Saturday, February 27, 2010

Best of the Best 2010

In some ways Best of the Best is to the food world was Art Basel is to the art world. Meaning, the same way you can breeze through the convention center during AB and see the work of every significant gallery in the country (and world) without leaving Miami, so too could you roam the Fountainbleau ballroom last night and experience a tasting odyssey of the finest restaurants in the country. I made mental notes to check out Beast should I ever make it out to Portland, Oregon since chef Naomi Pomeroy's foie gras bon bon with quince champagne gelee was one of the richest bites of the evening.

She may also have the best restaurant name ever, second only to Los Angeles attendee Animal, there last night pushing head cheese and fried cornbread to a skeptical crowd. ("Is it...cheese?" asked a tipsy taster. "No, it's made from the parts of the pigs head," explained the chef good naturedly.) Also, their menu has a lot in common with Michael's Genuine. Adding it to the list for the next LA jaunt.
And if I'm ever in Chicago I will head straight to Bill Kim's Urbanbelly to have an entire bowl of the kimchi stew with Korean BBQ kogi and tofu, since the two shot glasses I snagged were deliciously spicy and comforting. My favorite bites of the night belonged to Miami chefs (you know me, always rooting for the home team). The Setai's Jonathan Wright (below) was doling out Peking Duck in a viscous egg yolk broth along with little bamboo steamers of veal cheek buns.

Marco Ferrero from Wish was passing out hefty slices of roasted short rib over creamy polenta that party goers quickly gobbled and it was hard to get at Solea's table where Marc Vidal's veal cheeks were muy popular.
Best presentation of the night goes to David Burke's foie gras dumplings with dry-aged lacquered duck and mango chutney.

And when it comes to wine my heart belongs to Stag's Leap and their ridiculously smooth and balanced 2006 SLV. If I'm ever in Napa...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top Chefs @ Mondrian Tonight

There are a few reasons to commandeer an oversize cabana bed at Mondrian’s Sunset Lounge tonight. You’ll get to hobnob with chefs like Todd English and a slew of Top Chef and Hells Kitchen alums. And there are the complimentary Leblon cachaca cocktails from 10-11pm along with a DJ set from restaurant protégé Zach Chodorow.

February 25, 10pm-1am, 1100 West Ave, 305-514-1500.

La Vie Grand Marnier

While others were busy Burger Bashing last night I made my way to the Temple House in South Beach for a Grand Marnier-drenched soiree. The building used to be a synagogue and was renovated by a wealthy entrepreneur who now throws parties there. So it felt slightly salacious downing French cocktails where folks used to say kadish on Yom Kippur but isn't that what makes South Beach so interesting? All that contrast. Or maybe it's just a lack of tact....

In any case, What I found most surprising about the event was how effctively people adhered to the red attire suggestion on the invite. Dang, women sure do like to wear red dresses. Also a revelation: Grand Marnier isn't such a bad cocktail base. Best drink of the night: The Grand Smash made with lemon juice and muddled mint. Best dish of the night was the sea bass with soy cashew sauce, though the roasted rack of lamb with shiitake gremolata was quite nice as well.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Free Fish Tacos and Cocktails @ The Shore Club

PlumTV Sobe Food Fest Redux

It's hard to post a video of yourself on your blog without seeming self-serving but the good folks at PlumTV were kind enough to invite me on their show to chat about the Sobe Wine and Food fest and the least I can do is repost the clip. So here it is, featuring me with possibly the best haircut I've ever recieved (all $150 worth) from the new Red Market salon at Bal Harbour Shops. Lord knows I'll never be able to recreate that coiffe on my own.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mouton Cadet Wines @ Raleigh Penthouse

The wine festivities started early this year with Mouton Cadet's classy soiree at the Raleigh Penthouse Tuesday night. We got there a bit late (missed the Lee Schrager cameo) but with more than enough time to work through half a dozen different wines. The party was in honor of Mouton Cadet's 80th anniversary and that's all well and nice for them and their $10/bottles of Bordeauxs but what caught my eye was the text at the bottom of the invite mentioning that they'd be pouring a few select bottle from the Mouton Rothschild label. You know, the pricey stuff.

