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All posts in The Lush

The Force Awakens – Time to celebrate!

Fans have been awaiting 10 years for the next Star Wars movie, though ask any die-hard fan and they’ll tell you the wait has been more like 32 years since the prequels don’t count.  With The Force Awakens crushing all box office records ($247 million domestic and counting) the folks at Disney, LucasFilm, and Bad Robot have reason to celebrate.  If you were lucky enough to witness the rekindled magic on the big screen it’s time to raise a glass with one of these cocktails inspired from a long time ago…. Read more…

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Happy Halloween From VODA Magazine

Halloween cocktails and recipes

                     The Zak-O-Latern Cocktail by Zachary Blair, Lead Mixologist at                                             Whiteface Lodge (Lake Placid, New York)

 

 

 

 

Zak-o-Lantern

Ingredients:

2 oz spiced rum

1oz hickory syrup

Splash of lemon

Bar spoon of pumpkin purée

 

Directions:

·         Shake ingredients

·         Pour in high ball with club soda

·         Garnish with a cinnamon stick

 

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La Nuit En Rosé Sails Into New York

Photo credit Guillaume Gaudet

Photo credit Guillaume Gaudet

It’s summer and it this is the sultry season for sipping rosé while enjoying some of the seasons most succulent summer foods. In this all Rosé and Rosé Champagne event, La Nuit En Rosé is sailing into New York’s Hudson River on the Hornblower Infinity Yacht on Thursday, June 25 – Saturday, June 27. This almost all-sold out event returns this year with even more to offer including VIP Rosé Wine Pairing Dinner, a VIP Lounge, more than 150 rosé wines, and live entertainment. There’s still space available to attend Saturday’s general admission cruise from 1 PM – 4 PM, so don’t miss out!

Stemmari Rose bottleshot

 

Rosés from Italy, France, and New York will be featured at the event and will include STEMMARI ROSÉ 2014 Sicily, Italy; Château Sainte Marguerite, Cuvée Symphonie Rosé 2014 Provence; Cru Classé Côtes de Provence, Domaine Montrose rosé 2014; Languedoc Roussillon, Pays d’Oc; Bridge Lane Rosé 2014 New York, North Fork of Long Island; Ca’ del Bosco Annamaria Clementi Rosé Italy, Lombardy, Franciacorta Riserva DOCG. All of these wines retail for under $25 with the exception of the last mentioned, which sells for $100.

Rosé wine sales are at an all time high in the U.S. with reason! These easy-sipping wines are the perfect pair to chilled summer foods including seafood, salads and sushi. They are elegant to the eye and on the lips and are always best served well chilled. La Nuit’s founder, Pierrick Bouquet created this event to celebrate what is called the “rosé lifestyle.” Food is provided at the event by exquisite restaurants including STK, Butter & Scotch, and my personal favorite Fig & Olive. Dress code is none other than “Pink Chic.” Don’t miss this one! For more information visit, http://nuitrose.com/events/2015/la-nuit-en-rose-new-york

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What We’re Crushing on Now – Atlanta Food & Wine Festival May 28-31

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

In its 5th year the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will once again take midtown Atlanta by storm – in a good way – Thursday, May 28 – Sunday, May 31. Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love are the dynamic duo responsible for the growing success of this four-day, exquisite and delicious event. Chefs, sommeliers, and those, in the wine and food know, from all over the South will come together to present seminars, Champagne Brunch, exclusive dinners, and a collaborative experience of the Tasting Tent event. Here guests can sample and sip their way through the South while chatting it up with fellow foodies, wine and distillery peeps, and top-tier chefs.

SPIT: Eric Crane of Empire Distributors says he won’t stop till he’s a Master Sommelier POUR, SABER AND SWIRL: (clockwise from left) Five Atlantans dedicate their lives to becoming Master Sommeliers  There are 211 Master Sommeliers in the world. Eric Crane, Matt Bradford, Marie Ballard, Justin Amick, and Joon Lim are vying for spots on that exclusive list.

Eric Crane of Empire Distributors Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

VODA Magazine had a chance to catch up with Atlanta local, Eric Crane, advanced sommelier and Director of Training and Business Development for Empire Distributors. Crane will be presenting two seminars within the wine industry. He shares what he’s most excited about, how the festival has grown, and professional tips on how to make the most of your Atlanta Food & Wine Festival experience. Hint it involves always having a “party pal.”

