Friday, February 29, 2008

Update on New Restaurants

  • Mint Leaf opens today.
  • Ariston is open. As are Abokado and Por Fin.
  • Bambino Grande has been open for weeks and, like Cantina 27, is a new inexpensive Italian restaurant.
  • The wine bar trend continues with Cavas Wine Bar on Espanola Way. They have some sort of nifty pre-paid automated wine tasting feature. Curious to try it out.
  • The professional set have found a new playground at Badrutt's Place (sibling to the Swiss resort of the same name). The swank boite features its own Davidoff cigar lounge, a euro-tinged menu of decadent bites like mushroom risotto and caviar and live DJ's spinning in the glam Alison Antrobus-designed space. 1250 south miami ave. between 12th and 13th. 305.415.0070.
  • And something called Yogurbella is coming to South Beach. Looks like a Pinkberry knockoff. I heart Pinkberry so I'm ok with that.

LuminaireX Launch Tonight

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tonight: Dogfish Head Beer Dinner @ Lola's

Lola's is back with another great beer pairing dinner. The menu is posted below, and 5% of the proceeds will be donated to Broward County Humane Society. This week is also "Dine with Your Dog" week at the restaurant where they've got housemade doggie treats, doggie beer (non-alcoholic), and doggie prizes.

February 28th Dogfish Head Beer Dinner Menu:
Course One: Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio with Mache Lettuce, Roasted Serrano-Chili-Lime Vinaigrette. PAIRED WITH Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Course Two: Green Peppercorn Crusted Duck Breast with Golden Raisin Potato Pancakes and Red Current Apple Sauce PAIRED WITH Dogfish Head Raison De'tre
Course Three: India Brown Ale Braised Beef Shank with Creamy Grits and Ginger-Orange Gremolata PAIRED WITH Dogfish Head India Brown Ale
Course Four: Fresh Grape Pie topped with Rolled Oats and Brown Sugar Served with Honey Ice Cream PAIRED WITH Dogfish Head Midas Touch

Ample free parking is available behind the restaurant.
Lola's on Harrison
2032 Harrison Street
Hollywood FL 33020
(954) 927 9851

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sunday at the Sobe Food Fest

Are food personalities the new rock stars? At 5pm Sunday, after imbibing and feasting for upwards of four hours you could almost find yourself thinking Bobby Flay is this decade's Brett Michaels. Listening to hundreds of boozy ladies whooping it up every time Flay said the word "rub" in the context of barbecue-speak can really wharp your perspective on sexiness. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First there was Padma Lakshmi in a white tank top, Pocahontas-like pigtails, a sari-wrap skirt and a headset a la Madonna's Blond Ambition tour demonstrating how to make cashew cookies.

Things were fun and a bit naughty at first as she asked "How drunk are you guys? Don't worry I was drinking in the green room too!" And later, when mixing up the batter and noticing the mirror above her cooking station remarked, "Can you guys see the bowl? Can you see down my shirt?" and was met with predictable yelps. The tasting tents were jam packed with serious wine drinkers and not-so-serious anything drinkers. We happened upon an intriguing winery from China called Changyu. Turns out the French set up shop in the Shandong province and churn out a respectable product. It was a leap of faith tasting it, as I remembered the awful Great Wall Wine we wasted brain cells on the last time we were in Beijing, but the Chardonnay was fairly decent. At $9 a bottle you may see it in stores down here soon. There was some good eats to be had as well. The Forge had their usual crowds clammering for a filet sandwich and Legal Sea Foods set up an actual raw bar with an oyster shucker on hand. Eggwhites Catering put in some serious effort for presentation with their eggshell cups topped with shrimp. It was also pretty "green" of them for using biodegradable materials instead of the usual paper-plastic combo but I think their intention was more clever branding, which it was.

Blue Door got creative with a delicious salmon tartar topped with "caviar" which was really soy-flavored tapioca balls.

