wines and BBQ

Hi Gulpers! 
I am sorry for my tardiness in posting June’s pairing event.   I was home in Missouri visiting my family while all of you were munching, gulping and chilling at the warehouse.  In my absence a brave volunteer documented all the fun.  Take it away Gulp Volunteer! (click here for the pictures!)
 
july13gulpGULP! Food And Libations--Summer Wine Dinner, Lake Park, Fla.
It was hot and muggy when I arrived at the GULP! Food and Libations Summer Wine dinner.  Everyone seemed busy including the guests who were clumped in small groups both inside and outside the floral decorated warehouse. All were there to taste how the barbequed food of Chef Romain Dagot went with the summer wine selections of LeBeau Kpadenou, co-owner of GULP! Food and Libations.
The other co-owner Coreen Gottschalk entered the room. “We are sharing the warehouse with Palm Beach Organics. You all know Chef Chris, Right?” The guests clapped wildly. “Chef Romain's opening up a restaurant in Delray and wants to use you as a guinea pig,” continued Coreen, “We have never had a crowd this big before, sort of yeah!”
Jazz music played softly in the background as Chef Romain described his first course, “It is a duck confit amuse-bouche with potato skins, and summer greens.” He used a Carolina style barbeque sauce, “Because of the vinegar it has more of a bright flavor. Hope you enjoy,” he said.
Florida born Chef Romain spent all his childhood summers in France and later attended a culinary school in Lyon. This was his first catering event and I could tell he was nervous from how fast he explained each dish.
LeBeau served Two Vines Gewürztraminer (2010) which was high in acid to cut through the duck grease. He said, “Barbeque is something to do more with summer. Gewürztraminer means spicy. It is a cold climate grape. This particular wine is from Washington State and is lower in alcohol.”
The delicately hollowed out potato skins were filled with crispy fried duck fat, tender duck meat and bacon flavored dark greens. Unfortunately the Gewürztraminer got lost in the flavor of the duck.
I sat at a table with some ladies from Dublin, Ireland. There was Audrey Farrelly, manager of O'Shea's Pub on Clematis Avenue, West Palm Beach; Laura Alonso and her American husband Mike; and Marie Doyle and her American fiancé Nick Flade, a bartender at O'Shea's Pub. Also at the table was Shawn Powell, a server at City Cellar in City Place; and Deb Knepp, a broadcast journalist.
Audrey said, “Coreen kept inviting me to these events. I told her to not stop inviting me because I needed something to commit to. I've been coming for three to four months now.”
Laura said, “I've never been to something like this. Audrey told me about it.”
At the same time Audrey explained, “I dragged them along.” Everyone laughed.
“So far so good for first course,” said Nick.
Shawn said, “I've had Romain's cooking before and it's awesome. And LeBeau's wine knowledge is out of this world. When I heard they were putting on this dinner I had to come.”
The heat index rose to about 90 degrees at the end of this course and many people took a break outside in the tented rear parking lot.
Back inside, the second course of pork ribs came with a new wine, and my table companions started high fiving as it was poured.
LeBeau explained that the Penfolds Hyland Shiraz (2010) wine came from Adelaide, Australia, making it a hot climate wine. He added that the best choices for barbeque were Shiraz and Syrrah. “The same grape is used, for both of those for you who didn't know or don't remember,” He said with a smile, and added, “Australian wines go well with barbeque.”
He told us it was a heavier wine and so would be hotter to drink instead of light. This was not entirely good news because the temperature inside the warehouse was creeping higher. This was when the demand for cold water increased.
Chef Romain said, “You are eating: baby back pork ribs marinated with a ginger beer, fresh ginger and molasses sauce.” He also roasted the potatoes before he mashed them. “I do like a bit of bite on the ribs so the meat doesn't fall off the rib. It's the way they like it in cooking contests,” he said with a smile. “The salad is to offset the heavy meal. The meat's going to knock you on your butt later,” he said, adding, “I don't like to serve people things I do not like. I hope you like them.”
The deep burgundy colored wine had a strong tannin mouth feel and a delicious oaky flavor. The spiciness of the wine made the barbeque meat taste spicier. My impressions of the dish were: creamy, smoky, spicy, and bright.
Then everyone chomped down on the ribs, slathering barbeque sauce all over their faces and hands. I looked around the room and noticed most people were enjoying the ribs so much they forgot to drink the wine. Mike said, “This is one of the top ten things that ever happened to me. This food is amazing.”
There was a discussion at my table about the poor quality of potatoes in America compared to Ireland. The Irish ladies came to an agreement that the mashed potatoes served with the ribs were delicious.
LeBeau called for a Question and Answer session between Chef Romain and the guests.
Someone asked: “Do you like vinegar or mustard more?”
Chef answered, “Mustard.”
Someone else asked, “What temperature did you cook the meat at?”
Chef answered: “Low and slow.
Then Jim Brogan, a regular, asked, “Will there be mats provided so we can take naps?” To which the guests answered with laughter.
