Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best Dishes of 2011

This time last year, I was still basking in the reflection of a trip to Spain that included two meals that will probably always be among my most memorable - Asador Etxebarri in the Basque Country, and el Bulli. Not surprisingly, my "Ten Best Bites of 2010" list had a distinctly Iberian tilt. We didn't venture out of the U.S. in 2011, but nonetheless ate well, at home in Miami, on the other side of the continent during a trip to Portland, Oregon, and during a too-brief sojourn to Chicago.[1] For much more worldly lists, I'd highly commend those assembled by Ulterior Epicure and Doc Sconz, who in one year could check off my dining wish list for the next decade or so.

It's always a fun task to compile these kinds of lists. The exceptionality of some dishes is immediately apparent, the experience of them firmly and indelibly imprinted on the memory. Others may need the perspective of time to truly appreciate, perhaps seeming simple at first but gaining depth and nuance upon further reflection, like the flavor development of a good braise.

I tried to hold myself to ten dishes last year but cheated, actually listing fourteen. With no editorial oversight here, I've expanded the list to 20 for 2011. A few curious patterns emerge, though I can't say whether it's mere coincidence or holds some deeper significance.

First: I hope it doesn't come off as self-horn-tooting that several of the dishes listed here (seven) were served at Cobaya dinners, a group I help organize. We've had the incredibly good fortune to work with many outstanding chefs in the past year, who have eagerly embraced our simple "mission statement:" "to get talented chefs to cook great, interesting meals for an audience of adventurous, open-minded diners." Our little experiment is now 2 1/2 years old, we had 10 events in 2011, and we continue to be both energized and humbled by the support from both chefs and diners.

Second: there sure is a lot of foie gras on this list; the ingredient is featured in four of the twenty dishes. At least that foie is somewhat balanced out by three predominantly vegetable dishes that also made the list. I have nothing against foie - clearly - but it's the latter that I think and hope is a real trend. The vegetable universe has been coming under increasing focus and attention from chefs worldwide, and with our uniquely upside down growing seasons here in South Florida there is plenty of material to work with.[2]

Third: the simplest of dishes can still be made outstanding. It's hard to imagine anything more humble and rustic than choucroute garnie or bollito misto; versions of both were among the best things I ate this past year. And once again, one of the very best bites I had all year was basically nothing more than fish, rice and seasoning. This is by no means a rejection of culinary "modernism" - only a recognition that there are many paths to pleasure.

Here, then, is my list for 2011, with excerpts of my earlier comments on each.

1. Quail with Tripe - Le Pigeon (my thoughts on Le Pigeon)


The most memorable dish of the evening (maybe - this is a close call with one of the desserts) was the quail, burnished golden-brown crispy skin encasing tender, mildly gamy meat, served over a tripe and pepper stew with some generous dollops of a (saffron-infused?) aioli. Who'd've thunk to combine quail and tripe? It was simply and unexpectedly perfect.

2. Salmon Nigiri - Naoe (my thoughts on Naoe)

salmon belly

Scottish salmon belly. Cool fish, fatty and rich. Faintly warm rice, perfectly cooked, delicately seasoned. A brush of soy sauce. Perfect.

[Note: I included the same exact item in last year's list. It's hard to pick among the great sushi I've had at Naoe - outstanding aji, aoyagi, Hokkaido uni, among others - but it's this bite of salmon, always the first nigiri served, that perhaps best encapsulates what I love about the place.]

3. Foie Gras Profiteroles - Le Pigeon (my thoughts on Le Pigeon)

foie gras profiteroles

The dessert that will raise eyebrows, and should not be missed, is the foie gras profiteroles. Another twist on a classic, these light, faintly crispy puffs (the choux pastry itself enhanced with foie, recipe here) are filled with a rich foie gras ice cream that perfectly balances sweet and savory, and then generously drizzled with a thin caramel, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, and delicate chocolate shavings. Outrageously good, it was very possibly one of the best desserts I've had all year.

4. Beet Salad - Azul Cobaya dinner (my thoughts)


Chef Huff's beet salad was brilliant, one of the best dishes I've had all year. From three basic ingredients - beets, blue cheese, bread - he crafted a stunning assembly of shapes, textures and flavors which he said included about 32 individual components. There were roasted beets in various hues, pointing their tendrils into the air. There were rounds of thinly sliced raw candy cane beets providing a bit of earthy, vegetal snap. There was beet espuma encapsulated in thin cylinders of beets. There was garnet-hued dehydrated beet paper, thin enough for light to shine through. There were powders, purées and gels of blue cheese, feather light croutons, razor-thin squares of lacy brioche. It was a dish that inspired a lengthy pause at the table, as everyone was reluctant to undo this beautiful construction.

Sometimes when presentation is such a focal point, flavor can get lost along the way. Not so here. This dish really highlighted the flavors and textures of its star ingredient, and was as delightful to eat as it was to look at. A truly exceptional dish.

