Monday, June 29, 2009

Amazing Dinner Deal at The Tides

So La Marea at The Tides, one of the city's best but sadly overlooked restaurants, recently introduced a new chef, Gonzalo Rivera Jr. who spent time in Michael Mina kitchens and brings a Mexican influence to the restaurant's Mediterranean menu (think fresh corn tamales, snapper in a lime and chili sauce and sugary bunuelos instead of beignets for dessert). In honor of the new menu the restaurant is offering the best Miami Spice-type dinner deal I've ever seen: three courses, of which you have free reign over the menu and can choose any appetizer, main (with the exception of lobster) and dessert plus a glass of wine or beer for $45. Oh and it's inclusive of tax and tip, (though you should really tip extra as it seems like the waiters will make no money off this). They're also doing an all-inclusive $27 lunch where you can choose two courses plus a glass of wine or beer.

If that's not reason enough to give this place a visit, the lobster corn dogs ought be sufficient motivation. They are divine.

La Marea at The Tides, 1220 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, (305) 604-5070.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tapas @ Calafate Grill

Calafate Grill (17100 Collins Ave, 305-949-1945) is the kind of place you walk into and think, tapas lounge, really?
Good sangria, really? I mean, we're in a strip mall surrounded by ridiculously tall condo buildings that are sadly, comically, tragically empty (ever heard of a building limit Sunny Isles?) and as I walk from my car in the giant parking lot to the bright and airy restautant I probably pass a dozen Russian mafioso types smoking and chatting in front of a kabob place. So yeah, I'm thinking great place for dollar store shopping and to pick up a few essentials at CVS, but patatas bravas? Really?
A quick glance at the happy hour menu and I give it a try. $3 sangria and beers - including a cold and citrusy Blue Moon draft - and a long list of $3 small plates. So we order up a slew. First up: the mushrooms.

Oh the mushrooms. Easily the best in show. A heaping bowl sauteed in tons of garlic swimming in white wine and olive oil. Perfect with the crusty bread imported from Spain to sop up the garlicy juices. Good sign of things to come. Next, the patatas bravas, another generous bowl of expertly-fried potato cubes covered in a fantastically spicy cayenne pepper sauce.

The kind of fire that hits you at the back of your throat but is so good you go back for cube after cube, despite the fact that your lips are on fire. And yes, more beer please. After that is was a blur as we kept ordering plates and beers because at $3 a pop, it's rilly, rilly easy. The one thing I will say was truly bad was the tortilla espanola. Maybe they were off on that dish that day, but nothing can excuse the dry wedge of potato and egg fritatta that barely tasted of anything and was drizzled unappetizingly with a green mayonaise sauce. Truly disappointing. But that was really the only low note. Other highlights included the spinach croquettas, beef skewers and garlic-sauteed shrimp (yeah, you better like garlic if you're coming here). And while the waiters don't really speak English (they do speak a Russian-Spanish hybrid, if that helps), they do a great job of clearing plates, keeping water and beer glasses refilled and keeping up with demanding clientele. So yes, it's a neighborhood gem. Check them out next time you need to make a run to the dollar store.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Golden Local Debate: Best BBQ

Who has the best barbecue in Miami? Hmm. The folks at want you to decide. Contenders are People's BBQ vs. Bulldog BBQ. So far Bulldog is taking the golden grill. Vote here (you have until July 8) and you'll probably get invited to their victory party where the ribs will be flowing (or so we hope)...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cocktails @ Club 50

A New Owner for the Regent Bal Harbour?

Here's some hotel gossip for you. Apparently the Regent Bal Harbour is no longer the Regent. Shame, too, as I really liked that hotel.
On Monday the hotel announced this:
Regent Hotels & Resorts today advised that its management of The Regent Bal Harbour Hotel will end effective today as the result of court actions related to the bankruptcy of the hotel owner, WCI Communities Inc. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware has approved the immediate sale of the Hotel by WCI Communities, Inc. to a new owner and the rejection of the existing management contract for the property. Regent Hotels & Resorts is proud of its tenure managing The Regent Bal Harbour since its opening, having achieved strong positioning in the South Florida luxury hotel market. For example, the hotel was ranked by Travel + Leisure magazine among “15 hotels to watch” in the most recent “World’s Best” issue. The brand is continuing to expand globally, including the opening of eight new hotels over the next three years in locations that span the world, from Puerto Rico to the Maldives.

