Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cruising With Michael Schwartz

By now you've no doubt heard that Michael Schwartz and his team are heading up operations aboard Royal Caribbean's tasting-only restaurant 150 Central Park. Last month we were invited aboard to taste the goods at a six-course feast. Each dish showcased what the chef does well - straightforward presentations of simply prepared but well-executed food with great ingredient sourcing. The menu was also a Greatest Hits of Michael's since many of the dishes were delicate, tasting-portion sized version of the classics you'll find on his restaurant's regular menu. Herewith, the night in pictures.
Homemade ricotta with local beets.

Jumbo lump crab cake with carrot butter sauce.
Chef holding court with sommelier Eric Larkee on the right. 

Black cod with whipped parsnip and baby bok choy.

Harris Ranch short rib with romesco sauce.

Hedy's milk chocolate cremoso made it on board along with the espresso semifreddo.
The dining room where you'll partake of this bounty.

Fancy shmancy menus.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chatting With Michael Schwartz

Demonstrating how to make ricotta cheese aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

Michael Schwartz. The man. The chef. The empire (chefpire?). It seems like every other week we hear of something new going on with our guy in the Design District. A new pizza place, cheffing aboard cruise ships and pretty soon helming the kitchen at the Raleigh. How does he do it? Oh, and did you know he's got a TV pilot in the works? A few q's with the busy man, below:

APD: With all the recent developments how have you been able to focus and how do you divide your time now?

MS:It's not easy, especially since I like to be involved in all the details.There are definitely more meetings and sometimes I feel like a ping pong ball. But we keep a great calendar, which itself is its own monster, and things are divided up and scheduled to a t. But I guess the real answer to your question is my team. I have surrounded myself with great people that make it all possible, and we just try to keep up with it all.

APD: What are you most excited about for the coming year?
MS: Some great news is that after a year of making and trying to sell a TV pilot to cable, with all the ups and downs that go along with that, we found a home on public television. It's called The Local Table, it's a food/travel show that highlights slow food and the people behind the small, family businesses that produce the food that feeds our communities around the country. It's about sourcing what's seasonal and cooking with the freshest, local ingredients. PBS just gave us the green light, with WLRN onboard as our presenting station to national, and sponsors are showing interest. It goes to show how when you keep at something you believe in, things will work out. We wanted to make our show the way we want it to be without bending to please a certain demographic or get certain ratings, and PBS will make that possible. I'm really excited for the chance to work more on that. We'll shoot in the spring of 2012, for a first season airing in the fall.

APD: Any other projects in the pipeline or is this it for a while?
MS: We're always looking ahead and are open to new partnerships that can become new projects or business opportunities... It's always a challenge trying to balance it all and still participate in the great charity events and food festivals I get asked to do. Those are really great... While they are more one-time things, I get a chance to have fun and catch up with some of my friends in the industry. I've had to bow out of some of those lately which is a bummer, but I was able to give Hedy an opportunity to take some of those on, with is great fun and great exposure for her. So I guess it all works out. For me, for the coming year, I'd have to say the Raleigh is top of mind, as is the new relationship with Royal Caribbean, and making sure Harry's and MGFD stay on the ball and have longevity. I thought nothing could top 2010, but this year was unreal. I can only imagine what 2012 will bring!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Chasing the Dragon: Back in China Again

