Tuesday, March 06, 2018

What was awesome (and awful) about Miami dining in 2017?

Every year I participate in Eater Miami's survey of the city's restaurant scene. This year, I submitted my answers too late (sadness), so I'm reprinting my two cents here. Enjoy!
What were your top restaurant standbys of 2017? Dizengoff for when I have Tel Aviv cravings, Mandolin of course, della Bowls for happy and healthy meals, Makoto still dazzles and Byblos because I literally want to marry the menu and have sweet truffle pide babies with it.
The dining room at Norman Van Aken's Three in Wynwood.

What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2017? Stubborn Seed, Three, Dizengoff/Federal Donuts, GLAM, Kiki on the River, Monkitail.

Sum up the 2016 restaurant world in one word. Plant-based (still considered on word, right?)

What was the best dining neighborhood of 2017?  Wynwood is definitely exciting but it still feels like such a mission to do anything there between the construction craziness and the tight parking and dodging the people on Instagram photo shoots. So since I love ample and easy parking I'm going with the Sunset Harbor/Purdy Ave 'hood where you can get everything from an avocado toast to a fancy cocktail without going nuts.
Dishes from Mandolin.

What was the biggest dining surprise of 2017? 1-800 Lucky Market seemed to materialize virtually overnight (at least for me). And they cleverly banked on all the hype the soon-to-open food halls were getting by being there first and having great vendors. Now if only they'd have sound system tuned to a reasonable volume...

What was your biggest dining grievance of 2017? The fact that sometimes restaurants are puzzled if I *don't* want to photograph my food. We've had some awkward moments where I'm like: Uhh, no, bro. I'm just going to eat that...because that's why I'm here. That's what we do at restaurants. We eat the food. Before it gets cold.

What was your best restaurant meal of 2017? The Friday night Shabbat-style dinner at Dizengoff cooked by Chefs Mike Solomonov and Val Chang. There were about a dozen dishes on the table that night and each one made me fight my table mates for the last bite (right, ChatChow?). From Moroccan carrots to roasted eggplant to peppers stuffed with chicken and pine nuts it reminded me of all the best food I've had in Israel.

What are your headline predictions for 2018? Food Trucks are Hot Again!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle

You're in the mood to get away. Like, fire-pits-and-tiki-bars-in-the-Keys-style get away.
Behold the Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle, a quietly sexy beachside resort in Islamorada, reborn after a massive renovation, ready to host your next barefoot weekend of paddle boarding and daiquiri-drinking.
The vibe here is upscale sleep away-camp with a dash of nautical swagger. Meaning that in addition to the outdoor ping-pong table, paddleboard rentals and Shulas2 burger restaurant (order the Chorizo with charred onions), you’ll also have a 19-slip marina to dock your leisure vessel for the weekend. After you’ve made the two-hour trek south from Miami to the handsome campus, you’ll settle into one of the new Lanai suites with patios that open directly onto the private beach. After a few rounds of Pac-Man and darts in the astroturf-lined lobby, you’ll make your way to the legendary Tiki Bar (untouched since 1969), where a tall Rum Runner will prepare you for a date with doing absolutely nothing.
It’s important to make time for that.
(More pics after the jump.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Favorite Neighborhood Spot: Mina's Mediterraneo

There are so many reasons to love Mina's Mediterraneo, a Middle Eastern-Mediterranean mashup that inhabits a cavernous space (that used to be a Haitian Church) on 79th St. Causeway. There you'll find rustic Mediterranean home cooking in a sophisticated, neo-industrial spot. The steel and concrete dining room is outfitted with wood communal tables, old travel posters from the 1950's of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon and 8 foot-high windows that go to the ceiling. The place has been open for a few years and they just introduced this beauty of an outdoor patio with and an herb garden. 
Owner Yasmine Kotb is Egyptian and her mother Sonia helms the kitchen using her grandmother's recipes. Prices are reasonable with small plates $5-$8, larger plates $10-$17. Their weekend brunch features a great rendition of current "it" dish shakshuka - baked tomatoes with eggs, best washed down with one of their frozen spiked slushies. 
As for the rest of the menu: fresh pita bread accompanies dips of eggplant baba ganoush, tzatziki and "besara" made with fava beans, dill and parsley. Spanikopita shares space with stuffed cabbage, roasted brussel sprouts, and falafel sliders. Pizzas can be topped with exotic things like Moroccan merguez lamb sausage and basterma (Egyptian cured meat). The Baked Kibby is a Mid-East meatloaf made with cracked wheat mixed with ground beef, pine nuts and onions while the lamb tagine is spiced with harissa. Desserts include traditional baklava and Dark Chocolate tart with crushed almond crust.
749 NE 79th St, Miami, FL 33138 (786) 391-0300

