Sunday, November 30, 2008

Scarpetta Miami @ The Fontainebleau

Of all the restaurants opening at the Fontainebleau I was most excited about Scarpetta, the hip Italian newcomer that wasn't generating as much buzz as Gotham Steak and Hakassan but seemed equally as compelling as those other chef-driven spots. If you keep up with the New York dining scene you know that Chef Scott Conant's opening this year gave Manhattan food people a reason to rethink Ital staples like spaghetti and fried mozzarella with renewed interest. (The NYTimes review sums it up nicely). So we ventured to the recently-renovated gargantuan hotel to see if the Miami outpost lived up to the Big Apple hype. And the answer is - Yes. Yes it does. It's a damn good restaurant with a very talented chef. Put simply: the man know his way around a tomato and thankfully we get to reap the benefits of that sublime partnership.
First, the space. It's gorgeous. Romantic without sacraficing class, the chrome, brass and marble play off nicely with the blue and grey nautical color scheme. If it's a nice night, sit outside on the sprawling oceanfront patio. But it would be a shame to miss out on one of the city's more handsome dining rooms.

We started off with the basket of focaccia and stromboli bread made in-house (the bread and the pasta are all made in-house) and a starter of fried mozzarella lightly breaded and served over stewed tomatoes that had just the right amount of sweetness and acidity coaxed out of their juicy selves. The polenta starter was also ridiculously silky and rich, accompanied by a ramekin of stewed mushrooms that added an earthy gravy.
But on to the spaghetti.
It may seem odd to rhapsodize about such a banal dish - pasta with basil and tomatoes - but it was surprisingly flavorful and satisfying. At $23 it's probably the most one would ever pay for spaghetti but when the execution is so honest and the effect so fulfilling it's easy to see how a dish like that could inspire return visits.
Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave, 305-674-4660.

Basel Parties to Crash

Looking to party like it's 2006? The NYPost has a few parties you may consider crashing:
On Tuesday, hotelier Andre Balazs and artist Ambra Medda are hosting a soirée at the Raleigh, while Cartier fetes artist Anri Sala at the Miami Beach Botanical Center. A day later, Rolling Stone salutes Takashi Murakami at French-electro lounge Louis at the Gansevoort, while Kelly Klein celebrates her new book, "Horses," at the Raleigh and the Deitch Gallery hosts a concert by the Gossip at Casa Tua. On Friday, Steven Soderbergh and Benicio Del Toro will hawk their epic movie, "Che," at the Raleigh, while Cartier has a dinner for David Lynch at the Botanical Center. Finally, on Dec. 5, Estelle is performing at the Fontainebleau.
Wait a minute, Jeffrey Deitch is having his annual Wednesday night bacchanalia at Casa Tua instead of the sprawling Raleigh backyard? I smell cutbacks...

Hustle Collective @ The Marlin Hotel

Patrick Mimran Opening Dec. 2

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cutbacks at the Art Basel Camp

Remember the fleet of BMW's that used to ferry VIP's during Art Basel? Well, that's a relic of the high-falootin' past. Conde Nast Portfolio reports that BMW has pulled out sponsorship at this year's fair.
What's next? No champagne in the Collector's Lounge?
Fret not, the bubbly is still secure thanks to a lounge sponsored by Ruinart featuring works by Maarten Baas.
Thank gawd.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Options

Here are few in case you're still in need of Turkey Day delights:

Rare Steakhouse will celebrate with a Thanksgiving prix-fixe menu ($55 per person), that includes an à la carte turkey entrée. Accompanied by a butternut squash soup and sides of yams, mashed potatoes and green beans, the Thanksgiving feast is perfectly paired with a glass of wine and traditional dessert.

SUSHISAMBA – Serves a Caribbean Mojo Turkey entrée ($21) and a decadent caramel Thanksgiving cocktail ($11)

Raphael Restaurant – Offers a Matzo meal stuffed kosher turkey ($25) with a side of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and a homemade, house-baked apple pie.

Kitchen 305 – For $99 pick up a turkey feast for four with all the traditional trimmings.

