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Showing posts from February, 2009

Spain ... On the Road

Yup, just me, Batali, Bittman, Gwyneth, and Claudia Bassols (ahh...), driving around in fancy cars, blathering on endlessly and mindlessly, and occasionally having some tapas or something. OK, it's actually just me and Mrs. F, no fancy cars, and we'll spare you our mindless blather. But we will be doing some good eating in Spain and I will report back, though it may not be until our return. If I get the chance, I'll apologize to the King and Queen for Mario's linguistic foibles. When I return, I promise, in addition to reports from España, lots more Miami restaurant discussion, and less cursing and porn references. Adios amigos.

Hey Man Nice Shot

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So only about a couple weeks into this endeavor, and I already find myself at a crossroads. To shoot or not to shoot? Every red-blooded eater loves them some food porn. I'll readily admit that among my favorite things about many of the blogs I follow are the pictures. And next week I'm off to Spain, the culinary equivalent of ... well, let's not play out the porn analogy any further.

And yet - there is a part of me that really wants to avoid becoming "that douchebag taking pictures of his food." It can annoy other diners. It can annoy chefs and other restaurant staff. Sometimes, there seems to be something of a self-righteous sense of entitlement that because you've mastered the rudiments of WordPress or TypePad or flickr, every restaurant should bend over backwards to let you snap away.* Somehow, nobody ever thinks they're "that guy" but rather they're all models of discretion and subtlety in their photojournalistic stylings.

Besides, it is n…

spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and miso

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No, not that kind of spam - the kind that comes in a can. With 54 variations on miso soup, this sounds like the miso soup equivalent of the Monty Python Spam Skit, courtesy of Japanese Food Report. I learned to make good dashi from this site, so I bet the upcoming miso soup recipes won't be all bad. But if miso soup isn't your bag, you can always join the Spam Fan Club instead.

It Takes Guts

I'm not sure what it says about the current state of our foodways that a chef can solicit unpaid volunteers to work for free for five days carving up and prepping a melange of various bits of guts and make it sound like the the opportunity of a lifetime - but I think it's a good thing.

Chris Cosentino of Incanto in San Francisco is proposing to take in two volunteers (professional chefs only) to spend five days prepping for one of their head-to-tail dinners. What's in it for the volunteers? Well, you can learn what to do with the likes of goose intestines and beef hearts, for one. And you get both the cutesy "I [Heart] Offal" and the more visceral "Lips and Assholes" t-shirts. And you actually get to rest and dine on your own creations on the final night.

I regretted missing Incanto on my last visit to San Francisco, this sounds like my kind of food.

Locals Growing Beards?

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My James Beard Cookbook is probably among the most tattered and splattered in my kitchen. For a long time, it served as my initial reference point for basic cooking - how best to cook a burger or a steak, what to do with green beans, and so on. His meatloaf recipe remains one of our favorites. Though a few years ago, the Foundation that bears his name nearly collapsed under a scandal over misuse of funds, it seems that they've done a good job of setting things right since, and their annual restaurant awards and nominations are always interesting to peruse. I referred briefly in another post to a local nominee for one of the regional James Beard Awards. Here is a complete list of the local products who are semifinalists:

Best New Restaurant (National) - Michelle Bernstein with Sra. Martinez. She's up against some tough competition, though, with Jose Andres' new leviathan, The Bazaar, Paul Liebrandt's Corton, David Chang's Momofuku Ko, Scott Conant's Scarpetta, an…

South Beach Wine & Food Festival Recap

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Other than taking my kids to a very silly "Kidz Cooking" demonstration with Giada DeLaurentiis a couple years ago (where they learned how to not complete a single dish in 45 minutes), I have generally steered clear of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Too many yahoos, too much bad wine, too expensive. Just for the price of one of the "Grand Tasting" events ($200+ a head), for instance, I can do some quite fine eating on my own, thank you, usually without being elbowed by a bunch of inebriated chuckleheads.

But it's still always fun to hear reports from the front. Here were some of my favorites: Mario Batali shouting down the noisy "weasel f---wads" at the Viva Espana dinner (and apparently playing some grab-ass with Jose Andres too), lots of coverage from Eater, lots of pix from New Times, Feedbag's weird crush on Rachael Ray (though his obsession is probably healtheir than this guy's), plus this nice little bit of gossip:


Item! Mr. Snit…

3030 Ocean - Fort Lauderdale

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We don't eat much in Broward, but family was visiting in Boynton Beach and we needed to pick some middle ground to meet for dinner. I saw recently that Chef Dean James Max (that's a lot of first names, no?) of 3030 Ocean had been nominated for a James Beard Award, and its location was geographically desirable, so we figured it would be worth a try.