It's been four years since my last jaunt to the Orient. And that was after visiting the continent three times in a 16-month period. So, yes, this was a fun revisit. We hit Beijing and Shanghai, spending more time in the highly-styley Shanghai corridor. Major changes have occurred since I was last there - the Olympics came and went, leaving behind some impressive architecture and, it seemed, a more-relaxed approach to Westerners. Also, the financial crisis took its toll, although both cities seemed as bustling and busy as ever.
Whampoa Club restaurant at Three on the Bund.
But the rampant construction that cluttered the streets of both cities with cranes, cement trucks and bamboo scaffolding seems to have dissipated. There's a new big tower in Shanghai - the World Financial Center, with a Park Hyatt hotel occupying the 79th-93rd floors of its 101 stories. And the "new" section of Shanghai - Pudong - is now a sprawling space-age urban landscape with shiny skyscrapers and Boca Raton-style gated communities containing McMansions. Some random thoughts and observations:
- Spitting (and exuberant loogie hocking) is still a big thing here, so don't be surprised if you get a little phlegm on your shoes.
- Apparently they make soup dumplings as big as tennis balls and stick straws in them, coconut-style.
 - Pollution is still bad but seems to have gotten slightly more manageable. Either that, or we caught some uncharacteristically sunny autumn days.
- The Great Cyberwall of China is still in effect. Last time I was there I was unable to use blogger or access my blog. Same again this time, and also no access to Twitter of Facebook in Beijing. In Shanghai, things were better, with access to all of those sites, although when I mentioned this to a hotel exec she said that was because I was logging on via the hotel's Internet connection. Apparently, household Internet users in China don't have access.
- Bookmarked for next time: Dinner at 100 Century Avenue, the 91st-floor restaurant at the top of the WFC at the Park Hyatt. Place was jazzy, fun and reminded me of the Setai.
- Best fashion discovery: cool Chinese sneaker brand Feiyue (apparently coveted by French hipsters). For $17 you get these sensational high-tops. Found at tiny sneaker store located at 130 Nanchang Lu (at Sinan Rd).

First Bites of Barceloneta

Barceoneta, the third installment of the Pubbelly empire, opened a few weeks ago. I feasted at a friends and fam dinner the night before they opened and experienced some very good things. The atmosphere is great, although I found myself thinking the music was too loud. Which then depressed me because that means I'm getting old. (Side note: one day I'll write a blog post on the best spots in the city to actually have a conversation and where the music is great but unobtrusive.). But back to the food.
Dinner starts off with complimentary “pica pica,” house made marinated olives. Then it was on to plates of pan con tomate (tomato-rubbed baguette slices - fresh and tangy). The brandada de bacalao, a salted codfish spread, was a bit rich but the mini-loaf of bread imported from Spain was good for absorbing the salty fishy goodness. Plates of roasted padron peppers tossed with sea salt followed along with piquillo peppers are stuffed with garrotxa cheese. The “butifarra” is homemade pork sausage spiked with brandy and cream. Best dish of the night: the “coca” flatbread (below), a rich melange of foie gras, grilled eggplant and chives.
Didn't have high hopes for dessert - I see the PB crew as excelling more at savory dishes but the Torrejas were lovely and light - fluffy egg-soaked slices of bread pan-fried to a crisp. The chocolate souffle wasn't bad either. Overall, a fun new spot to go for drinks and delicious tapas.
1400 20th St
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 538-9299

Friday, September 23, 2011

Open Up at Open Kitchen

Good things are happening in Bay Harbor Islands, the site of chef Sandra Stefani's new Open Kitchen. The place is overwhelmingly quaint, with a great selection of wines and craft beers and a chalkboard menu of daily lunch specials - things like oriechette with arugula pesto and mozzarella and turkey meatloaf. The cafe is only open for lunch but Stefani still hosts her famous Italian cooking classes on Saturdays (limited to eight students) where you participate in creating a four-course meal that is then enjoyed with the entire class afterwards. There's also a great family-style take out menu available on those night when you don't want to cook but still love the idea of a giant pan of braised short ribs simmering in your oven. They'll make it happen.
Gourmet staples - beer, wine and chocolate.

