Saturday, August 30, 2008

Brunch @ Lemonia, Ritz-Carlton Naples

After a weekend spent lounging by the pool, reading a stack of New Yorkers (Anthony Lane's piece on Beijing Olympics-highly entertaining)and generally chillaxing, we had worked up quite an appetite. Good thing the brunch at the Ritz's Golf Resort was designed to feed an army, albeit an army with a taste for caviar and poached lobster. The bounty on display was seriously overwhelming. Michael Phelps wouldn't have even survived the hot stations in time to partake of the roasted vegetable and Italian cheese table. As our server toured us through the different foodstuffs available our eyes bugged out of their sockets cartoon-style.

Where to begin?
First there was the sushi chef on hand making fresh rolls and cutting sashimi to order. Next to that was the smoked fish table with lox, whitefish and two types of caviar. After that was a salad station (predictably, that table didn't get too much action), next was the ample raw bar with lobster tails, crab claws, fresh oysters, shrimp, etc. And that was just the corridor outside the dining room. Inside was a bevy of hot food like sea bass in an orange tomato sauce, gorgonzola fritatta, roast beef, lamb, pasta stations, fresh waffles, and bowls of fresh fruit and berries.

But the desserts, oh the desserts.
Croissants, brownies, cinnamon buns - yes all the usual brunchy baked goods were in attendance but then it seemed that the hotel's pastry chefs viewed Sunday brunch as some sort of sugar confection contest and churned out these delicate, magnificent little tarts and chocolate mousse cakes that we felt guilty destroying with each spoonful. But conquer the dessert buffet, we must. And we did so with gusto.

3,000 calories later we waddled back to our room for a nap, sumo wrestler-style.

Friday, August 29, 2008

RIP Moore Space

The Moore Space is closing. Probably because Rosa De La Cruz is building a private museum/collection a la the Rubell Family Collection.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Naples Weekend

Spent the weekend in Naples, land of the chardonnay-swillers. Needed a break from Miami and all the "magic" of the Magic City. You know how it is. Naples was perfect. Boring, but so necessary. Low population density, lots of wide streets and empty restaurants. Best of all, sunsets over the water, a perk of the West Coast. We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort (above), a classy resort with plenty of panache. At night they light up a firepit and everyone gathers around like it's the village square and talks politics. Had dinner at Baleen, sibling to Miami's restaurant of the same name, but much better food. Started with a tuna tartar (how could we not?) and moved on to a luscious rib eye and grouper with red wine risotto.

We also spent a night at the Naples Grande Resort, surprisingly urbane and stylish for the Gulf Coast. Lots of white leather, orange chairs and mod glowing bars.

There's a Golden Door Spa on the premises with a Asian-minimalist courtyard with cooling reflecting pools. At the end of your treatment they give you a shot glass of organic strawberry juice, a nice touch.

Topped off the weekend with a massive slice of cake at Strip House. It was my birthday, after all. 24 layers of chocolatey goodness just about sufficed. I hope this pic adequately conveys the ganache largess here. It was a glacier of cake.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Swimsuits and Sandals Trunk Show, August 23

Fashionistas unwilling to surrender the sunblock are in for a treat with 50% off Brazilian swimsuit collection ANK and 20% off Tuccia di Capri sandals at the “Swimsuits & Sandals” trunk show August 23 - 24. ANK designer M irla Sabino, from the luxe label that recently appeared on the Victoria’s Secret catalog cover, will be onsite with the ladies of Tuccia to help bathing beauties select ensembles for spending the holiday poolside at The Shore Club or island hopping on a yacht. Swimsuits starting at $45, Sandals starting at $120 and complimentary champagne!