5. Carrots with Yogurt and Mint - Ned Ludd (my thoughts on Ned Ludd)

carrots, yogurt, mint

If you can't get excited over chard, you probably won't get excited over carrots either, but this was one of my favorite dishes of the trip. A variety of different-hued carrots - orange, golden, garnet-red - were roasted in the wood-burning oven till tender but not limp. The carrots weren't woody, but still had a firm, almost meaty texture to them, reinforced by the hint of woodsmoke. A dollop of yogurt added both a richness and a tangy contrast, further brightened by wide strips of fresh mint. This was nothing complicated, nothing fancy, but it was perfect.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

CobayAzul (a/k/a A.B.C. - Azul Bizarre Cobaya)


The basic idea behind Cobaya is a simple one: let chefs cook whatever they want, for diners who want to experience it. The execution of that idea can sometimes become very elaborate. It did at Azul earlier this week, where Chef Joel Huff and his crew assembled an eight-course dinner that was often as complex as it was flavorful.

Another of the ideas behind Cobaya is to highlight chefs who may not be getting the attention they deserve for doing interesting, creative, inspired work in Miami. This latest dinner was another good example. Azul is one of Miami's few "fine dining" spots, and some great talent has worked there - its first executive chef was Michelle Bernstein, who spent four years there before going off on her own, when the talented Clay Conley took over - but like many hotel restaurants, it's a place that's more popular for visitors than locals.

When Chef Huff took over Azul this year, we quickly put it on the list of places that we thought could fit with Cobaya. Huff helped open up José Andres' Bazaar in Los Angeles, his menu at Azul was a fascinating read, and his sous chef, Brad Kilgore, was posting some great things on his blog, "The Power of a Passion," about what was going on in the kitchen. We were able to set up a dinner, and as usual, gave the chef free reign to create the menu and format.

An additional twist was introduced when we were contacted by a producer for Andrew Zimmern's show, "Bizarre Foods." They were going to be in Miami for a week, and were interested in shooting one of our dinners. The Azul dinner happened to be during the time they were in town. I'll confess, I had very ambivalent feelings about this. Truth is, we don't market or publicize these events at all other than by emails, blog posts and twitter; we make no money from it (everything collected goes straight to the chefs, and the organizers pay for their own seats too); and the group is, purposefully, very self-selecting. There are only so many people who are willing to show up for a dinner knowing absolutely nothing other than how much it will cost. We like it that way.

But when we talked it over with the restaurant, they were excited, and we thought it a worthwhile opportunity to show a larger audience the potential range of dining experiences in Miami. Watching Anthony Bourdain's Miami episode of  "The Layover" sadly confirmed that even as experienced an eater as Bourdain can still have a viewpoint of Miami that's based almost entirely on Miami Vice (a 25-year old TV show) and Grand Theft Auto Vice City (a 10-year old video game that mimicked the look and feel of the 25-year old TV show). It's kind of like doing an episode on San Francisco that's informed exclusively by having watched Big Trouble in Little China.[1]

Though the lights and cameras were inevitably something of a distraction, Zimmern and the Bizarre Foods crew (and Zimmern's guest Lee Schrager) were overall very well-behaved party-crashers. Zimmern himself, both when doing his routines for the camera and off, was genuinely curious, interested and engaged, passionate in his discussions about food, and effusive in his appreciation. It will be interesting to see how it comes out on the screen.

Here, in the meantime, is my take on our meal. You can see all my pictures from the dinner in this CobayAzul flickr set.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CSA Week 2-3 and its Uses

Uh oh. Only three weeks into the CSA season and I'm already a full week behind in posting. Not an auspicious start. This is no fault of Little River Market Garden, which has been supplying great stuff. Let's see what we can do to get caught up.

CSA Week 2 Share

The Week 2 share brought kale, pei tsai (the unnamed mystery green from Week 1), basil, passionfruit, chinese leeks, long beans, roselle (a/k/a Jamaican hibiscus), and green beans (in the bag).

The basil quickly went into a salsa verde (Italian style, not Mexican), which is good on just about anything and everything: with fish, chicken or beef, tossed with vegetables, dressing a salad, slathered inside a sandwich. The kale and pei tsai hung around the fridge until Week 3 (no picture) arrived with more greens (more kale, radish tops, kohlrabi tops). They all went into a gumbo z'herbes, about which, unfortunately, the less said the better. I was working from the Commander's Palace cookbook, which would seem a decent enough place to start, but wound up with an unappetizing stockpot of swamp bog. I think there was a roux failure somewhere along the way.

A couple experiments that fared better:

"Asian pesto"

The thinking process here went something like this: first, I saw the basil and thought "pesto." Then Mrs. F used up the basil in the salsa verde. Then I saw the long beans and thought of trennette with pesto, which often includes green beans. Then I looked at the Chinese leeks next to the long beans, and thought "Why not an Asian pesto?" The Chinese leeks (much like garlic chives) were chopped, then thrown into the food processor along with some peanuts and enough peanut oil to make a paste. This became a topping for a stir fry of chicken thighs and long beans, the chicken first marinated in soy, garlic, ginger and honey. The chicken, long beans and "pesto" were served over ramen to serve as the pasta element of the dish (I know, chicken has no particular relationship to an Italian pesto, but we had it in the fridge).

The long beans are a favorite of the whole family, including Mrs. F who typically hates green beans. And the "Asian pesto" here provided a nice flavor punch and texture, though the Chinese leeks are pretty pungent raw. We're considering repurposing the rest of the pesto as a dumpling stuffing, and bought some gyoza skins to try it out.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Art Basel Dining Guide: Off the Beaten Path Part 2

Yesterday, we explored a couple of Miami's less-heralded destinations for those Art Baselites who lack the foresight to have made reservations in South Beach or the Design District / Midtown / Wynwood, and lack the patience to wait for a table at the no-reservations spots. We journeyed through Downtown, then made our way to North Beach and crawled up Collins Avenue. Today, we can pick up where we left off in North Beach and start trekking back toward the mainland, winding up on Miami's "Upper East Side."