But I need to give a shout out to the chefs who literally sweat it out all day long in the sweltering tents cooking, serving and not really getting much love from the tipsy hordes. Atrio's Michael Gilligan was charming and gracious despite the heat and chef Michael Wagner of Hollywood's Lola's on Harrison served up his signature Coca-Cola barbecue beef ribs along with a smile. There were plenty of local celeb-chefs in attendance, either at cooking demonstrations (Ortanique's Cindy Huston vs. Johnny V) or mingling with the crowds, shaking hands (Sean Brasel of Touch). Top Chef Miami toques were also in the tents with Brian Marlarkey holding forth at the Oceanaire table and Howie Kleinberg facing off against Govind Armstrong in an Iron Chef-esque competition where an inebriated audience moderated by Belkys acts as judge. They also had to use products from Target's Archer Farms. It ended in a tie.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Emeril's Sugar Shack

Didn't see Emeril, but did see plenty of sugar. The Raleigh's backyard was a nice venue to end Friday night. It was packed, but there was plenty of movement so you could hang by the pool on a lounge chair or sit on the vast sandy expanse towards the beach. The Perrier-Jouet was flowing in plastic champagne flutes and the affluent (mostly out-of-town) crowd seemed genuinely impressed with what Miami has to offer.

Considering we were coming from Best of the Best we felt a bit like beached whales but managed to taste a few toothsome creations like a pumpkin spice cake (above), peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate ganache-covered brownies (below) and key lime tarts. Best in show was the banana cream pies, brimming with hunks of banana nestled in a flaky crust.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Event Report: Best of the Best

Yes it was at the AA Arena, not a particularly romantic venue for a tasting odyssey but grand in its own vast-sea-of-orange-seats kind of way. About an hour into the event we decided it was the best basketball game we had ever attended. Highlights include Iron chef Morimoto who shunned chefs whites in favor of a hardcore kimono-style ensemble. Dude is the embodiment of culinary-cool, no doubt about it.

His booth was serving up a fantastic spiced hamachi with parsley puree and microgreens. The way it works is that a chef and a vineyard or two are paired off and occupy a skybox and visitors roam through the circular venue popping in and out to sip, taste and shmooze. I had heard mixed reviews of last year's event - that it was crowded, chefs ran out of food, etc. This year it seemed either they sold less tickets or organizers were better prepared because there was barely any crowding, there was plenty of room to get into the shmancy lounge-like boxes, have a seat at one of the high-top tables, eat your food and even chat with the chefs and wine reps.

Carnivores were well-rewarded as plenty of steakhouses like Bourbon Steak, Allen Brothers, Kobe Club, Porterhouse New York represented and anyone else who could serve beef did so.

Local chefs were also in the house with Clay Conley (assisted by Michael Jacobs formerly of Grass) serving up a fantastic lamb pide and Dewey LoSasso was carving up massive short rib sandwiches. Lamb was ubiquitous with plenty of shanks on display. Best lamb was courtesy of Suvir Saran from NYC's Devi as it was a generous slice doused with a fantastic minty yogurt dressing and came with a side of curried potatoes. David Pasternak from NYC's Esca gave good fish with marinated grouper in olive oil, refreshing after so much carnivorous bounty. The Fontainebleau set up a mini-club in the arena corridor with flashing disco lights and a DJ. It brought me back to my bat mitvah days and we grabbed a few plates of tomato caprese salad and quickly bolted.

If this is what we can look forward to from the new Fontainebleau, I miss the old Tropicala. If you wanted to drink $300 worth you certainly could with pricey bottles on hand from Tor Kenward Wines (like the 2005 cab which is $125 a bottle) or a quaff of Rob Sweeney's Vine Cliff 2004 cab ($150) of which he says only 800 bottles are made and only sells in three locations: South Florida, Tokyo and his vineyard. There were also tasty sips from Chiarello Vineyards like the petite syrah, made from organic grapes, though not technically an organic wine. And a fantastic "Vieux-Os" old vine zinfandel from Schrader Cellars Train Wreck Vineyards, a $30 bottle that stood up well against the pricier selection available.
After noshing and imbibing so much decadence we were ready for dessert and that came in the form of a nearly flawless plate of panna cotta topped with pistachios, blood orange sorbet and wedges of blood oranges from The North Fork Table and Inn, one of those picturesque inns in upstate New York where all you want to do is drink wine and eat spoonfuls of blood orange sorbet.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Trade Day at the Food Fest

The Tasting Village opened yesterday with "trade day," a less-crowded version of the bacchanalia that ensues during the weekend. A chance to talk to the wine companies, to network, hobnob and shmooze with those in the biz. Allow me to say, DUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE! Let the festivities begin. Who doesn't like drinking at 1 in the afternoon? Apparently no one from 14th to 10th and Ocean. Walking in I heard the strains of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" and spied a tiki-hut cabana outfitted with girls throwing beach balls and I knew the party had arrived. Managed to catch a few minutes of Bourdain's "Golden Clog" Awards.