Saturday, August 23 - 11:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Sunday, August 24 - 11:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Tuccia di Capri
1630 Pennsylvania Avenue (one block off of Lincoln Rd)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On the Tuna Tartar Trail

In chronicling my food adventures on this blog I've come across many restaurant menus with a starter so ubiquitous, so prominent, so difficult to dismiss it deserves a post all its own. I am referring to the almighty tuna tartar. The raw fish also makes guest appearances as tuna tataki, tuna sashimi, tuna crudo or (in the case of one imaginative resto) spicy tuna nachos. Whether you care about the mercury levels or not, it's hard to ignore this persistent pesce. I've compiled a montage, from some more memorable dinners and well-executed versions of the dish.

First up is the tuna tartar at Nikki Coconut Grove (top). A decent portion, nicely diced, fine tasting fish, not much seasoning going on except for some random capers and the seaweed bed. The accompanying fried lotus chips added a welcome textural contrast (crunch is essential when it comes to this dish). Its $14 price tag points more to the restaurant's club-like atmosphere than culinary fireworks.
Next is the appetizer from A Fish Called Avalon. Similar tower-like presentation, except here the fish is topped with a heaping scoop of guacamole, really good guacamole. The "toasted sesame vinaigrette" it came with was a little too thick and sweet, but the accompanying cassava chips where a nice touch. If you consider that you're getting a guac starter as well, it's kind of worth the $15.

Moving on to more exotic territory we have the Hawaiian Yellowfin carpaccio at 1 Bleu. Paper-thin slices of the light fish are layered and drizzled with a Jerez vinaigrette (a Spanish vinegar). Microgreens and a single truffle potato chip add flavor and textural variety. A very elegant dish, and quite pricey ($22), but I preferred the restaurant's grouper ceviche to this dish.

An Italian take on the raw tuna offering was found at Badrutt's Place in Brickell. They do a tuna sampler 4 ways (soy, orange, lemon and olive oil). The best was the orange and the soy. It was also one of the more expensive starters ($20) and you really don't get that much to start with.

Lastly, we have Abokado, where raw fish is the foundation of the menu. Sure, there are maki rolls, ceviches, tiraditos and estiraditos but the best in show is the spicy tuna nachos. Composed of deep-fried shiso leaves topped with spicy tuna, sliced avocado and just the slightest hint of tobiko, the dish is beautifully presented. The tuna is also well-spiced and flavorful which makes eating these in one bite really easy. Still a bit pricey (4 for $14) but worth the extravagance.

Post-Fay Feasting

If you haven't been to Le Boudoir yet, you are missing out on some die-hard Frenchie-influenced vibes. Here's my First Look. Also, here's my piece on Cita's, and it looks like they've beefed up their website, which is nice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Interactive Cooking @ the Biltmore

Something hot was cooking at the Biltmore this weekend, and it wasn't in the kitchen. As we entered the regal ball room our stomachs started rumbling prompted by scents of sizzling Kobe beef, ginger, minced garlic and chives. Groups of culinary enthusiasts sat clustered around tables outfitted with cooking stations ready to cook and enjoy a meal tableside at the Cellar Club's interactive luncheon. The guest chef of the day was Juliana Gonzalez, Chef de Cuisine at SUSHISAMBA dromo, wok master and charming host.

She held court from a podium in the front of the room and instructed the table chefs via a headset, giving background about the ingredients and suggesting cooking techniques. The menu nicely blended the restaurant's signature mix of Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese traditions with plenty of cross-cultural flavor combinations. The ladies at my table left the cooking up to the gents, as we were content to sip copious amounts of Mumm champagne and observe the frying pan action from our plush seats.

The meal started with pan steamed American Kobe beef gyozas (top) with caramelized onions and shoyu dipping sauce. The dumplings were a decadent mix of tangy and earthy with ginger and garlic deftly cutting the richness of the beef mixed with shiitake mushrooms. Next up, pan seared branzino with baby vegetables and yuzu soy sauce. The fish was spectacularly fresh, and cooked perfectly (thanks, Yannick!). The sauce (1 cup sake, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup soy and yuzu mix) was a perfect foil to the flaky, moist fish with the citrusy yuzu adding amazing tang to the whole dish.