So we settled in and waited for the sweet, sweet nectar of the French gods. And after a few chocolate cupcakes, Carr's water crackers and manchego cheese croquettes our patience was rewarded as we flagged down one of the waiters carrying a double magnum of something red, smooth and tasty (the Chateau d'Armailhac, Grand Cru Classe Pauillac 1995). A great wine, splendid even. But not sublime. A few more snacks - trays of strawberries, pressed panini sandwiches and more chocolate cupcakes - and there it was with its playful sheep kicking up its heels on the label, almost like a carefree French schoolboy, a schoolboy who probably drinks this stuff from a thermos for lunch everyday - Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac 1999, a bottle of wine that goes for upwards of $500. It's a glorious wine, fit for a glorious night, which it was. Standing out on 8th floor terrace of hotel we looked out on South Beach and toasted the festival.
Bring on the requisite wine necklaces, me so ready to get my sip on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dinner En Rouge Menu

According to the Sobe Fest website, Thursday night's Grand Marnier dinner will be a red-themed cocktail-soaked dînatoire (which is French for "dinner buffet" thankyouvermuch). Chef Claude Troisgros (consulting chef for Blue Door at the Delano) will be rolling out a shmorg that features a few of Blue Door's greatest hits along with some creative additions (scallops with dulce de leche sound compelling). See below for the menu and ensuing belly grumbling.


Passed Hors d’ Oeuvres
Caprese Salad Skewer
Fresh buffalo Mozzarella,
Yellow and Red Tomatoes, Fresh Basil

Salmon Tartar
Crispy Cucumbers, Tapioca Caviar, Wasabe Vinaigrette

Thon Thon
Seared Rare Yellowfin Tuna with marinated Daikon, Soy, Ginger & Lime Juice

Guacamole, Blue Crab & Crispy Shrimp with Spiced Tomato Couls

Saffron Lobster
Main Lobster with Saffron Mayonnaise,
Bacon Served on Toasted Brioche

Buffet Reception

Steak Tartare
Chopped Filet of Beef with Anchony, Capers, Boiled Egg,
Truffle Oil on a Baguette Crostini

Brazilian Chicken Skewers
Chicken Breast, Grilled Vegetables, Twelve Spices & Honey

Shitake & Duck Confit, Ginger and Cilantro

St. Jaques “Docedeleite”
Sauteed Scallops, Grilled hearts of Palm, Dulce de Leche & Wild rice Popcorn

Entrée Stations

Chilean Sea Bass
Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Hearts of Palm
Soy glazed Cashew Nuts, Lime & Fresh Herbs

Steak a la Bordelaise
Strip Steak with Pencil Asparagus & Bordelaise Sauce

Lamb Morel
Roasted Baby Rack of Lamb with Morel Mushroom Crust, Sauteed Haricot Verts, Shitake Mushrooms, Red Wine & Thyme Sauce

Passed Dessert

Spicy Apple Tart
Baked Apple and Cashew Nut Tart with Caramel Drizzle

Molten Chocolate Cake
Melted Chocolate Cake, Drizzled with Grand Marnier Sauce

White Chocolate Crème Brulee
Chocolate Swirl, Whipped Cream served on a Chinese Spoon

Raspberry Napoleon
Caramelized Filo Dough, Raspberries, Navan Napoleon Cream

Organic Omelets and Endless Bloody Marys

The long, lazy, boozy brunch is a beautiful thing. Something I should take advantage of more often. Luckily a few worthy candidates have popped around town to add to my brunch rotation.

First up, there's the recently-launched organic buffet helmed by Essensia’s new chef Frank Jeannetti. Request an outdoor table on the veranda at the Deco hotel and work your way through custom omelets, whole wheat waffles, pasta and risotto stations and a dessert table piled with cookies, mousses, tarts and pots de crème. An added bonus: a complimentary glass of Lamarca Prosecco or a mimosa.
Sundays, 11:30am-3pm, $39, 3025 Collins Ave, 305-908-5458.

