Showing posts from July, 2009

going underground

Something's happening here today ...

Working with the Chowfather on making an "underground dinner club" thing happen here in Miami. Given that it's Miami, "underground" is not so easy to do (we're at sea level and all), but the idea we were both kicking around was to assemble a group of adventurous diners willing to serve as guinea pigs for local chefs looking to try out something new or different.

A first event is already being planned. More info to follow at Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs.

5 Guys, 8 Oz., 1 Spot

Life is not all Michelin three star dining experiences. Sometimes, all you want is a good cheap meal - a burger, a sandwich, something that satisfies your hunger without draining the wallet. Over the past few weeks I've been to a few such places and thought I'd try to add it all up.

Five Guys Famous Burgers & Fries

Somehow I missed out on all the brouhaha over Five Guys. Indeed I was actually more familiar with In-N-Out, a similarly regarded but exclusively West Coast chain, than I was with Five Guys, which originated in the Washington DC area. But good reports started coming to my attention here and there, so when an opportunity presented itself I popped in to the Midtown Miami Five Guys location and tried it. Like In-N-Out, the menu is minimalist in approach though with a slim few more options (but no "secret menu" to my knowledge) - burgers, with cheese and/or bacon (or without); hot dogs (ditto); and fries, "Five Guys style" or Cajun. Burgers are ava…

... and NAOE in Dine Magazine South Florida

You saw the pictures, now you can read a write-up of my last great meal at NAOE in Dine Magazine South Florida.

NAOE in pictures

I've previously written about NAOE, which was one of my most memorable local dining experiences of the year. I've been back a couple times since and while the choices have changed, the quality was at the same level and the experience just as satisfying. Chef Cory has gotten somewhat more efficient, with only about a 20-30 minute wait for the bento box - though sampling all the nigiri he has to offer will still be a 3-4 hour affair. On my last visit earlier this week I brought a camera; this time I'll let the food do the talking. You can read my description of this meal at South Florida Dine Magazine, and you can see all the pictures on this flickr set.

the bento box.

mutton snapper sashimi fresh from Haulover Marina, with an okra-miso sauce.

ankimo & persimmon with shiso leaf; steamed eggplant topped with fresh-water eel; fried citrus-marinated scallop mantle.

iwashi (sardine, from Oregon) over organic tofu steamed in sake and sprinkled with sansho pepper.

portobello m…

Petit Rouge - North Miami

In belated celebration of Bastille Day, I figured I ought to finish off my thoughts on Petit Rouge, which we visited for the first time last weekend. I've noted previously how there is something immensely comforting to me about the classic French brasserie menu. Escargot, onion soup gratinée, frisee aux lardons, duck confit, steak & frites, potatoes sardalaise ... it's all good. Even though I have no real personal connection with the country or its food, I know this food, I enjoy it, and it's a true pleasure when executed correctly. Petit Rouge gets it right.

The menu was fairly close to the one linked to above with a few tweaks. We started with a tarte flambée for the kids to split as an appetizer. Tarte flambée is basically an Alsatian pizza, a flatbread topped with crème fraîche, sautéed onions and bacon, with perhaps a slightly crispier crust than the average Neapolitan pie. Petit Rouge's had a nice crispy crust, and a great mix of creamy, salty and sweet from …

What Do Yelp and Tripe Have in Common?

I'll admit it. I was once "Yelp Curious." I was younger, and I experimented with it, and I found out it just wasn't for me. For me it was just a phase. But to each his own, live and let live, and so on. I believe in tolerance. So I have no hesitation in noting that Yelp has come up with something that caught my attention: "Yelp Eats! Week."

From July 20 - 26, a dozen local restaurants will be doing special prix fixe dinners at $25. A few things impressed me: (1) $25! (2) it seems some efforts were made to discourage restaurants from just offering the "same old" (i.e. the Miami Spice trifecta of chicken paillard, skirt steak, and farmed salmon), with some of these menus actually showing some variety; and (3) andouillettes?!?

Among three entrée choices at Au Pied de Cochon is the rather innocent sounding "grilled andouillettes." Which, for Mrs. F and me, brings to mind a dining experience from our younger days. Not long after we were marri…

Paradigm Series Named "Post of the Month"

Thanks to South Florida Daily Blog and its readers for voting the three part series documenting my experience in the kitchen for a "Paradigm" dinner at Neomi's in Sunny Isles as the June "Post of the Month."

The original links are here:

In the Test Kitchen at Paradigm (Part I) - Sunny Isles
In the Test Kitchen at Paradigm (Part II) - Sunny Isles
Lessons Learned in the Test Kitchen

Frank Bruni Gets in on Pizza Crawl

Look what we started! In today's New York Times: The Cult of the Artisanal Pizza - Crust Is a Canvas for Pizza's New Wave, with comments on nearly a dozen new New York pizzerias. Can't wait for the "What does Bruni know about pizza?" chorus from the NY pizzerati to begin.