A delicate potato-asparagus soup.
1071 95 St, Bay Harbor

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lamb Tacos for Strength @ Mercadito

You have exactly eight more days to take advantage of chef Andrew Balick's Tacos for Strength, the sale of which benefits Share Out Strength. Balick (formerly of Pied a Terre) was just recently named chef de cuisine at The DiLido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach. I stopped in last week and tasted these Mediteranean lovelies - a nice combo of braised lamb shank, curried Greek yogurt and pickled minted-carrot salad which reminded me the of the spicy Moroccan carrot salad my Israeli friend makes. So yes, he nailed the flavors. Four tacos are $16. Also, you can order these as party of their slamming Miami Spice menu (which includes a cocktail!).
3252 NE 1st Ave

Thursday, September 08, 2011

First Taste of Phuc Yea!

Are pop-up restaurants the new food truck? The pop-up, or temporary eatery,  has become ubiquitous in cities like San Francisco, DC, New York and LA so it would seem natural for Miami to jump on the guerrilla gourmet trend, albeit a few years late to the scene, as to be expected.
The first contender: Phuc Yea!, a Vietnamese sit-down from former Blue Piano maestros Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata. He cooks, she takes care of everything else. Rounding out the team is newbie Daniel Treiman, a recent transplant from New York with experience cooking at Momofuku and Eleven Madison Park (so yes, he's foodie-approved). The recipes are inspired by her Vietnamese mother's cooking. The space is a downtown falafel counter transformed into a cozy, dimly-lit Asian spot with Ikea curtains and butcher block paper on the tables. The place will stay open through December 8, which means you have only the next three months to check it out.
The decor: Ikea chic.
It's all earnest and fun and I'm a big supporter of anything Aniece does because her taste in wine and food is top notch as evidenced by her stints at Fratelli Lyon and Blue Piano. I first encountered Cesar's cooking at Blue Piano through a torrid, decadent parade of small plates, all of which were delicious. So yes, the kitchen is in good hands. I got a sneak peek at the menu last night and enjoyed every delicate, elegant bite. Fellow blogger Blind Tastes joined me to graze and we sampled a smattering of dishes, all of which had clean, vivid flavors and were not too heavy. Notes of fish sauce tempered with vinegar, fried shallots adding crunch and texture, cilantro and shiso leaves giving everything a fresh, herby kick.
Fish n' chips = fried sardines and lotus chips.

Crispy Pig Ear Salad with watermelon and daikon.

Duck Confit with picked bock choy, mushrooms, daikon and more of those addictive lotus chips.
Address: 19 SE 2nd Ave, downtown
(786) 383-2408

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No Crumb Left Behind @ Crumb on Parchment

I'm a little late to the Crumb on Parchment lovefest. All it takes is a rainy day for me to sift through my pics  and realize I never posted these beauties. Really, it's a lovely addition to the Miami lunch scene. And the Miami bakery scene which is slowly, slowly growing (albeit at a slower clip than the burger scene. Egads. Enough with the ground meat. Give me some more of this luscious coconut cake!)
It's Michelle Bernstein's place and she's clearly a perfectionist. Every damn detail about the place is welcoming  and well-considered. Self-serve coffee and water station. Comfortable couches flanked by coffee tables topped with interesting coffee table books. Tangerine centerpieces for crying out loud. Where am I? In a Diane Keaton movie? I love it!

3930 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33137
(305) 572-9444

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reversing the Dogma...of Dogma Grill

Things have changed at your favorite retro hot dog joint on Biscayne. Gone are the veggie dogs and LA-ish toppings like avocado and feta cheese. In their place: Philly cheesesteaks, oyster po’boys and roast beef sandwiches. The hot dogs are still there, too, with old school toppings like baked beans and cheez wiz. And sure, you can quote Beck when ordering that last one.
7030 Biscayne Boulevard, (305) 759-3433

Friday, July 15, 2011

Taste of the Nation 2011

This is my favorite food event of the summer. It's a chance to mingle with chefs, wine lovers and assorted riff raff - my kind of party. And the venue this year - Fairmont Turnberry - proved a spacious comfortable spot, with plenty of room to navigate between the stations and hunker down with your plastic tray with it's wine glass holder. Best in show: the Zellwood corn soup from Paula DaSilva at 1500 Degrees, spicy crispy tuna from Makoto ( I won't lie; I shamelessly Hoovered three pieces of those tasty bites as I passed the table), lobster tacos from Joe's Stone Crab and short rib dim sum from STK. Herewith a few photos.