And now the Angler’s presents a tomato juice-fueled brunch-nanza with their unlimited Bloody Mary Bar where $14 grants you the run of a tableside cart of fixings including Chianti Cured Salami. If you’re in the Mimosa mood, there’s also a $14 champagne cart to experiment with. Oh, the food? Try banana Nutella pancakes and steak and eggs with shallot fries.

Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-5pm, 660 Washington Ave, 305-534-9600.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fish and Wine Dinner @ Area 31

Right now Thursday may seem far off but sometimes you need to plan ahead.
Especially when it comes to Chef John Critchley’s four-course sustainable seafood dinner. It's taking place in conjunction with the South Beach Wine and Food Fest but it's not part of the official schedule. (It's also a bit more affordable than some of the SBWFF dinners.) The menu includes locally caught fish like Seared Key West Yellowtail Snapper with salsa verde and chestnut puree and House Smoked Local Kingfish Croquettes with avocado cream each paired with a boutique wine. We were privy to a media tasting a little while back and were impressed with the yellowtail dish and the creamy chestnut puree, something that should get a lot more exposure given how well it complimented the mild fish. The dinner starts at 8:30 but if you get there for the 7pm pre-reception you can pre-party on paella and crudo stations paired with beer, wine and sake.
Mango and Lime has a great rundown of the preview dinner here.
The dinner takes place February 25, 7-11pm, $175, 270 Biscayne Blvd Way, 305-424-5234.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hedy Goldsmith is a Genius, Reason #562

It's not news that the Michael's Genuine pastry chef is topnotch. And you don't need me to tell you how amazing her desserts are - she's got plenty of cheerleaders in this city. But I do feel it's my responsibility to share a taste of greatness when it crosses my plate. Here it is: bittersweet chocolate torte with homemade marshmallows, white chocolate brittle and rhubarb ice cream. Homemade friggin marshamallows. Hot damn.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Morgans Restaurant, Wynwood

Morgans Restaurant is the kind of unpretentious place that you'd find while riding your fixed-gear bike in Portland or Austin. It's probably a dime a dozen out there in the land of farmer's markets and lesbian bookstores but here it's downright exotic. The place is casually elegant and has a lot in common with Mandolin, another folksy newcomer fifteen blocks north in Buena Vista. Both are situated in restored Old Miami homes and offer modest, well-priced menus in cozy environs. Both are also developing loyal local followings based on positive word of mouth. It's all very grass roots and refreshingly PR-free.
Morgans is located in a sprawling 1930's house that the owners have outfitted with with mod white chairs, paper lanterns and polished concrete floors. There's a huge wrap-around porch with more seating and large wooden communal tables perfect for big parties. There's free wifi and relaxed service.

The food is simple, honest and satisfying.

They call is "modern homestyle" cooking which, depending on your mood, could mean a pulled pork sandwich on brioche or panko-crusted tofu with a sweet apricot soy sauce.

There's an effort to source local, seasonal produce.  The eggs are organic, the chicken is free-range and the beef is grass-fed. The flatbread dough is made in house, as are all the desserts. Which brings us to the pecan praline bread pudding and how you should order it if you're there. It's the love child of pecan pie and French toast.

See the menu here.
28 NE 29th St, 305-573-9678.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dim Sum Disco: Q & A With Chef Jonathan Wright

It's no surprise that the Dim Sum Disco event at the Setai has already sold out. At $150/ticket it's one of the more affordable events at this year's South Beach Wine and Food Fest. The price of admission nets you three hours of cocktails, Gloria Gaynor's greatest hits and five serious chefs (including Ming Tsai, David Muñoz Rosillo of DiverXo in Madrid and Tim Cushman of o ya in Boston) whipping up loads of dumplings and Asian goodness. Curious as to what's on the menu? Here's a quick rundown via Setai Executive Chef Jonathan Wright.

What types of cocktails can we expect?

There will be a variety of cocktails, among them will be some of our most popular Asian flavored libations including the Asian Picnic (smoked pork belly-infused Jack Daniels Bourbon, chile syrup, compressed watermelon-citrus-shiso) and the Ipanema made with blueberries, basil, Pensato Balsamic Vinegar and Leblon Cachaca.

In terms of the food, will it be traditional dim sum or more of a contemporary take?