Monday, March 16, 2015

SOBEWFF Podcasts: Marcus Samuelsson, Scott Conant, Quality Meats MB

One of the highlights of ‪this year's South Beach Wine and Food Festival for me was hosting the inaugural Miami.com podcast whereby we taped six (!) back-to-back interviews with accomplished chefs. The roster was impressive: Scott Conant, Marcus Samuelsson and Craig Koketsu of Quality Meats Miami Beach. You can catch them all the link below but I suggest you start with Marcus Samuelsson, simply because I loved his outfit the most and want to steal his cardigan.
Listen here.

Matador Room @ The Miami Beach EDITION

Ever since Matador Room opened at The Miami Beach EDITION it seems everyone has been Instagraming a certain copper pineapple cocktail. This $30 elixir was all the rage when the swanky hotel opened its doors during the Art Basel crush this past December. Made with Absolut Elyx, Palo Cortado Sherry, salted caramel bitters, Bittermens Elemakule tiki bitters, house-made pineapple and rosemary syrup, and a torched sprig of rosemary that when the lid is removed, gives the guest a subtle puff of herby fragrance.
Yes, it's pricey, so while you're there you ought to stay for some avocado pizza, which is reason enough to make it to the gorgeous restaurant inside the restored Art Deco hotel.
Celeb chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten may no longer be at J & G Grill at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, but he has partnered with hotelier Ian Schrager at the Edition to create this spot, his ode to Latin cooking. Chef Jeremy Ford ( formerly of 15 Steps at the Eden Roc) heads up the kitchen.
"We knew we wanted to do something that reflects the area," says Vongerichten regarding the inspiration for the restaurant. "These are the flavors that belong in Miami. It's the Seville hotel and we kept the name Matador Room, so it's also inspired by that. Everything is family style, have some olives, tacos, a big bowl of arroz con pollo."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Seagrape at Thompson Miami Beach

Photo courtesy Thompson Miami Beach
Miami favorite Michelle Bernstein is back in a hotel setting, this time with Seagrape at Thompson Miami Beach. Chef Steven Rojas, known for earning a Michelin star at Saddle Peak Lodge in California and most recently at The Island Bistro on Brickell Key, is running things in the kitchen. I loved the space - a multi-level 267-seat dining room with retro furniture, a green marble bar and a tiled outdoor patio. The cushy semi-circular banquettes were buzzing with smartly-dressed locals and Thompson guests on two separate occasions when I dined there.
Photo courtesy Thompson Miami Beach
Expect locally sourced goods with regional influences. "Michelle wanted me to cook they way we do in California, by using local farms and purveyors," says Rojas. "It's great because now I can finally cook the way I want to." Prices reflect the immaculate sourcing with starters $10-$21 and mains $21-$39.
Dinner starts with fluffy Parker House rolls served with fish dip, pickled veggies and butter. From there it's on to rich homemade gougeres, or profiteroles stuffed with melted gouda and topped with sherry glaze and lardo. The Maine lobster ravioli are three delicate pasta pillows stuffed with lobster in a red curry emulsion along with fried ginger. The roasted beet salad comes with avocado hummus while delicate squash blossoms are stuffed with shrimp over creamy gits.
 The lamb chops served with chermoula yogurt and fried sweetbreads was a bit of a roller coaster, still trying to figure what I think of that one. Fish dishes include a halibut with grapes and swiss chard and a red snapper accompanied by a paella "cake."
Desserts include berry Angel food cake with frozen yogurt, guava and cheese-stuffed doughnuts and homemade ice creams in flavors like chai tea.
4041 Collins Ave
(786) 605-1043

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Reality Show Pitch

For lovers of sports entertainment competitions I'd like to propose a reality show called 
it will involve the following skills:
- Jedi-style mind tricks
- the acrobatic coordination and wrestling strength of American Ninja Warrior
- the logistical derring-do of Navy SEALs
that is all.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Getting Tiki With It

Because it's never too early to introduce the kids to oversized frozen drinks.
At Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle, Islamorada.