After the ribs were licked clean, most of the guests got up and went outside again.
I asked Jim his impressions of the meal. “I don't want to just motor through the food. I want to enjoy the pairings. These guys spent so much time,” Jim said. Then it started to rain and the conversation was cut short. Jim suggested I talk to Wally Lurz another long time fan.
I asked Wally how he learned about these dinners. Through friends he told me. “The pairings have always been new and interesting. I like learning about different styles of wines and different tastes,” he stopped for a breath and then continued, “Do you know how all of this happened? It started with Coreen wanting to learn more about wine. We taste what we taste. It's been very rewarding. We keep coming back. We have a lot of duck this time,” he said.
Back inside, I sat down, just as a cool, wet breeze blew in from the rain. As the break ended LeBeau walked through the rows of tables handing out something, “want one to cool off with an ice pack?” He asked, as he handed me a little package of Arctic heaven. Guests rested the ice packs on their foreheads, necks, and some even wore them as hats.
Once everyone was cooled down, LeBeau said, “A little bit of business we have to do. Can I get a hand for Romain?” The crowd responded with thunderous applause and continued as LeBeau went through the list of volunteers: Chef Chris, Photographer/server Tracey, Coreen, himself, and guest blogger Helen A Lockey. “For the first time ever we are starting a tip jar because everyone is volunteering their time,” he said holding up a large plastic jar. “The next dinner is July 14th,” he said smiling.
The third course came out quickly after the announcements. It was pulled pork butt on honey cornbread with coleslaw. The meat was hickory smoked with ginger.
Chef Romain started, “It is pulled pork butt,” but could not continue over the noise from the guests repeating, “Butt, butt, butt.”
LeBeau came to his rescue explaining that butt did not mean the backside of the animal, but was in fact referring to the shoulder of the pig.
Jim said loudly, “Oh, that's what it is,” then laughed and other guests joining in.
LeBeau introduced the next wine, it was a 2011 Rosé from Bertarose, “Merlot grapes are for red wine,” he said but got interrupted by a small boy walking by who commented, “Correct.”
The audience roared with laughter, and Chef Chris smiled and said, “That's my son ladies and gentlemen.”
LeBeau continued, “All wines are made from the same grapes. Rosés crush grapes with the skin for a short time.”
I turned my attention back to my meal. I sipped some rosé then took a mouthful of cornbread, pulled pork, and slaw. The slaw was made with Brussels sprouts, purple cabbage, and carrots. The rosé wine brought out the sweetness in the bread and brightened the coleslaw. Of all the pairing I liked this one the best.
Conversation about the meal was lively at my table despite the heat.
Nick said, with rivers of sweat pouring down his face, “It's kind of like you're gaining weight but losing weight because you're sweating.”
“This is my favorite course,” Laura said.
I moved to another table and talked to pharmacist Angelique Hazard. She was wearing a light cotton dress because she knew it was going to be hot inside the warehouse. “We've been coming to GULP for over a year. We've been to at least four to five of them,” she said, stopping to take a sip of wine, “The first one my husband treated me. It was an Italian one. It was really enjoyable. They used to have them at the beer depot. It's a great afternoon with friends.”
There was a commotion near a refrigerator. Chef Chris had opened the refrigerator door to reveal a chair inside. He smiled, turned, climbed in, sat on the chair, smiled again and closed the door. Guests started giggling.
Chef Chris eventually opened the door, climbed out and said, “That's my chill spot,” making guests roar with laughter. He offered his chill spot to Coreen and LeBeau, who quickly said, “yes.” Another chair was found so they could both enjoy their refrigerator ride at the same time. When the door opened again people grabbed cameras and phones to click pictures paparazzi photographer style.
When everyone had had their turn at the refrigerator rides dessert was served. It was a pancake battered, deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with blueberry compote, bacon, honey, mascarpone cheese, and goat cheese. It was served with Sangria.
LeBeau's Sangria recipe was, “You take wine, hard liquor, in this case Everclear, and fruit juice and combine them together. Then you serve it over ice.”
“Good job LeBeau,” said Shawn, clapping enthusiastically.
“Thanks,” said LeBeau smiling, “Every bottle of wine we had tonight is for sale, we have one of each,” he said, holding up a bottle. “Again thank you Romain and Chris.” And guests agreed with loud clapping.
The dessert was sweet and crispy on the outside with a thin smear of honey. The inside was gooey with warm peanut butter and dark globs of sweet blueberry. The cheese had all but melted into the dessert.
Shawn told me he was a first time diner, “The ability to learn and eat some really good food brought us here. We'll be back.”
Then just as the temperature inside the warehouse cooled down the dinner was over. Later, as volunteers collected plates and glasses Coreen said, “I'm glad people liked this style because there were no leftovers. For July we'll do it somewhere with AC.”





















