Lou's Beer Garden - slip inside the gates of the New Hotel, an updated MiMo hotel in North Beach, walk to the back, and you'll find Lou's Beer Garden, a funky little hideaway around the hotel pool with an outstanding beer selection, better than decent food, and a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere. The menu is mostly populated with simple stuff like salads, burgers and pizzas, but keep an eye out for Chef Luis Ramirez's more esoteric specials like the crispy sardines, callos a la Sevilla, or the grilled squid stuffed with chorizo sausage.

7337 Harding Avenue, Miami Beach

Las Vacas Gordas - Devout carnivores will want to pay a visit to an Argentine parrillada while they're here, and Las Vacas Gordas (The Fat Cows) is a worthy shrine. There are about a half-dozen different cuts of steak that they'll throw on the grill. My favorite is the entraña, or skirt steak, served rolled in a gigantic coil, but if you're indecisive you can get the "parrillada para 1" (which will easily feed 2 people not named Kobayashi) which will bring the true variety pack: a sampling of a few different steaks, chorizo, morcilla, mollejas (sweetbreads) and chinchulines (pig intestines) too. Slather it with chimichurri and try not to stand too closely to anyone for the rest of the night: the garlic stink will stay with you a while.

933 Normandy Drive, Miami Beach

Katana - It's far from the best sushi in town. But it's cheap, and it's served on floating boats coursing along a canal that winds around the restaurant. If something looks good, grab the plate off the boat as it floats by. The plates are color-coded for price, and the waitress will add up your stack when you're finished. I have an inexplicable fondness for their salmon nigiri, served with a generous squirt of Kewpie mayo and a shower of slivered onions. Here's a pro tip: if you can, sit directly clockwise from the itamae, so you can grab the freshest dishes as he makes them.

920 71st Street, Miami Beach

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Art Basel Dining Guide: Off the Beaten Path in Downtown and North Beach

This week has seen no end of Art Basel guides: art fair guides, music guides, party guides, and, yes, food guides, some even in handy Q&A format. I got into the act myself last year. And while many of last year's recommendations will still hold up, I thought I'd take a slightly different approach this time, while expanding a bit on some of last year's list.

See, here's the thing: if you're just getting around to looking at this now, it's going to be too late to snag a table at most of the hot spots in South Beach where Art Basel proper resides, or in the Design District / Midtown / Wynwood enclave where you'll find most of the satellite fairs and local galleries. But! You shouldn't starve, just because you didn't have the foresight to make a reservation or don't want to wait hours for a table. Just expand your horizons a bit, there are good eats to be found elsewhere. May I humbly suggest you explore a couple of Miami's less heralded destinations: Downtown and North Beach?


Downtown Miami has a lot more office buildings than art galleries, but the city is running a free shuttle during Art Basel (11am - 11pm) that will take you between the downtown area and most of the major fairs and hot spots in the Wynwood / Midtown area. So try:

Phuc Yea! - Miami's first contemporary Vietnamese pop-up restaurant is open only for another week, but that's just enough time for you to get in there. They're rolling their own Viet-style porchetta di testa or coming up with creations like "When Elvis Met 'Nam" (seared foie gras, caramelized banana, peanut butter, jalapeño jelly, and nuoc cham caramel on french toast) along with more customary items like spring rolls, banh cuon, and salt n pepper calamari. Read all my thoughts on Phuc Yea! here.

Oodles of Noodles

19 SE 2nd Avenue, Miami

neMesis Urban Bistro - Chef Micah Edelstein's shoebox of a restaurant in the deserted northern outskirts of downtown serves up a very personal vision of global cuisine: shepherd's pie gets crossed with an empanada, "sushi" goes Tuscan with prosciutto, mascarpone and gorgonzola dolce, South African bobotie is served with passion fruit vinaigrette and garam masala pecans. I went in skeptical and came out very pleasantly surprised. There's often strange stuff brewing here - including, one time, a house-made coffee-infused beer - but it's often delicious.

1035 N. Miami Ave., Miami (LegalArt Building)

Little Lotus - this tiny Japanese restaurant is also hard to find, buried inside a nondescript office building, but serves up a nice selection of izakaya classics - lots of meats on sticks, takoyaki, chicken kara age, noodle dishes and rice bowls - along with a standard lineup of sushi items and some Indonesian classics thrown in for good measure. The team includes folks from local izakaya stand-out Yakko-San and Morimoto NY.

25 N. Miami Ave. Suite 107, Miami

Sparky's Roadside BBQ - it may not be competition-level 'cue, but it's better than a lot of BBQ pretenders in Miami, you can get a plate of pulled pork with a couple of sides for $10.50, they've got a super selection of brews, and you won't meet nicer guys in Miami than the ones running this place.

204 N.E. 1st St., Miami

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

CSA Week 1 and its Uses

I started buying vegetables from a CSA two years ago, and set out with the best of intentions to blog the manner of consumption of each week's vegetable share. In year one, that lasted for about six weeks, with sporadic posts thereafter. In year two, I faded after only two weeks. You can observe, and then mock, my feeble output by searching the "CSA" label.