Lounge Grand Opening Sale

Nektar De Stagni Season Opening

Monday, November 24, 2008

Miami Tours De-Suckified

The good folks at MiamiBeach 411 have launched a worthwhile initiative called Miami Tour Company whereby they take the lameness out of the typical Miami city tour and replace it with insider info, intelligent storytelling and a sense of local pride. Best of all, the tours are available in English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian.
I don't often take these tours (too busy doing errands, and you know, living in Miami) but I think next time a friend is in town I'll suggest we load up on some bevvies from Wet Willie's and hop on the bus. We might just learn something.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Small Cars, Big Ideas

The Wolfsonian has partnered with Cranbrook Academy of Art, and Smart Car, during the week of Art Basel|Miami Beach and Design Miami (December 2-9, 2008), to host to eight Smart cars, each customized with a different quote about democracy from a renowned artist or designer and with graphics created by Elliot Earls, Cranbrook’s artist-in-residence The cars will be used to transport guests of the two institutions.
From the press release:
The project, titled Smart: Thoughts on Democracy, complements The Wolfsonian’s exhibit Thoughts on Democracy, an initiative in which more than sixty artists and designers created original works inspired by Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” posters. The idea of the exhibition—inviting artists and designers to participate in a graphic “remix” that reinterprets Rockwell’s posters in today’s visual language and given today’s political climate—has resulted in a thought-provoking and stimulating exhibition on view in the museum’s lobby through December 7, 2008. The exhibition, in turn, gave rise to the idea of soliciting artists’ quotes on democracy to include on the Smart cars.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meet Me at the Cafeteria or Three

On to the cafe experience.
Google has 19 restaurants, some of which serve 3 meals a day. All of which serve lunch. I only managed to sample 7 which included a Mexican joint, a vegan smoothie bar (where I consumed a delicious pumpkin soup), Cafe 150 whereby all the food served is sourced from within 150 miles of the location, a California cuisine spot, and the main restaurant Charlie's which offers global fare like Indian food, sushi, Thai and barbecue all in one spot. Charlie's was actually the low point of all the dining experiences, probably because we hit it at 8pm one night and they were down to a pan of Pad Thai, some hot dogs and a platter of seaweed salad. Every cafe features a panini station and a salad bar chock full of creative offerings like sauteed mushrooms, grapefruit segments, qiunoa and pumpkin seeds in addition to greens and veggies.
Here's lunch from No Name, located on main campus. Not only was it beautiful to behold, but a pleasure to consume. Observe: grilled broccolini, Moroccan rice, cheddar focaccia bread, roasted lamb with apple chutney, cauliflower gratin, tempeh steak, broiled cobia, roasted apples, sauteed squash and a few petals of shaved watermelon radish just because they were so pretty. As one googler put it nonchalantly, it's a good $30 meal.

Next, lunch at Google's San Francisco office.
The cafeteria offers views of the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge but I was more concerned with what was on my plate: curry cauliflower, sauteed kale, shiitake mushrooms, pizza with mushrooms and sundried tomatos, pan-seared salmon and portobello mushroom soup that rocked my world. In fact, the soups were a highlight of the whole experience, each one incredibly complex and satisfying on the semi-cold days. Other days I tried a fennel leak soup which I could have consumed an entire vat of, and a bracing tomato lentil that almost made me forgo the rest of my meal. Almost.

Desserts were usually hit or miss. A sour cream apple cake and chocolate mousse being the best, a stale chocolate-drizzled soft pretzel (wha?) being the worst. But you can always count on the little freezer of It's-It ice cream sandwiches, custom-branded and always available to satisfy my ever-expanding appetite.

Feasting at Google

Spending a week at the Google campus has given me a new outlook on the beast that is the corporate cafeteria. Google's amazing food program has been well-documented and while there are plenty of perks enjoyed by employees that are not food-related, I was predictably obsessed with getting all that organic bounty into ma belly.

My first encounter came in the form of a Micro Kitchen (above), located in every office cluster. A micro kitchen is a pot-smoking munchie fiend's dream. Albeit, one that cares about fair trade coffee, organic cheese crackers and Vitamin Water. The caffeine options are impressive - espresso machines, a fresh bean grinder, lovely hand stitched green tea bags and Guru energy drinks. Then there are the snacks: bags of Pirate's Booty, Kettle Chips, blue corn chips, organic animal crackers, almonds, pistachios, wasabi-flavored rice cakes. Glass jars of cereals, protein bars, dried fruit, yogurt. Oh, and if that's not enough, there are refrigerators of Naked Juice in every lobby, in case you need a little spirulina smoothie to get you going. After sampling every variety I concluded that Mighty Mango is the best.
Raiding the micro kitchen everyday I wondered how any Googler did any work when there was so much productive snacking to be done. Combine that with the fact that some micro kitchens are flanked by pool tables and table tennis set-ups and you have a recipe for a lot of hanging out time.
Next up, the cafeterias.

