Just about now watching the snow fall steadily all day and awaiting another deep freeze on Thursday, we look at each other and say, “At least we had Miami.” If you live anywhere in this week’s polar vortex, you know what we mean!
We celebrated New Year’s in Miami Beach. Actually, we were off the beach more than on it, catching up with friends and trying local restaurants. If you go, make sure to visit the Wynwood Arts District and take in the colorful street art and local cafes. That’s where we caught up with Chef Norman Van Aken at Three at Wynwood Arcade. We were glad to see him back in South Florida after closing Norman’s in Coral Gables. If you go, sit at the chef’s counter. Van Aken also has a cooking school and rooftop bar that is an Arts District hot spot.
We continued checking out locally owned spots like Stiltsville Fish Bar on Sunset Harbor, owned by Chefs Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth. We enjoyed the well-prepared fish dishes and casual, no-attitude atmosphere. Our one Cuban restaurant was Bella Cuba, a small family-run spot opened in 2005 that serves authentic dishes and a popular blueberry mojito.
Lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab is always fun. Of course, we partook in the restaurant’s namesake menu item, along with the signature creamed spinach and key lime pie. We never would have considered ordering fried chicken at Joe’s, but one of our lunch mates did. The excellent one-half free-range fried chicken is one of the best bargains on the menu at $6.95!
Miami is filled with great restaurants. Just about every well-known chef has an outpost in one of the hotels that line the beach or downtown. As much as we’d love to try them all, there something about smaller locally-owned places that draw us in.
We left Miami in sunny spirits and ready to book another trip.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for roses.
My maternal grandmother’s name was Rose. My maternal grandfather created a rose garden in his back yard in tribute to my grandmother. I used to love to wander the garden and smell the different roses.
My late father would bring my mother a single rose every Friday during their 52-year marriage. The day of his funeral, a Friday, David Ransom presented my mother a single rose at the memorial service to continue the tradition.
My mother always has a vase of fresh roses in my bedroom when I visit her in Tennessee. Roses are a symbol of love and, for me personally, for family and for heritage.
So, naturally I was intrigued by the story behind Four Roses Bourbon, which recently celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2018 by sending us a baby rose-bush to plant. Coincidentally, our garden had just three blooming rose bushes. Now, it has four rose bushes. I welcomed an invitation to visit last December. It was my first visit to a Kentucky Bourbon distillery.
The legend of Four Roses Bourbon (est. 1888) started when its Founder, Paul Jones, a Louisville businessman, became smitten with a Southern belle named Mary, whom he courted for a number of years. Jones asked Mary to respond to his “final” marriage proposal (after a few asks) by wearing a corsage of four red roses to a cotillion dance. This time she accepted and entered the ballroom wearing the corsage.
There are a few versions to this story depending on who tells it. But, if you visit Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, you may be lucky enough to meet Al Young, the brand’s official historian (a.k.a. Senior Brand Ambassador), who will share a few anecdotes and who has a sharp memory. Young has worked with the distillery for 51 years and wrote a book called “Four Roses- The Return of a Whiskey Legend.”
The word “return” is important because for a long time, Four Roses did not produce its Bourbon. One reason was Prohibition which lasted from 1920 to 1933. During that time whiskey was only approved and made for medicinal use. After Prohibition (Repeal) distilleries had to invest heavily to start over. Making Bourbon, is time intensive. In 1943, the company was acquired by Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., which reorganized it and decided to focus on making whiskies only for the export market. Then, the brand was acquired for a time by a consortium established between Pernod Ricard and Diageo. In 2002, Japan’s Kirin Holdings acquired Four Roses and reintroduced its flagship Kentucky Bourbons starting with its single barrel in 2004 and a small batch in 2006.
During a distillery visit last December Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott guided us through a tasting and explained the process to which utilizes two mash bills and five propriety yeast strains to make ten distinct recipes used in the blending. It was a lesson in chemistry as he showed how the different proprietary yeasts are coded and then blended (V-delicate fruit, K=light spice, O=rich fruit, Q=floral essence, F=herbal).
We had the chance to visit both the distillery in Lawrenceburg and the bottling facility on Cox’s Creek to experience production from start to finish. We were intrigued by the bottling line with staffers applying labels and bottle tags by hand, each bottle carefully inspected. Talk about hand-crafted!
Four Roses has three signature Bourbons. All were smooth, mellow and delicate on the palate.
Four Roses Single Barrel has notes of vanilla, maple, pear and spice with a long finish (100 proof/50% ABV)
Four Roses Small Batch is creamier and rich with more caramel and berry notes. (90 proof/45% ABV)
Four Roses Bourbon balances vibrant fruit and spice. (80 proof/40% ABV)
We also tasted a special blend 130th Anniversary Four Roses. This limited edition Bourbon was lightly floral and a tad sweeter in a very satisfying – please, give me some more!- way. Then, Elliott took us into his laboratory where we had the rare chance to taste of few other proprietary blends. Swoon!
