COMMENTARY: Wine-tasting at Cooper’s Hawk hits mark for mall’s future

Updated Jan 18, 2018
The retail space at Cooper’s Hawk restaurant offers gifts and wine related products at The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens Thursday April 13, 2017. (Meghan McCarthy / Palm Beach Post)

Long after Santa has gone back to the North Pole and the crowds have cleared out from foodie events and charitable lunches, one end of The Gardens Mall struggles to entice shoppers.

RELATED: Dining review: Wine-loving Cooper’s Hawk brings bold flavors to The Gardens Mall

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant offers a glimmer of hope where Sears has floundered and the Gap closing is imminent.

RELATED: New restaurant Cooper’s Hawk lands in Palm Beach Gardens

Sears has tangled with the city over plans to lease space to Dick’s Sporting Goods as a means of survival. The department store prevailed, but while it works out the details, the sweet aroma of Mrs. Field’s Cookies and the sleek wine bar at Cooper’s Hawk seem to be the biggest draws in that wing of the mall.

Despite the buzz and a flattering review from Food Editor Liz Balmaseda, I still hadn’t been to Cooper’s Hawk to find out what all the fuss was about until this week.

My friend reminded me that we both had coupons for a free tasting for two from the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival’s Grand Tasting, and we finally made plans to go Wednesday evening. (Full disclosure: The Palm Beach Post was a sponsor for that event at the mall last month.)

Overall, the tasting was a great experience. We went early enough on a Wednesday night that the tasting room wasn’t packed, as my friend tells me it usually is, and indeed, it was more crowded when we left around 7.

The personable bartender said he didn’t know much about wine until he took this job. As a wine novice myself, I couldn’t tell.

The free tasting included eight pours of Cooper’s Hawk’s wines, including one of their “lux” pinot noirs and the wine of the month, a cabernet with dark fruit and vanilla flavors. I prefer white wine but wanted to expand my palate, so I did the tasting as is.

The accommodating bartender swapped out some whites to replace the reds for my friend, who wasn’t feeling as adventurous.

The last sample — a tart ice wine with scents of apricot, peach puree and ripe pineapple — was my favorite. (Wine snobs, I feel your judgment.)

Afterward, we moseyed over to the bar/restaurant side so I could try the crab beignet appetizer that had caught my eye on the menu. The beignets were more like deep-fried crab balls than any sort of powdered pastry you’d find in New Orleans. Nonetheless, they were rich and delicious, with a generous portion of crab.

My friend had the egg rolls, which were just as tasty.

I didn’t notice until I took a second look at the wine menu the next day that I could have topped off the tasting with a truffle from the bakery case for a mere $1. Learn from my missed opportunity.

Cooper’s Hawk is exactly the kind of “experience” that malls and retail centers are using to attract millennials like me who tend to favor buying their goods online. My fellow millennial friend and I had an enjoyable wine tasting, opened up our wallets for some food afterward and shopped at a couple of stores afterward.

Mission accomplished.