Free Red Stripe! And Jamaican Music!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Taste of the Nation Discount

Name one night this week when you can taste dishes from top local restaurants like Chef Allen's, Johnny V and Lola's on Harrison? Thursday night, my friends. Join hundreds of gourmands as they gather to sip and nosh at Broward Convention Center for the Taste of the Nation fundraiser. The ticket price snags unlimited bites from dozens of local restaurants and a bevy of bevvies including wines and mixed drinks. June 25, 6PM-7PM VIP reception, 7PM-10PM Grand Tasting, $100, VIP Reception and Tasting, $150. More info here.
Save $20 on tickets by entering discount code VIP20FTL.

A Snack @ Sosta

Checked out Lincoln Road gourmet pizza place Sosta the other day. I'll sum up my observations in list form to make things easier for you (but really, for me).
- The interior is high-style without being too flashy. Nice open kitchen where a team churns out thin-crust pies and works the rotating pizza oven. Everything is shiny and bright and clean, including that very visible kitchen.
- Either the A/C doesn't work or they keep it really warm in there because, well, it was really warm in there. I'm not a fan of the arctic temps most restaurants down here maintain but it would be nice to feel a difference between sitting indoors and out. And, for the time being the only seating is indoors.
- There's a very Italiano vibe, both from the hostess and the chefs behind the bar.
- Plenty of wine on hand, always a good thing.
- They use a water filtration system and recycle the glass bottles - nice eco-touch. The filtered water - flat or sparkling - is $3.50/bottle.
- As for the pizzas - thin crust, maybe a bit too thin for my liking. I prefer a little more chew and less crack to the dough. The sauce is zesty, the cheese not too greasy. As a result the pizza is light and each pie could easily feed one hungry me or two people along with a salad a side like the fried zucchini.
- In terms of pizza on Lincoln, this is a more sophisticated spot to sit than Spris, but I like the pies at Spris better - both in terms of crust texture and dough flavor.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rush Tickets @ Fuerza Bruta

Fuerza Bruta is rocking the Arsht Center this month. Tickets are usually around $60 each but the good folks just introduced a special block of Rush tickets. This is how it works:
We've set aside 20 "rush tickets" for each show, on sale for just $20 each! For a chance to purchase these specially priced tickets, you must enter the "rush ticket lottery" starting 60 minutes before each show. At a half-hour before show time, the names of the 10 people eligible to purchase "rush tickets" for that performance will be drawn at random.

"Rush tickets" are available in person only at the box office and must be purchased with cash.
What to do during that 60 minutes before the show? You could have a nitrogen cocktails at the Barton G-designed G lounge.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lunch @ Le Banyan

Le Banyan is quiet Thai place on Ocean Terrace in North Beach. Above is a shot of the dinner menu. Pricey for Thai food. But the place is owned by French folk who have a similar restaurant in Paris and well, I guess they think they can charge $28 for green curry in Miami. They'll probably (hopefully) adjust that soon enough. The lunch special isn't bad though. $15 for dishes like chicken curry, fried fish or shrimp in yellow curry. It comes with fried spring rolls that are crunchy and grease-free and a glass noodle salad with cilantro and a sweet fish sauce. The portions are delicate (I would have liked a bowl of green curry instead of the bit doled out on the plate) but it's one of the more elegant Thai preparations in the city. Until those dinner prices come down, lunch may be the way to go here.

Duckhorn Vineyards Dinner @ Blue Door

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Look Who's Talking Naoe

Plenty has been written about Naoe but I figured I'd chime in with a quick blog post about my experience. Food for Thought has a wonderfully detailed post about his meal which was identical to mine (I think we ate a day or two apart) so there's not much I need to add to that except to say that it really reminded me of dining in Tokyo, particularly the sushi breakfast we had at the Tsukiji fish market. Same ceremonial approach to food, same quiet anticipation as we waited to see what the chef would place in front of us.
It's a lovely little restaurant and one of the most unique dining experiences in Miami. We tried the "frozen" sake as we waited for our bento boxes to arrive and it was delicious. It was served with beautiful little bamboo spoons that you used to scrape the sake chips from the glass, which I imagine is what an alcoholic Japanese icee tastes like. Loved it. It was $17 for a small bottle but you consume it slowly so it'll last you. And once the sake melts it becomes a nice chilled cocktail. We also tried the salmon belly nigiri ($2/piece) as well as the kohada ($4/piece) and aji (also $4/piece).

