– Orlando Style Magazine

Lanie Lane’s blues-jazzy voice serenades us as we dine. The dish? Soy and Ginger Tare Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, Forbidden Rice and Scallion Mélange, Sea Beans, and Pickled Fresno Peppers, paired with Grand Vintage Blanc 2006. It’s an intimate atmosphere – fifty to sixty guests in a Hard Rock Hotel ballroom. Tables set with glass plates and stylish silverware, mood lighting and music accompanying each course. Our hosts for the evening are Moet Hennessy Ambassador Kate Hoff and Eric Jenkins, assistant director of food and beverage for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando. Together they orchestrate a unique, five-course wine-pairing dinner, where music, wine, and food rock out. Tonight’s Wine Riffs pairs Moet & Chandon Champagne selections with delicious culinary creations by the hotel’s chefs.

“[Wine Riffs] was born two years ago,” Jenkins told me during the reception. It involved throwing around many ideas, whilst drinking lots of wine. The goal was to create a wine-pairing event that was unique to the Hard Rock resort and to the brand. In the end, a wine dinner imbued with music was a natural choice. The Hard Rock would not settle for a boring, too-highbrow dinner either! Wine Riffs is loud, fun, with rock ‘n’ roll celeb elegance. It’s the anti-wine dinner. Thanks to the Vibe Manager, Molly Ford, eclectic music soundtracks tie the meal together, adding to the overall Hard Rock ambience.

orlando-dining n style-wine riffs1Tonight’s event is the fourth Wine Riffs dinner of 2014, with special thanks to Kate Hoff, Moet & Hennessey, and Coastal Wine and Spirits. What makes Wine Riffs worth checking out is that each dinner features different wines, sounds, and plates. No Wine Riffs event is the same! One of the many reasons we had regulars sitting at our table.

“Our next Wine Riffs will be held on March 6,” Jenkins said. Guests will imbibe on Argentine wines from Bodega Catena Zapata of Mendoza. Each wine will be paired with a fancy dish to entice the palates, and the Vibe Manager will pick the best soundtracks.

Having sampled the truffle deviled eggs and Ahi tuna summer rolls (served with Ice Imperial), tried a chive omelet and poached oyster (paired with Grant Vintage Rose 2004), tasted the unique fusion of seared pistachio crusted scallop, black Italian truffle, and kabocha and ricotta ravioli (paired with Imperial Brut), and still praising the Chilean sea bass dish, guests are now ready to move on to the fourth course: Serrano Wrapped Filet Mignon served with Sautéed Tuscan Kale and Seared Foie Gras, paired with Dom Perignon 2004. The soundtrack for this plate includes music by Lana Del Rey, Sia, and Lorde.

After each bubbly is introduced, Hoff narrates a brief story about the Champagne, and Jenkins throws in amusing personal anecdotes. We had a trivia game too! Throughout the evening the lights turned from soft blues to sparkly, when the disco ball in the middle of the room created the illusion that we’re dining amidst floating diamonds.

“Baby One More Time,” by pop princess Britney Spears, opens the evening’s Finale: White chocolate heaven. Overall, it’s a playful atmosphere.

Up until now, Wine Riffs was somewhat of a secret because it was aimed at local audiences. But Hard Rock may be ready to open up a little more. Shoot an email to Molly Ford ( requesting to add your name to the Wine Riffs list.

Besides curating the Wine Riffs tracks and DJing the dinner, Ford selects and programs all of the music that’s heard throughout the Hard Rock Hotel. From music selection to lighting, she makes sure the vibe is just right at the California mansion-like hotel. At the palm-lined swimming pool, the rock vibe continues as guests enjoy underwater music.

orlando-dining n style-wine riffs2The Hard Rock Hotel has 650 deluxe rooms (29 suites), restaurants and lounges, ballrooms … fit for a rock king or queen. The hotel’s Velvet Bar, located by the lobby, hosts Orlando’s only monthly rock ‘n’ roll cocktail party called Velvet Sessions. Joan Jett and Eddie Money are two of the many past artists.

And every rock king and queen deserves celeb privileges, right? One of the perks of staying at the Hard Rock is the VIP “Skip the Regular Line” privilege at both Universal Orlando theme parks. Show your room key at one of the designated kiosks to receive your express pass ticket!

For more information on Wine Riffs, call 407.503.2405. And for more info on The Hard Rock Hotel, visit

Rock on!