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The Sip: Bartender from Tampa's Fly Bar in N.Y. competition

Published:   |   Updated: June 25, 2013 at 12:38 PM

In 2004, Dawn Heidemann was laid off from her management job at Capital One in Tampa after 6 years.

In addition to severance, she was given career guidance, including a class that asked, "What Do You Want To Be?"

Being a bartender sounded fun. She had no hospitality experience, but it had to be more creative than managing a bank's call center.

So Heidemann went to bartending school, eventually landing a job at a sports bar in Clearwater named Marbles. From there she worked behind the bar at the Paradise Lakes clothing-optional resort south of Tampa.

"The uniforms were very small," she said.

But her expertise blossomed after she landed at Bern's Steak House, making syrups and juices in-house for the high-volume bar. She later built her knowledge of dessert wine pairings while managing the restaurant's Harry Waugh Dessert Room.

Heidemann, 34, now works at Fly Bar & Restaurant in Tampa and is one of the founding members of the local Left Coast Bartenders Guild which holds the enormous Repeal Day Party in Ybor City and last weekend's Tiki Party on St. Pete Beach.

Earlier this week, she competed against 20 contestants at the Diageo World Class U.S. Finale in New York City, which tested her culinary creativity, her palate and her mixology craftsmanship in what many call the Bartending Olympics.

Challenges included blind tastings, food pairings and making cocktails, including one classic drink and one cocktail that reflects the 1970s or 1980s. For her classic drink, she made a Rosita with tequila, dry and sweet vermouth, Campari and Angostura bitters. For the second, she made an apricot cocktail reminiscent of the wine coolers that were popular during those years.

As one of only four women in the finals, she hopes her participation inspires others to compete.

"It stretches my creativity," Heidemann says. "Something like this pushes me beyond my comfort level. I like to do it and I think it's good for me."

Champagne Super Dining

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar on Boy Scout Boulevard in Tampa continues to host outstanding wine dinners that are paired with great food. Last week's four-course dinner featuring Collet Champagnes is a perfect example.

Unlike other dinners where sparkling wines are served either as a starter or a dessert pairing, the Collet dinner featured the French winery's Champagnes with each course. You might not think a flute of bubbly would pair well with a plank of Icelandic cod with chorizo or a veal osso bucco but Collet's Grand Art brut and 2002 Millesime not only stood up to the bold flavors, brought out the high notes in each of those respective dishes.

Sebastien Walasiak, Collet's chef de cave, introduced each variety with tasting notes and finished the evening with by sabering the cork off a bottle of Demi Sec, to the cheers of the 30 or so in attendance.

To find out about the restaurant's private dinners, go online to register as a Friend of Fleming's at flemingssteakhouse.com.

WOB's Taste of Belgium

World of Beer is now featuring C'est la Vie!, its first private-label beer brewed exclusively for limited-time distribution at its taverns.

World of Beer, which started in Tampa in 2007 and since spread to 13 states, partnered with the Belgium-based award-winning Bavik Brewery to make the beer.

"It's a very approachable beer, yet has enough unique qualities to really stand out," said Marc Sawyer, brewery and distributor relations director for World of Beer Franchising. "We wanted to combine our passion for beer with Bavik's passion for brewing."

Sips of the Week

--The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, both at Stein & Vine in Valrico. For the Kentucky Bourbon Ale, old whiskey barrels are used to age the beer and give it a more mellow flavor. The Ten Fidy will put hair on your chest with its deep flavors of chocolate, caramel and coffee.

--Pomegranate Margarita Martini at Seasons 52 in Tampa, made with Patron Silver tequila, Patron Citronge and pomegranate juice.

-- Lola Belle Cherry Rum, which when mixed with soda makes an incredibly tasty beverage called the Lola Cola. Throw in some Maraschino cherries for full effect. Think of it like a Cherry Coke with a kick.

jhouck@tampatrib.com

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