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Food For Thought: Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant

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Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant recently opened in Galleria Mall, in Ft. Lauderdale. While the company was founded in 2005 by CEO Tim McEnery and has many locations across the country and many more on the way, I had never heard of them before I was asked to head over for a review.  Not only is it an upscale, casual restaurant and bar, but Cooper’s Hawk is Ft. Lauderdale’s only (to my knowledge) Napa-style wine tasting room, perched in a former empty space they carved out over Season 51 and P.F. Chang’s.

It is just a ride in the brand new, dedicated elevator located just inside valet entrance at the Galleria to the second-floor location.  The elevator doors open directly into the tasting room where you can sample the Napa experience; try handcrafted wines and peruse wine accessories and the artisanal market. The new dining room is expansive with three large areas with gigantic glass windows that overlook Sunrise Boulevard. The décor is modern and upscale yet simple.

The scratch made menu is huge at Cooper’s Hawk and features contemporary American cuisine mixed with international favorites, all with a SoCal twist. Since this is a winery after all, the vino list is impressive.  Sip varietals by the glass, the bottle or by flights of four.

There are five different flights to choose from or let your inner wine snob shine and create your own. Not a wine fan, that’s OK too. The bar offers full liquor and great specialty cocktails, like the Cooper’s Hawk Margarita I enjoyed…Cazadores Reposado Tequila, Cointreau, sour mix, passion fruit and sparkling wine all were refreshing on a weekday afternoon.

My dining companion and I were starving so we ordered a lot by midday meal standards. As we sipped our beverages, our server brought out a loaf of pretzel bread and whipped butter. I ordered the Chopped Deviled Eggs and Toast.  More like a prepared egg salad than old-school deviled eggs, it was very unique. Chopped eggs, pickled vegetables (they were spicy), candied bacon, roasted red pepper, avocado and grape tomatoes were tossed in Calabrian Chili Aioli with a side tower of cheese toast.  My friend opted for the Mexican Drunken Shrimp wrapped in bacon with tequila-lime butter sauce and fresh guac…also outstanding! Other app options include salads, flatbreads, soups and a candied bacon and cheese board. I’m coming back for that one!

Main course selections are just as plentiful. Too many to mention beef, pork, seafood, chicken, pasta, risotto, vegetarian options, burgers, sandwiches and lunch size version of some of the most popular entrees make it nearly impossible to decide. After a long deliberation, I finally settled on the Pistachio-Crusted Grouper…a rustic, homestyle presentation with mustard sauce, smashed potatoes and asparagus. Drag diva Nicolette was my guest for lunch and ordered a “Surf & Turf” combo so we could try a few additional items.  Probably the most tender cut of swine I’ve had the pleasure of devouring is their Crispy Asian Pork with Gochujang Aioli. She paired it with an almost all-crab Crab Cake. Oven roasted autumn veggies and Mary’s mashed taters added to the overflowing platter of food.

Even though I was stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, I wasn’t leaving without desert! With no room for two, we struggled over the Lemon Ice Wine Cheesecake or the Banoffee Pie but finally settled on the pie.  A thick, individual graham cracker pie shell filled with bananas, toffee filling and fresh whipped cream was almost too decedent, but we finished it, child!

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant is located on the second floor inside the Galleria Mall at 2568 East Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and is open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 10:30pm and Sunday 11am to 9pm.  The bar stays open an extra hour daily. Reservations are strongly suggested and are available at 754-755-9463. The Happy Hour in the bar Monday through Friday from 3-6pm looks great for discounted wine, specialty drinks, select cocktails, and a dozen appetizers and flatbreads.

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