Brunch @ Vintro Kitchen, South Beach

A bit hidden, but that just enhances the charm of this spot on the Collins Canal. The self-serve bowls of nutella on the brunch buffet are GENIUS. Things like fresh made paella, grilled lamb chops and a live flamenco guitarist give the place a sultry Latin vibe.

A Conversation About Art Basel

A recent conversation I had regarding ‪#‎ArtBasel‬, the mega-cluster-F. 
I start. 
"So this year there are come cool events happening--"
"I'm not going to anything where we have to wait in line with a gaggle of people trying to get in while some snooty person with an iPad looks for our name."
"Right. Okay, well there's also---"
"And then we get there and the crowd isn't the right crowd, or not a big enough crowd, or not a smart enough crowd. Or where parking is a headache, or where we get stuck in traffic. Or where the valet line is 100 a-holes long. Or where we have to fight to get a drink/tiny bite/spoon of tuna tartar. Or where I get elbowed by Julian Schnabel and Jeffrey Deitch starts yelling at his door people. Or anything where we stand around WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN."
"Yep. So I guess that covers it. See you in a week?"
"Sounds good."

Siena Tavern, South Beach

Exuberant celeb chef (and former Top Chef contestant) Fabio Viviani has brought his Chicago-based Italian tavern to our beachy shores.
The former China Grill 400-seater is now transformed into an expansive playground of Italian delights. There's an open pizza kitchen, an expansive circular bar and a mix of high and low tables that breaks up the cavernous space, making it somewhat cozy. Yes, there's a signature beer on tap, made by Wynwood Brewing. As for the food.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Best Things I Ate in Israel

Just returned from another epic trip to the Holy Land. Been three years since I'd checked in and yes, things have changed. Jerusalem is still the chaotic-lovely-congested-quiet-filthy-picturesque bag of contrasts that I love. But it's definitely gotten a bit more posh in certain areas, like the revamped "Tachanah," or Old Train Station with its industrial-cool restaurants and artisanal food market. The once-seedy Mahane Yehuda produce market is now on its way to being a cosmopolitan nosh-nexus similar to Seattle's Pike Street Market and San Fran's Ferry Building. Now amidst the stalls hawking nuts, pickles and figs there are trendy pasta restaurants and even a fish and chips place. I tried Georgian food for the fist time and was impressed with the strong flavors and hints of Eastern spices and influences. And while this trip was by no means an exhaustive tour of all that is current and trending in Israeli cuisine (I was traveling with two toddlers, meaning, I drank about a gallon of wine every night and it was a miracle my iphone was not covered in hummus and phyllo grease by the end of the trip), I was able to taste some spectacular things.

Herewith, my culinary adventures in pictures.
The menu at Azura, a Slow Food-approved spot and the first stop on my Sephardic soul food pilgrimage. It's a no-frills spot hidden inside the Mahane Yehuda market..
Nanuchka, Tel Aviv, home to Georgian cooking and funky decor.

Fantastic Khinkali - meat dumplings at Nanuchka.

Lunch at Hamotzi restaurant - owned by Avi Levy, winner of Israel's Master Chef (like Top Chef in the US).

Fried battered fish in a spicy Moroccan sauce at Homotzi.
Oh, just a little feast our Aunt Shoshana whipped up (while recovering from knee surgery no less!) consisting of homemade techina, fried eggplant, tomato salad and kubbeh soup (semolina dumplings, beets, lemon)
Fresh-pressed pomegranate juice at Mahane Yehuda market.

A salad topped with fried haloumi cheese - this one needs to make it on to the next Saffron Supper Club menu!
The beer garden and food court at the revamped Old Train Station in Jerusalem.

Epic baklava selection at the Old Train Station.

Look! Paletas in Israel.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Miami Attractions Month

Had a blast this weekend hanging out with the manatees, sea lions and dolphins at The Miami Seaquarium in honor of Miami Attractions month. From now until the end of October enjoy buy 1 admision, get 1 admission at places like Jungle Island, Vizcaya, and yep - the Seaquarium. The Seaquarium appeals to me because it still retains its mid-century charms with period-era signage and architectural curiosities like the geodesic dome covering the sea lion stadium. And they still put on the "Flipper" dolphin show with Beach Boys songs. It's the perfect soundtrack to a throwback Miami day.
The iconic golden dome stadium designed by Buckminster Fuller in 1960.

