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Showing posts from 2010

Ten Best Bites of 2010

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As the year winds its way to a close, we all partake in various traditions: it may be latkes and sufganiyot for Channukah, a Christmas ham or a feast of seven fishes (or the Jewish custom of going out for Chinese on Christmas), perhaps the New Years' traditions of cotechino and lentils or Hoppin' John. Here in the blogosphere, the traditional way to recognize the end of the year is to make lists. Since I resolved last year to actually do my "year in review" list before the calendar turned over, here are my "Ten Best Bites" of 2010, in no particular order, with some thoughts and pictures from the past year:

1. Gambas de Palamós at Asador Etxebarri (writeup here). Simply the best prawns I've ever eaten:

There is so little going on here - prawns, salt, smoke, heat - and yet absolutely nothing else could make this any better. The tail was perfectly cooked, simultaneously tender, meaty, salty and sweet. And the juices from sucking the heads, enhanced by a smo…

Humbug - Miami Christmas and New Years' Dining Options

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Another year is nearly gone, but before it's over, there are Christmas and New Years Eve to celebrate. And for many of us, that means a night - and a dinner - out on the town. I confess that I usually try to avoid holiday fixed menu "deals," on the belief that more often than not, prices go up while quality and choices go down, plus customers often tend to behave like asshats. (Though I should also note that last year, we snuck into Michael's Genuine early and had a perfectly wonderful time). We tend to keep things simple, ideally at Chez Frod - you know, a tin of caviar, a couple spoons, a bottle of grower champagne. But not everyone is as curmudgeonly and Scrooge-like as myself. For those with more festive holiday spirits, here are a number of dining options for the upcoming holidays (unless indicated, all prices are exclusive of tax and tip, and generally speaking, advance reservations required):

1500º
Eden Roc Hotel
4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL
305.674.5594

6…

Special Guest Post - Michael's Genuine Food and Drink (Little Miss F)

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I am honored (and relieved, given my less than prodigious output lately) to bring you a guest post today - and also fairly bursting with pride. You see, as we were going over my 10-year old daughter's school projects for the past quarter, I came across an assignment her class did on the five senses. The project was to write descriptive passages, in various styles (poem, newspaper article, essay, story) that involved the five senses. So what did the little bugger do? She wrote a restaurant review! She's been gracious enough to let me republish it (entirely unedited), and so here is Little Miss F's review of Michael's Genuine Food and Drink. It may be time for me to retire.


I am a food critic and today I am going to Michael's Genuine Food and Drink. I walked into the restaurant to be greeted by their friendly host who asked me, "Excuse me, do you have a reservation?"

I answered him, "Yes, of course!" After that, they seated me at a little table in …

Vino e Olio e Cobaya - Experiment #8

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One of the guiding principles of the Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs group is that it's intended as an opportunity for chefs to do things that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to do in their regular settings. We organize events both in restaurants and out, but one of the rules is that it has to be an off-the-menu experience, a chance for the chefs to show something different from their usual routine.

When I read about the opening of Vino e Olio in the Design District, it seemed like a good fit. The chef, Andrea Menichetti, was virtually born in the kitchen: his parents, Maurizio Menichetti and Valeria Piccini, run the Michelin two-starred Da Caino in Montemerano, Italy, where Chef Andrea cooked before making his way to Miami. And the menu at Vino e Olio suggested more imagination and creativity than most garden-variety South Florida Italian restaurants. So we tried the restaurant, spoke to the chef, and then gave him free reign to craft a menu. The result, as one of our din…

CSA Week 2 and its Uses - Yuca Latkes with Spherified Hibiscus Caviar

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So it turns out that a two-part series on homemade kimchi is not nearly as popular as writing about where to eat during Art Basel week. This does not come as a surprise to me. And yet here I am, persisting in writing about my humble efforts to dispose of my weekly CSA share yet again. (If the truth must be known, I'm also still only on Round 1 of my visits to several of the new places to open recently in Miami - including DB Bistro Moderne, Vino e Olio, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar - and am filibustering some here).

Week 2 brought an unusual assortment of goodies: yuca, roselle (a/k/a hibiscus or Jamaican sorrel), lemongrass, callaloo, green onions, eggplant, avocado. Once again, I set out to come up with a dish that would use up at least a few of the components at once. What I wound up with was a very unorthodox latke:


What exactly is that? Well, it will require some explanation.

The roselle and lemongrass were the starting point, as I steeped them along with some fresh ginger to ma…

CSA Week 1 and its Uses - Part II

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OK, so I've got some home-made kimchi that's been getting funky in the fridge for a few days. And I've decided that its mission in life is to ultimately become kimchi ramen. So far so good - except we need a lot more fixings for that ramen. Since I started with the Momofuku kimchi recipe, I decided to plow on ahead and make a version of the Momofuku ramen, and add some kimchi for extra punch. There would be some compromises along the way - no, I'm not making my own noodles,  and I can't easily source my own pork belly - but I was pretty happy with the end result.

