Monday, October 25, 2010

Restaurante Arzak - September 2010

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 time we went upstairs. For those who have requested seating in the "non-smoking section" at Arzak and been advised that it is not available, I can only tell you that I have now eaten in both dining rooms, and both times we were in the "smoking section." I am starting to think that the "non-smoking section" may be apocryphal.

Like our first meal, this one started with a selection of little bites.[1] (You can see all the pictures from this meal in this flickr set: Arzak - September 2010).

Puding de kabrarroka con fideos fritos
Puding de kabrarroka con fideos fritos
A couple of these were repeat performances from our last visit: the ones in the foreground of this picture, described as "puding de kabrarroka con fideos fritos," are a signature Arzak dish, a mousse of scorpionfish wrapped in crispy, light threads of pastry. Arriving on separate plates were a tartar of bonito (a lighter-fleshed tuna relative) with corn pancakes, little sandwiches of crispy rice crackers around a mushroom mousse, a shot of a frothy white alubia bean soup with matchsticks of apple, and perhaps the best bite of all, a little mound of serrano ham and tomato, wrapped in flower petals, and infused - through the plate it rested upon - with a mint vapor.

Jamón con tomate
Jamón con tomate
I enjoyed the presentation of these, with each on their own dishes mimicking the feel of casual abundance you find at San Sebastian's many tapas bars, and each was a delicious bite.

Cromlech y cebolla con té y café
Cromlech y cebolla con té y café
This was certainly one of the more unusual-looking things I've ever eaten. Described on the menu as a "cromlech," I assumed this was some culinary term that was beyond my savant-like multilingual food vocabulary. I was wrong. A "cromlech" is a megalith or stone slab - like Stonehenge.[2] That would explain the peculiar shapes. Though named after gigantic stone structures, these were incredibly fragile, with a delicate paper-thin casing (reminiscent of the "tent" over the egg dish we had last year) enclosing a filling of creamy foie gras and caramelized onion. These had to be picked up with the hands and eaten quickly in a couple bites before they fell apart completely. A sprinkling of powdered coffee and green tea provided a welcome delicately bitter note, playing the contrasting role to the rich foie often played by a sweet fruity component.

(continued ...)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Moments in Food Truck Tweets

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

Grillers stick together, I guess.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Good Food Good Cause x2

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, Miami
October 17, 3pm-6pm

Food Truck Battle / Wine on Harvest Moon
Deering Estate Fundraiser - October 23

The next week, two of Miami's mobile chefs take their trucks to the Deering Estate to duel it out as part of the Deering Estate Foundation's annual "Wine on Harvest Moon" fundraiser. The gastroPod will be facing off against Jefe's Original. Each will be cooking some of their regular specialties (including Chef Jeremiah's Mo' Better Burger and Jefe's Ensenada Style Fish Tacos), but also will be facing a secret ingredient challenge. And as they say on TV, "But that's not all ..." The evening also offers the Florida debut of Deering Wines, a Sonoma winery founded by descendants of the Deering McCormick family. There will also be more food samples from Bizcaya at the Ritz-Carlton, Anacapri, Smith & Wollensky, Sawa, Kaliapy's, Delicias del Mundo, Wendy's Chocolates, Donna's Delights, and Sugar Shack. Tickets ($90, $75 for members, VIP $175, $150 for members) are available at the Deering Estate website or by calling 305.235.1668, x263.

Food Truck Battle / Wine on Harvest Moon
@ Deering Estate
16701 SW 72nd Avenue, Miami
October 23, 7:30pm-10:30pm

Thursday, October 7, 2010

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.

Monday, October 4, 2010

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

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 putting out creative, vibrantly flavored, Korean-influenced food (my raves over his "Dim Ssam Brunch" and the regular menu have already appeared here), and the Dim Ssäm à Gogo takes that show on the road (I think I've now officially used up every corny "street"-related reference). On board, Chef Richard Hales is offering a nice short-form sampling of items from the restaurant menu, both some "greatest hits" (Korean Fried Chicken, Honey Orange Ribs) and a grab-bag of other creations.

Family Frod split some KFC, a "K-Dog," and some "Covered & Chunk'd Tots."

(continued ...)

Friday, October 1, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different ...

How about some actual Miami foodstuffs as a palate cleanser between all these Spain updates?  A couple particular items of note:

The South Florida Dragon Boat Festival at Haulover Park is always a fun excuse to spend the day outside by the water, but this Saturday (10/2/10) it will offer the additional, significant bonus of a gathering of some of our city's finest food trucks (many of which I've personally not yet had the good fortune to try). You'll find Sakaya Kitchen's Dim Ssäm à Gogo, La Camaronera's Fish Box, Latin Burger, Jefe's Original, and Wing Commander. The festival runs 9am - 5pm, but I'm not sure all the trucks will be there for all that time.

South Florida Dragon Boat Festival
Haulover Beach Park Marina
10800 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL
Saturday October 2 9am - 5pm

And another thing:

Chef Douglas Rodriguez's latest venture, De Rodriguez Ocean, in the Hilton Bentley on South Beach, opens this coming Thursday. We got something of a sneak peak at the oceanfront venue and D-Rod's ceviche stylings at our last Cobaya dinner, but now it's for real. Here's a look at the menu, courtesy of UrbanDaddy.

De Rodriguez Ocean
101 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL
Opening Thursday October 7