I'm back at it again this year, but with a new supplier. I signed up this season for a CSA with Little River Market Garden, a pocket-sized little farm on a residential lot near Miami's Little River. It's less than five miles away from my house, which somehow seemed more in keeping with the spirit of a CSA. It's nice to be able to pick up right from the farm, instead of a neighborhood drop-off point, to see the stuff growing right there, and to say hi every week to the person growing it (Hi Muriel!).

Little River Market Garden

The season just started this week - yes, South Florida growing seasons are completely inverted, so we'll be getting summer vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes in December - and I picked up our first share from Little River last Saturday.

CSA week 1

Black sapotes, green beans, breakfast radishes, a leafy green whose identity I've already forgotten, roselle leaves (a/k/a Jamaican sorrel a/k/a hibiscus), lemongrass, ripe and unripe papaya, two different kinds of zucchini, oregano, and purple long beans. Not a bad haul.

The thing that I both enjoy, and which drives me to distraction, about doing a CSA is the question that is posed every week: "What the heck am I going to do with this stuff?" Sometimes it's a vegetable I've never cooked before, like these long beans. Or it may be something I don't really get excited over. Zucchini, I'm looking at you.

Now, I don't kid myself - I'm a much better eater than I am a cook. So to the extent I can keep this going longer than two weeks, I'm not promising much in the way of culinary fireworks. But if I can keep it up, then these posts will at least provide a bit of a window into our wacky, upside-down growing season here in South Florida, and maybe even a tiny bit of inspiration too.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

P.I.G. 3

It's no secret we're big fans here at FFT of (1) pig and (2) Chef Jeremiah. The two will be coming together for a third reunion on Sunday November 27 for P.I.G. #3.

"P.I.G." = "Pork Is Good," Chef Jeremiah's celebration of all things porcine. For a bit of a preview, you can read my takes on P.I.G. #1 and P.I.G. #2, or you can just go and experience it for yourself.

The festivities begin at 4pm on Sunday, November 27, right around the time you start to get tired of Thanksgiving leftovers. There will be plenty of porky goodness being served from Chef Jeremiah's gastroPod and Ms. Cheezious, desserts from Coolhaus, a cash bar tended by Bar Lab, and music by Cog Nomen. Location: 210 NE 65th Street in Little Haiti.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Naoe Revisited - November 2011

Chef Kevin Cory

When I wrote about my first visit to Naoe shortly after it opened, it felt much like recalling a dream with near-perfect lucidity from the night before. Though I've posted about Naoe since then, I've found it increasingly difficult to capture the experience in words - or new words, anyway. It's not that each meal is any less exceptional than the first; they have all been outstanding. Rather, there is such a pristine simplicity and purity to Chef Kevin Cory's style that it evades my descriptive abilities.

This is not about high-tech cooking methods. It's not about surprising flavor combinations. It's just about the best ingredients that can be found, prepared with thought, sensitivity and care.

I was back to Naoe again last week and had what may have been my best meal yet. As has been the case since the 17-seat restaurant opened, the meal followed the same pattern. The menu offers no choices other than a list of drinks: Sapporo on tap, a selection of sakes from Chef Cory's family in Japan, Japanese soft drinks like Ramune or Calpico. Dinner begins - about a half hour after you're seated - with a bento box of various treats accompanied by a soup (still priced at $26 like when Naoe opened 2 1/2 years ago), followed by a procession of sushi until you say "Uncle."

cobia sashimi

This time, the bento featured cobia sashimi, cut a bit thick to accentuate the snap in the texture of the raw fish. Alongside, ribbons of seaweed, a julienne of shiso, freshly grated wasabi, and a rare seasonal treat, kazunoko (herring roe), the strips of delicate eggs with a wonderful pop to their texture.


The next compartment housed a variety of cooked items: shirako (cod milt), simmered in soy and sake with a touch of sansho pepper; grilled sanma (a/k/a saury or pike mackerel), tsubugai (whelk), eggplant, served cold, lotus root, carrot, and a chestnut coated in little beads of mullet roe.

The remaining compartments held a tranche of cobia, steamed with a mantle of gooey mountain potato and a jelled dashi broth, studded with gingko nuts and topped with slivers of mitsuba, a delicate Japanese herb; and sardine rice, with slivers of koji-pickled daikon. A savory cup of shiitake mushroom broth, inflected with a hint of lemon peel, was served alongside.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Cobaya Cabrera

When I wrote about Chef Alberto Cabrera's latest venture, The Local Craft Food & Drink, I described him as a "culinary mercenary." That was by no means intended as criticism. Fact is, Chef Cabrera has been through a lot of kitchens. They include some of South Florida's finest: he worked his way up to chef de cuisine at Baleen in its heyday while Robin Haas was there, was with Norman Van Aken at the original Norman's in Coral Gables, and spent time at Sergi Arola's short-lived Miami outpost of La Broche before opening up Karu & Y, back what seems a lifetime ago in 2005. After that, he had several lower-profile consulting type gigs before coming back to the attention of Miamians with The Local.