Preservation, Sunny Isles

The motto of Preservation is “cured, pickled, smoked.”  Yes, this new spot in Sunny Isles is all about the brine. When I found out about this spot thanks to culinary super-sleuth Wokstar I was excited: finally a place that is as obsessed with pickles as I am. And indeed Partners Nicole Richaud and Ryan Harrison are interested in producing honest, well-sourced food that is both upscale and refreshingly unpretentious. They revamped a strip mall space into a stylish, slightly-zen dining room outfitted with reclaimed wood tables, concrete walls pressed with leaves and nine flat screen TV’s. A small retail area in the front stocks the kitchen’s homemade pickled vegetables and fruit preserves.
The menu comprises modern American cooking with a focus on smoked and cured meats. All bread is made in-house, including rye for sandwiches and buns for burgers. Smoked fish, sausages and condiments like ketchup, mustard and their house preserves are all house made. Harrison is the chef and has worked with John Besh in New Orleans as well as the Smoke Truck in Philadelphia. Prices are in keeping with artisanal fare with starters $8-$16, and mains $12-$25. A meal starts with battered pickles with a grain mustard dipping sauce. From there it’s on to the smoked tomato soup with basil mousse or the smoked salmon platter with dill cream and topped with bright pink pickled onions. Sandwiches include a brisket cheesesteak and a pastrami with smoked pickled slaw. Blackboard specials can include homemade ravioli stuffed with lamb or a Scottish salmon with sake glaze and a preserved Meyer Lemon quinoa. The place also excels at desserts, as exemplified by this towering carrot cake, which, like most of the offerings at Preservation was well-balanced and fresh.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cipriani Downtown, Miami's Latest Swanky Spot

"I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I'm with them."
                                                            - Max Detweiler, The Sound of Music

Sitting at Cipriani Downtown, the latest glossy outpost of the famed Italian empire occupying a cavernous space in the Icon Brickell building, I couldn't help but churn the above quote in my head. Designed by Florentine architect Michele Bonan, the restaurant feels like the dining room of a glitzy cruise liner with portholes at the bar and windows that frame spectacular water views. There’s a gleaming wooden bar, sofas clad in royal blue and grand Murano glass chandeliers. The white-jacketed waiters add to the throwback vibe with plenty of tableside service. And on the third day open the place was packed. Apparently $17 for a bellini is no biggy these days.
And yes, if you're a sugar daddy with a Russian girlfriend half your age, this is definitely a place that will impress her. But good news for the rest of us that care about food -- it's actually good.
The menu here is practically identical to other Cipriani outposts with a few seasonal and local ingredients thrown in like heirloom tomatoes and fresh catch. Prices are high with most starters averaging $17 and mains $23-$39. The restaurant is famous for a few dishes so it’s best to start off with a round of Bellinis, the house drink (prosecco with peach puree) along with the crisp breadsticks and baguette that are offered. Among their noteworthy dishes: the baked tagliolini with ham and the iconic carpaccio, sliced raw beef with a mayonnaise dressing, first created by Arrigo Cipriani’s father Giuseppe in 1950. This is also the spot to try their Asian "Yotto" menu, featuring a sashimi beef with yuzu ponzu. Other starters include tuna tartar and a mozorella and heirloom tomato salad. Pastas include a risotto primavera and a homemade spincach ravioli. Mains include branzino, braised short ribs and roasted duck. Desserts keep with the over-the-top vibe with vanilla meringue cake and a pillow tiramisu.
My take: sky-high prices and an air of exclusivity shouldn’t deter you from basking in the legendary restaurant’s classic comforts.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Miami's Top New Restaurants