Monday, July 1, 2013

Gray Mockingbird Community Garden is Lake Worth’s New Eden

DSCN1341Last Friday night I was treated to a delicious jazzy evening at Gray Mockingbird Community Garden.

 

What is Gray Mockingbird Garden you ask? Well, Gray Mockingbird is a community garden situated on North D Street in Lake Worth.  Their mission is to teach sustainability and resiliency on land generously donated by the Scottish Rite. 10%-15% of food raised is donated to feed local hungry people. The dinner I attended, held in the garden under the shade of a big oak tree, was a fund raiser for the organization. Jazz pianist Gianni Bianchini treated us to old school Sinatra sounds while our own GULP Founder, Coreen, prepared an outstanding 5 course dinner.  Check it out!

 

 

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Cantaloupe, prosciutto, cream cheese canape

 

 

 

 

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Roasted new red potatoes wrapped in bacon with a sour cream and chive dipping sauce appetizer

 

 

 

 

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gazpacho with crème fresh

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer stacked salad of watermelon, feta cheese and arugula with a balsamic glaze drizzle

 

 

 

 

 

stuffed chicken breast

 

Cream Cheese and Mango Chutney stuffed Chicken Breast
Yellow Squash Casserole

 

 

 

 

 

There should be a picture of dessert: 

Apple Cinnamon Chimichangas with
Sapodilla Ice Cream

I ate mine before I remembered to take the picture.  My excuse was the giant rain storm headed our way and we ended up in the Kitchen for dessert!  You gotta love Mother Nature.

 

Here are a few images I caught of the Garden.  Hopefully it will inspire you to get involved by donating cash or even sweat equity!  You can find out how to contribute by visiting their website:  http://www.graymockingbird.com/ or liking their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GrayMockingbird?fref=ts

Don’t miss July’s GULP Pairing!  It is A Shakesperience!  July 21st on the grounds of Shakespeare By The Sea. Each course will have a Shakespearean theme. Then, stick around after the GULP! event for the final performance of Shakespeare's Coriolanus at 8pm when a handful of our very own GULPERS will take to the stage and behind the scenes to top off your Sunday Shakesperience! Tickets $35 ~ More details to come soon!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pairing wine is just for food, or is it?

