Every February, The South Beach Wine and Food Festival hosts over 80 events in Miami during a four day period of food, fun, and lots of new experiences to enjoy.
Each year, Bank of America hosts a series of Lifestyle Seminars that gives guests a nice break away from the large sandy beach events. They are intimate and interactive pairing presentations that can be educational while being fun. This year I decided to attend a Sweets and Spirits Seminar hosted by Rhode Island Pastry Chef Andrew Shotts of Garrison Confections and Somm, Anthony Giglio. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Andrew Shotts was unable to make it but lucky for us his very talented pastry chef who works with him at Garrison Confections, Cassie Borshoff, was able to take over.
Before we started diving right in, Anthony explained how to use the Five S’s of Tasting – see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor. He also told us the first sip NEVER counts, always judge a drink by the second sip and if possible – find something to nibble on in between tastes.
We started our adventure with a cherry pistachio chocolate and a glass of Amaro. Amaro is an Italian herbal liqueur that is commonly served as an after-dinner digestif. Let’s just say at 10 am it definitely woke me up. This pair was full of flavor and had some serious kick to it.
Next we moved on to M. Chapoutier Banyuls Rimage 2012 and a 65% dark chocolate. This pairing was much easier to handle so early in the morning. The dessert wine went down much smoother than its dark color had me thinking it would.
Our next pairing was a vanilla chocolate and Jim Beam, our only bourbon in the group and I loved how the butteriness of the chocolate brought out sweet undertones in the whiskey that are sometimes missed when drinking it normally.
The raspberry lime chocolate paired with the 2011 Bordeuax was a fun mix as the lime in the chocolate added a nice tartness to the after taste of the wine. Bordeaux style red blend wine has some or all of the five allowed red grape varieties as permitted in Bordeaux, France: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
We moved onto a Spanish sherry, Gonzalez Byass Amontillado Jerez Del Duque VORS that was paired with a hazelnut fennel pollen chocolate. It’s safe to say this was my favorite chocolate of the day. All of the chocolates were made with Valrhona chocolate, a high end luxury chocolate that is used to make some of my favorite things (The Salty Donut loves Valrhona).
We finished our tasting journey with a caramel chocolate and Ramos Pinto 20 Years Tawny “Quinta do Bom Retiro” Port. This wine has a tawny color with a yellow halo that signifies an advanced stage of maturity. This is the genuine color of a 20-year-old cask-aged wine. It has a bright aroma and went down very nicely.
Once we finished the paired sipping and savoring, we were encouraged to try mixing and matching the sweets with different spirits. Of course, most of us in the seminar were big chocolate lovers and had already finished ours during the first round, but luckily they had set a few extra places, so we were able to scurry around and grab leftover plates from other settings.
I really enjoyed taking the time to really appreciate the flavors of each spirit – since anyone who knows me knows, I already appreciate the flavors of chocolate! Both Anthony and Cassie were very knowledgeable and I left the seminar wondering what other spirits and sweets I could soon start to pair together. I’m definitely looking forward to hosting my next dinner party!
Next year's SOBEWFF is February 23-26, 2017, so make sure you check the Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar offerings for a chance to learn something new while you “see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor”.