There was crazy Tony, all lanky and barefoot in black jeans waxing sarcastic about sell-out chefs and hating on the Food Network. The man loves the Sobe Food Fest because the crowds eat up his narcissism like cubes of Cabot cheese. He's that rare breed of media beast who has managed to parlay his career as a chef into notoriety as an author and this final permutation of a wisecracking stage personality. After sampling six different liquor-laced beverages within my first 4 minutes inside the tents, I found Bourdain quite entertaining. But the village and its bevy of beverages and bites beckoned. So I only caught him and Ruhlman bestowing the prize on Momofuku's David Chang for being the best chef to work with pig innards or some such.
As expected for trade day, the grounds were rife with product placement. I managed to down two Dunkin Donuts caramel 'chinos (one at the beginning to fortify, one at the end to sober up. I highly reccomend this strategy.)

Godiva is now busting out with coffee blends, all of which are sweety, sweet. Memo to beverage wizards: some people like to keep their teeth. All of the pretty gals handing out the samples are also really nice.

There was a company handing out a product called "Goodbye Smell" for getting rid of oniony smells on your skin. I've already got a product that does that - it's called lemon rinds. And a company called Europe's Best was handing out mini-smoothies which were really refreshing and delicious.

Chocolate-covered cookies from Godiva, very popular.

In a nice example of food and spirit-based recipe synergy Patron was offering tequila shrimp cocktails.

Rock Garden Herbs had a bountiful display for their herbage and a pesto-like dip made from purreed mint, basil and olive oil.

Evian's bright pink cabana has a staff of "misters" on hand to spray you down with the pricey water which is actually quite nice on a hot day.

Lamb is in vogue, apparently. Many vendors were offering it at the tasting village and at Best of the Best last night.

Coppola's vineyard is launching a new line of all-Sonoma wines called "Director's Cut." I tried the chardonay (the bottle on the right), nice and smooth and not bad for about $20 retail. Apparently the pinot noir is great but they didn't have it with them.

Here's a vineyard from Long Island, NY called Bedell Cellars. Yep, that Long Island. Really tasty wines, actually. Some of their lables are comissioned by artists like Barbara Kruger and Eric Fishl. They were pouring their 2005 merlot which sang of blueberries and oak.

And a 2005 Louis Latour Meursault was perfect for the hot day. Bursting with grapefruit, lemon and nice acidity.

NY Bloggers Covering Sobe Food Fest

Eater brings us a chat with Lee Brian Schrager. Excerpt:
Other than keeping hydrated and somewhat sober, what else do you need to do your job this weekend? Lipitor, Xanax, and my blackberry.

The NYTimes Diner's Journal food blog has Allen Salkin reporting from meat-happy Sobe.
"None may be more gripping than a meaty showdown in the sand set for Thursday night as two New York burger joints fight it out to be crowned best burger in the country against 16 other entrants in the “Burger Bash.” The Shake Shack’s “Shackburger,” the famous brisket-boosted burger, is the returning champion and the only repeat competitor from 2007. Desperate to take the crown is the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien, which will be serving up its “Beef Burger with The Works:” Colby and white cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Miami Dining Trends