I like what Chef Cabrera is doing at The Local, but it only scratches the surface of his abilities. It's exactly the kind of situation that we created Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs for. So when Blind Mind got him interested in doing a dinner, I expected good things would come of it. He not only put together a great ten-course lineup; he also found us our first genuinely "underground" location, in the cellar of La Bottega in Coconut Grove.

I did not get any good pictures of the stone-walled, bottle lined cellar space, nor of Chef Cabrera, nor of mixologist David Ortiz, who poured a Bond-worthy Vesper for everyone to start our dinner, and most of my food pictures are plagued by shadows and poor focus. You can see all my shadowy, fuzzy pictures in this Cobaya Cabrera flickr set.

head cheese

We started with headcheese, an item that can sometimes be found among the charcuterie choices at The Local. But where I described that version as "Headcheese 101," this was the advanced class: larger, tender chunks of meat, fat, and other bits (the occasional ribbons of ear with a faint snap to them), bound by meaty gelatin. I love this stuff.

foie gras brioche

Dabs of spicy mustard and verdant twists of pea tendrils completed the communal plating, along with loaves of a foie gras brioche, the foie fat substituted for butter and contributing aroma and richness. The orange centerpieces on the table were actually further garnish, slivers of assertively spiced pickled carrots which I found refreshing and addictive.

maine sea urchin

This is the kind of dish that would probably never fly at The Local: Maine sea urchin, nestled over a corn custard, topped with a dashi froth and paired with compressed melon, a ginger flower, and a sheet of crispy yuba (tofu skin). I liked the interplay of textures and flavors, the melon and the dashi in particular echoing the uni's own combination of marine and sweet, fruity notes.

cured foie gras

Maybe my favorite course of the night: cured foie gras, creamy and rich with just a hint of bitter mineral tang; country duck ham, salty and meaty; arugula with a peppery, grassy bite, dressed in a duck fat vinaigrette to reinforce the underlying motif; batons of pickled mango and a long smear of scarlet beet purée to provide just the right contrapuntal sweet, tart and earthy notes. I wanted more of this before I even finished it.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pizzeria Oceano - Lantana, Florida

Pizzeria Oceano

This was not the pizzeria I expected to be writing about now. With Miami's local hero Michael Schwartz having recently opened a pizzeria of his own (Harry's Pizzeria, named for his son, in the Design District spot that used to be the home of PizzaVolante), I figured that was going to be the subject of my next ode to pizza.[1] But earlier this week I found myself driving back from West Palm Beach around dinner time, and made a stop at Pizzeria Oceano in Lantana, a a place that had been on my radar since stumbling across this little blurb in Broward New Times (yes, you can always catch my attention with whipped lardo).

Two years ago, pizza was all the rage in South Florida, so much so that we staged a four part, eleven location pizza crawl in the summer of 2009.[2] That happens to be around the time that Pizzeria Oceano opened. But Pizzeria Oceano doesn't seem like a place trying to latch onto a trend as much as a genuinely singular vision. Chef/owner Dak Kerprich keeps a short menu that changes daily, procures as many of his ingredients as he can from local farmers and fishermen, and refuses to compromise on quality. In the morning they prep as much as they think they'll need for the day, and when they run out - sometimes as early as 7:30 pm - they close up for the night. Much to the puzzlement and chagrin of some, Pizzeria Oceano won't do takeout, and they won't do substitutions or additions. If you don't like it, they're OK with that.

So am I.

Pizzeria Oceano menu

The place itself is mostly patio, with about a half-dozen tables outside on the front deck sharing space with planters of fresh herbs. A tight indoor space has a couple more tables and a row of barstools along with the kitchen and its wood-burning oven. The menu lists a short selection of appetizers (a/k/a "Not Pizza"), and an equally short selection of "composed" pizzas along with one "basic" version topped with mozzarella, pecorino, tomato and basil which you can further embellish with a choice of toppings. The menu also lists the provenance of almost all the ingredients you'll find in the dishes.

Roasted Bluefish

You don't see bluefish on restaurant menus often, primarily because the oily fish has a tendency to turn rapidly, and is consequently accused of being too "fishy." The waiter advised that theirs was just caught off the coast of Cape Canaveral, and the fish was gorgeously fresh and clean-tasting. Accompaniments were simple and classically Mediterranean: wilted escarole, slivers of lightly pickled onion, toasted pine nuts.

Country Ham & Egg Pizza

But what we really need to talk about is the pizza. Though I had some inclination to try their "Basic" as a baseline test, the "Country Ham and Egg" won out. Of course it did. It's topped with shavings of country ham from Edwards Ham in Surry, Virginia, a couple of golden-yolked fresh eggs, creamy fontina and salty, sharp pecorino cheeses, a scatter of green onions and a generous grinding of black pepper.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

If You'd Like More Food and Drink ...