In the Festival’s 5th year Crane enthusiastically says, “They’ve made it this far, there’s more synergy. It puts a nice spotlight on Atlanta and the Festival allows you to eat and drink your way through the South.” Another one of the Festival’s highlights are the Tasting Tents. Crane’s recommendation is the fried chicken section. He says, “There’s nothing better on the planet but that, usually.” He refers to festival Sunday as “Lazy, Southern Sunday.” “By that time everyone’s had too much fun during Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.” There’s a Champagne Brunch on Sunday that I’m personally looking forward to. For me bubbles are always welcomed. To get the most out of your festival experience, Crane advices to stay hydrated and pace yourself. Lastly he adds, “Always have a drinking partner, a party pal. There’s less errors.” Eric will be co-presenting on Friday, May 29 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM American Oak in All Its Glory seminar. Then on Saturday, May 30 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM is the Acid is Your Friend seminar. For more information and for tickets visit, www.atlfoodandwinefestival.com

 

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A Trip to the Happiest and Coolest Seaside Town – Beaufort, NC

Beaufort, NC Waterfront

Beaufort, NC Waterfront

When a coastal town gets rated number one “Happiest Seaside Town in America” by Coastal Living Magazine and “America’s Coolest Small Town” by the readers of Budget Travel Magazine, you go. And when your friend calls you up to attend a wine and food festival in that same town, without hesitation, you go now! I quickly packed an overnight bag and headed east for approximately three and half hours to the Southern Outer Banks, also referred to as the Crystal Coast.

I arrived on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but it didn’t halt the charm of this coastal town. It sits on an inlet with oak tree-lined streets and quaint, yet stately homes with huge porches occupied by friends and families gathered for a weekend getaway. I was there for a total of 24 hours and while I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, a friend of mine described it to me as, “A college town for older, wealthy people.” Although, there is not a college there and the people aren’t retirement-age old, but more like baby boomers and their children – most of them counting Beaufort as a second home.

Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

The waterfront boasts breathtaking views that go on for miles. Sailboats dot it like sprinkles on an ice cream cone. If you aren’t one of the lucky few to own a home there – or have friends that do – there are options for accommodations like endearing bed and breakfasts and an Inn along the waterfront, which is where I chose to stay, the Inlet Inn. My room was adequate for the short time I was there.

Best in Show Beaufort Food & Wine Festival

Best in Show Beaufort Wine & Food Festival

Once freshened up, I drove a short, two miles to the Boathouse where the festivities of the Beaufort Wine & Food Festival were taking place under a huge white tent. My dear friend, an advanced sommelier and director of training and development with Empire Distributors, pointed me in the right direction to start off with some bubbles and then over to his brands for a taste of some divine reds.  I was pleased to find a sparkling I had not had before the Etoile Brut from Domaine Chandon, yes please! It is toasty and delicious! The best in show went to a line in the Kendall-Jackson family not found in your typical grocery chains like other Kendall-Jackson wines. It was the 2012 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County and one word can describe this beauty, quenchy! It was juicy, soft, and elegant.

Local Chocolates from Raleigh

As I perused the tasting tables for some bites, I spotted Cary’s own Le Farm Bakery and discovered the most delicious, artisan chocolates from Raleigh. The name is Escazu and I fell in love with the Single Origin Guapiles variety from Costa Rica. The Goat’s Milk Single Origin Carenero from Venezuela came in as a close second. The goat’s milk offered this subtle tang while lending a creamy mouth feel.

I asked the locals at the festival which dining spots are not to be missed and twice Aqua came up. I spotted their tasting table and while the samples were not gluten-free, they looked exquisite as did their menu. I loved what chef had printed on the top of the menu that was on display, “Dining out should be both memorable, but fun.” Chef Jayson Foster puts his twist on classics and knowing they source their wine from the region’s top distributors, I knew a visit here would not disappoint.

Caprese Salad with Microbasil at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

Caprese Salad with Microbasil at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

The gracious and lovely manager, Kim, welcomed me in with open arms even though I came at an hour when they were getting ready to close. I promised not to linger and ordered cold menu items to try to be respectful to the kitchen team. I decided on chef’s version of a caprese salad and the seared tuna. The caprese salad was modernized with bits of fresh cantaloupe and microbasil, instead of traditional basil leaves, and the flavor it lent danced on the tongue. Equally as delicious was the seared tuna to which chef added thinly sliced bits of green apple. I was in heaven. To add to this delight, and from the recommendation of the knowledgeable and friendly bartender, I paired these two courses with a cherry bomb in a glass, otherwise known as the 2012 Cherry Pie Stanley Ranch Pinot Noir from Ranch Carneros, Ca. At $25 a glass it was worth every exquisite sip.

