Central Florida Lifestyle: Perfect Pairings

By Lyndsay Fogerty
Central Florida Lifestyle

Prepare to be wined and dined from the moment you step foot into Cooper’s Hawk Winery. The Chicago-based company, which features a menu developed with its own handcrafted wines in mind, has two Central Florida locations that offer something new — and a refreshing change of pace — to the Orlando dining scene. The restaurant in Waterford  Lakes opened to rave reviews in April, and its newest location — part of the restaurant boom of International Drive — will open in Southwest Orlando on September 15. The new  International Drive location will be the first in the company to offer breakfast and brunch options for guests.

If you haven’t noticed from the name, wine is a huge part of what
Cooper’s Hawk Winery is all about. The wines found on the menu are produced at the company’s Chicago headquarters, though grapes are sourced from vineyards across the country. This year, Cooper’s Hawk is projected to produce over 260,000 cases of wine for its 16 locations nationwide. Each location has a Napa-style tasting room so guests can sample the winery’s latest selections. A tasting includes eight pours and pricing begins at $7. To assist diners with pairings, a bin number is placed next to each item on the menu. This number guides guests to the perfect wine match for their dish of choice.

When it comes to the kitchen, a Cooper’s Hawk specialty is the gnocchi, and it comes in three flavorful varieties. Tossed with pancetta, chicken, sage, peas and a Parmesan garlic cream sauce, the Gnocchi Carbonara is hearty but not too heavy. In the Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash, the popular fall staple is the star with sage, brown butter cream and shaved Parmesan rounding out the dish. For more of a Mediterranean flavor, the Gnocchi with Braised Fennel & Herb Ricotta Dolce is tossed with artichokes, portabella mushrooms, kalamata olives, basil and tomatoes. Instead of the traditional potato gnocchi, Chef Matt McMillin makes the Cooper’s Hawk version with ricotta, a technique that makes it lighter and fluffier.

Joining signature dishes like Red Wine Braised Short Ribs and Mexican Drunken Shrimp on the menu are some guest favorites like the Maple, Mustard & PretzelCrusted Pork Medallions. In this dish, three sweet and savory pork medallions are served with Mary’s  potatoes and asparagus. Asian Pork Belly Tostadas top the list, too, because of its sweet and tangy flavors. Crispy tortillas are topped with melted cheese and a mixture of pork belly, sweet chili BBQ sauce, scallions, cilantro and crunchy radish. The Blackened Ahi
Tuna has a spicy sear that is cooled off with Asian slaw and cilantro citrus rice. The tuna comes on the traditional menu and the Life Balance menu, a unique twist where the dish is prepared so that it is under 600 calories. Appetizers, entrees and desserts come on the Life Balance Menu, but don’t worry that you’re missing out by going for the healthier option. The portions are still plenty and you’re sure to leave with a full belly. Glutenfree options are also available.

Make sure to save room for dessert. Each item on the dessert menu is made
in-house and is whole-heartedly splurgeworthy. With options like Chocolate Pretzel Bread Pudding and Banana Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich, you can’t go wrong. In the gift shop, decadent chocolate truffles (like chocolate cabernet, tiramisu and pistachio) line the bakery dessert case. Cheesecake lollipops and candied walnut turtles will also catch your attention. The chocolates and truffles from the bakery are available as a dessert option with or without a flight of wine pairings. You can also box up these sweet treats and take them home to savor later.

More than just flavorful food and wonderful wines, Cooper’s Hawk has also created an exclusive monthly wine club that is broken down into the Red Club, White Club, Variety
Club or Sweet Club. The Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club is one of the largest in the country and also offers members exclusive classes, parties and events. Members can pick up their  wine at any Cooper’s Hawk location or it can be delivered to their home for a fee.

Also, a gift shop at each property offers the bases for the sauces that you will find on the Cooper’s  Hawk menu. So if you find a dish that you just can’t get enough of, this gives you the opportunity to re-create it in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Whether you’re a foodie, a wino, or both, Cooper’s Hawk Winery is a
unique addition to the Central Florida dining scene that will quickly top your list of favorites.

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For more information about Cooper’s Hawk Winery and for the Gnocchi Carbonara recipe, visit our website at CentralFloridaLifestyle.com.

CH – CFL September issue 2014 1