Showing posts from May, 2009

Au Pied de Cochon - South Beach - First Look

[Sorry, this restaurant has closed]

The original Au Pied de Cochon was opened in Paris shortly after the conclusion of World War II. Its owner was a pork butcher in Les Halles market, who wanted someplace to feed his staff when they came off their shifts. Since that was often early in the morning, the restaurant was open 24 hours a day. The restaurant endeavored to serve all of Paris' social classes, from aristocrats to butchers, with simple traditional French fare. Though Les Halles market has since been moved to the outskirts of Paris, Au Pied de Cochon remains, and supposedly has never closed its doors (indeed, the story is that there are no keys).

The Miami Au Pied de Cochon just opened its doors this past Friday evening, in an old Art Deco building a block down the street from Joe's Stone Crab. Mrs. F tells me this was a pretty decrepit building previously, and since I don't remember it, I have to believe her. It looks quite nice from the street now, and inside it'…

Miami Pizza Crawl Part I

The first leg of the Miami Pizza Crawl kicked off last night, covering Wynwood / Design District candidates Joey's Wynwood, Pizzavolante, and Andiamo. We had a nice group of bloggers, chowhounds, and pizza fans on board for the crawl.

Four pizzas apiece at each place yielded the following menu:

Joey's Wynwood
Margherita - with mozzarella & tomato
"Joey" - with tuna, salami, gorgonzola, capers & spinach
"Carbonara" - with bacon, eggs, mozzarella & asparagus
"Dolce e Piccante" - with figs, gorgonzola, honey & hot pepper

Margherita "DOP" - with Italian tomato, oven dried Roma tomatoes, bufala mozzarella & basil
"Volante 100" - with local mozzarella, dandelion greens, tomatoes & arugula
"Bianca" - with fontina, 2 mozzarellas, goat cheese, arugula & thyme
"Cacciatorini" - with Italian tomato, local mozzarella, grana, California pepperoni & guanciale


And Now for Something Completely Different ...

Hey, it's not all just New York chefs opening satellite restaurants here in Miami (even though it may seem that way with Scott Conant / Scarpetta, Alfred Portale / Gotham Steak, Laurent Tourondel / BLT Steak, Michael Psalikis / Eos ...) - there are L.A. chefs doing it too! UrbanDaddy reports that Apple Restaurant & Lounge, from Los Angeles chef Bryan Ogden (son of the legendary Bradley Ogden), will be opening Friday evening. Now, however, New Times reports that the opening is being delayed to next week on account of weather.[*]

I've been biting my tongue on this one, concerned that I've been too harsh on the influx of imported restaurants. Then I read this quote from one of the owners:

Bryan [Ogden] is the best chef I've ever worked with. In fact, I don't think Miami has ever seen anything quite like this before.Haven't seen what, exactly? Arrogant out-of-town restaurateurs thinking they're bestowing magnificent gifts upon an unsophisticated, knuckle-drag…

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink - Miami Design District

As much as it is a favorite of mine, I've found it somewhat difficult to write about Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. Maybe it's because I fear not being able to capture why I enjoy the place so much - it's pretty simple food, mostly - why do I find it so satisfying? Maybe it's because I can no longer count the times that I've been there since they opened two years ago. Do I try to describe the sum of dozens of visits over the past couple years, or simply describe one meal there as an example? I'll try to do both, and hopefully it'll all become clear.

I first experienced Chef Michael Schwartz's cooking more than a decade ago when he was the chef at the then newly-opened restaurant Nemo on South Beach. The food at Nemo was full of flavor but still executed with something of a light hand, and for years the place was one of my favorites. Schwartz left Nemo several years ago after a falling out with partner Myles Chefetz, and pursued a few other ventu…

Morning Reading Material

Some interesting reading material this morning:
Michael Bauer's blog for the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that the gourmet pizza trend is a bi-coastal phenomenon.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gets called out by the Wall Street Journal for reviewers taking freebies - a story that first came out in the Dr. Vino wine blog a month ago.
A piece in the Atlantic Food Channel looks at the diet of pigs destined to become jamon iberico de bellota (the conclusion that "there's very little that's "all-natural" about it" seems a little overblown).
Don't forget the Miami Pizza Crawl starts tomorrow 6:30 pm at Joey's Wynwood, then moves to Pizzavolante and (if appetites allow) Andiamo. If you're hoping to join in and haven't done so yet, please join the Miami Chowdown Google Group and let me know so we can try to plan accordingly.