April’s Gulp turned 25 or so foodies into scientists for a day led by our mad scientist host LeBeau. 

DSCN1130Two of his favorite subjects, wine and science, came together recently when he read some interesting research regarding the pairing of wine with music.  That’s right, music!  Pshaw! you say. 

Clark Smith is a highly regarded wine production consultant and professor at UC Davis teaching Fundamentals of Wine Chemistry.  He too is a mad scientist.  Through his extensive research and experience as a wine marketing expert Clark has discovered an important and influential connection between wine and music.  In the same way food can change the way we experience and taste a glass of wine so can music.  Crazy, right?  Actually there is science to back this up.   One of the things he and his company are sought out for is creating the proper musical and ambient background in wine tasting rooms. 

LeBeau decided to put Clark’s findings to the test in his own personal wine laboratory, Gulp! According to Smith’s research there are peak experiences we have where all the components of the moment come together and produce unforgettable memories.  "The more we explore it, the more mysterious wine seems. It appears to provide a mirror to our feelings," says Smith, who is also an Adjunct Professor at California State University at Fresno. "We associate different wine types with different moods, just as we do with music. When the wine and the music match, both improve. When they clash, it can be awful!"   Lebeau saw this to mean, We should learn to enjoy the wine as a whole cloth instead of just judging the components.”  So let’s get onto the learning!

 

One of the first things that made this Gulp different from others was that we ate between the pairings.  LeBeau wanted to make sure the only thing we were pairing with the wines was the music he would be pairing.  Deb Knepp provided a lovely opener with her homemade breads.  Both breads used a craft brew in theDSCN1111 recipe.  One was her Angry Orchard cider bread.  The texture was a little chewy and the flavor was tangy with just a hint of sweet.  The other was her Hoppy Cheese bread.  This was made with one of Coreen’s homebrews.  It was very reminiscent of rye bread and the cheese was a back note.  Deb also made deviled ham spread that was great on the Hoppy Cheese.  It was like having a ham sandwich on rye!  All I need was a cold one and a pickle!  (If I drank beer and liked pickles.)

chix enchiladasCoreen made chicken enchiladas with lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese. They were nicely spiced and I liked the mix of dark and white meat chicken.  Yummo! 

We enjoyed the food and chatted then Lebeau called us to attention.  He explained how the day was going to work. First this was a blind tasting.  We would also be tasting both red and white wines.  We would be served 3 glasses each for the tasting so we could really compare any differences in the wines with different styles of music.  Lebeau cautioned everyone,  “There is going to be a lot of wine today so make sure you eat.  We want everyone to have a great time and be safe.”  He went onto explain how music and wine work together.   According to science the thalamus is this spot in the middle of the brain and it has a big job.  It registers stimulus and relays it to the rest of the brain for response.  When hear you a bird singing in the park you take the sound in your ears and it goes straight to the thalumus. It sends the message to the other parts of the brain for processing,  For instance:  You hear a bird singing.  The thalamus says, “Oh, that’s a bird singing, what do you want to do brain?”  The rest of the brain takes over and decides whether or not to stay and listen, move away or throw a rock at the damn thing.  (My brain would stay and listen.) 

So the point of Clark’s study was that wine works on the brain in the same way.  The wine goes in, the thalamus says wine and sends it off to the rest of the brain for enjoyment or not.  The bird singing could enhance the experience because you are enjoying the sounds or sour the drink because you find the sounds irritating.  According to Clark, “What goes with what? You can make pretty good guesses about what will work by learning to be as sensitive to the mood of a wine as to the mood of a piece. Anybody can tell happy music from sad from angry from romantic from lustful. Wines are the same. Cabernets are angry, Pinots romantic, Rieslings cheerful. After that, it's trial and error. Pay particular attention to astringency: the smoothness or harshness a wine displays when tasted in a specific musical environment. You don't need more than a few seconds to sense the effect.”

