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Showing posts from June, 2009

Mexico to Miami by Way of New York

Another New York import is on its way to Miami, but lo and behold it's not a steakhouse. Instead, it's Mercadito, from Chef Patricio Sandoval, which pitches itself as being inspired by the food of Mexican markets but with a modern flair. They currently have three locations in New York City which seem to get a decent amount of love on the Manhattan Chowhound board. Their fish tacos in particular oft are singled out for high praise.

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that their 5-page menu only has 2 pages of actual foodstuffs, the rest being a pretty impressive list of tequilas, cocktails, wine & beer, other than that you may be carrying me out of there. The food items look to have the same contemporary, vaguely upscale, geographically unplaceable quality of, say, Rosa Mexicano, another Mexico-to-Miami-by-way-of-New-York mini-chain. As compared to Rosa Mexicano, it seems that more of Mercadito's menu is focused on a lengthy selection of tacos and smaller plates, t…

Lessons Learned in the Test Kitchen

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So after six hours in the kitchen for a Paradigm dinner service (as recounted in Part I and Part II of my running diary), what have I learned from my "Chef Fantasy Camp"?

Alls chefs are not sociopathic miscreants. Contrary to the reputation fostered by "bad-boy" chef tell-alls like Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential," the population of every kitchen is not the equivalent of a jailhouse with pots and pans. I know it's fun to imagine that every kitchen is like the crew of a pirate ship, and perhaps some are. But the kitchen at Neomi's is full of sincere, hardworking people who you'd be perfectly happy to take home to your mother. Maybe they were just on their best behavior for me.

Mise en place is where it's at. I know this is really basic and that just about any book about cooking will tell you the same thing. But there is simply no way any menu like this can be done, or indeed virtually any professional kitchen could function, wit…

Pizza Poll Closed, Pizza Crawl III Approaching

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My "Best Pizza in Miami" poll has closed, with Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza eking out a victory by the thinnest of slices, followed closely by Spris, and then PizzaVolante and Pizza Rustica in a tie for third. Not to dismiss the results of a gloriously democratic process, but the poll seems pretty much meaningless considering among other things: (1) those of us participating in the "Pizza Crawl" haven't even completed Round III of the crawl yet; and (2) some places started getting votes before they'd even opened!

PizzaVolante pizza, photo credit: Jacob Katel
My impression of the general consensus from Pizza Crawl I and Pizza Crawl II is that PizzaVolante took Round I, with Joey's in close contention, and that Racks Italian Bistro was the clear winner of Round II. I don't think there was any clear victor as between PizzaVolante and Racks.

Meanwhile, Round III resumes next week on July 2 for a tour of South Beach including Sosta, Piola and Spris. For m…

In the Test Kitchen at Paradigm (Part II) - Sunny Isles

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In an earlier post, I had started to recap my experience in the kitchen of Neomi's for one of their "Paradigm" tasting menu dinners. Jacob Katel from Miami New Times now has his "Behind the Line" pictures up, and you can see all of my pix in this flickr set. Part I of the running diary left off about half-way through the dinner, which is where I'll pick up the action here.

8:48 pm - as the guests are having the "refresh" course, plating starts for course VI, "cuban sandwich." It begins with a shmear of Wild Turkey honey mustard, and then a square of a fluffy "swiss miss" sponge is placed with one side near the center of the plate. A rectangle of thinly pressed bread is balanced upright, leaning on the sponge.

8:52 pm - Marianne, meanwhile, seems to be everywhere at once. She's expediting orders, she's cooking, she's plating, she's handing finished dishes to the room service guys ... nonstop. While Chefs K and Cha…

In the Test Kitchen at Paradigm (Part I) - Sunny Isles

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This is the first of a multi-part series of posts. Click here for Part II and for Lessons Learned in the Test Kitchen.

“Paradigm – the Test Kitchen” is a once-a-week “restaurant within a restaurant” in Neomi’s Grill at the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles, featuring multi-course tasting menus that explore some of the more contemporary concepts and techniques being batted about the culinary universe these days. I’ve been wanting to write about “Paradigm” since I started this blog, but had been lacking new material. I have been to a couple of thesedinners already (as well as a pre-Paradigm birthday party dinner, which in retrospect turned out to be something of a dry run for the Paradigm format), but those were several months ago and I’d already given extensive recaps of them elsewhere.

Paradigm is an “interactive” dining experience – the chefs come out to explain several of the dishes, many involve tableside final prep (smoking guns, espuma garnishes, consommé poured at …

Someone's in the Kitchen ...