Tuna with Granny Smith Apples at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

Tuna with Granny Smith Apples at Aqua Restaurant Beaufort, NC

My time in Beaufort, NC concluded with a rainy, yet enjoyable walk around the charming town and along the waterfront to take in the sea air and observe the locals and tourists out for a their Sunday morning exercise and pre-brunch gatherings. I can’t wait to get back to this cool Crystal Coast gem and get another dose of happiness.

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Level Two – Football inspired menu for the 2015 NFL Draft

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The NFL Draft begins tomorrow in Chicago.  The last time the city hosted the NFL Draft was way back in 1963.  It’s a huge deal for football fanatics in the Chicagoland area.  The Draft itself will take place at the Auditorium Theater but for the legions of football fans who want to be a part of it, Grant Park is converting to “Draft Town” hosting a series of events starting Today, Wednesday 29th until the conclusion of the draft on May 2nd.

Draft Weekend promises to bring thousands to the city over the next few days and across the city restaurants and hotels are getting into the spirit.

Level Two the restaurant/lounge located on the second floor of the Hyatt Magnificent Mile is rolling out a special menu for the event that centers around beer and game-day snacks with an NFL theme and an gourmet twist. Read more…

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A Healthy Happy Hour at Four Seasons Atlanta

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

The Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta, one of the best luxury hotels in Atlanta, knows how to beat the Monday blues and kick off a Friday happy hour like no other. Monday through Friday they offer their Spa Happy Hour that includes two treatments and a glass of Prosecco or sparkling cider for mommies-to-be or teetotalers.

I arrived at the hotel midweek to attend the High Museum’s Wine Auction fundraiser that took place in late March. Wound up from work and travel, I was fortunate enough to squeeze in some pre-workday workouts in their well-equipped gym (and spy some well-known actors who were in town filming a movie) to relieve some tension. Even though Saturday was officially a work day for me this particular week, I decided to book a little happy hour for myself early Friday evening.

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

The Four Seasons Spa in Atlanta offers a choice of six treatments during their happy hour which include the following: Stretching Therapy; Reflexology Massage; De-Stress Massage; Hand and Foot Paraffin; Moroccan Oil Hydrating Scalp Mask; and Tropical Body Exfoliation. I chose the body exfoliation – an indulgent sugar-based scrub laced with ylang ylang essential, Vitamin E, and coconut. This was followed by the De-Stress Massage, focusing on the neck, shoulders, and back.

I arrived 20 minutes early to make full use of the full-service spa’s amenities which include a sauna, steam room and a fantastic indoor swimming pool and whirlpool dressed in white marble and luxurious marble. Once cozy in my robe and slippers I relaxed in the women’s relaxation lounge in a quiet nook and leisurely sifted through glossy magazines with beautiful images while grazing dried fruits and nuts and sipping lemongrass tea. I was in heaven and the treatments hadn’t even begun.

A lovely lady, by the name of Cassandra, called my name as she led me to a spa suite equipped with a glass-enclosed shower. Her voice was soft and soothing. She introduced a sugar scrub to my skin and vigorously, yet in a massaging manner, sloughed my skin smooth. After 30 minutes, Cassandra started the shower until a steamy cloud seeped from the stall. She quietly left the room as I rinse off the sugar scrub which revealed baby-soft, silky skin. Like magic, she quickly changed the sheets to ready the table for my massage.

She knew my back needed special attention and advised I incorporate regular 30 minute massages only focusing on my back in order to get the knots out.  Energized from the body scrub Cassandra and I had a lively conversation about the awesome city of Atlanta known as Austin’s sister city.  She taught me about the different areas of town and led me to some great restaurants to try.

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

I emerged from the spa suite refreshed and relaxed and made my way back to the relaxation lounge for some more guilty-pleasure reading of those glossy magazines and a pre-dinner nosh on the plentiful snacks. Cassandra handed me a bubbling glass of sparkly and I twinkled with delight from my new found favorite type of happy hour. Cheers Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, you sparkle!