Dessert was a delicate mix of sweet and tart: a mini-macaroon, key lime, chocolate pot de creme and peach sorbet - the last being uber-refreshing and surprisingly creamy for a sorbet.

All in all, a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and a nice indication of where SUSHISAMBA is headed. With a talented woman like Gonzalez manning the stoves, this is the kind of food that will keep the restaurant ahead of the fray on Lincoln Road.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Poplife Presents Paid Vacation

A Night Out with Jeff Morr

Whenever I'm on Plum TV's morning show Jeff Morr and I always say We've Got to do Dinner, When are we doing dinner, You and I have to do dinner. So we finally got together recently and in a Beijing-y mood we chose Miss Yip's Olympics Menu for feasting. And yes, it was a feast. Be prepared to eat. The menu is for 4 but there was more than enough food and plenty of variety. Dinner starts with egg rolls and a dim sum sampler with about 8 buns (a mixture of vegetable, shrimp and pork). Next come the 5 mains which included mu shu chicken, Mongolian beef, Peking shrimp, bok choy and black bean fish. Oh, and lo mein.

Joining us that evening was his cousin Inbar, visiting from Israel and apparently a great cook in his own right. In between bites of spicy Sichuan fish and crisp bock choy we talked restaurants, restaurants, restaurants. Jeff Morr loves food and he loves to check out restaurants. He's known as a real estate developer (Majestic Properties ring a bell?) but his passion is talk television. "I want to be the next Oprah." In addition to his hosting duties on DayBreak he hopes to launch a real estate talk show on Plum, a topic Miamians can talk about endlessly.

So what did I learn that evening? He eats at Icebox everyday. He loves Kris Wessel's Red Light and had the best steak of his life at Kobe Club. His fave Miami spot is Francesco's in the Gables for amazing Peruvian eats. "Order the ceviche sampler, the lomo saltado and ask for Peirro. He's the best waiter." Casa Toscana is a MUST for anyone who loves food. "She has this homemade pear and ricotta tortellini that is amazing." Cote Gourmet in Miami Shores has fantastic French food - "the pea soup, a beautiful chicken salad and the most incredible chocolate wafer dessert."
And twice daily he drinks a concoction of 1 tsp. organic apple cider vinegar mixed with 1/2 cup water (or orange juice) that is apparently invigorating and cleansing. By the time dessert rolled around (two huge bowls of lychees and fortune cookies) we had talked travel (Mexico, Poland, Australia), discussed the pros and cons of the iPhone vs. the blackberry (Me: I think I need a big screen. Jeff: The blackberry is like a Mercedes; it just works. The iPhone is like a Maserati, too much flash.) and pondered America's economic future. As Michael Phelps's image beamed down on us from the restaurant's big screen TV (tuned to the Olympics, of course) winning yet another gold medal, we made our way into the sultry Miami night, full of great Chinese food and lots to think about.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Style Wars @ Pangea

I usually don't recommend going to Broward (unless you're jonesing for a burger at Le Tub) but this event looks kinda cool. And 2 hours of free Bacardi never hurt anyone except your liver, and really, what has your liver done for you lately?

Amstel Party @ Hotel Victor

What, praytell, are Dutch hors d'ouevres?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cita's Italian Chophouse, Coconut Grove

We dined at Cita's on a busy Saturday night recently. After parking in the headache that is CocoWalk and weaving our way through ridiculously loud R&B music at Fat Tuesdays we made our way to this idyllic spot. The indoor dining room was packed with Coconut Grovers supping on steaks, pastas and massive lobsters. The flatscreen TV above the bar beamed footage of Pavarotti (RIP) in all his tenor splendor. It was a night for Italian Food.
We sad outside in the lush patio. It was hot, yes, but there were plenty of fans and greenery to cool things down. Dinner started with a puffy brioche dusted with parmesean cheese, an orginal touch. We segued into the burrata mozzarella, a fine salad but it could have used a bit of sea salt.

