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Cochon 555 Miami - Sunday March 26

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I'm not a regular on the food fest circuit, but there are a few events I always eagerly anticipate. One of my favorites is coming to town this Sunday, March 26 at the Ritz Carlton South Beach: Cochon 555. Started back in 2008, Cochon turns a spotlight on heritage pork producers with a simple formula: five pigs, five chefs, five winemakers – do something great with them. The chef who is crowned Prince or Princess of Porc goes on to the Grand Cochon, which pits the winners from ten cities against each other, with own becoming the Queen or King of Porc.

Cochon first landed in Miami in 2012 (you can see my pictures here), and the event has gotten more elaborate ever since (more pictures from Cochon Miami 2014 and Cochon Miami 2016, if you'd like to see). Now, in addition to featuring five South Florida chefs working with five heritage breed pigs, you'll find craft cocktails – including a rum cart, a margarita bar, a smoked old fashioned bar – charcuterie bars, farmstead chees…

Sushi Deli / Japanese Market - an appreciation

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Many, many years ago, when I first started writing this blog, I made a big mistake: I wrote about Sushi Deli.

It's not that my recommendation was off target. The once-tiny sushi counter[1] inside a Japanese market (called, simply enough, "Japanese Market") was the classic hidden gem, a place where, among the packaged ramen noodles and bags of rice and frozen fish and togarashi spice mixes, you could get ridiculously good sushi, some of it flown in from Japan every week, at an incredibly reasonable price. There is surely no place I'd visited more often, or that had been the source of more satisfying meals, despite the peculiar hours (closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and never open later than 6:30 p.m. – a closing time which moved progressively earlier over the years as the place became ever more popular).[2]

Truth is, a good portion of what I know and love about sushi, I learned sitting at that counter: the joy of the many different varieties of hikari mono, or silver-sk…

Cobaya SoBeWFF 2017 with Chefs Brad Kilgore, Jeremiah Stone, Fabian Von Hauske and Jean-Luc Royere

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It was a little more than five years ago that we did a Cobaya dinner at Azul restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel which included a special guest: Andrew Zimmern of the TV show Bizarre Foods, who ended up featuring the dinner on the show.There was another special attendee that night, but he wasn't very well known at the time, and he wasn't in the dining room – he was in the kitchen. Joel Huff's sous chef at Azul was Bradley Kilgore, who had come to Miami to work at Azul after spending time with some of Chicago's finest: Alinea, Laurent Gras's L2O, Boka.

Brad was actually part of what drew us to Azul in the first place, with his online updates of what was happening in the kitchen. Zimmern has a pretty keen eye for talent too, and even though Brad was third in command in that kitchen, by the end of the night Zimmern had bestowed a nickname on him: "Wall Street," for the Gordon Gekko-esque slicked-back look he sported at the time.

Eager to see what Brad…

first thoughts: Arson - Downtown Miami

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I can't believe it's already been nearly three years since a small, curious spot called Niu Kitchen opened in downtown Miami, on a nondescript block across from Miami-Dade College. Despite its diminutive size, Niu manages to turn out Catalan-inspired food that is more creative, and more delicious, than many local restaurants with much bigger spaces and budgets. Now, the team of chef Deme Lomas and manager Karina Iglesias has doubled down, opening Arson just a few doors down.

The roomier space may be twice the size of Niu, and as the name suggests, the focus is fire: pretty much every dish is touched by flame or smoke, mostly generated by the Josper, a Spanish-made, charcoal-fired oven / grill rig that is fast becoming many chefs' favorite new plaything. And while Niu remains more or less faithful to the Catalan theme, Arson is unbounded by genre: they'll set fire to anything.

(You can see all my pictures in this Arson - Miami flickr set).

The menu right now is pretty …

best thing i ate last week: Oysters Ciancio at Mignonette Uptown

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We've kind of let the "Best Thing I Ate Last Week" routine fall by the wayside. Let's remedy that right now.

A couple months ago, I attended a friends and family at Mignonette Uptown, the new oyster bar and seafood place from Daniel Serfer (who also runs Blue Collar in the MiMo District and the original Mignonette Downtown in Edgewater) in the old Gourmet Diner on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami. I liked it. I finally got back there this weekend, and tried a dish I missed on that first visit: the Oysters Ciancio, named after the restaurant's chef de cuisine, Anthony Ciancio.

They're topped with a paste of garlic, shallots and white miso, basted with beef tallow, and broiled, and they come out plump and savory and just a little bit meaty and a lot delicious.

(You can see more pictures in this Mignonette Uptown - North Miami Beach flickr set.)

At Mignonette Downtown, you might instead get the Oysters Frank, named after chef de cuisine Bobby Frank, which come…

Cobaya Rancho Patel with Chef Niven Patel

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I knew when we agreed to do a Cobaya dinner way down in Homestead that, one way or another, it would be memorable. Actually, we had a pretty high degree of confidence that it would be memorable for the right reasons. Our chef for the evening, Niven Patel, is a Michael's Genuine alum, and is in the process of opening his own place – Ghee[1] – which will combine the flavors of his Indian heritage with the farm-to-table ethos of MGFD. About a year ago, I got a preview of what Patel had in mind when he did a pop-up dinner at Genuine sibling Harry's Pizzeria. It was excellent. So when he said he wanted to host a dinner at his home and backyard farm, we found a way to make it happen. Our confidence was not misplaced.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Rancho Patel flickr set).



Our early 6pm start time meant there was still some late afternoon sun shining on the backyard garden, which Patel has planted with items that will eventually be used to supply the restaurant: papaya…

first thoughts: Bazaar Mar - Miami (Brickell)

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It occurred to me that I've been to an awful lot of José Andrés' restaurants: minibar many years ago, back when it was a jerry-rigged six-seat counter in the middle of Café Atlantico, not a Michelin two-star restaurant; Jaleo in D.C., é and China Poblano in Las Vegas, Bazaar here in Miami Beach. This revelation was prompted when our waiter at Bazaar Mar, his latest in the SLS Brickell hotel, asked that routine question, "Have you eaten here before?" and then followed up by asking if we've eaten at any of José's other restaurants.[1]

One of the challenges of expanding a restaurant empire – especially when you're adding another outlet in the same territory – is coming up with different concepts so you're not just cannibalizing your own business. But Andrés never seems to be lacking for ideas, with more than a dozen different restaurants under his ThinkFoodGroup umbrella. So I was somewhat surprised that when Andrés announced his second Miami restaurant…