Four Roses conducts guided tours at the Lawrenceburg distillery, which is a beautiful Spanish mission-style building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On site are a small Four Roses museum and gift shop. Info: www.FourRosesBourbon.com
Four Roses Bourbon Senior Ambassador Al Young discusses the history of Four Roses Bourbon on The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart. Click the photo below to listed or this link
A special thank you to Four Roses Bourbon for hosting this trip and to The Baddish Group for including Melanie, a dedicated Bourbon drinker and rose lover.
When thinking of Tuscany and its wines, a few regions immediately come to mind, like Chianti Classico, where the most sought-after wines of the eight classified Chianti regions are produced; Montepulciano, home to the famous Vino Nobile wines, and of course, Montalcino, where Brunello is produced.
Yet, aside from these three well-known regions, there are many smaller areas in the Tuscany producing wonderful wines that are worth seeking out. The Connected Table recently went on a road trip, zig-zagging through the backroads of Tuscany’s west side and found a number of producers making wines the equal of their more famous neighbors.
Here are a few of our favorites and where they are located.
Sator Wines. Situated in the relatively small (20 producers total) Montescudaio DOC in the coastal hills just south of Pisa (west of Florence) and just north of Bolgheri, Sator is owned by Gianni Moscardini. The winery sits on rolling farmland owned by his family for over 150 years. While grapes have been grown on the property for many years, only recently did Moscardini, a consulting agronomist for a number of well-known Tuscan wine producers, start making his own wine from them. Unlike in Bolgheri, where much of the wines are made from international grape varieties, Moscardini focuses on indigenous grapes at Sator including Fiano and Vermentino for white wine production, along with Sangiovese and Cilegiolo for his red wines. www.satorwines.com/en
Some favorites for us included Satur Bianco IGT, a delightfully crisp everyday white made from 85% Vermentino/15% Fiano, and Satur Artume, a wonderfully complex white blend of 67% Fiano/33% Vermentino aged in oak for 10 months before bottling. For reds: Satur Rosso Montescudaio a Sangiovese /Teroldego blend that we could drink all day long (well, not really, but it sure was easy on the palate), and Sileno Sangiovese Montescudaio DOC, a ripe and structured wine that shows great balance and ageing potential.
Podere Marcampo Further south and a bit inland, near the ancient walled city of Volterra, lies the estate of Marcampo. Relatively new to the region’s wine scene, Marcampo was started in 2004 by one Volterra’s most prominent restaurant families, the Del Ducas. Claudia Del Duca runs the wine production while her mother,Ivana, runs the Entoeca Ristorante Del Duca in town. Father, Genuino, a retired carabinieri, makes wine and some amazing salumi.
There is also an agriturismo (Bed & Breakfast) on the property so one can also book a night there to stay and enjoy the incredible vistas from the ridge on the outskirts of town where the winery is located. www.agriturismo-marcampo.com
Marcampo’s wines are also made from mostly native grape varieties, including Sangiovese, Cilegiolo and Vermentino. We loved the Terrablu Vermentino, and Genuino Sangiovese (made from 80% Sangiovese/20% Merlot), both of which were very well-made everyday drinking wines. Also not to be missed were the Severus 100% Sangiovese (named for the Roman Emperor who built Volterra’s coliseum), and Giusto alle Balze, Marcampo’s signature red “Super Tuscan” made from 100% Merlot.
Poggio Al Grillo Leaving Volterra and heading back towards the coast and Bolgheri, we next went to the village of Castagneto Carducci to taste the wines of Poggio Al Grillo. While tiny (they currently produce only 5000 bottles per year), This producer boasts one of Bolgheri’s oldest known vineyards, a sixty- year old 1.25 acre plot of Aleatico, Petit Manseng (one of TCT’s favorite white grapes), and Cabernet Franc – all co-planted as was the norm back then since most wine was made into blends, not bottled varietally.
Poggio Al Grillo makes mostly Rosé from Aleatico (aptly named Rosatico), and is tinkering with other wines as they plant new vineyards and increase production. One, Corvallo, is a delightful blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia and Petit Manseng. www.aziendaagricolapoggioalgrillo.it
So, next time you have an urge to try something different, yet somewhat familiar, ask your favorite wine shop or restaurant if they carry any of these Tuscan gems. You’ll be glad you did.
Stay insatiably curious!
David and Melanie – The Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple
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Next up: More wine gems from the opposite side of Tuscany.
Listen to our show with Claudia Del Duca, Podere Marcampo here:
Chattanooga, Tennessee used to be a backwater for restaurants, but now it’s hopping. Whitebird at The Edwin Hotel, part of The Autograph Collection, is near the Hunter Museum of American Art and scenic Riverwalk. The hotel’s Whiskey Thief bar has become an evening hotspot.
We celebrated David’s birthday lunch with fried chicken drizzled with honey, served with a giant Cruze Dairy buttermilk biscuit at Daily Ration.