Kouzina, in the Design District
People love top ten lists (just ask David Letterman and USA Today) and since I'm constantly keeping tabs on the local dining scene I decided to offer up a tenner of hot new spots.
1. Cipriani Downtown – Spectacular water views and old school service at this Italian icon.
465 Brickell Ave Miami, Florida 33131, (786) 329-4090
2. Lucali – The purest pizza made by a Brooklyn perfectionist.
1930 Bay Rd Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 695-4441
3. Tongue and Cheek – Jamie DeRosa’s upscale home cooking with a great happy hour.
431 Washington Ave Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 704-290
4. Umami Burger – The California cult burger with its signature “savory” taste.
1080 Alton Rd Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 672-4334
5. S3 – A splashy Ft. Lauderdale beach newcomer with sushi, steak and seafood.
505 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, (954) 523-7873
6. Kouzina - Reasonably-priced Greek small plates.
3535 NE 2nd Ave, (305) 392-1825
7. Wolfgang’s Steakhouse - Massive slabs of beef from a Peter Luger alum.
315 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132, (305) 487-7130
8. Gold and Pepper - Italian food...with golf flakes on everything.
101 Washington Ave Miami Beach, Florida 33139, (305) 397-8362
9. Icebox Café - The Lincoln Rd fave now in a bigger space on Purdy.
1855 Purdy Ave Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 538-8448
10. Barley and Swine – Porky gastropub down South.
 9059 SW 73 Ct, (305) 678-8903

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Oceanaire Seafood Room: A Briny Adventure in Brickell

Alaskan halibut, PEI mussels, Kumamoto oysters from Washington.
The bounty of the sea. All of it yours for the taking at Oceanaire, a polished seafood joint in Brickell.
If you've spent time in Massachusetts or summered in Maine, you'll recognize the feel. it's the kind of über-sourced fish house that a die-hard New Englander (yes, I am one) can appreciate.
Walking in, you’ll immediately be hit with the clean, fresh scent of oceanic goodness mingled with mustard sauce and key lime. Breathe it in. Then, sink into one of the leather booths circling the room—or grab a table near the bar, which will be buzzing during happy hour. And here's what you'll find: flawless seafood and a bustling atmosphere.
Tempura lobster lollipops.
A glistening raw bar sums up the spot's ample charms: oysters from the Pacific Northwest, lobsters from Maine, lump crab and line-caught fish hauled in daily from local fishermen. (It's like an underwater cavalcade of stars.) And if you’re dining with landlubbers, there are also turf-ables like a 16 oz. bone-in ribeye and a hefty burger with caramelized onions and bacon.
Blackened grouper with pickled pineapples and sweet potatoe.
But Oceanaire isn't just a cathedral of crustaceans and power dinners, it's also a family-friendly spot that easily accommodated me and my underage entourage (ages 4 and 1 -- that's how I roll, yo). A platter of crudite with carrot sticks, celery and pickes hits the table as soon as you are seated -- the perfect thing to keep the little ones busy while you peruse the wine list and prepare for the bounty of the sea. And the matchstick fries, while not something the restaurant is famous for, were damn near perfect. And here's another secret: during lunch the Oceanaire offers a Miami Spice feel with the “Executive Lunch”, which includes a three-course meal for $22.
900 S Miami Ave Miami, FL 33130
(305) 372-8862

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Le Pine: Great Lebanese in Bay Harbor

It's hard to find good Middle-Eastern food in Miami. So I was excited to find Le Pine, an elegant and upscale neighborhood spot tucked away on the otherwise sleepy Kane Concourse in Bay Harbor Islands. Since it opened last year I've been there half a dozen times for lunch and dinner. Since I rarely have time to dine in my own neighborhood, that's saying a lot. This place is good. This is proprietor Hassib El Zein’s first restaurant and it is neatly outfitted with maroon couches, tables bedecked in white linens and a roaring brick oven from which fluffy homemade pita bread and crispy baklava emerge. There’s also a handful of sidewalk tables that provide a pleasant outdoor option. The name refers to the ubiquitous pine nut that shows up in many dishes on the menu and the pine trees of Lebanon.
Chef Fayssal Karout is from Beirut (by way of Michigan) and helms a kitchen that marries the predictable (hummus, kabobs) with the exotic (stuffed pickled eggplants, raw kibbie). All sauces are made from scratch – the tahini, hummus, babganoush and garlic aioli that flank the kabob platters. Prices are reasonable with small plates ranging $6-$8 and mains averaging $20. There’s Lebanese wine on hand - Chateau Kefraya and Chateau Kasara – both from the Bikaa Valley as well as Lebanese and Moroccan beer.
Dinner starts with house made pita bread and a small dish of olive oil mixed with za’atar, the herbaceous blend of wild thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. The mezze sampler is a great way to enjoy a bit of everything – with small bowls of homemade hummus, babaganoush, falafel and stuffed grape leaves. The “bakery” section includes empanada-like “pies” stuffed with spinach, cheese or ground meat. The house made Labneh, is a thick and tangy yogurt easily scooped up with wedges of pita. Specialties of the house include the Makanic, a ground beef and lamb sausage and the Arayes, a toasted pita stuffed with ground beef, onions and pine nuts. All entrees are served with either couscous or Mediterranean “pilaf” rice and include colorful platters of shish kabob made with tender hunks of lamb, moist chicken and “kofte,” ground beef mixed with parsley and onions. Side salads of tomatoes and onions dusted with sumac round out the fragrant dishes. Dessert is a simple affair – a glass of tea and a small plate of baklava served two ways, the traditional wedge or the “round” cookie-like sweet made with walnuts and pistachios.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Celebrity Reflection: Nitrogen Cocktails and Posh Bites

