Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Big Things at Little River CSA


For the past few years I've subscribed to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable share through Little River Market Garden, and periodically (OK, sporadically) posted about it here. Muriel Olivares operates a flourishing, but small, "urban farm" from a couple lots in residential neighborhoods in North Miami which produce several dozen varieties of vegetables and fruits. Though it's self-evident from the primary subject matter of this blog that I enjoy dining out, I always get excited when our Fall-Spring South Florida growing season kicks in, and the weekly pickup from farmer Muriel inspires a bit more home cooking.


For this upcoming season there are several new developments of note. First off, there's a new name: Little River Cooperative, as Muriel has partnered with former intern Tiffany Noe to run the farm, CSA and nursery. It's even got a sharp looking new website. The partnership will enable them to add more growing space, which is also going to mean more CSA shares will be available.

Speaking of which, there will now be an option to choose a large share or small share ($640/$500 for 20 weeks of vegetables), and in addition to the regular Saturday pick up location at the Upper East Side Farmers Market at Legion Park (Biscayne & 64th Street), there will also be a new Thursday afternoon pick up location further south at the Grove Green Market in Coconut Grove.

I've talked before about the kinds of things that elevate a food community. There may be none more important than farmers like Muriel and Tiffany who supply fresh local stuff, produced in a natural, sustainable fashion. Though the season doesn't start for a few more months, now is the time to sign up. To do so, or for some more information, go to the Little River Cooperative website.



Monday, July 14, 2014

first thoughts: L'Echon Brasserie - Miami Beach


First it was an Asian gastropub. Then, Spanish tapas. Sushi. Italian. A steakhouse. I would joke that when the Pubbelly Boys opened a burger joint, they'd be able to declare Miami restaurant "BINGO!"[1]

Instead, they went a different route – their latest project is L'Echon Brasserie, located in the Hilton Cabana hotel, up in the northern reaches of Miami Beach (i.e., 62nd Street). This makes me happy for at least a couple reasons: (1) Miami lacks good casual French restaurants; and (2) North Beach is closer to home for me than the rest of their South Beach outposts.

(You can see all my pictures in this L'Echon Brasserie flickr set).


The hotel, well, looks like a Hilton. And the dining room too is maybe a bit more corporate than other Pubbelly venues, but it still keeps some of the same spirit, and has the added virtue of an outdoor bar backing up to the ocean. The food, meanwhile, is very much in the typical Pubbelly style: it takes the classic French bistro menu as a jumping-off point for some contemporary, usually indulgent, and often pork-centric, variations.


For instance: chicken liver mousse, paired with fried chicken livers? Sometimes I think the Pubbelly style is a bit too heavy-handed, and then I try something like this. Or, pictured at top, the "Pan con L'Echon," a nice little slider of juicy cochinillo topped with pickled shallots and mojo aioli on a brioche bun, and the Croque Monsieur made with salty country ham, melty Gruyere cheese and an oozy bechamel.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

first thoughts: Niu Kitchen - Downtown Miami


About a month ago I stumbled across a short blurb on Eater for a "new Catalan-inspired eatery" that had opened in downtown Miami: Niu Kitchen. "A little intriguing," I said. Then several good reports came back from folks who had visited. A couple weekends ago, I finally made made it in to see for myself.

(You can see all my pictures in this Niu Kitchen flickr set).


Niu Kitchen turns out to be a shoebox-sized restaurant squeezed into a small space in a central but nondescript stretch of downtown Miami, a block south of the Miami-Dade College campus. Seating maybe twenty five, it was clearly decorated on a tight budget but succeeds in feeling both homey and contemporary, with its reclaimed wood paneled walls and exposed bulbs hanging from the ceiling.



It also turns out to not just be "Catalan-inspired," but the actual real deal. Chef Deme Lomas was a chef in Barcelona (I believe this is the place) before making his way to Miami, where he first found work as a line cook at Barceloneta, then joined Niu Kitchen. His menu mixes traditional Catalan dishes like trinxat ($10), a potato and cabbage pancake bearing an uncanny similarity to the classic English "bubble and squeak," topped here with butifarra sausage and pancetta, with more extemporaneous items like his gamba tartare ($13), a mince of translucent, sweet shrimp over diced tomatoes and confited potatoes, presented with the shrimp's head so you can squeeze its juices onto the dish.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

first thoughts: N by Naoe - Brickell Key, Miami


When Kevin Cory moved his omakase temple, Naoe, from Sunny Isles to Brickell Key two years ago, he also leased an adjoining space which he said was eventually going to be used for lunch service. That day has finally come. And this is a lunch like no other you'll find in Miami.

Let's open the box on N by Naoe. (You can see all my pictures in this N by Naoe flickr set; you can also read my thoughts on Naoe here).




A few minutes after you're seated, a three-tiered bento box is brought to your table. It's unpacked to reveal six compartments, each stocked with several different items – similar in style and quality to the elaborate bento that starts a meal at Naoe.

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