Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Michelle Bernstein @ The Omphoy Palm Beach

We recently took a trip "up north" to Palm Beach for a quick and local getaway. It feels different up there (less treffic, less people, lots of classy old folks with sweaters tied around their shoulders) and it's a nice escape from the craziness of Miami. We stayed at the recently-opened Omphoy Hotel which is a dark, zen-like place that represents a new direction for Palm Beach - less staid, more hip. All the in-house dining is run by Miami favorite Michelle Bernstein so we were excited to see how the sassy Latin chef had adapted herself to the new WASPY digs.

The dining room faces the ocean which at night is pointless since that's like overlooking a vast sea of blackness but it's probably a nice spot for a daytime wedding reception. The main restaurant is only open for dinner (during the day you dine downstairs at MB Terrace. More on that later). The decor is in keeping with the rest of the hotel - dark woods, royal blues, plush chairs. It's not as cozy as Michy's or as warm as Sra. Martinez but it definitely feels more formal. The first things we noticed when we went up for dinner was that the restaurant was packed. Granted, it was a Saturday night and it's a hot new restaurant, but it seems that Michelle has won over the Palm Beach set. We sat next to a couple that seemed SO Palm Beach (i.e. the guy had a really obvious toupee). Turns out it was the mayor of Palm Beach and he commented to a neighboring table that it was his third time there since they opened.

In terms of the menu - apparently she's still tweaking things in the kitchen but it seems like she's got the greatest hits of Michelle Bernstein on there with a few new creative additions. The crispy sweetbreads, white gazpacho, croquettas (spinach and feta), roasted bone marrow, fried chicken with all the fixings and braised short ribs.

We started with the tuna carpaccio topped with foie gras "snow" and diced apples. This was one of the best dishes of the night. It was a delicate portion but it had big flavors. The tuna was lightly dressed with soy and sesame oil that cut the richness of the foie gras shavings. The apples added a refreshing finish.

Next was the buratta with fried green tomatoes and luscious heirloom tomatoes. Nicely composed and pitch perfect. The black cod in dashi broth was another great dish with very subtle flavors that came together well - the buttery fish with a crisp pan sear, flavorful mushroom broth and hefty side of bok choy.

We also tried the Malaysian curried snapper and found it less compelling - the sauce lacked something, spice, complexity...something. It just didn't pop.
Desserts were fun - a trio of hot chocolate-filled homemade donuts with a cafe con leche pot de creme and the "dreamsicle," a chocolate mousse cake served with orange creamsicle ice cream.

We had two lunches while there (we missed breakfast as I slogged my way through a 9am Core Fusion class, a class I think should be renamed Core Refusin') and they were more of a mixed bag. Daytime eats are served on the second floor lobby and oceanfront terrace. The terrace is a lovely al fresco patio and the indoor dining room serves as seating for the O Bar and reminded me a bit of Kelly Wearstler's style at the Viceroy though not as rich and textured.

The highlights off the lunch menu were the Greek salad and roasted half chicken over Israeli couscous, both were flavorful and satisfying. The falafel wrap was disappointing with dry, dense falafel. Admittedly, I am a falafel snob having grown up on the stuff and gorged on it on frequent trips to Israel but we found ourselves dousing it in the tzatziki sauce just to give it some flavor and moisture. The fish and chips were also a bit bland but the hand cut fries made up fir it.
It's too early to judge as the restaurants have been open just over a month and Michelle is running quite an empire these days but so far it looks like Palm Beach is getting a taste of what we Miamians have known all along, MB is quite good at what she does.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Endless Meatballs @ Talula Wednesdays

Talula is a standard go-to for intimate dates with foodies and now it can serve as a go-to for carb-loading. For $29 you get a bottomless bowl of rigatoni dressed with chef Andrea’s tangy Sunday Sauce topped with ricotta and alongside unlimited sides of homemade meatballs, salad and garlic rolls. They’re also throwing in a dessert course of espresso panna cotta which ought to wake you from that food coma.
Wednesdays, 6:30-10:30pm, 210 23rd St, 305-672-0778.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Empanadas @ Go Go Fresh Food Cafe

They're tasty, cheap and charming. You got to love a place that takes the time to label each half moon pie with its own descriptive flag. Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall on Alton Road, the mod café is great for a quick lunch with healthy salads (the Greek was good) and dozens of varieties of the Argentinean snack.
Go Go Fresh Food Cafe, 926 Alton Road,(305) 673-3137.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recap: Todd English Wine Dinner

Todd English's Ft. Lauderdale resto da Campo Osteria was packed to the gills (which isn't hard to do - the place has about 65 seats) last Wednesday for a wine dinner hosted by the celeb chef and Ruffino Wines CEO, Adolfo Folonari. I managed to get English (who is by the way, one tall drink of water) to divulge that though he is opening another restaurant in Boca he does have his sights set on Miami, possibly something in the Brickell area, but it's very far off. It shows that downtown is now on radar of these big chef empires, whereas it used to always be South Beach.