Miami is usually about 2 years behind New York when it comes to culinary fads. We've just inherited our first gastropub, whereas NY'ers were kicking back at places like The Spotted Pig and Freeman's before we even knew what lardons were. Beef-happy outlets are invading like Kobe Club, STK and BLT-Steak and hopefully beer-centered bars featuring microbrews will follow. One thing I notice as I check out new restaurants is that certain dishes keep popping up on menus around town. Here are a few:
  • Rabbits. The gourmet game is scampering around menus like the Design District's new Mediteranean resto Brosia which features a rabbit stifado made with currants, candied walnuts and pearl onions. Then there's The Smoking Rabbit's eponymously-themed dish that also incorporates carrot jus and celery root.
  • Mac & Cheese. Bourbon Steak, Andu, The Smoking Rabbit, Bistro One at the Ritz all have their own fancied up versions of this American comfort food. Bourbon wins with their perfect al-dente noodles and truffle shavings but Andu turns out a nice cast iron pot with manchego, cheddar and fontina.
  • Figs. Atrio at the Conrad's got an asparagus salad with fig chutney as well as a roasted fig and barley" risotto" to go along with a roasted squab. Michael's Genuine has a pizza with mission figs along with grilled onions, fontina cheese and Berkshire pork and he's also got a black mission fig & cambazola cheese crostini on the bar snacks menu.
  • Polenta. It seems like it all started with Michy's ethereal version of this peasant pantry staple. Then La Marea busted out with Pietro Rota's delicate parmesean cream-infused side. Soon after Joley at the Astor and Brosia were offering up their porridge-like interpretations of this cornmeal food. Michy's still wins with its soft boiled egg topping.

Networking Event @ Level 25

Level 25 at Conrad Miami will host a Young Professionals Networking (YPN) mixer on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. As guests meet and mingle in The Room, Level 25’s chic new private party and event space, they will enjoy views of Biscayne Bay, creative cocktails and hors d’oeuvres prepared by executive chef Michael Gilligan.
Open to the public, the event is free to members and $20 for non-members who reserve in advance and $25 at the door. Ten percent of the evening’s proceeds will benefit Operation Smile, which helps treat children suffering from facial deformities.
Attendees are encouraged to RSVP to Young Professionals Networking by calling (305) 788-1963 or via email at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sobe Food Events You CAN Attend

By now all the Sobe Food Fest tix are sold out save for a few spots here and there at a wine seminar or the Mohegan Sun-sponsored party at Mansion Sunday night. But if you're looking to get in on the gastronomic action here are a few worthwhile events with fairly low (in comparison) tickets prices.
  • On Saturday, Feb. 23,from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Michael Bloise of Wish will dish up an endless array of all-you-can-eat goodies from the grill. The party, held at The Hotel’s rooftop pool area, offering pristine views of the ocean, will also feature a towering raw bar, cool lounge music and a full bar serving everything from traditional cocktails to The Hotel’s famous electronic drinks. Priced at $95 per person, includes a complimentary cocktail, tax and gratuity. Limited to 100 guests. For reservations call 305- 674-9474.
  • Rob Sweeney, proprietor and winemaker of Vine Cliff Winery joins Dewey LoSasso at North 110 for a wine dinner on Saturday, Feb. 24. $175pp including wine. Menu is here.
  • The Setai is having a bunch of events, including an $850 dinner which blows any Sobe ticket price right out of the Vueve Cliquot-drenched bubble bath. There's also a mention of a demonstration with Chef Morimoto but no ticket price or time.

Sobe Food Fest Gossip

In addition to the decadence and Dionysian displays at the South Beach Wine and Food Fest this weekend there will also be a quirky awards show, courtesy of rock-star chef Anthony Bourdain and food writer Michael Ruhlman. Dubbed the Golden Clog awards (for Mario Batali's signature crocs) the awards will take place on beach Friday at 2pm. No word on location or if this event is open to the public. Eater's got a rundown of the nominees which include categories like "THE ALTON,"
For being on Food Network and yet, somehow managing to Not Suck and "THE MARIO,"
For the chef/restaurateur who best multi-tasked, multi-platformed, merchandised, whored himself, or opened multi-units (either while impaired--or not) and yet STILL managed to protect the quality of the mothership--while continuing to make valuable contributions to the restaurant landscape
Nominees: Tom Collichio, Thomas Keller, Mario Batali

Tee-hee. Food nerds, stay tuned.