Friday, November 21, 2008

California Burrito Madness

I've been in Northern California all week working on a project at the Googleplex (more on that later) and made it my mission to consume a burrito a day.
I'm an ambitious gal.
Best in show has been La Costena with what they claim is the world's largest burrito. Bring it on, I said to the abuella behing the counter. I was ready for a monstrous tube of Mexican gooey goodness and indeed it was. Really two flour tortillas wrapped in each other, it's like a double-burrito for $9.79. The fork below gives you some idea of scale. What makes a burrito the stuff of legends is the freshness of ingredients, good salsa, not overly-mushy beans, crunchy tomates and cilantro and this baby had it all. Of course I couldn't move for a good hour afterward, but it's a small price to pay for a caliente treat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beauty Swag

A little beauty bonus for you gals out there:
Thursday November 20 is Customer Appreciation Day at Van Michael Miami salon. The Salon will be offering:
* 20% discount on Aveda products
* With a purchase of $50 or more in product Receive Aveda’s Triple Happiness Gift Set
* $15 off Damage Remedy Hair Spa Treatment (Usually $26)
Van Michael Miami
1667 Michigan Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Thursday, November 13, 2008

HEEB Storytelling

Hipster Jew mag HEEB comes to town for a marathon-storytelling event whereby 7 writers share 7 minutes of Jewy goodness. Oy! I'm kvelling just thinking about it.

Performers: Karelle Levy, Stephanie Green, Martha Frankel, Richy Lala, Jen Karetnick, Larry Beinhart, Andrea Askowitz , hosted by Daniel Reskin

November 14, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. on the Fair Grounds (NE 2nd Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, Miami)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Brosia Lunch

Now that the weather has cooled down Brosia's spacious patio is a very attractive lunch destination in the Design District. I camped out with my laptop there recently (oh outdoor wifi, how I adore thee!) and had a leisurely lunch, very fitting given the restaurant's casual Mediterranean fare.

Started off with a roasted beet salad and babaganoush for the mezze course. Both were refreshing starters with the red and yellow hunks of lightly-dressed beets given a nice tangy kick by the goat cheese. The baba's garlic was kept firmly in check, no easy feat when it comes to the wily eggplant dip.

Moved on to a smoked salmon tart with caramelized onions and arugula and the buccatini with roasted peppers, mushrooms and eggplant. The tart had a delicate flaky crust and was not as heavy or rich as anticipated which was a good thing, given our desire for a light lunch. The buccatini, while not an extremely exciting dish was nonetheless well-executed with al-dente pasta, fresh ingredients and a punchy white wine-garlic sauce. Couldn't resist adding a side of polenta since I remembered loving it the last time I was at Brosia and it was still very good - thick and cheesy, and I managed to polish off the bowl. Capped it with a strong cappucino underneath the oak trees and thought to myself, This is November? This is why I live here.
Address: 163 NE 39th St. (305) 572-1400

Saturday, November 08, 2008

March of Dimes Signature Chefs Event

Scene: The March of Dimes chefs event at the InterContinental Miami a few weeks ago. (I know, I know. I should have posted the night of, but I was way too full of savory and sweet. Note to self: Do not follow-up a mini-key lime bundt cake with a heaping plate of Rosa Mexicano's fabulous guacamole. It's. Just. Not. Worth it.)
The crowd: Socialites, philanthropists, foodies, media types.
The food: Tastings from practically every noteworthy restaurant in town. Standouts include the Kona Kampachi with jalapeno and ponzu from Pacific Time, short rib grilled cheese from Table 8 and an amazing braised beef from Cioppino. The Four Seasons also turned out some very pretty desserts, below.

Chefs: There were dozens, but my Kobe slider-addled brain can only recall seeing genial Allen Susser, Hiro Asano of Abokado, and hottie Chef Jeff McInnis of The Dilido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach (watch him this season on Top Chef). Oh, and the playful duo from Paradigm and Neomi's Grill at the Trump, chefs Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano, offering up their Hamachi with soy caviar, a hit the next night at the Chowhound Paradigm dinner.

And the sugary confections from We Take the Cake, purveyors of aforementioned deliciously rich mini key lime cakes. I always jump right for the desserts at these things. Nothing like a charity event to bring out my inner-glutton.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Warm Up for Coldplay

Attention all fans of Brit rock. Coldplay will be gracing our breezy night air with soulful crooning this Sunday at the Bank Atlantic Center. And yes, tickets are steep. But is holding one of their nifty contests whereby you can score super-sweet suite seats. Check it.