As far as the dim sum goes, we’ll be presenting refined modern dim sum where we use flavored stock instead of water to make the doughs – some are flavored with truffle, some with stock made from Serrano ham. The fillings include braised oxtail, duck confit, cured foie gras, truffles – we have one which is a scallop, layered with black truffle and wrapped in Iberico ham, wrapped in puff pastry and baked.

There are also slow cooked duck eggs served with a jellied Peking duck broth and envoi mushrooms, as well as sea urchin and caviar with pickled ginger, wrapped in thinly sliced salmon, shiso leaves and then deep fried in tempura batter. We are preparing a Malaysian Laksa with crab claws, noodles and poached quail eggs. The thing with dim sum is that there are so many options, they are so versatile – it’s the Asian version of tapas. We plan on offering at least 20 different dishes -- We have five chefs, each presenting dim sum that represents their own to style and restaurant.

Logistically how will it all work? Buffet? Stations? Dim sum carts?

The visiting chefs will all have stations that surround our open exhibition kitchen and we will also be preparing some our restaurants signature dishes. There will be a focus on some classic dim sum such as Har Gau, chive dumplings, steamed buns and siew mai. Some of these items will be served from passing bamboo dim sum carts. We will also be passing dishes in the courtyard and restaurant area. There will be two bars in the restaurant serving specialty cocktails.

Can you share some info on that dim sum master you’re bringing in for the event?

Philip Ho is my dim sum Chef and he prepares all the dim sum for the Setai Miami Beach. I’m lucky to work with a number of master Asian chefs here at the Setai. The Restaurant at the Setai is a very unique operation because we have specialty chefs form Thailand, China, India, Malaysia and they all work under the guidance of Charlie Chang our Chef de Cuisine from Singapore.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Free Dessert @ Essensia

Essensia at the Palms won't be doing a traditional Valentine's prix-fixe menu. Instead you can order off the regular menu and score a free dessert platter for you and your honey.
During the Month of February, all dinners for two booked with the “Sweet Love” reference will receive Pastry Chef Gail Goetsch’s complimentary “Sweetheart Sampler” dessert for two.

Wyclef Jean @ The Florida Room

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Gibraltar: Solid as a Rock

The old Baleen space at the Grove Isle Hotel is now Gibraltar. Go there. The food is beautiful, creative and good. It's a bit on the pricey side - starters average about $12 and mains in the high $20's - but you don't have to go all the time. Just go at least once, if only to experience the snapper crudo (above), a dazzling arrangement of fish, mango puree, pink radish and crisp cassava chips. Another standout dish is the smoked salmon loin that comes with sweet corn beignets, what you'd get if you crossed cornbread with a doughnut and then patted yourself on the back for being a genius.
See photos of the redone interiors here.
Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, 4 Grove Isle Dr, Coconut Grove; 305.857.5007.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Free Champagne @ The Four Seasons

Here's something for the ladies on game day: Acqua at Four Seasons will cater to SuperBowl "widows" by offering complimentary champagne with dinner for ladies on SuperBowl evening. In addition to free champagne with dinner, the restaurant offers a 3 course set menu at $42.

Nobu Weekend @ One Bal Harbour

Nobu will be opening a pop up restaurant at One Bal Harbour this weekend, serving a select menu for lunch and dinner and pool-side Bento Boxes and cocktails. The pre-fixe lunch will include items like Shitake Salad with Spicy Lemon, Yellowtail Jalapeno, Tempura Vegetable and Shrimp, Black Cod, Jidori Chicken Skewers “Anticucho” and desserts like Chai Tea and Dulce De Leche Crème with Banana and Crisp Meringue.

The pre-fixe dinner menu includes Hawaiian Hearts of Palm with Octopus Carpaccio and Jalapeno Dressing, ‘Tiiradito’ Nobu Style, King Crab Ama-su Ponzu, Squid Pasta, Arctic Char with Crispy Spinach and Yuzu Soy, Wagyu Beef A5, daily selections of Nigiri and Maki and desserts like the Maple Pecan Ice Cream ‘Sandwich’, Molasses and Lucama Foam.