Eos - Downtown Miami

I may have come across as not so warm to Eos, the new restaurant in the Viceroy Hotel from the Michael Psilakis/Donatella Arpaia team. But, despite my mixed feelings about big hotel restaurants from out-of-town chefs, I was pretty excited by the preview menu I saw and was looking forward to trying it. We finally did so this weekend.

Actually, we started the evening at "Club 50," the lounge on the 50th floor of the Viceroy Hotel, which itself is just a small part of the Phillipe Starck designed Icon Brickell Tower development (the Viceroy's website actually says the club is for Icon members and hotel guests only - whoops!). The Kelly Wearstler-designed space is unique, combining 1930's era shapes with a 1970's era color palette (black and white marble floors, teal walls, lime green chairs) for a rather compelling Goldfinger-esque effect. There was a familiar face behind the bar - the former bartender from Sra. Martinez (and before that Michy's), whose name, I&#…

Pizzavolante - Miami Design District - First Look

[Sorry, this place has closed]

Ahh, pizza. That happy triumvirate of bread, sauce and cheese. I'll confess I don't pretend to be a pizza expert. Unlike many of Miami's denizens who are transplants from pizza meccas like New York, I grew up down here on South Florida pizza. Which ... well, until recently didn't really have very much to recommend it. It seems that may be changing.

After swinging by Pizzavolante earlier today to have a peek, I brought the whole Family Frod back for dinner this evening, which was their opening night. The small restaurant on Miami Avenue on the edge of the Design District was pretty well packed with friends and family. The layout is simple - to one side when you walk in is the mozzarella bar and behind it, in the corner, the pizza oven; there are a few rows of tables with funky orange plastic chairs, as well some extra barstool-height seating along the front windows.

We started off with a sampling of the mozzarellas and their accompaniments…

Doors Fly Open at Pizzavolante

Pizzavolante, the new pizza parlor and mozzarella bar from Pacific Time chef Jonathan Eismann, opened today. By noon they already had pies going out the door, even as the awning was still going up outside. I popped in to take a look and grab a menu but didn't have time to sample - maybe later tonight. In the meantime, here below is the menu, and some very quick impressions.

It's a short and sweet listing of pizzas, and for the most part pretty traditional. Standard pies are done with fresh mozzarella from local producer Vito Volpe, whose stuff is also featured in the mozzarella bar, or you can splurge and go for the fancier stuff on a $13 pie. There are also a couple calzones if you prefer your pizza stuffed. The wood-fired oven is pretty impressive, as is the pile of firewood waiting to fuel it. Locavores will appreciate the "Volante 100," with all toppings or fillings grown or produced within 100 miles of the store.

The mozzarella bar features several different varie…

Wine Dinner at 5300 Chophouse

OK - a few words of caution before I put this one up: (1) I do not watch Hell's Kitchen, don't get to Doral that often, and so had never heard of 5300 Chophouse or its chef Josh Wahler; (2) $125 seems a bit steep for a restaurant and winery I've never heard of (as for the wine, my guess is that Sunbox Eleven is a Crushpad custom crush thing, not that there is anything wrong with that); and (3) the shill quotient seems high, what with a New Times blog entry generating 21 comments and about 10x that many exclamation points. But having said all that, both the menu and wines look somewhat interesting, so here it is - the 5300 Chophouse / Sunbox Eleven wine dinner, to happen on May 28, $125 per person inclusive of tax and tip.

