By Martin Balderama

Presented by Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster
Featuring Dick Waters of PALM RIDGE RESERVE &
Paul Twyford of WINTER PARK DISTILLING CO.

Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, formerly Del Frisco’s, invited us to a unique private dinner with bourbon and whiskey pairings. A night marked with top of the line menu items, accented and enhanced with samples from two local distilleries Palm Ridge Reserve and Winter Park Distilling Company, and cocktails prepared by one of Christner’s top bartender and mixologist.

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The night kicked off with thinly sliced baked chips with creamy blue cheese and avocado dressing for dipping and paired samples of Palm Ridge’s Palm Ridge White Whiskey and Winter Park Distilling Company’s Bear Gully Classic Corn Whiskey. The thought of white whiskey may put off many but the smooth and surprisingly edgy flavor is definitely recommended. The oily chips paired with the white whiskey pairing was a wonderful starter private room event.

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As our group sipped and dipped, owners Dick and Marti Waters of Palm Ridge and Paul Tywood of Winter Park Distilling Company displayed their knowledge in bourbon and whiskey. They described the careful distilling process, gave us a brief impression of whiskey’s lush history spanning from Kentucky to Scotland, and illustrated how Central Florida of all places provided a great opportunity for such a distinct and unique spirit to be produced in.

Next up was a pair of stimulating dishes, lightly done sesame seared tuna and full classic lettuce wedge salad. The seared tuna came generously enclosed in nutty sesame seeds was rich yet remarkable in its flavor. One can describe the lettuce wedge, sprinkled with blue cheese crumbles and bits of bacon, as the perfect link to the tuna. Combined with the classic sweet and slightly bitter Sazerac, professionally mixed with Palm Ridge’s Palm Ridge Rye by Dan our bartender, made the course brilliant.

Continuing soon after was one of Christner’s favorite, the 16 oz USDA Prime Ribeye. The perfectly grilled and nicely seasoned steak came along with Broccoli Au Gratin & Chateau Potatoes side dishes. The ribeye arrived medium rare and the two dishes both hearty and enchanting. Dan then mixed versions of two traditional whiskey cocktails, a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned, while providing a brief history of the two. Each cocktail blended with the two local distilleries’ reserve whiskeys. The main course helped everyone in the room become both full and pleased.

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Dinner ended with Crème Brulee and coffee as desserts and a last pairing of the two distilleries’ bourbon whiskey. Not many may think that deserts and whiskey go together but one will be surprised in the taste of the sweet and smooth vanilla custard of the crème brulee mixed with bourbon’s equally charming spiciness. It is something to be experienced for sure.

The event was overall entertaining, informative, and wonderfully done. Filled with perfectly crafted cocktails, expertly prepared dishes, and memorable stories from hosts and guests alike.

Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster’s intimate setting proves to be the ideal venue for such an occasion.

Let’s not forget the superb job that the two special guests did in presenting their two distilleries, Palm Ridge Reserve and Winter Park Distillery Co.

by Kris Doan

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The first course started off with baked potato slices with a side of avocado and bleu cheese dressings, which definitely prepped our stomachs for the numerous drinks we were to have that night, these chips were paired with Palm Ridge’s White Whiskey and Winter Park’s Bear Gully Classic Corn Whiskey. Though I most note I am still developing my “finer” or “grown up” palette in regards to liquor I must say that both samples were quite smooth and bold. It was then I realized that we were in for a memorable night with new experiences.

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Our potato slices were then followed by an appetizer, lettuce wedges topped with bacon, blue cheese, and the house dressing, which was very appetizing. Going with the lettuce wedge approach allowed to minimize the mess I typically make when it comes to salads. This salad was paired with a sazerac a drink that is made from whiskey and bitters as well as seared tuna which complimented the salad and drink quite well. The blue cheese within the salad mellowing out the bitter taste of our cocktail.

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For the main course we were given Christener’s USDA Prime Ribeye steaked, cooked to a perfect medium rare and fairly seasoned. This was coupled with Brocolli au Gratin and Chateau Potatoes all of which combined together kept our hunger satisfied with its hearty flavor. This course was paired with a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned, by which this point I was satisfied with the amount of drinks that I had, in my defense this night I wasn’t in the mood for drinks, however I still sampled all the drinks all of which were of the highest quality.

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The last course of the night was dessert to which we were given an amazing creme brule as well as coffee which was honestly a bad idea because I could not sleep that night. However the creme brule was amazing, creamy, with hints of vanilla, I must say I am not much of a dessert person, but the dish was amazing and though I was full by this point the dessert was gone in a matter of seconds.

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Overall the night was amazing, me being perhaps the youngest person in the room I must say that this was an experience that I will remember for days to come, I learned so much about the hard work and dedication that both Dick and Marty from Palm Ridge and Paul from Winter Park Distilling put into their products, putting out high quality products in the state of Florida to which one may describe them as pioneers within their craft in Florida.

I got the chance to meet amazing individuals who explained to me the trends in the industry as well as learn how to make various cocktails that I was not aware of.

It gave me an appreciation for finer liquor, and it will be a night that I will always remember.

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Kris Doan, born in Norfolk, VA raised in Orlando, FL grew up traveling many places across the United States with his family where he gained an appreciation for trying new foods at different places, Kris spends most of his time at the gym where he enjoys powerlifting and running, apart from that he enjoys watching numerous food shows on TV, his all time favorites are shows such as Anthony Bourdain's The Layover and No Reservations as well as Bizarre Foods: with Andrew Zimmern. Kris is a graduate from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Military Science, as well as commissioned through the Reserve Officer's Training Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. Where he will pursue his career at his duty station in the beautiful state of Hawaii.