First, a broth. The Momofuku ramen broth recipe is sort of a case study in building rich, meaty flavor: kombu, dried shiitakes, pork bones, bacon all get into the mix. It's also a long-term time commitment, needing about 8+ hours of simmering. It's worth it.

You start like a basic dashi, by putting a rinsed piece of kombu in a pot with water (3 qts.),[*] bringing it to a simmer and then steeping it …

CSA Week 1 and Its Uses - Part I

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Here in South Florida, as winter descends on the rest of the country, we enter our prime growing season, and the CSA I've joined (through Bee Heaven Farm) started up the week before last. My first experience with a CSA was last year, and I started the season with the ambitious goal of documenting my use of everything in each CSA box (you can see how that ended up). I've learned my lesson: often it's just not that interesting, and sometimes everything doesn't get used up. Which is embarrassing and lame. So this season I won't try to make this a regular topic, but instead maybe just an occasional feature.


Over at Redland Rambles, every Friday they give a preview of what is coming in the box the next day. Week 1 brought daikon radish, pak choy, green beans, "Japanese spinach" (a/k/a Savoy spinach?), dandelion greens, cherry tomatoes, garlic chives, parsley, and flowering thyme. I've been wanting to try to make a home-made kimchi for a while now, and deci…

Eat Basel - Where to Eat for Art Basel

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It's that time of year, when culturati from all over the world, like the swallows of Capistrano, descend upon Miami for Art Basel. There will be plenty of sources for information on art installations, events and parties: New Times has a comprehensive list of Art Basel events as well as a guide to the satellite art fairs, and the New York Times just published a more curated list. And though we've danced around the food as art question here occasionally, right now let me address the issue in a more pedestrisn fashion: where should you eat?

South Beach / North Beach

The Art Basel exhibition itself is in the Miami Beach Convention Center on South Beach. The good news is that from the Convention Center, you'll be in easy walking distance of the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. The bad news is that there's hardly anyplace good to eat on Lincoln Road any more. If you must, consider Meat Market for a contemporary take on the steakhouse genre, or for smaller budgets, the new Shake …

This Little Piggy Went to P.I.G.

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It's hard for me to believe it's been a year since the inaugeral "P.I.G." (Pork Is Good) event, a celebration of all things porcine by Chef Jeremiah, pilot of the gastroPod. Indeed, a year ago, there wasn't even a gastroPod yet: just a hard-working chef with the slightly crazy-sounding idea of retrofitting a vintage Airstream trailer with a 21st century kitchen, and bringing Miami some creative but budget-friendly mobile food.[*] We had some good stuff that day: chicharrones, banh mi trotter tacos, pork belly Cuban sandwiches, East meets South pulled pork char shiu bao, home-made hot dogs, a whole roasted pig done in the Caja China, and some moonshine/black cherry cocktails to wash it all down. Some of those items, in one form or another, eventually became gastroPod menu items.

With nearly a year of trucking under his belt, Chef Jeremiah put on the "second annual" P.I.G. event this weekend, at GAB Studio in Wynwood. Though I only had a short time to ru…

To Do List

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You may have noticed that the pace here at FFT has slowed up lately. It's certainly not for lack of subject matter, but rather lack of time. In fact, despite the still-sluggish economy, these seem to be relative boom times for Miami restaurants, and not only for casual, modern Asian fare (though there is plenty of that to go around). Just the past couple months have seen a number of intriguing new places open, with more in the pipeline. Plus, there are still remnants of two trips (Maine and Spain) to discuss, including a really pleasant surprise in tiny Lincolnville, Maine (The Edge), some disappointment in another highly regarded Maine restaurant (Primo), and a tapas-fest in Barcelona.

Sometimes when things start to pile up it helps to make a list. So here is my FFT "to-do list." Which surely is going to be subject to any number of distractions along the way. Plus CSA season starts today, which means I may again subject everyone to my stumbling efforts to cook through m…

Gigi - Midtown Miami

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Fish is the new steak, and Asian is the new burger. Consider: the past couple years brought us the openings of a multitude of high-end steakhouses - Meat Market, BLT Steak, Gotham Steak, Red the Steakhouse, STK, the reopened Forge. Yet the construction of shrines to carnivorism seems to have slowed (the recently opened 1500° notwithstanding), and instead Douglas Rodriguez opens De Rodriguez Ocean, Blue Door has become Blue Door Fish, even untrendy Luna Cafe on Biscayne Boulevard is becoming Sea Bar.

On the other end of the restaurant market, burgers were everywhere for a time (as if they were using the trimmings from all those new steakhouses)- 8 Oz. Burger Bar, Burger & Beer Joint, Heavy Burger, Flip Burger Bar,[1]Shake Shack ... But burgers are yesterday's news. Modern, casual Asian is now the order of the day, as Sakaya Kitchen, Chow Down Grill, American Noodle Bar, and Gigi will all attest.