Here's the menu and highlights afterwards.

Diverte Bocca
Seared Scallop, Cauliflower, Tomato Water

Swank Farms Greens, Vin Cotto, Falconero Olive Oil,
Wild Flower Honey, Dijon, Parmesan
Ruffino Libaio Chardonnay, Toscana

House Made Burrata “Caprese”

Suckling Pig Raviolo
Parsnip, Thyme, Toma Piemontese, Crisps, Broth
White Truffle
Tenuta Santedame Chianti Classico, Toscana

Braised Short Rib
Horseradish, Potatoes Puree,
Baby Chard, Pine Nut Gremolata,
Black Truffle
Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva, Toscana

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate
Cake, Whipped Ganache, Gelato, Streusel, Strawberry
Ruffino Modus “Super Tuscan”, Toscana

The home made burrata was great, and reminds me that I need to get over to that restaurant more often to polish off that fresh-pulled mozzarella they do so well. We also really enjoyed the scallop starter with its thimble of tomatoe water, a refreshing palate cleanser. As the evening went on English really took to his emcee job, joking that he wanted to be reincarnated as the Ruffino wine maker (totally understandable, the man makes wine and lives in a villa on the Italian countryside, hello it's every foodie's dream). It also occured to us that the suckling pig ravioli with white truffles was sort of a play on the fact that they use pigs to find the truffles and now here they were, sharing the same plate. Culinary poetic justice or just very decadent plating?
By the time the braised short rib rolled around we were as stuffed as suckling pigs but didn't stop us from sipping what was probably the best wine pairing of the evening - the Chianti Classico Riserva with the hearty beef and pine nut combo - perfection.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pamela Anderson Hosts PETA Dinner

Also tonight: you can pay $180 to eat vegetarian food with Pamela Anderson and Richie Rich at Solea at the W South Beach.

Tonight: Todd English And Wine

Celeb chef Todd English has been making headlines in Miami gossip blogs for personal drama but tonight he'll doing what he does best - cooking amazing food. He'll be hosting a dinner along with Ruffino Wines CEO, Adolfo Folonari at his Fort Lauderdale eatery, da Campo Osteria. Menu items for the five-course dinner include house made Burrata Caprese and short ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes with black truffles. Cost is $150 per person.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 7:00-10:00 PM
da Campo Osteria at il Lugano Suite Hotel, 3333 N.E. 32nd Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308.Call (954) 226-5002 for reservations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lou's Beer Garden @ The New Hotel

A little while ago I covered a deco hotel in North Beach that's eco-friendly and laid-back. They've a great little bar in their pool area and dubbed it a beer garden. I've been spending a lot of time there because: the beer selection is small but good, the food menu has a few quirky yet delicious items and the atmosphere is refreshingly low key for Miami. Plus, it's in my neighborhood and I like the fact that I can walk home instead of driving after a few Longboard lagers on a Sunday night.
Lou is the chef and he's got some respectable gigs in his background. He worked at the Setai and alongside Kris Wessel at Elia at Bal Harbour. The menu's got some standard tiki bar stuff - quesadillas,nachos, fried calamari - but you know that is there to please the hotel guests. If you're lookingin for something different and delicious go for the crispy sardines. They come with a light pepper-flecked breading and a squeeze of lemon (no Tabasco necessary). Sort of like something you might get off a boat in Greece.

The pizzas are good, too, with a thin crispy crust and nicely balanced toppings. The vegetables are impressively fresh. The fries are hand cut Belgian with a generous douse of pepper. The chorizo-stuffed squid is spicy. And Lou is really keen on adding tripe to the menu. So no, this definitely isn't your typical hotel pool bar.

Beers on tap include Shock Top, LandShark and Longhammer I.P.A. There's also wine and sake cocktails. Prices are low, with most beers under $6 and pizzas around $12.
The New Hotel, 7337 Harding Ave, 305-704-7879.

Monday, October 12, 2009

BluePrint Cleanse Day 3

I've been cleansing this weekend. After Yom Kippur and all that spiritual cleansing I figured it was time I did the same for my digestive tract. Now I'm on the last day of a 3-day juice cleanse/detox journey. It's my first one. I'd always been curious about these juice fasts so when the good folks at BluePrint Cleanse offered to let me try it (along with a slew of other media folk in Miami - don't be alarmed if you see editors around town chugging these plastic bottles) I agreed. And, like Buster's character in Arrested Development, I am a glutton for free juice.