The first pairing was with white wines.  We were served the wine in order and then Lebeau turned on the music.

whites

The wines were all Chardonnays.  We were not told what they were or the vineyards they were from until after we tasted and listened. The pre-music tasting notes were:

Wine #1 was Robert Mondavi’s Private Selection, citrusy with grass and tropical notes, crisp and clean. 

Wine #2  was Febvre Chablis, acidic and minerally.

Wine #3 was Oak Leaf, pear, oak and buttery.

Song #1 The Beach Boys “California Girls.”  Everyone agreed this was a happy song evoking beaches, suntan lotion, summer and teenage hormones.  The Mondavi, for me,  was a great match up for this light and fun song.  I really noticed the tropical notes in the wine and the sweet citrus really showed up.  The Febvre was ok.    Some in the group preferred this one over the first.  There was an oakiness to it that some liked and I found the minerality wasn’t as pronounced.  The Oak Leaf was flat.  All the butteriness was  gone and we lost the fruit.

Song #2 Ella Fitzgerald “St. Louis Blues.”  Who doesn’t love Ella?! Well the Mondavi didn’t.  It was pithy and bitter.  The Febvre was the favorite for this song.  It was dry with the mineral/stone flavor in the front and green apple showing up on the end.  The Oak Leaf found its oakiness with the Blues but still a bit flat.

Song #3 Sean Hayes “Angel.”  Mondavi loved Sean Hayes bringing the citrus to the forefront for a sweet juicy sip.  The Febvre went flat with little to no flavor.  The Oak Leaf lost the buttery and got fruity.  The winner this round was the Mondavi.

Song #4 Stereo Lab “One Note Samba/Surfboard.” This jazzy little number made the acid jump up in the Mondavi.  The Febvre got fruity with more apple and a touch of citrus.  The Oak Leaf is made for Jazz.  It smoothed out and got all kinds of buttery and toasty, oh yum!  The Gulpers were evenly split between 2 and 3 as the best pairing for this song.

The group was amazed by the changes in flavor and mouth feel in the wines depending on the songs.  It really was like pairing food!  While Coreen brought out the next food course discussion was lively and loud as people talked across the room commenting on the songs and artists as well as the wines.  It was like the Umami event earlier in the year.  Everyone’s curiosity and taste buds were piqued.  We were learning something new that was increasing our knowledge and enjoyment of not just the wine but music as well.   I love learning when I feel like I am playing!

DSCN1133Coreen served a crispy flatbread pizza topped with cherry tomatoes and sausage.  It was a perfect choice for  busy table talk.  They were bite sized pieces, crispy and savory just right for popping into the mouth.  You had eaten 2 or 3 before you knew it when you suddenly realized how delicious it was. DSCN1122

 

 

 

Next up was a red course.  Just like in the first course this was a blind tasting.  LeBeau also asked us to taste only one wine with each song.  Kyle pegged it before the reveal this was the same wine in each glass, Lindeman’s Pinot Noir.  Without knowing this was there enough difference in the music pairings to think these were different varietals…hmmm.   Without the music this Pinot is medium bodied with strawberry and cherry flavors.  It is a touch acidic but not so much to be off-putting.  Bring on the music!pinot

Song #1 Classic Spanish Guitar.  (please remember we didn’t know this was the same wine).  Wine #1 got smoky to match the seductive strains of the guitar and I got a green pepper taste while others felt cherry was the big fruit note.  It was nice and could be a Pinot.

Song #2 Vivaldi “Spring.”  First off I did my Laura Linney impression, “I’m Laura Linney and this is Masterpiece Theatre.”  KP laughed.  Anyway, this music brought a richness to the wine that wasn’t there before.  Licorice and caramel were right there then came the cherry and a touch of smoke.  The smokiness is interesting since this wine is fermented in stainless steel vats.  Maybe a cab?