I have writtenpreviouslyelsewhere about some fascinating meals I've had from Chefs Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano and their "Paradigm - The Test Kitchen" weekly dinners - some of the most adventurous and cutting-edge cooking that you can find in Miami. Prompted in part by some recent discussion about "interactive dinners" and the relationship between kitchen and dining room, they agreed this week to a very different approach - they're letting me into the kitchen to "help"[*] with tonight's Paradigm dinner. It should be an interesting and crowded kitchen, with Chris Windus from BlueZoo in Orlando also in as a collaborating guest chef.

Their food and beverage manager was smart enough to insist that I provide a waiver and release of liability before setting foot in the restaurant kitchen. Here is the one I suggested:

WAIVER AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY
I fully understand and acknowledge that:

1. Kitchens involve sharp, pointy, hot, heavy, and/or greasy ob…

Does Transglutaminase Work on Shark Meat?

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I do believe the phrase "molecular gastronomy" has officially jumped the shark. In what has to be one of the goofiest little bits of prose I've ever read, The Feedbag brings us this gem: Mystery Behind Meat Glue Revealed. The 150-word thriller explaining how "molecular gastronomers" use transglutaminase, a/k/a "meat glue," is cribbed pretty much directly from this equally goofy piece, "What is Meat Glue?", from the Tampa Bay Examiner's resident "Molecular Gastronomy Examiner."[*] The Feedbag piece even duplicates the misspelling of transglutaminase as "triglutaminase" as well as the ungrammatical explanation that it "[is] an enzymes [sic] that catalyzes covalent bonds between free amine groups and gamma-caroxminid [sic] groups of protein or peptide bond [sic] gluatamine [sic]." That super-scientific explanation - minus the misspellings - is lifted directly from (drum roll please) Wikipedia. The Examiner art…

Chef Allen's - North Miami Beach

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[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

Allen Susser was one of the original pioneers of what has been variously called the "Mango Gang" or "Floribbean" or "New Florida" cuisine back in the late 1980's, along with such illustrious names as Norman Van Aken, Douglas Rodriguez, Mark Militello and Jonathan Eismann. While each of his compadres has had restaurants come and go over the years, Chef Susser is now running on a 23-year stretch at his original location in North Miami Beach (n/k/a Aventura), Chef Allen's - a truly remarkable feat given the failure rate of most restaurants.

It had probably been close to a decade since I'd last been to Chef Allen's, and I'll confess that I didn't miss it that much. What had seemed creative 20 years ago instead just seemed old-hat and uninspired on my last couple visits. The restaurant, its menu, and its clientele all seemed somewhat dusty and dated. A rather formal atmosphere seemed stilted and out-o…

Best Of ... What, Exactly? - Updated

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In today's Short Order blog, Lee Klein of Miami New Times offers a baffling and seemingly self-defeating explanation of the NT's annual "Best of Miami"[*] listings. First, let me confess that I've never put much weight in this list, and really just stopped reading it entirely when a couple years ago they gave the "Best Restaurant Wine List" award to Maroosh, a perfectly serviceable Middle-Eastern restaurant whose wine list is - really, no exaggeration - less exceptional than many convenience stores I've been to. Seriously. Unless of course you consider a horizontal collection of the ubiquitous, mass-production Kendall-Jackson "Vintner's Reserve" to be impressive (they have the Chardonnay, the Zinfandel, the Cabernet Sauvignon AND the Merlot!). This was such an insult both to the several local restaurants that make an effort to put out interesting, fairly priced wine lists, and the diners who genuinely give a crap about such things, th…

Miami Pizza Crawl - Part II Recap

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The second round of the "Miami Pizza Crawl" re-convened this past Sunday evening, exploring the offerings of the northerly pizzaiolos of Miami-Dade County -- Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, Pizza Fusion, and Racks Italian Bistro. Readers of Chowhound may recall that the genesis of the Pizza Crawl came about as a result of me giving Miami Danny (a/k/a Danny Brody of the Daily Cocaine blog) a small raft of shit (more like a dinghy, maybe) over him declaring Racks' pizza the best in South Florida after they had been open approximately 24 hours. While giving Danny some grief is usually its own reward, this particular instance had the added bonus of leading to the idea of a "pizza showdown" among the many new pizzamakers cropping up around Miami. We had a big turnout last night with 28 people (including all of Family Frod for the first two rounds) and it was a fun group. Many thanks to Paula of Mango & Lime for playing coordinator for this round. You can see her…