We also tried the trio of fish carpacci consisting of smoked salmon, tuna and swordfish. All very, very smoky with the salmon being the best. The tuna was overpowered by the smoky factor. The orange slices nicely offset the smokiness in the dish.

Our mains consisted of the 12 oz. filet and the pan-seared yellowfin with ratatouille and grilled artichokes. The steak was cooked to order but its presentation could have used some more, well, pizazz. The beef's only companion was a roasted garlic bulb. The tuna was a generous portion and the artichokes had a nice char to them. The only puzzling thing about the dish was that the ratatouille was cold, which seemed odd.

Dessert was lovely - a deconstructed tiramisu served in a martini glass with rich mascarpone cheese topped with lovely chocolate flakes. There were spoon fights over that one.

Little Jackie @ The Florida Room

Monday, August 11, 2008

What To Drink When Olympicizing?

Need a little something to get you going during those marathon Olympics-watching stretches? This fruity drink ought to do it. The “Five Rings Over Beijing” was created by Tina Lea Madden, Lead Bartender, and Charlie Zha, Director of Food and Beverage (and China native), at The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne and will be served at the resort’s Dune Oceanfront Burger Lounge during August and September.

It is made from five ingredients representing the five Olympic rings - the core ingredient being plum, a prevalent fruit in Chinese history and cuisine. The concoction is then topped with Camitz sparkling vodka… world records and medal ceremonies call for celebratory bubbles, of course…

Five Rings over Beijing
1/4 oz Skky Vodka
1/8 oz Chambord
1/4 oz Plum Puree
1/8 oz Sweet Cherry Juice
3 oz Apple Juice

Shake and serve over ice or strained into a martini glass
Top off with Camitz sparkling vodka
A stack of five frozen cherries (mimicking the popular Chinese treat of candied plums) is the recommended garnish

Sunday, August 10, 2008

When Did New York Get So Kawaii?

Another detour from our regularly scheduled Miami programming as I share highlights from my recent New York trip.

The BAMN! automat food vending machine on St. Marks Place. It evoked two things for me: 1950's Americana pharmacy dining and contemporary Asian vending machines where you can purchase everything from beer to condoms. The offerings were creative -shepherd's pie, faux chicken sandwiches from Red Bamboo, grilled cheese, bbq chicken paninis. Everything was $1-$3, impressively cheap.

Another observation - the general Asia-fication of New York. From popular Japanese retailer Uniqlo (they of the $40 cashmere sweater) and Muji (which I love with my minimalist-obsessed heart) to the restaurants like the Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, and the dozens of Izakayas that line St. Marks, it feels as though a large portion of Tokyo's hipsters have relocated to the area around NYU and the East Village. I enjoyed shopping at Uniqlo, below, with its overwhelming selection of T-shirts and nondescript preppy staples like polo shirts and button-downs.

Now, if only we could purchase cashmere sweaters from vending machines...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Crashing a NonSociety Party

Loyal Miami readers, bear with me on this post as we venture to the hinterlands a bit.

I’m in New York this week in honor of my nifty new job. Among the many fantabulous things I’ve done while here, nothing can quite compare to my experience last night being an extra on a pilot for a reality TV show. The show in question is called “NonSociety” and stars New York media beast Julia Allison. Dear Miami readers you probably have no idea who Julia Allison is, and you’re all probably reading this as you sit by a pool sipping mojitos. If you care you can immerse yourself in this Gawker vortex and satiate your curiosity. Either way, continue sipping your mojitos.

Back to the party.

On hand: free Pink Vodka-infused Nonsociety-tinis (I wish I was making this up), free food and a fabulous setting so naturally I settled in for a long night. The “set” was a glitzy apartment atop Bergdorf’s where the artwork consisted of LCD screens displaying a rotation of the Greatest Hits in Art including Starry Night, Girl with a Pearl Earring and whatever other paintings you’d normally see in a college dorm room. The classiness didn’t end there.

