Saturday, October 6, 2012

Oktoberfest! Brickell 2012 Miami Circle - Brickell Bier Garden

It's that time again and this year it is mind blowing! Oktoberfest! Brickell 2012 at the Miami Circle, located at 401 Brickell Avenue is taking Oktoberfest to a whole new level. Brought to you by Brickell Bier Garden, it includes not only the usual beer and bites, but also a culinary journey through traditional German and contemporary Austrian cuisine prepared by Michelin Star Chef Wolfgang Ban. The three course dinner is paired with beers from Radeberger, a leading name in the German beer market. Sound exciting? It is! I'm still reeling from last night and there are still two more days to enjoy the fun.

Brickell Bier Garden - Gotta watch out for this one!

Beautiful setting for this event - the waterfront breeze
is priceless!

Aside from the upscale dinner experience, there is live entertainment from authentic European folk music and dancers, as well as a Beer Lab featuring beer cocktails created by Miami's finest mixologists. My personal favorite were the Asian Pilsner Twist and the Bitter Wheat.  Dance off the beer and German pretzels with the hottest Miami DJs and local acts. Seriously, where else are you going to find all this?

Just couldn't get enough Radeberger


About a week before Chef Wolfgang Ban came down from New York to wow us with his cuisine, I had the opportunity to interview him and learn a bit about this celebrated and charismatic chef. Born in the eastern part of Austria, his passion for the culinary arts began at an early age. It has taken him on a journey that includes his position as Executive Chef for the Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations as well as for the private dining room in the German Mission to the U.N. It has also given him the opportunity to cross paths with New York and Austrian politicians, Diplomats and such discriminating clientele as Secretary General Kofi Annan and German Foreign Minister Joshka Fisher. Along with his partner, Eduard Frodener, he is chef/owner of Seasonal Restaurant & Wienbar in Midtown, New York and Edi & the Wolf in the East Village, along with premier NYC based company, Elderberry Catering.

Michelin Star Chef Wolfgang Ban
at Friday's Dinner
The Foodaholic: Chef, at what point did you discover your passion for food?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: Since before I can remember, both sides of my family owned over 40 acres of vineyards. I helped my grandparents with the wine production and developed a love for wine. At 14 years old, I became involved with a group who organized festivals and events. Here I discovered that my passion didn't just include wines but also hospitality. I began an apprenticeship at a 4-Star hotel in a small town 30 minutes outside Vienna, and my passion evolved into a love for cooking. I went back to school and got a college degree in Hospitality in Vienna. The Dean of the school, a famous chef, took me under his wings and became my mentor. He sent me to places like Belgium and the Netherlands to represent the school. One day, he called and offered me two jobs; one in London and the other in New York City. London wasn't too far away and I was feeling adventurous. I decided I wanted to "discover America", and came to the Big Apple. Initially I thought I'd be here for 3 months, then 6 months, then a year, and now it's my home.

The Foodaholic: How did you become the private chef for the Austrian ambassador to the United Nations and for the restaurant located in the German Mission to the U.N.?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: I started this job in the year 2000. I worked in the ambassador's apartment and prepared two to three sit down lunches and dinners a week, as well as finger food receptions. Shortly after, I got the offer to work for the private dining room in the 23-story, German Mission to the United Nations. I have managed it for the German government since the summer of 2001 and have since started Elderberry Catering, serving primarily the diplomatic community and offering traditional cuisine for the modern palate. Our catering business is also available for weddings and other events.

Having a conversation with the Chef at
Brickell Bier Garden

The Foodaholic: That is quite a ride!  Do you still love wine? What's your favorite?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: Absolutely! I have a keen sense for pairing wines with food and although not a sommelier, I am a "Wine Buyer" for my restaurants. I enjoy German, Austrian and French white wines but have a special affinity with Blaufrankisch, a red wine whose grape is grown primarily in Austria. It is very similar to a Pinot Noir, but shows more fruit, a good balance and pairs very well with my dishes.

The Foodaholic: In October of 2008, you and your partner opened Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar, in Midtown, New York.  It was awarded a Michelin Star and 25 food points from Zagat. Tell us a little bit about the kind of cuisine you offer there.