This is how it works: 6 juices a day for three days = 18 bottles of fresh squeezed goodness. Their motto is "You drink, we think" so they make the whole experience easy for you. You choose your cleanse online (I went with the intermediate level because level 1 seemed too wimpy and I was a bit scared of level 3, also known as the "excavation" cleanse. Yikes.) and it arrives packed in ice packs the day you begin.

It's actually not that bad. Sure, you give up solid food for three long days but the juices are mighty tasty. My favorite juices so far are the second juice of the day - pineapple, apple and mint - and the fourth juice - lemon, agave nectar and cayenne pepper which strikes me as a great mixer for vodka or Bloody Marys. These are things I think about when forced to drink juice and only juice for three days. And I look forward to the last drink of the day - cashew nut milk with vanilla and cinnamon as a treat for being so good all day long (it's kind of like a vegan milkshake). I'm not super-starved but I also don't feel full. I definitely feel hydrated. And it's changed my perspective on food a bit, meaning I realize how much sodium is in so much of what I eat everyday. Will it be the life-changing experience so many have claimed it to be? Hmm, we'll see. Will it get rid of the residue collecting in my intestines from so many night spent drinking wine and ingesting rich food? Let's just say, it works as advertised...

Update: Also, this month only the peeps at BPC are offering free shipping on orders to Florida which is a $60 savings.
So from now until November 5, Florida residents will enjoy free BPC delivery to anywhere in the state. There's no discount code, it's automatically deducted from your order.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

$2 Cocktails @ The Tides

The alfresco patio at the Tides could be my new go-to spot for kicking off the weekend, now that they've introduced drink specials that correspond to the hours from 2-8pm. So drinks at 2pm are $2, $3pm, $3 and so on. Meaning you'll be there until the clock strikes adequately buzzed.
2-8pm daily, The Tides South Beach, 1220 Ocean Dr, 305-604-5070

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wine Classes @ Fratelli Lyon

I have a conflicted relationship with wine tastings. On the one hand I love them, absolutely love 'em. They're fun, tasty and educational. On the other hand, I usually end up having too much fun, meaning my notes get sloppy and I forget which wine was which, what the differences were and which ones I liked best. But last Wednesday as I settled into my seat for class #4 of Fratelli's six-course Passport to Italy wine series I was determined to come away with a few nuggets of wine-stained info. Two hours, six wines (including a bubbly aperitif), and six mini-meals later I emerged more than a bit tipsy but confident in the knowledge that I rilly, rilly like Babera d'Alba. Or was it Barbera d'Asti?

The classes are taught by Julie Mushett (above), the lovely oenophile behind WineLifeStyle Miami and Aniece Meinhold, Fratelli Lyon's manager and resident wine expert. Both ladies did a great job of imparting their extensive knowldege of Italian wines and kept things running smoothly by keeping the pours coming and instructing which dishes should be paired with the different wines.

The restaurant pitched in with 6 different food pairings that complimented the two whites and four reds we were tasting. The focus was the Piedmont region - Italy's northwest located at the foothills of the Alps. I remember this only because the instructors put together these very thoughtful packets on the wines and the region with nifty little maps that I studied in between munching on Fratelli's addictive breadsticks and marinated olives.
Boozy highlights include:
-an amazingly stinky blue cheese that went well with the Barbera d'Alba (Pelissero 2005)
- a full-bodied Barolo (Icardi 1998) paired with tender slices of steak
- Best in show foodwise: my first time tasting a bagna cauda, a Piedmontese sauce made of pureed anchovies, walnuts, garlic and cream. I was seriously in love with this sauce, I could have downed a mug of it. Needless to say, I licked the little bowl clean with an ample supply of bread sticks and gulps of the floral Cortese (Icardi 2007).
The wine classes ($45 each) are held Wednesdays from 7:30-9:30pm, at Fratelli Lyon's glass-enclosed side dining room. 4141 NE 2nd Ave, 305-572-2901. Tonight's class features the wines of Northern Italy.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Free Vodka Cocktails @ Segafredo Brickell Tonight

Party like a Russian tycoon tonight when Segafredo Brickell turns their outdoor courtyard into a vodka-soaked hideaway replete with leggy Eastern Bloc women in fur coats dispensing complimentary cocktails for the first two hours. This is obviously as close as you’ll get to snowy weather all season long.
8pm, October 1, 1421 S Miami Ave, 305-577-9809, RSVP to