5300 Chophouse
5300 NW 87th Avenue
Miami, FL 33178

Pizza Showdown

OK. After I was given some grief for questioning whether a place could be dubbed the "best pizza in South Florida" within 24 hours of putting out some pies for an opening party, I've realized it's only fair to put the question to the test of public opinion. Indeed with the influx of new pizza places, some further investigation would seem to be in order. In the span of a week, we've got Racks in North Miami Beach opened, Sosta on Lincoln Road opened, and Jonathan Eismann's Pizza Volante opening in the Design District. Not so long ago Joey's Wynwood (recently recognized in Food & Wine), Blu Pizza e Cucina in Mary Brickell Village and Pizza Fusion in North Miami Beach opened their doors. A new pizza place from the owners of Sardinia called Casale is in the pipeline, and stalwarts like Spris, Piola and Pizza Rustica on South Beach and Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Aventura are still plugging along.

As if more inspiration was needed, JonathanAlan Richma…

Timo Restaurant - Sunny Isles

Tourists usually think South Beach is the only place to go in the Miami area. Locals going out to dinner may have figured out that some of the best dining is now in the Design District and along the "Biscayne Corridor" where nationally known chefs like Michael Schwartz and Michelle Bernstein now ply their trade. But there are still other places where good eats can be found, and Timo, up toward the northern reaches of Miami-Dade County in Sunny Isles, is one of them.

"Timo" means "thyme" in Italian, but I believe it's also a combination of the first names of the restaurant's owners, Chef Tim Andriola and General Manager Rodrigo Martinez. Chef Andriola's resume has some of the most distinguished names in local and national kitchens - Mark Militello (exec chef at Mark's South Beach), Alan Susser (chef de cuisine at Chef Allen), stints at Chez Panisse, Charlie Trotter;[*] and Rodrigo Martinez likewise came in with some solid experience, having …

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Gravy?

Rack's Italian Bistro hosted an opening shindig yesterday evening, apparently to much acclaim. I missed the festivities but was sufficiently inspired to take a look at the menu. And something about it triggered a little itch in my head, some stray memory that I could not place. Specifically, it was this menu description: "Meatball - Whipped Impasata + Sunday San Marzano Gravy." My first thought was this:

Isn't it a little goofy to be going all retro/homestyle with the "gravy" reference, while simultaneously going all upscale/snooty with the "San Marzano" reference?But then the further nagging thought was:

And where have I seen this before? What other place would refer to "San Marzano gravy" on the menu?After a little searching around I placed it: Devito South Beach, whose menu features an "Original Old School Meatball - Whipped Ricotta, Nonna's Marzano Gravy". Hmph. But that's not all. Consider the following:

Devito: Calam…

The Heart Has its Rieslings*

I'll confess I'm not usually a big white wine drinker. But - if I may borrow from the Most Interesting Man in the World - when I do drink white wine, I often prefer Riesling. Somewhat intimidating because of the variety of styles and the difficult-to-decipher German labeling system, Rieslings nonetheless have the capacity for complex hedonistic flavors, while also often having an excellent balance of fruit and acid to make for effective food pairings.

If you're not a big Riesling drinker - or if you are, and are just looking for another excuse - next week is the time to try one, as Wines of Germany and Destination Riesling team up for Riesling Week May 18-24. Restaurants and retailers will be featuring German, Austrian and Alsatian Rieslings with by-the-glass tastings, food and wine pairings, and wine flights. Participating Miami restaurants include Azul, Bourbon Steak, Brosia, Café Sambal, Emeril's, M-Bar, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Michy's, Oceanaire, OL…

La Cofradia Ceviche Bar - Coral Gables

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

A few weeks ago I gave a preview of the new menu at La Cofradia Ceviche Bar, the reincarnation of a former upscale Peruvian restaurant which closed down a couple months ago. I paid a lunch visit last week on the first day of their reopening to see what was new.

The layout of the space has been reconfigured some, with a few tall tables and barstools in the entranceway along with a new (?) bar. White tablecloths are gone in favor of bare wood tables, though the place still retains many of the upscale trappings from its original incarnation and has a slick (but not uncomfortable) modern look to it. It does feel a little more welcoming and it seems they're trying to make the new bar area in front more of a focal point.

The menu is, as noted earlier, in many ways just a simplified version of its predecessor. There are a few options for ceviches and tiraditos, about a half dozen other appetizer options, about 10 entree choices (some of which, like the…