Song #3 SOS Band “Tell Me if You Still Care?”  This song was very much a sultry rumba and it brought out a seductive vanilla note in the wine.  I just wanted to listen and drink.  Wally yelled for Barry White.  You get the idea.   Who cared about the varietal.

We were duly impressed this was all the same wine, except for Kyle who guessed it right at the beginning….smarty pants.  We became believers and couldn’t wait for the next setup!

The third tasting was a little more involved.  Lebeau didn’t hide the wine varietals.  Each glass held a different wine.  The idea was to compare the findings of Clark’s experiment to our own taste buds. mixed winesAs Coreen and I passed out wines Lebeau gave us Clark’s opinion of each wine’s mood and music pairing:

Beringers White Zinfandel, Happy and lively that goes with Pop, Dixieland or Polka

Lindeman’s Pinot Noir, Romantic and seductive that goes with rumba, R&B, Jazz

Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvingon, dark, angry and brooding that goes with Metal, Blues, Angry Jazz

Our results were:

White Zinfandel tastes a lot like sweet tea no matter what we listen to but it really was best with lighter music like Dixieland.  Jim said it reminded him of drinking an Arnold Palmer.  It was least flavorful with the Doors.  Do not drink Zin while listening to Ministry.  It was awful!

The Pinot liked the Doors and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  It was fuller bodied and jammy with cherry but not sweet.  The Blue Grass tune made it very green and acidic tasting.  Sinatra brought out vanilla and cloves. 

Then there was the Cab .  Dixieland and Polka brought up a lot of acidity and killed the fruit.  The Doors made it astringent and brought out a green pepper taste.  I thought for sure Jim Morrison would have been a Cab guy.  I loved it with Nick Cave.  I tasted Vanilla, smoke and leather, very sultry and brooding.  Dixieland and Polka amped up the acid and minerality and not in a pleasant way.  Sinatra brought coffee, smoke and vanilla to the Cab.  He was always so classy.  For a lot of tasters Ministry paired best with the Cab.  This is pure headbanger music and the cab tasted like caramel, leather and smoke.  People were bouncing and sipping. 

To finish out the day Coreen served and oreo ice cream treat and as usual I forgot to take a picture of the dessert!  I guess I am so full of wine and food by the end I am in a happy Gulper mood and just enjoying the afternoon so the dessert is lost.  Sorry Coreen.

This was a really great afternoon.  Thank you LeBeau for all the work you put into this day!  Thank you Coreen for the delicious food treats that kept us all eating and sober!  I LOVE GULP!  See you next month!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

March Gulp: Gulp!'s Peeps Come Out on Easter Eve to Determine Battle Between Beer and Wine



I am sad that I missed the last Gulp! Event but I am very glad our guest blogger Brian Bixler was there to record all the excitment.  So without further ado take it away Brian!  (sorry no pictures, it seems Ashley was missing that day too).

Behind BX Beer Depot's unprepossessing storefront we gathered next to a thatch-roofed tiki bar and long tables set with tablecloths, silverware, stemmed glasses and snifters awaiting libations that would flow freely so that we could compare which one went
best with the delectable dishes that would be set in front of us.

And so it began, Gulp!'s third tasting that would pit beer against wine in an event that attracted an eclectic and fun-loving group that included members of the media, musicians and artists, entrepreneurs, and employees in the hospitality industry who have one thing in common: they're all foodies interested in learning more about the food they consume and the beverages they drink. The Wrong's lead singer Jimmy Brogan was there as well as videojournalist and sometimes Shakespeare by the Sea actor Wally Lurz and his fiancée Krystina Parker.

And the setting, warmly lit by tiki torches on Easter Eve, was entirely apropos, casual, communal and comfortable. Sally Parsons is one of the first business owners in Palm Beach County to recognize the growing demand for craft beer and her small tap room, tucked away on Second Avenue North in Lake Worth, has all the accouterments for making your own brew at home. The walls are lined with dippers, utensils, copper coils; and in a huge walk-in refrigerator she stores yeast, hops and heavy bags of grain that can be used to make everything from a chocolate-flavored beer to coffee-infused stout.