The culinary team in the main dining room.
It's obvious that Celebrity Cruises takes their culinary program seriously. Two years ago they tapped John Suley, a 2010 James Beard Foundation “Rising Star Chef” nominee and former Gotham Steak chef, to head up culinary operations. And their latest ship,The Reflection, is awash is "specialty dining" outlets. That's cruise-speak for smaller, more upscale restaurants where passengers dine for fee (usually $5-$40 per person) as an alternative to the usual buffet and mass dining rooms also available on the ship. We hopped on board to sample the goods at the "Taste of Modern Luxury Event" as part of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. The event was a round-robin of venues whereby event goers visited six spots on the ship and got to sample a dish, a cocktail and chat with the chef.
In a sign that cocktail culture is gaining traction in mass-appeal circles, the culinary roster also featured Junior Merino who goes by the name "The Liquid Chef." He developed the cocktail program for the ship's Molecular Bar and gave a crash-course on how he uses liquid nitrogen, fresh squeezed juices, and specially created syrups to put together drinks for guests who prefer not to pound 32-ounce daiquiris (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Junior Merino aka "The Liquid Chef"

At Blu, the Mediterranean-influenced spot espousing lighter "spa cusiine," we sampled lump crab martinis and blackened ahi tuna on Forbidden Rice.
Blue and white tables set the tone at Blu.

Lump crab martini, anyone?
The entrance at Tuscan Grille has the cave-like feel of a wine cellar, and the focus is Italian. There are authentic meat slicers and a bevy of cured meats available. The carpaccio di manzo with sun-dried tapenade and arancini risotto balls with basil ailoi greeted us here.
Arancini at Tuscan Grille.
Qsine is more of a whimsical spot with funky place settings, iPad menus and playful food presentations. There we sampled grilled zahtar lamp chops and almond-crusted French toast.
Funky place settings and furniture at Qsine.
We were pretty full but saved room for a bit of ducle de leche crepes at Bistro on 5, a dainty creperie offering half a dozen sweet and savory stuffed pancakes. As the event wound down and everyone gathered in the main dining room, I felt a little bit of envy towards the passengers we saw filing in for their seven-day excursion. Based on what we tasted that day, it was clear they'd be going on a culinary journey as well.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Gnocchi-Making With Fabio Viviani

Fabio Viviani gives good gnocchi.
Probably the only thing that could get me out and at Casa Tua at 9am the morning after the Burger Bash was the boisterous Italian chef Fabio Viviani. Along with a dozen other groggy food writers I settled in at the rustic communal table framing the open kitchen at Casa Tua to catch the former Top Chef star (and now Bertolli endorser) share some culinary wisdom and make gnochhi.
The finished product: pillowy dumplings.
First, there was lots of Italiano chit-chat: "I don't want to be an Iron Chef, I want to be your Italian grandmother," which sums up his approach to celebrity chef stardom and his choice to push homestyle cooking via Bertolli and his restaurants rather than shoot for more TV fame.
Then, some cooking tips. The first rule of gnocchi-making: "Buy the cheapest, nastiest potatoes you can find." Second, let's the dough sit overnight. "You need to be patient. Making gnocchi is like foreplay."
And he's still planning on opening a Miami spot, though he wouldn't divulge where or when. "It will be like my Chicago place Sienna Tavern but we're going to Miami Vice it," he explained.
And an added bonus: olive-oil poached sea bass with pesto and mango.

Casa Tua -- keeping it classy.