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Feast and Fête – It’s Spring Gala Season

Photo Courtesy of High Museum WIne Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

Gents, dust off your tuxes, and ladies, it’s time to get svelte to slip into those gala gowns – Spring time has arrived so let the soirées begin. High on our list (no pun intended) is the 23rd Annual High Museum Wine Auction “Uncork A Southern Tradition.” Wine Spectator magazine named this the fifth largest, charity wine auction in the US. Events start on Wednesday, March 25th and run through the weekend.

Photo Courtesy of High Museum WIne Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

We’re most exited about the Industry Tasting on Thursday, March 27th and the Vintners’ Reception and Live Auction on Saturday, March 28th. The Industry Tasting was ranked the most prestigious tasting in the Southeast. Here, we’ll meet guest vintners educating and introducing us to their choice selections. We’ll mingle with over 900 wine-trade attendees at this premiere tasting.

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

We’ve left our schedule open on Friday evening and may pass on the Friday Fête. This event is for the gourmand and party-goer. James Beard chefs will feature their succulent selections, guests can bid on silent auction items, and attendees will shake their groove thing to sounds of a live band. We may save ourselves for Saturday when the grand finale happens at the Vinters’ Reception and Live Auction. Top-notch chefs and winemakers will showcase their finest savories and sips and the highly-anticipated 23rd Annual High Museum Wine Auction will feature rare and fine wines, art, trips, and dining experiences. Uncork A Southern Tradition benefits the High Museum in Atlanta. Let the bidding begin!

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

Photo Courtesy of High Museum Wine Auction

For more information, please visit call Carole Ashworth at 404-733-4543 or carole.ashworth@woodruffcenter.org

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Amaro Di Angostura, the next logical step

Angostura Amaro Bottle HIlight_FINALThe House of Angostura is known for their Aromatic Bitters and can be found in almost every bar across the world.  For well over 150 years they have been making their signature bitters.  Now after 7 years in development, the House of Angostura has released Amaro Di Angostura.  Inspired by old-world Italian traditions but with a Caribbean soul; exotic and unique to Trinidad.

Before setting up shop in Port of Spain, Trinidad (1875), House of Angostura started making their aromatic bitters in 1824 in the town of Angostura, Venezuela now known as Cuidad Bolivar.  It was originally created by a german doctor in Simon Bolivar’s army and used to help soldier’s upset stomachs.  Eventually someone came up with the idea to use it as a flavor additive and since then has been a staple in bars and kitchens everywhere.

House of Angostura has also produced a line of award winning rums (if you’re keeping score, they racked up over 60 medals and countless accolades in the last 5 years alone)… so why get into the Amaro business?  Amaro, as everyone will tell you, literally means “Bitter” in Italian

I’ll pause here while you connect the dots

It is the logical next step for the House of Angostura.

Creating a classic amaro with a flavor profile that is distinctly Angostura was not too difficult.  All the ingredients for all their products from the rums and even their super-secret aromatic bitters (seriously, only 5 people on the planet know the whole recipe and they’re not telling), are sourced locally.  Each sip you are experiencing the flavors of Trinidad. It took years of tinkering however to get Amaro Di Angostura from good to great.

Amaro is generally a maceration of herbs, botanicals, roots, and citrus, mixed with a neutral spirit and aged.  Amaro Di Angostura uses cold percolation to extract the essential oils with none of the acidity or harsh bitterness.  The result is a well balanced herbal liquor that sits between sweet and bitter.  The flavors are well married and come forward together without one overpowering the others.  Spice forward with anise/licorice and citrus with a richness of toasted caramel and dark chocolate.  On the whole very pleasant with no heat or long aftertaste.  Restrained and elegant enough to enjoy on it’s own but can play in interesting part in cocktails.  Such as….

Gin Collins di Amaro

Gin Collins di Amaro

 

Gin Collins di Amaro

  •  2 oz. Amaro di Angostura
  • 1 oz. Ginger Syrup
  • .75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 4 slips Fresh Ginger
  • Top with Club Soda
  • Garnish with Lemon Wheel & Brandied Cherry

Muddle fresh ginger slips with ginger syrup in mixing glass.  Add remaining ingredients with ice.  Shake vigorously and strain over ice into Collins glass.  Top with club soda and garnish.

 

Angostura Amaro Side-Kick

Side-Kick

 

Side-Kick 

  • 1 oz. Angostura 5yr Old (blended gold rum)
  • 1 oz. Amaro de Angostura
  • .5 oz. Dry Orange Curacao
  • .5 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters

Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with cubed ice.  Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe (cocktail)glass.