The restaurant is inside the Marriott Harbor Beach resort in Fort Lauderdale, and looks pretty much like every other semi-upscale hotel restaurant, the primary distinguishing characteristic being an overloud guitarist/singer serenading the room from the bar at the restaurant's entrance. Both the bar and the restaurant were fairly well packed when we were there on a Friday night.

The menu, on the other hand, is far from generic hotel restaurant fare. The story on 3030 Ocean is that they are dedicated to using fresh seafood and produce, with a focus on local purveyors. The menu is strongly oriented toward fish and seafood, but there…

Bulldog BBQ - North Miami Beach

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Howie Kleinberg is probably known to most people for his appearance on Top Chef Season 3, shot in Miami, where he was one of three local products. While Howie may be remembered best by Top Chef viewers for his abrasive manner and propensity for perspiration (given that among my talents are sweating and growing hair in inappropriate places, I can sympathize), he also seemed to cook his best when working with pork. The bulldog personality makes its appearance in the name of his new restaurant, and the affinity for pork also shows up in many items on the menu at the recently opened Bulldog BBQ.

Though the space is in an undistinguished strip mall along Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami Beach, it's actually reasonably pleasant once you step inside. It's clean and modern looking, with some red walls, simple furniture, an open kitchen with about 8 bar seats around a portion of it, and a soundtrack of guitar rock of the late '70s and early '80s that made me feel like I was bac…

Wineconomics 101

A couple interesting bits of reading material on the economics of the wine business and in particular what smaller producers are doing to cope: West Coast Wineries Wrestle with Recession (from Wine Spectator), Wine markups at the wholesale, restaurant and retail level (from Tablas Creek's blog).


A Foodie By Any Other Name

I don't know that I'm quite ready to take on "molecular gastronomy" yet, but how about smaller prey - "foodie"? A Dallas writer sneers at the term, "except perhaps in mocking form." Why? Well, with all those amateur, non-elitist connotations, it just seems so Palin-esque. So what does he suggest instead? How about "gourmand"? I know it sounds a little snooty, but we should be assured that it's not pretentious because "Gourmands may know foie gras, but they may also deeply appreciate peasant fare." Ahh, yes, peasant fare. That's what these folks eat, right?

But then we really get to the heart of the matter: "Ultimately, I shy from 'foodie' because some of this self-styled set in this town rave eloquently about mediocre dishes and drinks." So a "gourmand" is a "foodie" whose tastes agree with mine. Glad to have that cleared up.


Valentine's Dinner at Hiro's Yakko-San

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Here is just one small reason why I love my wife. It's Valentine's Day, we have baby-sitting, and as we head out the door, the question is, "Where should we go?" After kicking around some options and even sidling into someplace that had a romantic Valentine's prix fixe menu, Mrs. F sets down her menu and says, "Let's go to Yakko-San." Let's indeed. Because a cozy spot at the bar and some Japanese tapas are all we need to have a wonderful night.

Hiro's Yakko-San is an izakaya-style restaurant in an unassuming strip-mall location in North Miami Beach. There's sushi-bar style seating with about a dozen seats, about 15-20 tables, and no real decoration to speak of unless you count a few TVs scattered around the place (usually showing whatever sporting event is in season). The menu lists something over 100 dishes, most various tapas-style small plates, plus there's always about a dozen or so daily specials and several fresh fish specials. …

Why?

Why indeed. I suppose it all started when I was about 10 years old. My parents were good enough to take my sister and I with them on trips to Europe. After some initial culinary neophobia, I gradually came to realize that there were adventures to be had, and began to seek out the unusual, and sometimes unpronounceable, on restaurant menus. On one particular trip to France, I ordered something which we all recall being called a "segoina." I have no recollection of what it was (nor has Google shed any light in retrospect), but it was good, so much so that I had a bit of a bulging belly after dinner - which was also dubbed by my family a "segoina."

Many years later, there are still many culinary adventures to be had. As a Miami Beach resident and South Florida native, I feel fortunate to have an interesting, diverse and vibrant restaurant community here, and this blog will focus on our local dining destinations while periodically following me on ventures further afiel…