It had been a while since I had passed any of these along, and now there seems to be a wave of really good looking dinner events coming up. To supplement the list from earlier this week:

October 30: The Local + Brooklyn Brewery

Coral Gables gastropub The Local Craft Food and Drink pairs up with Brooklyn Brewery for a multi-course beer and wine pairing, and Chef Alberto Cabrera looks like he's put together a good one:

Salt Cured Sardines
Bread & Butter Vegetable Relish, Hot Sauce, Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette & Dill Biscuit
Brooklyn Sorachi Ace

Cured Foie Gras
Country Duck Ham, Frisee, Pickled Mango, Scarlet Beet Puree & Duck Fat Vinaigrette
Brooklyn Local 1

Sous Vide Bacon Fat Pork Belly
Farm Egg, Scallion Puree, Peanut Powder & Bacon Dashi
Brooklyn Local 2

Crispy Lamb Sweetbreads
Peas, Lamb Sausage, Pecorino, Spearmint, Polenta Chips & Natural Lamb Jus
Brooklyn The Companion Ale (100% bottle re-fermented)

Pan Roasted Grouper Cheeks
Butternut Squash, Sweet Peppers, Green Beans, Shitake Mushroom Chips, Meyer Lemon Puree & Basil Buerre Blanc
Brooklyn Cuvee de la Crochet Rouge

Iron Skillet Seared Ribeye
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Pearl Onion Marmalade, Arugula & Bone Marrow Vinaigrette
Brooklyn Cuvee Elijah

Peach Trifle
Brown Butter Cake, Basil & Buttermilk Ice Cream
Vintage 2010 Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Spots are $85, 7pm start time, RSVP (required) to

October 30: Share Our Strength Benefit Dinner at Būccan
If you're feeling charitable, Chef Clay Conley is hosting a benefit dinner at his Palm Beach restaurant Būccan for Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to ending child hunger. Locals Timon Balloo of Sugarcane and Jim Leiken of Café Boulud will be joining RJ Cooper of Washington DC's Rogue 24 and Jonathan Waxman of New York's Barbuto along with Chef Conley to put together a cocktail reception and multi-course dinner.

6pm reception, 7pm dinner, tickets $200 each (but it's for charity!). Contact or 202.649.4356 or do it online.

November 3: Local Farmers' Dinner at 1500°

Fresh off being named to Esquire's latest "Best New Restaurants" list, 1500° celebrates the arrival of South Florida's growing season with a dinner featuring products from local farmers including Paradise Farms, White Water Clams, Palmetto Creek Farms, Jackman Ranch, Swank Specialty Produce, Hani's Mediterranean Organics, Maggie Pons, Lake Meadow Naturals, Seriously Organic, and Teena's Pride:

Crispy Pork Belly Tacos with Kimchee
Florida Wahoo Ceviche
Deviled Eggs with Capers and Pickled Veggies

Garden Leaf Lettuce and Heirloom Tomatoes
with Crispy Calabaza Blossoms and Hani’s Goat Cheese

White Water Clams with Spicy Greens, Grilled Bread
White Wine Butter Sauce

Whole Fried Local Snapper and Lake Meadows Roasted Chicken
accompanied by Cold Cucumber Salad with Fish Sauce and Sesame Seeds,
Anson Mills Black Rice, Braised Local Greens and Roasted Radishes

Palmetto Creek Pork Loin Chops and Jackman Ranch Florida Raised Wagyu Beef
with Anson Mills Polenta and Hani’s Cheese, Grilled Baby Squash, Roasted Carrots, Braised Oyster Mushrooms, and Spicy Smoked Potato Salad with Benton’s Bacon and Farm Egg

Selection of Homemade Pies and Tarts with Homemade Ice Cream

Reception and five courses, including paired wines and cocktails, is $85 per person (excluding tax and tip). 7pm start time.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If You Like Food and Wine ...

You're in the right place. If you don't like food and wine, well I'm not sure what you're doing here. With Miami Spice season concluded, those of you who do like food and wine may be wondering how to spend your dining dollars. Some local restaurants have a few ideas: as if it to make up for two months of serving $35 three-course dinners, several places are now rolling out some higher-end dining propositions. Here are some upcoming wine-themed dinners, including a couple for tonight that may still have seats available:

October 18: Domain Lucien Albrecht Dinner at db Bistro Moderne:

Chef Jerrod Verbiak will be cooking a four course dinner (no menu posted), paired with eight of Alsatian vintner Domaine Lucien Albrecht 's wines. Domaine Lucien Albrecht's owner Marie Albrecht will host. Reception at 6:30pm, dinner starts at 7:00pm, spots are $150 per person including tax and gratuity. Sign up here.

db Bistro Moderne
255 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami

October 18: Spain: A Wine Dinner at Charlotte:

Chef Elida Villaroel closed down her charming Charlotte Bistro over the summer, revamped, and recently reopened. To help kick off the reopening, she's hosting a Spanish-themed wine dinner at the restaurant together with Sunset Corners. The lineup:

1+1=3 Cava Brut (D.O. Cava)

King Crab Risotto with truffle emulsion and micro-greens
Abadel Picapoll 2008 (D.O. Pla de Bages)

Grouper with celery root puree and a lemongrass veloute
Becquer Tinto 2008 (D.O. Ca. Rioja)

Magret de Canard with a fruit chutney and finished with a balsamic pomegranate emulsion
Luna Beberide "Finca la Cuesta" 2008 (D.O. Bierzo)

Lamb Shank with red wine au jus and fennel salami finished with fine herbs and cacao beans
Finca Torremilanos, Torre Albeniz Reserva 2006 (D.O. Ribera del Duero)

Moelleux au Chocolat with Grand Marnier creme anglaise

Dinner starts at 7:00pm, price is $69 per person plus tax and gratuity. Contact the restaurant for a reservation.