Sally was a wonderful co-host for the evening, not only serving the Gulp! guests but providing a personal tour of her business, which may be Lake Worth's best kept secret (aside from Gulp! of course). As a tasting room, it provides a wealth of craft beers by the bottle ranging in cost from a couple of dollars to larger sizes in the $20 range. But even the brands with higher price points don't deter true beer connoisseurs, who come from as far away as Vero Beach and Miami to visit Sally's store.

"It's like a fine wine," Sally said of her inventory. "We have customers who can buy a bottle of beer and sip it for two hours."

In addition to coming for the array of craft beers, patrons are also looking for the supply of fresh grains stored in tight containers that allow home brewers to create an assortment of beer at home. And for those who want to know what their own concoctions might taste like, BX Beer Depot also has a tempting variety of its own brews on tap that are kept cold in the refrigerated unit just waiting to be dispensed in a glass and raised to your lips.

Naturally, Sally also offers beer-making classes for those who want to learn more about the age-old beverage revered by America's Founding Fathers, especially Ben Franklin. She also offers wine-making kits and guidance and has recently branched out into cheese-
making. And so, her business provided the perfect location for Gulp!'s boxing bout between beer and wine. And the pairing of Gulp! and BX Beer Depot was as natural as the coupling of food and beverage that night. As Sally said, the two companies share the same model and mission of providing education and socialization for their guests.

It was my initiation into a Gulp! tasting and I couldn't help feeling a little bit like a pledge being inducted into a secret society like Skull and Bones (on second thought, scratch that, make it more like the Algonquin Round Table).

There were plenty of regulars there to recall the very beginnings of Gulp! when Coreen Gottschalk would research various wines and pull facts and tasting notes together, then invite a few friends to her home, serve the wines and pair them with tasting-sized portions of food and discuss them. ClearChannel radio host Deb Knepp (who sat crocheting tiny Easter Bunny heads from yarn for everyone to wear as a pin or hair adornment for the evening) shared memories of those first days, along with other veterans like massage therapist Michelle Getty.

I felt so proud for my friend Coreen, one of the most extraordinary people I have met in my life, to see how her simple idea of spending time with friends has grown into a truly professional venture and full-fledged business with help from her partner LeBeau Kpadenou. But I wasn't the only newbie in the crowd: the very-blue-eyed Laura Powell, a server/bartender from O'Shea's Irish Pub, was also experiencing her first Gulp! tasting.

"Nothing excites me like good food," said Laura, who, by the end of the evening, expressed how much she enjoyed it and promised to return for future tastings.

And tastings -- tempting and plentiful -- were what the evening was all about, paired with carefully selected beers and wines that were meant to complement the food and bring out the various spices and flavors of meats, cheeses, herbs, fruits and vegetables.

The Tastings

The first course was an inviting little morsel: a slider-size burger stuffed with pesto and a tangy Chaumes cheese from Périgord in southwest France. Wrapped within the burger, the cheese provided a full-bodied flavor not unlike brie. The tasty treat was presented in a crispy wanton cup topped with a sprinkling of tomato and clover sprouts that provided additional flavor and texture to the appetizer. It was a great way to start the meal.

LeBeau introduced the first wine of the night, presenting Dry Creek Valley 2010 The Federalist, a California Zinfandel from 2Sons Winery. It was a fruity, medium-bodied red wine meant to compete with the first beer selection by Corey from BX Beer Depot, who chose Wychwood Brewery's Hobgoblin, an imported dark English ale made from chocolate and crystal malts with a dash of citrus aroma.

Round One went to The Federalist with more than half of the diners preferring it paired with the appetizer than the ale (Ben Franklin might have been disappointed, even though the wine bottle pays homage to fellow Founding Father Alexander Hamilton).