Sketches of Spain

A couple meditations on Spanish themes to start the day:

Por Fin in Coral Gables is offering the chance to "Experience the Running of the Bulls Without Getting Gored." In celebration of the foolhardy annual tradition of running down Pamplona's cobbled streets with six one-ton bulls in chase (typically after staying up all night drinking the evening before), Por Fin is offering two-for-one drinks (including sangria and kalimotxo, the red wine & cola concoction that is one of the Basques' few uncharacteristically questionable contributions to gastronomy), $5 tapitas, and flamenco music from 5:30 p.m. to closing on July 8-12. Only four people were injured in the opening day of this year's run. Hopefully Por Fin's body count will be even lower.

Meanwhile, UrbanDaddy reports that Solea, a Mediterranean (hey - at least it's not a steakhouse!) restaurant in the new W Hotel South Beach, is open for business, and gives a link to the Solea menu which shows some …

Miami Pizza Crawl - Part III - South Beach Edition

After forty pies, are we becoming jaded and world-weary pizza eaters? Was the rainy, humid weather putting a damper on the pizza ovens? Whatever the reason, Round 3 of the Miami Pizza Crawl seemed like something of a letdown, though it finished on an up note. This portion of the tour covered Lincoln Road - the newly opened Sosta Pizzeria, as well as a couple more established pizzerias, Piola and Spris. About 15 hardy pizza fans braved the foul weather to sample the following:

Sosta Pizzeria
Sosta (sundried tomato spread, mozzarella, burrata, prosciutto crudo)
Carpaccio (tomato sauce, mozzarella, beef carpaccio, arugula, parmesan)
Siciliana (tomato sauce, mozzarella, anchovies, capers, black olives, basil)
Brie & Speck (just like it says)

Piola (fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella)
Carbonara (bacon, egg, parmesan, tomato sauce and mozzarella)
Curitiba (catupiry cheese, hearts of palm, artichokes and mozzarella)
Posillipo (fresh mozzarella, anchovies…

<-- Traditional ------------------ Creative -->

Buried in a footnote to my last post was the comment that the presentation of a caviar dish with six foams at an old-school, traditional restaurant like Bern's Steak House in Tampa supported my contention that there is no such thing as a "molecular gastronomy restaurant." To which a commenter queried, "How does that prove any point?," and suggested, kindly, that my disdain for the term "molecular gastronomy" was clouding my judgment. I suggested, instead, that it was all the steak and wine that was clouding my judgment.

I actually have no disdain for the term "molecular gastronomy," I just think it is an inapt descriptor for any restaurant. "Gastronomy" is a field of study, not a school of cooking, and all cooking is "molecular" depending on how you choose to look at it. To borrow the examples used in the comment, I would submit that wd~50 and minibar are no more or less "molecular" than Bern's, and indeed no…

A Tale of Two Steakhouses - Bern's, Tampa; BLT Steak, South Beach

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
For South Florida diners, it might well be the truth. On the one hand, we are fortunate to have local talents like Michael Schwartz, Michelle Bernstein and Jonathan Eismann at restaurants that are reflective of each chef's personal vision and style, and seem to be finding an audience both with locals and the seasonal tourists. We've also had a massive influx lately of imported big-name restaurateurs making sizable investments in South Florida outposts, seemingly oblivious to the financial downturn (more likely simply the product of capital already committed before the economy turned south).

On the other hand, there seems to be a stultifying sameness to many of the new places, particularly the foreign imports. BLT Steak, Gotham Steak, Red the Steakhouse, the upcoming STK steakhouse ... do you see a trend here? But I'd be far from the first person to bemoan the fact that steakhouses are becoming as ubiquitous a…

goes around ... comes around Part II

I noted in earlierposts the curious phenomenon of similar dishes multiplying like tribbles across menus throughout the country. Today, Food & Wine predicts that sea urchin will be the "Next It Sandwich," giving props to Michael White at the newly opened Marea, George Mendes at the newly opened Aldea, and El Quinto Pino, a tapas spot in Chelsea. One curious omission? Michelle Bernstein, who has had her uni sandwich (which was wowing folks at the James Beard Awards a couple months ago) on the menu at Sra. Martinez since it opened last December. At least the New York Times gave due credit when it ran a similar story last month, as did an earlier blogger's recounting of the genesis of the dish (sort of) at El Quinto Pino.

Not that the increasing prevalence of uni sandwiches is anything to complain about, of course.

Mariani in da House

Miami restaurateurs, time to put on your best bib and tucker: John Mariani of Esquire magazine (and its annual Best New Restaurants list) is in the 305. How do I know this? Well, Mariani is not exactly known for keeping his presence a secret, and indeed, the word is out that he was paying a visit at Area 31:

Pacific Time was named in last year's list, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink was in the 2007 list, Cioppino in the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in 2005 (I was as surprised as you - who knew? Of course, the chef mentioned in 2005 appears to no longer be there), Carmen the Restaurant (closed due to fire in 2006 and never reopened) in 2003, Pascal's on Ponce in 2000, and both Wish (with Andrea Curto, now of Talula, then at the helm) and Ortanique in 1999, so Miami is frequently on Mariani's radar.

I've probably already said enough about Mariani, so instead let me just say "good luck" to all the Miami restaurateurs and chefs who get paid a visit by the "…