Oscars Party @ Hotel Victor

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bright Lights, Art City

Jay McInerney files an obligatory Miami Basel story. It starts:
Thursday morning, 4:30, I’m walking back to my hotel from Le Baron, the transplanted French nightclub that sets up shop on Collins Avenue for the week of Art Basel Miami Beach, with Paul Sevigny, a D.J., and Patrick McMullan, a photographer. Patrick’s been hard at work shooting the parties that have become such a big part of the festival, and Paul’s come down from New York to spin for one of them—I forget which. Ralph Lauren, Pucci, Swarovski, Audi, and UBS, the banking giant that’s the main sponsor of the event, are among the corporate entities that have hosted events tonight, and those are just the ones I can remember. The festival officially opened 12 hours ago, but the serious collectors and V.I.P.’s swarmed the Miami Beach Convention Center starting at noon, and the serious party people had attended dozens of soirees the night before. Iggy Pop gave a concert on the beach tonight, and not long after that I found myself on the lower floor of the Delano at Lenny Kravitz’s nightclub, the Florida Room, chatting with transvestites and trying unsuccessfully to make conversation with Lance Armstrong.
“The feeling that you’re missing things,” Jennifer Rubell tells me, “has become the defining Art Basel Miami emotion.”

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gluten-Free Feast

A little while back we hosted a dinner party at our place. One of the guests is allergic to gluten. Always up for a culinary challenge I decided that the entire meal would gluten-free. I looked to successful blogger Gluten-Free Girl for recipes, did some internet research and found that cooking with these restrictions is remarkably easy. It's similar to eating Atkin's diet-style, except you can have rice, beans and corn so it's actually a lot tastier. On the menu:
  • black bean soup with cilantro and sour cream (sautée 1 onion in olive oil, add 2 cans of beans, the juice of one lime and simmer for 20 min.)
  • polenta topped with sauteed mushrooms
  • roasted butternut squash, above, (brush with olive oil and season with nutmeg, garlic powder and sea salt)
  • spinach quiche (1 pound chopped spinach, 1 onion chopped, 1 container ricotta, 2 eggs. Mix and bake for 40 min. at 350 degrees.)
  • roasted salmon (lemon juice and butter)
  • green salad
  • Japanese rice crackers and hummus
And for dessert, these incredibly simple peanut butter cookies and fresh fruit.

Bourbon Steak

Dinner at Bourbon Steak. Glitzy, glamorous and gluttonous. If you're looking to channel your inner Trump, this is the place. Yes it's pricey, but that's besides the point. A restaurant like Bourbon Steak exists to pamper you, to satiate your every culinary whim and when a place fulfills this chosen mission with classic panache you've got to marvel at the effort. Before dinner starts you are treated to a mini-meal in freebies. Instead of complimentary bread you are brought a trio of duck fat fries, each with its own dipping sauce: garlic aioli, barbecue sauce and spiced ketchup. The fries are crispy, seasoned differently (the paprika type assertively so) and addictive. We easily polish off the platter while looking over the menu. Then a copper pan of Rosemary potato focaccia bread is also brought to the table. After we've ordered, small teacups of butternut squash soup topped with apple cider foam are proffered, a hearty amuse bouche. We are stuffed. But we soldier on.
A word on the wine list; it is epic. And it's online. The restaurant has 7,000 bottles in stock and they're all displayed handsomely throughout the glossy Tony Chi-designed space. A few selection catch my eye: a Figge Pelio 2006 Chardonay for $99 and a glass of Betts & Scholl granache for $15. We peruse the tome-like list and spy the "Secrets of the Sommelier" page. Matthew Turner, the sommelier has compiled a list of progressive growers, some with bottles under $50. The sommelier offers to do a wine pairing, we oblige, mostly because I never turn down expert advice, and at this point I'm about to lapse into a food coma.

Appetizers: Trio of tartar poppers (toro, escolar and big eye) and burrata mozzarella salad. Michael Mina does things in three's. You get used to the concept as the meal goes on. The tartars are served atop a crunchy Japanese rice cake. The toro is the favorite, the buttery fish enlivened by its spicy mayo dressing. Pairing for the tartars - a Domain Wachau 2006 Riesling.

