Monday, October 26, 2009

Cobaya Underground Dinner Experiment #2, 2.5

My weak joke the past couple months when people ask about "Cobaya", our underground dining experiment, is that South Florida really isn't made for underground dining, because as soon as you try to go underground you hit water. Well, we may be in the process of proving that premise (and any number of other reasons why people might think South Florida isn't made for these kinds of things) wrong.

After a great first dinner at Talula from Chefs Andrea Curto-Randazzo, Frank Randazzo and their talented Sous Chef Kyle Foster, we set out to try it again. This time around, Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog was the chef; and instead of going underground, we went up, to a fantastic Midtown penthouse courtesy of the good folks at The Factory Interactive.

The demand for more unorthodox types of dining experiences may be greater than many people give Miami credit for; we had so many people interested in the dinner that we ended up adding a second seating on Sunday, with a total of about 36 guinea pigs joining us over the two nights. If you've not followed this on the Cobaya site, the idea is pretty simple: get talented chefs to cook great, interesting meals for adventurous, open-minded diners.

The full set of pictures from this weekend's dinners can be seen here. Jacob Katel at Miami New Times got some great pix that are up on the Short Order blog. What follows here are some visual and textual snapshots of the meal; I welcome other diners to contribute their thoughts.

Edited to add: some more nice write-ups and pix here at Mango & Lime and Blind Tastes, and this awesome video shot by James Painter Belvin on Saturday night:

the view

The venue was truly special, a penthouse condo in one of the Midtown buildings, with great views south of downtown, east across Biscayne Bay and west on the setting sun.

operating table is ready

10-24-09 menu
10-24-09 menu

guinea pigs

greek salad
"greek salad"

This dish combined a clarified tomato water, gin-compressed cucumbers (the cucumbers combined with gin and then put under vacuum seal so the flavoring liquid is drawn into the cells of the vegetable), home-made feta-stuffed olives, and Hendricks gin (which itself echoed the cucumber notes). A great cross between a salad and a martini.

stone crab
stone crab, mustard emulsion, Meyer lemon oil

A one-biter with all the traditional flavors of perhaps our best-known local seasonal delicacy.

pumpkin burrata dumpling

Another one-biter, this one had some technical issues that prevented the burrata filling from flowing, but it didn't affect the flavors.

chef jeremiah
Chef Jeremiah plating pork belly

pork belly
pork belly, 63c egg, maple syrup

The pork belly was brined, braised, confited, seared and delicious. A nice "breakfast for dinner" effect was achieved by combining with an egg cooked at 63 degrees celsius in an immersion circulator, and - the clinching final touch for me - a drizzle of maple syrup.

halibut like a reuben

One of the most interesting and creative dishes of the night, Alaskan halibut was wrapped and rolled into a long spherical shape and cooked sous vide, topped with a sprinkle of crumbled rye streusel, and paired with a "pastrami dashi" poured tableside - a clarified broth redolent with the smoky, peppery spicy flavors of pastrami. I really enjoyed this unexpected but successful pairing of a delicate fish with these bold smoky notes.


No picture but a really neat little liquid shot of white chocolate and red curry over shaved ice. Not so much a palate cleanser as a potent flavor bomb, this was another of the more intriguing tastes of the night, with the unusual combination in an even more unexpected cold form being a real pleasant surprise.

short rib
72-hr short rib, parsnip puree, zin reduxx

Here was another use of sous vide technique, big meaty short ribs slow-cooked (really slow - three days' worth) at low temperature: enough heat to melt the collagen and connective tissue, but not so much as to cook the meat to shredding disintegration like a traditional braise; served with a drizzle of a Zinfandel reduction, as well as a velvety rich parsnip puree (reminiscent, dare I say it, of Joel Robuchon's famous potato puree) which also had a welcome brightness from what I thought was celery root.

another night, another experiment

I returned Sunday night for another round with another group of guinea pigs. Frod Jr. came along with me on Sunday, and some of these pictures are his. He also ate very well: the stone crab, the pumpkin gnocchi with short rib (below), and the krispy kreme flan (also below) were among his favorites. Fortunately we remembered to keep the gin out of his "greek salad."

10-25-09 menu
10-25-09 menu with a couple changes

pumpkin gnocchi
pumpkin gnocchi, short rib ragu, ricotta salata

The short rib from last night, reincarnated as a meaty broth to pair with pumpkin gnocchi.

chef jeremiah, chef k
Chef Jeremiah, Chef K helping out

A couple special guests came out for the second night: Chefs Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano, the guys behind the Paradigm dinners. Chef Jeremiah put them to work.

whole piglet
whole piglet

A nice surprise for the second-night diners: a whole, 39-pound piglet, fresh from a Hialeah slaughterhouse that morning.

piglet leg and belly
piglet leg and belly

Chef Jeremiah completely boned out the pig before roasting, and made some rich trotter cakes from the head and trotters.

chadzilla, chef jeremiah
Chadzilla helping Chef Jeremiah plate the pig

Chef Chad Galiano dishing out the trotter cakes for the pig.

piglet plated
the piglet, plated

krispy kreme flan
krispy kreme flan

For dessert, a Krispy Kreme "flan." Donuts were pulverized and blended with a flan base, aerated and squirted into mason jars and then cooked; paired with a goat's milk cajeta (like a tangy dulce de leche). Mmm, donuts.

Many thanks from me to Chef Jeremiah and all the rest of his crew for a great meal, to Jason Inasi and The Factory Interactive for providing such a fantastic venue, and to all my fellow guinea pigs for coming out and really understanding the spirit in which this is being done. For those interested in future dinners, they will be announced on the Cobaya website, and you can also join the Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs Google group and you'll get notice by email when new events are announced.


  1. This is such a genius and fun idea, and Chef Jeremiah continues to show his creative cullinary brilliance.

  2. It is great to see talented chefs creating new ways to eat with a fun touch !!!

  3. Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience every time! Wish you'd started these a few years ago before I left Miami. I'm now employed by a farm that caters to chefs, so I always have a reason to keep my finger on the pulse of the Miami scene. Keep highlighting the talented chefs in the area and Miami will undoubtedly continue to rise as a culinary destination.