 

 

Amaro is generally a tricky proposition for the typical American drinker.  Cocktailians and Mixologists have generally accepted Amaro with open arms and have created some wonderful recipes with it.  Lately you can’t hit a single craft cocktail joint without running into a least a couple amaro drinks on the menu, it’s been really hot the last couple years.  Those guys get it, for the casual drinker it has been something of an acquired taste.  Amaro however has been catching on here in the US as it has years ago in Europe.  With time, patience, and increased market exposure, good taste will prevail.

Available:  Initial rollout in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.  We are seeing Amaro Di Angostura starting to arrive in finer restaurants, lounges, and retail stores.  If you see it, it’s definitely worth trying.  For the uninitiated it is a great introduction to Amaro … which eventually turns to Amore.

 

For more information check out www.angostura.com 

 

 

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Chicago 2015: The Resolution of Giving

Now that the new year is underway, everyone is looking to get a start on their resolutions.  The gyms across town are packed every night, for now.  Sales of healthy food at the supermarket is going up, for now.  You are probably even getting to work early every day, for now.  (just speculating)

If your resolution is to do some good in the world, the task of truly giving back can seem daunting.  The thing to remember is it is ok to start small, the little things add up.  The other thing to remember is that you don’t have to go it alone.  There following are just a few products/places that will donate proceeds of sales to charitable organizations both in town and across the world.  Who says you can’t enjoy a night out while making the world a better place?

 

Ronald_McDonald_HouseBIG Bar & Brasserie at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, (151 East Upper Wacker Drive) is donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of their “Home Sweet Home” cocktail (Absolut Mango, St. Germain, Mango Puree and sour mix) to the Ronald McDonald House near the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.   The Ronald McDonald House  provides families a place to stay while their children are getting medical treatment.  You get a delicious cocktail and keep a family together at a time of need.  Cheers to that.

 

purple-asparagusDMK Burger Bar with locations downtown and in the suburbs is a mainstay of quality burgers and through their “365 Days of Giving” program, are also known for their big hearts.  Each month the DMK Burger Bar teams up with a different local non-profit organizations every month to help raise funds and awareness. In January they partner with Purple Asparagus,whose mission is to educate Chicago children, families, and communities about eating what is good for the body and the planet by bringing nutritious hands-on adventures to schools, community organizations, and farmers’ markets throughout Chicagoland.

 

lurie-childrens-hospitalLevel Two restaurant & lounge located on the second floor of the Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile offers guest a chance to donate to the Lurie Children’s Hospital through their is running Change for Hope campaign.   Nothing complicated about this one, guests are simply encourged to round up the change on their bill at the end of the meal.  All extra “Change for Hope” is collected and donated directly to Lurie Children’s Hospital across the street from the restaurant as a greater Room for Hope hotel-wide campaign to support Lurie patients and their families.

 

World_Wildlife_FundBranded Spirits’ Ice Fox Vodka  profits from the sale go in part to the World Wildlife Fund protecting the shrinking population of Artic Foxes that inspired the product.  Founded in 1961, the WWF is now the largest conservation organizations in the world, working on the restoration and preservation of endangered species and the environment.  The next time you are sitting back and enjoying a glass of this triple distilled premium all-american vodka, know you had a hand in saving a species from extinction. Definitely worth raising a glass to that.

 

 

Coral_Reef_AllianceBranded Spirits’ Motu Rum is donating a portion of profits from its sale  to the Coral Reef Alliance to help preserve the pristine coral reefs of the South Pacific.   The Coral Reef Alliance started in 1994 in Berkeley California to get the diving community involved in coral reef conservation.  Since then it has grown to a  premiere global non-profit conservation organization with initiative in reef communities around the world.  With every purchase of Motu Rum you are helping preserve this delicate ecosystem that urgently needs our help.

These are only some of the ways you can begin 2015 as your year of giving.  Even if it is limited to ordering a cocktail or picking up a bottle at the store, you are making a difference.  You shouldn’t dismiss these as trivial because again, the little things really can add up to something wonderful.  Knowing you had a hand in helping a local family stay close to their loved one at a difficult time, help keep the school kids healthy, or prevented a species in another part of the world from becoming a footnote in history, should warm your heart.  A step no matter how small makes you a part of the solution and a better tomorrow.

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