How to describe the crowd? Blow-dried blondes in cocktail dresses. Blow-dried brunettes in cocktail dresses. It reminded me of Dallas and I’ve never been to Dallas. No music; the atmosphere was a tad awkward. Free drinks and free food is usually how I roll in Miami and at those events there are at least a couple drag queens, half a dozen women with bad botox and sexy Latin men. Now THAT’S a crowd worth filming. Give me this event or this one any day over this sterile over-lipsticked hoi polloi. Also, the ratio of men to women was roughly 1 to 17. The party dynamic was such that at any point the camera crews would be filming the crowd or Julia or not at all. It was sort of like roving cameras a la Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark. But alas, no witty banter and no Sammy Davis Jr.

The highlights? Well, Julia’s dog is friggin adorable and the embodiment of everything that is pure and good in the universe. At a certain point in the evening she fed the dog a few rounds of salami and that was fun. The view from the balcony was also quite magical. Definitely Carrie Bradshaw-worthy. I drank a reality show’s budget worth of wine and chatted with my friends. I debated pulling a faux fainting stunt in an effort to inject some drama into the proceedings but decided a lifetime of Julia Allison resentment was too high a price to pay for a few minutes of entertainment. I left tipsy and with a full belly so I hereby knight the evening a success.

Thanks Bravo, you've just made the world a less interesting place.

Introducing UrbanDaddy Miami

Hey Friends,

Wanted to update you on some exciting news. I have signed on as Miami Editor of UrbanDaddy, the daily email lifestyle and entertainment guide specifically geared toward men. It’s already hugely influential in New York, and editions in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco, where it recently launched, are quickly making a mark.

Now it’s Miami’s turn.

I will be covering everything from the newest restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges to the latest men’s boutiques, must-have personal electronics or anything else we think a guy in this city needs to know about.

Subscription is by invitation (we're very fancy shmancy) so drop me a comment here with your email address - or email me at sara at allpurposedark dot com and I'll put you on the list.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Get Elevated @ Level 25 at the Conrad

Friday nights at Level 25 at the Conrad just got a lot more attractive. True, we were always fans of the million-dollar views, the $6 cocktails and the gratis appetizers but combine that with the turntable wizardry of DJ Induce, and you've got a bona fide par-tay!

Burn Notice Party Tonight

Let the Dim Sum Debate Commence!

Looking for authentic Chinese eats? Check out my cover story in the Herald Food section on some good finds. And before you start bombarding me with comments about Tropical Chinese and how awesome it is, let me just say I know and I felt it was important to highlight other places.

Plus, I happen to like South Garden better and I wrote the article. So there!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Optic Nerve @ MOCA

Discover the next Brett Ratner Thursday when MOCA hosts Optic Nerve, the popular festival featuring short films and videos by some of the freshest and innovative artists in South Florida. Aug. 7, 7PM and 9PM, $5. Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 N.E. 125th St., North Miami, 305.893.6211.

Little Jackie @ The Florida Room

The Florida Room and Giant Step Records have recently debuted a new partnership where, once a month, The Florida Room will play host to one of Giants Step's upcoming artists. Past artists include Janelle Monae, Jose James & Alice Russell. On August 14th Little Jackie will be taking the stage. The concert starts at 10pm.

Olympics Feasting

A Standard Debate

Seems that our little post about getting fleeced at the Standard is generating quite the discussion over at talknightlife. 28 posts and still going.
Sure, it's a dollar, and yes life is too short to argue about these things but the principle of the thing really touches on something people despise about South Beach: blatantly crappy service.
And yeah, that $1 totally salted our game.

R.I.P. Maison, Vita, Touch

No more overpriced Dover Sole for you; Maison D'Azur has closed. Vita is kaput and Touch is gone, baby, gone. But fret not, Touch chef Sean Brasel is opening Meat Market on Lincoln Road this fall.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Happy Hour @ View Bar

Friday night found me sipping champagne at the View Bar's new weekly cocktail party. This being the Regent, and this being Bal Harbour the nibblings were tip top: ceramic spoons of tuna tartar, polenta topped with onions and blue cheese, cucumber rounds with smoked salmon.