264 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables

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Monday, October 10, 2011


Maybe I'm not the best person to comment on the South Beach Wine and Food Fest. Truth is, I haven't been to an event in years. I still recall going when it was primarily a wine tasting in a tent on the Florida International University campus, but those days were some time ago. My most recent experience was to take my spawn to a "Kidz Cooking" event a few years ago, in which we got to watch Giada DeLaurentiis demonstrate how not to finish a single dish in an hour.

Over the years, the SoBeFest itinerary has become increasingly dominated by "TV Personalities," which I suppose is fine for those people happy to pay just for the opportunity to stand near them, perhaps in ways the personalities don't necessarily enjoy. But the experience doesn't come cheap. The keynote dinner events - the "Q"[1], the "Burger Bash," the "Best of the Best," and the "Tribute Dinner"[2] - are priced between $225 and $500 a person. And while they feature some pretty impressive names, when I think of the meal(s) I could buy for that kind of money, I just can't bring myself to join the teeming hordes. I mean, for $500 a person I could fly to New York, have the tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park or Le Bernardin or Daniel, and still have a good bit of money left for the wine.

There are several lower-priced events, however, and when you consider the prospect of paying as much as $1,000 for you and your significant other to have dinner, suddenly $95 per person starts to look incredibly reasonable.

Consider, for instance, "Party Impossible," hosted by the hammer-headed, resume-fudging Robert Irvine and presented by Epicure Gourmet Market. This event on the roof of the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage "showcases Epicure Market, Miami’s answer to Dean and Deluca" and presents "the gourmet meats, cheeses, breads, soups, pastries, prepared foods and much more that can only be found in this vivant store in SOBE and in Sunny Isles."[3]

What's it going to be like?
"Expect to walk around like you would a grocery store, with one major exception, instead of pushing a shopping cart, you’ll be holding a glass featuring the hottest spirits from the Southern Wine & Spirits portfolio."

Who would want to do that?

"This event is perfect for locals who can’t get enough of Epicure’s delights and bon vivant out-of-towners who have heard the buzz for years."

SoBe Fest grand poobah Lee Schrager is particularly excited about this one, saying:

"We're basically recreating an afternoon at Epicure [Gourmet Market] -- all the best prepared foods you can find in market will be there."

So. It's just like going to the grocery store and eating the grocery store's prepared foods, except you get to pay $95 per person for it.

You know how else you can get an experience like that? You can go to Epicure Market. Which, I know, seems like it would be really hard to do. But I'm going to let all of you "bon vivant out-of-towners" in on a little secret that only us locals who are hopelessly addicted to Epicure know: Epicure Market is literally directly across the street from the venue for this $95 event.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Aged Stone Crabs, Anyone?

I've generally done my best to ignore the recent glut of dining "deal" sites. "Groupon" is just a tremendously unappealing-sounding name, and there is usually way too much fine print for me to pay much attention to the various other incarnations. Besides, in food as in life, what sounds like a "too good to be true" deal often is, and many other folks are doing a fine job pointing that out, including Ryan Sutton with "The Bad Deal," and closer to home, Chowfather with his "Jilt City" experience at STK Steakhouse. There's also been plenty of discussion of whether participation in these deal sites is really any good for the businesses either.

But they don't seem to be going away any time soon, and even almighty Google is getting into the act with "Google Offers." Still in "beta," the inaugeral Google Offer for Miami was a $69 signature meal at Joe's Stone Crab, featuring a choice of stone crabs, steak, chicken or salmon, open beer and wine service, side dishes and dessert. Of course nobody in their right mind goes to Joe's Stone Crab for the steak, chicken or salmon (at least not for $69 - though the fried 1/2 chicken for $5.95 remains one of the all time greatest deals in the food universe). It's all about the stone crabs, a seasonal and usually pricey item. Indeed, Google Offers claims the dinner is a "$135 value."

Even better, the "exclusive, private dinner" scheduled for October 10 lets you kick off the stone crab season early, ahead of all the shmoos waiting until the restaurant officially opens nearly a week later.

There's just one hitch: by law, the season for harvesting stone crabs in Florida doesn't start until October 15. The Florida Administrative Code says:

The season for the harvest, possession and sale of stone crab claws shall be from October 15 through May 15, each year. No person, firm or corporation, shall harvest, or have in his or her possession, regardless of where taken, or sell or offer for sale, any stone crab of any size, or any parts thereof, from May 16 through October 14, each year, except for stone crab claws, placed in inventory by a wholesale or retail dealer as defined in Section 379.414, Florida Statutes, prior to May 16 of each year.

If you're eating stone crabs on October 10 - they've been on ice for the past five months.

In other words, Joe's Stone Crab just convinced 400 people to pay $70 for last season's stone crabs. There's a reason they've been in business 99 years.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chef Philip Ho - Sunny Isles

chef's special dumpling

People of South Florida, I have an important announcement. There is a new dim sum restaurant. In Sunny Isles. And it appears to be quite good.

This is not my usual style. I usually will give a place at least a couple of visits, and typically a couple of months after opening, before writing about it. But there is dim sum involved here, people. I love dim sum.