Monday, June 08, 2009

Signature Shorts

I always have fun at these performances. Sort of like a Saturday Night Live taping (without Andy Samberg musical interludes), this festival pulls together one-act plays that range from 5-20 minutes and run the gamut from comedy to drama. It's not Shakespeare, but then again, this is Miami.
Until June 21. Tickets are $42, at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, 305-949-6722

Friday, June 05, 2009

Mucho Mangos

The other day my neighbor showed up with a paper bag stuffed with mangos sourced from trees on our street and I set about finding ways to use this tropical bounty before the whole bag went soft on me.

First up, mango bread. It was ridiculously good, with the texture of banana bread but with the addition of fruit chunks scattered about the batter (I left out the raisins, mostly because I hate raisins). Addictive. I need to make more.

Next up, something offering a little more buzz. Luckily I was able to source a recipe from the mango king himself, chef Allen Susser. This mango martini is like a smoothie with benefits, perfect for when you need to take a break from peeling piles of fruit on a hot day.

Chef Allen’s: Mango Martini – Serves 1
4 oz. Mango Infused Vodka* or Mango flavored Vodka like Van Gogh or Belvedere
2 oz. Fresh Mango Puree** or frozen mango puree from grocery
Splash (½ oz) simple syrup***
Shake ingredients in martini shaker full of ice. Serve up in a martini glass. Garnish with cubes of fresh mango.
*Mango Infused Vodka - Suggest using a premium Vodka like Belvedere in which whole locally grown mangos are peeled and macerated for at least five days.
**Mango Puree - peel & seed a ripe mango and puree in blender with just enough water to allow mango to form thick liquid.
***Simple syrup - sugar dissolved in equal part of water to form syrup.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Alan Yau Thinks the Fontainebleau is Tacky

Dude, we can't all be London or New York.
From an interview on the Zagat Blog:

ZB: Are there certain dishes on the Miami menu that are indigenous to the area, and can’t be found at your other places?

AY: We have a chicken with fresh coconut and local scallops, which are very different from Scottish scallops.

ZB: How much time will you spend in Miami?

AY: Once a month, weather permitting. I prefer low season, and I tend not to go into the hotel’s lobby. I didn’t realize it was going to be like an upmarket Club Med.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Brosia Closing

Scott Engelman, President of Dacra's hospitality division writes:
"...we have closed our doors for business as we are selling Brosia to a buyer who will transform the space into a new and exciting destination in the Miami Design District."

da Campo Osteria

Up until I had dinner at Todd English's da Campo Osteria my only experience with the chef had been at one of his Figs restaurants at La Guardia. While that was pleasant enough in between American Airlines flights, it left the field wide open for this South Florida outpost of the chef's restaurant empire.
The restaurant is located in the back of the unassuming Il Lugano hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. The dining room is small and intimate, surprising for such a big-name chef (one would think he would have gone big and splashy). Soft lighting, lots of brick and comfortable deep leather booths give the pace a warm and rustic feel, perfect for the Tuscan farmhouse fare that characterizes much of the menu. My only quibble with the dining room is that it's unfortunate there's no outdoor seating, especially since the restaurant is on the water.

First things first: the bread. Oh, the bread. It's made in-house and ridiculously flavorful flecked with rock salt and Italian herbs. Do ask for seconds, it's that good.
Starting the meal off with the fresh-pulled mozzarella tableside is practically mandatory. A cart is wheeled to your table and an affable mozz-maker proceeds to gently massage the curds in warm water until they reach an almost taffy-like consistency. We opted to pair it with the olive tapenade and tasty little tomatoes. For the most part all the produce we tasted (like the fennel and grapefruit in this feta salad) were incredibly fresh and wonderfully perky with fruity olive oils and crunchy sea salt. 

Those are both light starters which is good, because there's plenty of heavier fare to be had. The butternut squash agnolotti is another must-order and it's rich enough to be shared, consisting of about seven large pasta pillows filled with the creamy, almost nutty squash. 
The flatbread pizzas were another highlight - nicely charred crust with great flavor and nice ratio of toppings to cheese. We chose one made with wild mushroom, red onion and fontina cheese that was also flecked with black truffle adding a nice earthy undertone to the mix. 

The nice thing about the menu is you can go with these "smallish" plates priced at about $10-$15 (except for the pasta which was $19) and forgo the larger, pricier main courses. You still get to feast on really lovely Italian food, with clean, fresh, zesty flavors.