We were worlds away from Shuckers (oh but I do love Shuckers, it's just that sometime you want to get all swanked out). And from 6pm-8pm the champagne is complimentary. And this being the Regent and this being Bal Harbour they put out the good stuff (Piper-Heidsieck to be sure). And the crowd was quite impressive, lots of young vivacious things representing the "new" Bal Harbour. You've heard of them, right? They don't have old money but lots and lots of new money? That's a good crowd. They like their bars with a view and a live DJ and thankfully this one has both.
So where will you be Friday night?

RA Sushi Grand Opening

Write for wants to hear from you, people. Consider it your personal megaphone.
Get to it!

B.F.F. Spa Night at Willow Stream

Movies in the Park

A picnic, a blanket and a screen under the stars: the outdoor movie is my fave summer staple. Grab some friends and head to the beach for an outdoor screening of Roman Holiday. The 1953 classic stars Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in a saucy Euro-themed romance. And it's free! Aug. 6, 6PM. Lummus Park, Ocean Dr. between 8th and 9th Sts.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nickel and Dimed: On Getting Fleeced at the Standard

Had a mixed experience at The Standard this weekend. It involved free yoga and overpriced beer. In this post guest blogger Rob Jordan tells the story.

The Standard Hotel on the Venetian Causeway usually sets itself apart from its haughty SoBe counterparts just over the bridge.

Sure it’s pricey and can lean pretentious with all its New Age spa mumbo jumbo, but it’s also the kind of place where rum-and-coke-toting guests pad around in hooded terry cloth robes and flip flops. Complimentary iced tea is on tap in the cool, quasi-Scandinavian lobby dotted with rocking chairs. Free community yoga classes are available to anyone through the end of August. It’s all a bit quirky, generally easy-going and welcoming – a world away from nose-in-the-air places like the Delano or the Shore Club.

So, my disappointment was acute when the Standard ripped me off SoBe-style this past Saturday.

A friend and I were enjoying the aquatic meat market that is the hotel’s pool on weekends: rippling abs, bare boobies, mojito-fueled frolicking. It called for a drink and a snack. Budget-minded, we decided to split a $7 Sierra Nevada and a $5 baba ghanoush appetizer. The hoppy beer was a perfect foil for the garlicky eggplant dip. All was well (although the beer – neatly divided into two cups – appeared on the anemic side of 12 ounces).

Then the check came.

The beer was tallied as $8. After I pointed out to the server that the listed price was $7, he said something about the menu being in need of an update but agreed to look into the discrepancy. A few minutes later, he returned. The beer was still down as $8, and the check total amounted to the same as before. “Sorry,” the server said hurriedly, “the menu is old.” He was gone before I could respond. My credit card had been processed for the full amount – plus an automatic 18% tip.

RA Sushi, South Miami

How about some rock n' roll with your sushi? At the new RA Sushi joint in South Miami an indie rock soundtrack and red lighting provides the backdrop to creative Asian fare like spicy sesame chicken wings and the Crazy Monkey roll, an unlikely combo of salmon, mango and cream cheese.
5829 SW 73rd St, South Miami; 305.341.0092

Lush in the MIA

Miami ups its luscious ante with the opening of Lush cosmetics emporium in the Aventura Mall. This cruelty-free suds-and-salve emporium, designed like a produce market, isn't your typical cosmetics store. Stacked around the bustling space, slabs of colorful, gelatinous cleansers and lotions are sliced, weighed and sent home, more like a gourmet cheese counter than an earth-conscious buyers' boutique. I especially love the Japanese Girl exfoliation bar.
19501 Biscayne Blvd.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

PlumTV Time

My latest PlumTV appearance. Wherein Jeff Morr proposes to me, we discuss Endless Pours (which ends tonight so get over there if you haven't already!), some Miami Spice highlights and the new Cita's in the Grove. I also had WAY too much coffee before this one. But it was fun, as always. This will be the last one for a while as the show is on hiatus until October.