The second course, courtesy of a recipe from Corey, was, for me, the most interesting dish of the evening: Éphémère salad, made with jicama, apple, fennel, sweet pepper, red onion and oranges tossed with a dressing made from Éphémère Ale and Mint Oregon Garden Vinaigrette. The melange had an autumnal flair to it but was neither overly sweet nor spicy; but an exciting blend of the two. I would make this salad at home. Even though it reminded me of fall, I could also see it being a crisp, refreshing salad on a hot summer day.

LeBeau paired it with a playful, low-alcohol, sparkling wine, Moscato d'Asti, from the Piedmont region of Italy, more associated with Christmas in that country than Easter. Corey cleverly chose to pair the salad with the beer used an ingredient in the dressing:
Éphémère, a Canadian ale brewed with apple juice, coriander and orange peel, with a hazy clarity. The Belgian-style witbier was intended to bring out the spices in the salad. Once again, the wine won the round, with more guests raising their hands in favor of its
pairing with the food. But that didn't mean the beer didn't have its defenders.

"This beer has so many wonderful flavors in it," said Barry Imhoff, owner of Mad Rush design and graphic arts in West Palm Beach. "So, to pair it with something neutral like french fries would be very nice."

The third course, the entree, was a deliciously moist and flavorful herb roasted pork tenderloin, or as LeBeau introduced it, "the same cut on a pig you would get filet mignon on a cow." Perfectly seasoned with a selection of herbs, served with baby white potatoes and covered with a vermouth sauce, the tenderloin was prepared medium-to-well done which failed to reduce its tenderness. Many diners went back for seconds after LeBeau announced he had made enough for an Easter dinner.

He paired the meat with what he considers to be one of the best wines of its kind, a 2010 Trimbach Riesling 2010 imported from Alsace, France. In introducing the wine, LeBeau commented that "this is what a Riesling should be" -- not sweet, but elegant and dry.
Corey noted that Germans know pork and sausage and which beer goes great with it. Taking a cue from those barons of Bavaria, he chose Great Divide Brewing Co.'s Hoss rye lager from Denver Colorado, an American beer based on the Märzen lagers of Germany. Savory, malty and carmel-ly with an unusual red-orange color, the beer was the first of the evening to win a round with an overwhelming majority of votes from the tasters.

Between courses, discussion included talk about the pairings, with a general consensus That all of the choices were excellent, whether they won the round or not.

Audrey Farrelly, manager of O'Shea's, attending her third Gulp! tasting, remarked that making a decision between the unusual beers and fine wines being served was a tough call.

"It's like having two children and saying which one is your favorite," she said.

But that was before Sally and Corey delivered the coup de grâce: BX Beer Depot's own milk stout, that was served as something extra for the evening to be enjoyed with Coreen's "sexy," decadent and oh-so-scrumptious crème brûlée with caramelized organic cane sugar that Coreen created herself.

"I got to wield a blow torch, which I recommend even if you're not making crème brûlée," she told us all before we slid into the silky dessert with our spoons.

The wine for Round Four was Castlenau de Suduiraut's 2007 Sauternes, a French dessert wine with an excitingly sweet aftertaste. In presenting the wine, LeBeau described to his guests how it is made from grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. The fungus shrinks and sucks the water from the grape, causing it to become partially raisined and resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wine. Another beer, St. Ambroise Vintage ale from Canada brewed by McAuslan Brewing in Montreal, was offered by Corey, but the overwhelming favorite paired with the crème brûlée was the freshly brewed milk stout. Audrey made it clear that it was her favorite child.

So, since it was a draw -- wine winning two courses and beer winning two -- there was no real TKO that night -- just plenty of succulent food and really interesting selections of beer and wine that delivered a powerful punch!

I'm sure Mame Burkett will be back for the next tasting after some recuperation but I was so glad to be her substitute for the night. I usually don't like to use the word "special" to describe things because it's so trite, but in this case it's absolutely fitting for the night's festivities and my first tasting.