Azul's Joel Huff with pea soup shooters topped with chicharon, gold flakes and cheese pebbles.
Paula DaSilva, always smiling and always cooking up something nice.

Joe's Stone Crab put out bit-size lobster tacos with diced mango and sweet pepper foam. 

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Luther @ Bulldog Burger

You know what's decadent? The Luther burger at Bulldog Burger (an offshoot of Bulldog BBQ). A riff on the Krispy Kreme burger, this calorie bomb doesn't actually employ a glazed doughnut for the bun. Instead the kitchen glazes thier regular brioche bun to give it that sticky, crusty feel. The sweet fluffyness contrasts pleasantly with the beefy heft of the eight-ounce patty.  Did I finish the whole damn thing myself? No. Half was enough for me, thanks. I was two bites away from being the poster child for this website.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taste of the Nation Tix (with Discount Code)

Tickets are now on sale for Taste of the Nation which takes place next Thursday. There are forty reasons why you should get a jump on this, many of which consist of the best restaurants in town (Azul, BLT Steak, Michy’s) which will all be in attendance offering small plates. Also, there’s an open wine bar. Just in case you get thirsty.

July 7, 7-10p, Fairmont Turnberry Isle
19999 West Country Club Dr, 1-877-268-2783

Buy tickets here.
Use code MIAMEDIA for 10% off all tickets.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peacock Garden Cafe, Coconut Grove

I like this spot. It's quaint. It's quiet. They make mint lemonade that reminds of the "limonada" I used to drink in Israel. It's even charming enough to forgive minor transgressions (like a dry but tasty tomato flatbread).

They serve craft beers like Terrapin ale. And the fish casserole is really more of a fish stew spiked with white wine. It stays warm in its cast iron pot. See the menu here. And check it out next time you're looking for a classy spot in the Grove.
2889 McFarlane Rd,305-774-3332.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mapping Makoto

I love me some Makoto, that's for all the world to see. Since they opened a few months ago I've been back half a dozen times. Which is more than I can say for most openings in town. I usually go once at the beginning and then get distracted by other openings. Hazards of the job. And yes, I know you're all "Oh, poor Sara. Has to bounce around town stuffing her face with delicious food while making sure her two year-old doesn't get soy sauce on the iPhone. What a hard life." Seriously, you feel my pain, and your empathy warms my heart.

But back to Makoto and their amazing food. The prices have crept up a bit, which is to be expected. But the rolls are still reasonable ($8) and the bento box - at $18-$22 - is one of the best deals in town.
New favorites:
- uni fettucine (which had a brief appearance on the menu and seems to have disappared)
- tempura asparagus (the best bar snack ever invented)
Old favorites:
- frozen Kobe fried rice whereby the meat cooks as you stir it in the rice and poached egg coats everything with richness (below)
- roasted shisito peppers
- spicy crispy tuna
- chilled udon with chicken and peanuts
- tea-crusted tuna tataki
It's hard to find weak items on the menu but I've found a few worth skipping.
- the toro tartare - the $24 would be better spent on two rolls or two of their noodle dishes
- the tuna air bread - at $12 for two pieces the value is just not there
On the horizon: participation in Miami Spice and a happy hour that incorporates sake and maki. So yeah, you'll probably see me at the bar with my toddler sometime soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Zeppelin Pics

In honor of being or recognized by SFDB's post of the week roundup, some more shots from my ride on the dirigible.
Feeling the wind in your hair, at 1200 feet.

Woman-ing the flight deck.

Haulover inlet and Bal Harbour. 

Rocking the Native shoes on their first zeppelin trip.