The burrata salad is almost as good as Table 8's (still the winner in this category) but makes me swoon nonetheless. It is topped with fruity olive oil and sea salt. It shares the plate with delicate yellow and red beets. Thank god for this cheese, it's really a miracle. Pairing for the salad - a Vina Nora 2006 Albarino.
Entrees include an American Kobe filet (better than Kobe Club) and the miso cod served with scallop dumplings. Pairing for the steak - Luca 2006 Malbec. Entree portions are moderate, not too large so that ordering sides is a reasonable proposition. Sides include an order of broccoli with a goat cheese fondue, a nice heaping platter of breadcrumb dusted vegetables but a bit unwieldy to eat.

And black truffle mac and cheese, lavishly creamy and chock full of bits of prized fungi and, curiously, broccoli as well. I could have easily had the mac and cheese side for dinner and called it a glorious night.

For dessert, beignets with a trio of dipping options: vanilla bean crème brulée
macallan 18 year butterscotch pudding, valrhona dark chocolate pot de crème. The chocolate was the fave. At this point I was ready to name my first born after Michael Mina, the man responsible for such gustatory revelries.

Photography Reception @ Creek 28

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hope for the Middle East

Julian Schnabel is off to Israel this June to research a new film project and solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Schnabel said: "We need to fix things over there . . . That will be my next thing. Yes, I'm going to devote my self to try and make things better over there."
Praise Alla. Clinton, Condi and Carter couldn't solve the problem there, but now that Schnabel's on the case we'll be holidaying in Gaza in no time.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Maison Tropicale Goes Tropical

The Jean-Prouve-designed house Maison Tropicale that Andre Balazs paid close $5 million for will make its way to Miami in time for Basel 2008. It will be set up by the Raleigh Hotel, possibly when Spiegelworld vacates the spot by the beach? Wallpaper has a tour of the house.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

MoCA Pop 8 1/2

Saturday night found me partying Italian Neorealist style with art world patrons at the MoCA's Pop gala. This year's theme was Federico Fellini's dreamy film-world meta-romp 8 1/2 which was projected onto the museum's outdoor facade so every few minutes you'd look up and see a young Marcello Mastroianni looking oh-so-sauve in black sunglasses. The proseco was flowing (as was Grey Goose and Peroni) and there was plenty to eat under the massive tent. At first no one dared brave the dance floor (even though DJ Hottpants was giving good spin) but after a few plates of endive and walnut salad I was ready to get all bellissimo on that scene.

And so was she. Except I think she was paid to shake her magnifique.

And for dessert? Mini beignets with ducle de leche. Not so Italian, but then again, neither is North Miami.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Angels in Africa Event Friday

Andu Restaurant and Lounge

The Brickell corridor is now nightlife central. Except without the velvet ropes, the door snobs and slicksters. Thanks to Andu resto and lounge, post-work tipplers can segue into a haute night out without moving an inch.
Nestled in the ground floor of the Miami river's hip Neo Vertika building, this 150-seat martini-heavy hang cranks up the glam with glossy white leather banquettes, shimmering silver curtains framing floor-to-ceiling windows and a semi-private dining area bedecked with hundreds of multi-colored, hand-blown glass bubbles created by Norwegian glass guru Terje Lundaas.
Gourmet goodies are courtesy of consulting chef Jason McClain (Nikki Beach, 8 ½) who counsels head chef Nate Martin (8 1/2, pearl) in the ways of luxe Mediterranean eats. Think white bean bruschetta, charred beef carpaccio with panzanella salad and Moroccan spiced calamari. Wash it all down at the marble wrap-around bar with a cilantro martini, made with aloe vera juice and lime.
Escape the clutches of tourists and head south.
Andu Restaurant and Lounge
141 SW 7th street

Happy Year of the Rat

Went to the Chinese New Year's party at Galerie Bertin Toublanc last Thursday night. Oodles of sinocentric fun was had by all. There was free-flowing sake (mmkay, not Chinese but Asian nonetheless), fab dragon dancers (one of which hit on my superfly friend Dejha, except he wasn't in costume at that point). Lots of deelish Chinese food was provided courtesy of Miss Yip's restaurant. The veggie spring rolls were a big hit. And I found out I was born the year of the goat which makes me compatible with pigs and rabbits. Thanks, China!