Chef Wolfgang Ban: When we first opened Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar, the economy was bad and many established restaurants were closing. But we had confidence and believed in what we offered. At first, we kept our menu very traditional, featuring less sophisticated dishes prepared with only the best ingredients and techniques. Shortly after our first year, we were awarded our first Michelin Star. Since then, we have also received 25 points from the Zagat Guide and have been featured in New York Magazine and other publications. Our menu has evolved and we currently focus on creating authentic Austrian dishes that combine traditional techniques with a modern flair.

The Foodaholic: You also have a second restaurant you and your partner opened at the end of 2010: Edi and the Wolf. What was your inspiration when you started this venture?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: Edi and the Wolf was named after my partner and me. "Edi" is the Austrian spelling of my partner's name and of course, mine is Wolfgang. In the Eastern part of Austria, where the most wine production takes place, there are special laws that regulate wine makers and require them to have specific education and licenses in order to open a bar. However, wine growers can open a "Heuriger", which is a casual, neighborhood wine tavern, where they can sell their most recent year's wine and simple foods for a limited time during the year. This is where we got our inspiration. Heurigers are inexpensive, rustic and very popular in Austria and we decided to mimic that experience in New York. We are proud to say it has made quite an impression in the neighborhood; despite having limited public transportation to the area. People enjoy the simple plating and the carefully curated European wine list.

The Foodaholic:  I'm curious. From all the dishes you create, if you had to choose one to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: That's a difficult question. It's like being a father of twenty children and picking one as a favorite! I guess I'd have to choose the Wiener Schnitzel. It is a classic dish we keep to its traditional preparation, except perhaps in the presentation. The Wiener Schnitzel is a thin veal cutlet, pounded, breaded and fried. The bread crumbs must not be pressed into the meat, so they can become "souffled". It tastes great, and people usually think the meat is steamed rather than fried, since it is not greasy at all.

The Foodaholic:  The menu you've created for Oktoberfest! Brickell at the Pop-Up restaurant Brickell Bier Garden's Three Course dinner is incredible. Tell us more about these authentic dishes and beer pairings.

Radeberger Pilsner
Pork Belly...I was floored with
all the complex flavors in this
sweet and salty dish.
Chef Wolfgang Ban: I prepared the menu according to the beers that were being featured. The First Course is a Pork Belly with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon and Homemade Potato Pancake. I incorporate a Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar to the dish that brings out all the flavors. I chose this dish to be paired with Radeberger Pilsner because the vanilla tones come together very nicely.

Schofferhofer Weizen
Wiener Schnitzel. I can see why
it's the Chef's favorite.
The Second Course is a Wiener Schnitzel with Potato and Cucumber. I followed my grandmother's recipe for the Cucumber Salad. It is paired with Schofferhofer Weizen , a German lemon-wheat beer brewed outside of Bavaria, which has a bolder, fruity character.

Hovels Original
Fluffy Caramelized Pancake...
I loved it!
The Third Course is a Fluffy Caramelized Pancake with Apple and Bavarian Cream. It is a signature dessert, souffled in the pan and then cut and caramelized. I chose this pairing for the Hovels Original because of its sophisticated taste.

The Foodaholic: We love celebrating Oktoberfest here in Miami. Have you done Oktoberfest in Miami before?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: I've never done Oktoberfest in Miami but I have done it in New York and Austria. To me, Oktoberfest is best experienced through rustic food, sausages and schnitzels. This is why I chose four different sausages to be featured throughout the event, Bratwurst, Curry Sausage, and an Austrian take on a sausage stuffed with cheese. They are authentic and a true representation of our cuisine.

Nothing like Oktoberfest: Authentic
Sausages, Pretzels and Beer
The Foodaholic: Do you have plans to open any other venues in NYC in the near future?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: We are in the process of opening a chef-driven cocktail bar this Fall. Mixologists make infusions, which is very similar to a combination of a chef and a bartender. Why shouldn't two chefs who have experience in the area come up with cocktail recipes? You find a lot of vegetable components and herbs in drinks, so this will be an original way to combine the two areas.

The Foodaholic: What about Miami and the Fort Lauderdale area? We would love to have an establishment serving authentic Austrian cuisine. Think you might consider expanding here?

Chef Wolfgang Ban: Never say never. I was down in the Brickell area two weeks ago and I liked what I saw. The weather is nice and it is a totally different market. Who knows?

Awesome time!

For more information on Oktoberfest! Brickell and the Brickell Bier Garden, visit their website at!event/mainPage. Hurry's happening right now!

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