Friday, September 23, 2011

Open Up at Open Kitchen

Good things are happening in Bay Harbor Islands, the site of chef Sandra Stefani's new Open Kitchen. The place is overwhelmingly quaint, with a great selection of wines and craft beers and a chalkboard menu of daily lunch specials - things like oriechette with arugula pesto and mozzarella and turkey meatloaf. The cafe is only open for lunch but Stefani still hosts her famous Italian cooking classes on Saturdays (limited to eight students) where you participate in creating a four-course meal that is then enjoyed with the entire class afterwards. There's also a great family-style take out menu available on those night when you don't want to cook but still love the idea of a giant pan of braised short ribs simmering in your oven. They'll make it happen.
Gourmet staples - beer, wine and chocolate.

A delicate potato-asparagus soup.
1071 95 St, Bay Harbor

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lamb Tacos for Strength @ Mercadito

You have exactly eight more days to take advantage of chef Andrew Balick's Tacos for Strength, the sale of which benefits Share Out Strength. Balick (formerly of Pied a Terre) was just recently named chef de cuisine at The DiLido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach. I stopped in last week and tasted these Mediteranean lovelies - a nice combo of braised lamb shank, curried Greek yogurt and pickled minted-carrot salad which reminded me the of the spicy Moroccan carrot salad my Israeli friend makes. So yes, he nailed the flavors. Four tacos are $16. Also, you can order these as party of their slamming Miami Spice menu (which includes a cocktail!).
3252 NE 1st Ave

Thursday, September 08, 2011

First Taste of Phuc Yea!

Are pop-up restaurants the new food truck? The pop-up, or temporary eatery,  has become ubiquitous in cities like San Francisco, DC, New York and LA so it would seem natural for Miami to jump on the guerrilla gourmet trend, albeit a few years late to the scene, as to be expected.
The first contender: Phuc Yea!, a Vietnamese sit-down from former Blue Piano maestros Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata. He cooks, she takes care of everything else. Rounding out the team is newbie Daniel Treiman, a recent transplant from New York with experience cooking at Momofuku and Eleven Madison Park (so yes, he's foodie-approved). The recipes are inspired by her Vietnamese mother's cooking. The space is a downtown falafel counter transformed into a cozy, dimly-lit Asian spot with Ikea curtains and butcher block paper on the tables. The place will stay open through December 8, which means you have only the next three months to check it out.
The decor: Ikea chic.
It's all earnest and fun and I'm a big supporter of anything Aniece does because her taste in wine and food is top notch as evidenced by her stints at Fratelli Lyon and Blue Piano. I first encountered Cesar's cooking at Blue Piano through a torrid, decadent parade of small plates, all of which were delicious. So yes, the kitchen is in good hands. I got a sneak peek at the menu last night and enjoyed every delicate, elegant bite. Fellow blogger Blind Tastes joined me to graze and we sampled a smattering of dishes, all of which had clean, vivid flavors and were not too heavy. Notes of fish sauce tempered with vinegar, fried shallots adding crunch and texture, cilantro and shiso leaves giving everything a fresh, herby kick.
Fish n' chips = fried sardines and lotus chips.

Crispy Pig Ear Salad with watermelon and daikon.

Duck Confit with picked bock choy, mushrooms, daikon and more of those addictive lotus chips.
Address: 19 SE 2nd Ave, downtown
(786) 383-2408