Sakaya (Richard Hales), Chow Down (Joshua Marcus) and American Noodle (Michael Bloi…

American Noodle Bar - Miami, FL - First Look

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[Sorry, this restaurant has closed "for remodeling"]

I drive down Biscayne Boulevard to work every morning. As a result, I have been a spectator, on a daily basis, to the drawn-out opening of American Noodle Bar. In fact, I recall when the first sign went up on a small space in one of the dodgy, 1950's era "MiMo" style hotels along Biscayne, it was for something that was going to be called "Pineapple Express" and promised an opening date of "January 2010." The name changed. And so did the projected opening date, which dragged out for months.[*]

American Noodle Bar finally opened Wednesday night. I usually avoid opening nights; I also usually like to give a place a few visits and at least a few weeks, sometimes months, to find its footing before writing. But the lengthy period of anticipation left me eager to try it, and to provide a long-awaited "first look." (I also feel incredibly guilty that it seems like it's been months si…

Koy Shunka - Barcelona

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Spaniards are fiercely proud of and loyal to the culinary traditions of their native country, and for good reason: I think it's some of the greatest food on earth too. Yet with that loyalty comes a certain - parochialism may be too strong a word, so let's just say that Spain doesn't often seem to take much interest in other countries' cuisines. You won't find many notable Italian restaurants in Spain, for instance.[*]

But lately, Spain does seem to be paying some attention to the Far East. The celebrated DiverXo in Madrid leans heavily on Asian flavors and stylings (the resumé of its chef, David Muñoz, includes a stint at Hakkasan). Kabuki (also in Madrid) applies a distinctly Japanese sensibility to Iberian ingredients. Alberto Raurich, formerly elBulli's chef de cuisine, now runs Dos Palillos in Barcelona, whose very name (meaning both toothpicks and chopsticks) is a play on the connection its food seeks to draw between Asia and Spain.

Perhaps because the Sp…

Restaurante Arzak - September 2010

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Last month was our second visit to San Sebastian and likewise our second visit to Restaurante Arzak. Our first Arzak meal was about a year and a half ago, and the timing proved to be just about right. Though the format of the tasting menu was pretty much identical, roughly 3/4 of the actual menu items had been changed, so the experience offered a sense both of familiarity and freshness.

The menu progression is a fairly customary one: an assortment of "pintxos" or "tapas" to start, followed by a series of dishes primarily focused around various proteins, concluding with a couple sweet courses and mignardises. One of the pleasant things about ordering the tasting menu at Arzak is that nearly every course actually offers at least two options, giving the ability to either tailor the menu to individual preferences or just to provide multiple diners with some additional variety.


At our first Arzak meal we were seated in the more modern downstairs dining room, while this …

Great Moments in Food Truck Tweets

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It's nice to see the spirit of cooperation overcome any rivalry among South Florida's food truckers:



Grillers stick together, I guess.


Good Food Good Cause x2

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Some upcoming events of note that should offer some good food and the chance to do some good, too:

Ceviche Throwdown - October 17

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill is playing host to a "Ceviche Throwdown" to benefit Friends of the Fishermen, a non-profit organization set up by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board to assist Louisiana fishermen impacted by the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Competing for the title of Ceviche King (or Queen) will be Sugarcane's chef Timon Balloo, Douglas Rodriguez (Ola, De Rodriguez Cuba and the newly opened De Rodriguez Ocean), Andrea Curto-Randazzo (Water Club), Tim Andriola (Timo), Philip Bryant (Norman's 180), Jonathan Eismann (Fin), Kris Wessel (Red Light), Bernard Matz (Books & Books), Juan Chipoco (Cvi.che 105), Dena Marino (formerly Devito South Beach) and Clay Conley (formerly Azul and soon-to-be Buccan). Tickets ($40) can be purchased at the Miami Wine Fair website.

Ceviche Throwdown @
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
3250 NE 1st Avenue…

Where Angels Fear to Tread

A freelance writer for the Miami New Times took it upon herself to give a "critique" of the Cobaya dinners in their Short Order blog today. I put "critique" in quotes because what was most interesting about her comments - to me, anyway - is that she has never actually been to one of our events.

Unfortunately, New Times was too craven to publish my response, which I attempted to post on their site. So instead, you can read my response here.


The Return of the Truck Party - Dim Ssam a Gogo, Jefe's Original

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The last time we mentioned a "truck party" here, it was a two-part taste test featuring the gastroPod and Latin Burger. That was more than half a year ago, and since then several more food trucks have started up operations in Miami. In fact, the twitter list of South Florida food trucks I've compiled now numbers more than twenty, though not all of those are in regular circulation (and conversely, there are others who shun contemporary social media such as Twitter in favor of - I don't know, paper cups and string?). As I mentioned Friday, several of the food trucks were gathered in Haulover Marina Park on Saturday for the South Florida Dragon Boat Festival, and I stopped by for some more samples. There was not much in the way of dragon boats actually racing when we were there at mid-day, but there was some good eating.


One of the newest trucks on the block is the Dim Ssäm à Gogo truck from Sakaya Kitchen. Chef Richard Hales has been doing a fantastic job at Sakaya put…