Dim sum options in Miami are fairly limited. Most often, we make the pilgrimage south to Tropical Chinese, which I prefer to some of the other more southerly options, Kon Chau and South Garden. Chu's Taiwan Kitchen in Coral Gables is in my weekday lunch rotation, and is also one of the few places in town that have xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. On the northern end of town we used to frequent Hong Kong Noodles, which was inconsistent, not exactly the cleanest place, and closed down a while ago; I could never get that excited over Sang's. And of course there is Hakkasan in the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach, which is excellent in quality, but expensive and limited in selection.

Enter Chef Philip Ho.

Chef Philip Ho

Thanks to a tip on the Chowhound board, I heard that a new dim sum place had opened up in Sunny Isles, in a location that was formerly occupied by one of those inexplicably ubiquitous Chinese buffet operations. It's a sizable place, probably capable of seating a hundred people, even though the room is still bisected between a dining room and the space that used to house the buffet.


They offer both pushcart service and a printed checklist style menu, the best of both worlds for partisans of the different dim sum service styles.

Chef Philip Ho menu

It was only Little Miss F and myself, so we didn't get to do a comprehensive sampling, but everything we tried was quite good and had me eager to make a return visit. We picked exclusively from the carts, which carried most, but not all, of the menu items.

(You can see all my pictures in this Chef Philip Ho flickr set).

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

CobayaJeremiah with Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog


Though our Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs events are sometimes called "underground" dinners, that's probably a bit of a misnomer, since we happily have some events in operating restaurants. But we really do strive for each of them to be an experiment. What we want, very simply, is for both chefs and diners to see it as an opportunity to try something new and different, to take chances.

Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog of the gastroPod has been one of our most steadfast supporters and facilitators since we started doing these dinners two years ago. He didn't cook our first dinner, but he did do the second one, and has lent a hand and sometimes even a kitchen to several others. So when Jeremiah came back from a trip to the MAD FoodCamp in Copenhagen and a stage at Noma[1] restaurant full of inspiration, we were glad to line up another dinner.

There were several firsts for this dinner: it was our first time trying staggered seatings, with rounds of about 8 diners being seated every half hour instead of one big communal table; it was our first time using this particular space, which had some temperature challenges;[2] and it was our first time with a tasting menu this ambitious, more than 15 courses all told. The idea was that the smaller seatings would let the cooks focus more on each plate as it went out instead of cranking out 35-45 plates at once.[3]

You can see all my pictures from the dinner in this CobayaJeremiah flickr set.

the dining room

The dinner started with a cocktail: the "Fernet Sour" mixed clarified Fernet Branca with clarified grapefruit juice, cooled with a blast of liquid nitrogen. Fernet is a profoundly, eye-crossingly bitter digestif, one of those concoctions of roots, twigs, spices and herbs that tastes like it must be either really good for you or poisonous. It is the epitome of an "acquired taste" - one that I sometimes enjoy after a heavy meal for its seeming purifying powers, but not one I've ever had to start a meal. Here, I suppose it could be seen as having the same kind of palate-cleansing effect as Heston Blumenthal's nitro-poached green tea and lime mousse at the Fat Duck. But I couldn't finish a full flute of it.

snack: pickles

There followed an extensive progression of various "snacks," starting with a pickle plate clearly inspired by the Noma aesthetic. Pink radishes were topped with paper-thin, faintly crisp shards of (Benton's?) ham. Pickled okra was coated in a light tempura batter and fried. And tiny beets were halved and pickled, served with a sphere of rosewater-infused yogurt spheres resting on a nest of noodle-like beet strands. I liked the bold flavors, the interplay of salty and sour, the variation in textures, and the communal presentation on a long plank.[4]

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Phuc Yea! - Pop-Up Downtown Miami

Phuc Yea! table

I usually try to give a restaurant at least a couple of visits and a couple of months before writing about it. But with Phuc Yea!, a Vietnamese pop-up restaurant slated to be open only a few months total, that may be too late for the information to be of much use. Phuc Yea! doesn't follow the rules of a normal restaurant, and so my review won't either.

Official opening night was last Thursday, and I was there. We had a great meal, basically eating our way through the entire menu and then back again. You should go and do the same.

I gave a bit of a preview last week and won't repeat what's said there. But a bit of nitty gritty before talking about the food. Phuc Yea! is operating out of the "Crown Bistro" space located within the Ingraham Building downtown, across from the Gusman Center. There is no signage outside on the building for either Phuc Yea! or Crown Bistro. You get to it via SE 2nd Avenue, where there is an entrance just north of the main entrance to the office building, which leads into a corridor with mostly vacant retail space and the restaurant at the end.

It is a typical downtown lunch spot - meaning, completely nondescript and lacking in personality. The Phuc Yea! crew (Aniece Meinhold, Cesar Zapata and Daniel Treiman) have "spruced it up" by adding some curtains apparently inspired by an anime featuring an innocent big-eyed young girl and an angry Viking spirit. It's not exactly Extreme Makeover: Home Edition material, though it has its own unique charm. But the whole point of a pop-up is the food, not the decor, and happily, their talents in the kitchen vastly exceed their interior decorating skills.

Phuc Yea! menu

(You can see the full set of pictures in this Phuc Yea! flickr set)

Our table was debating our choices among the first section of the menu (labeled simply "1 - một") until finally taking the easy route and ordering everything (except the pickles, which we knew would be coming as an accompaniment to one of the larger dishes later).

Oodles of Noodles

Of these, the dish that really stood out, that we were craving more of before we even finished - that we wound up getting at least two more orders of - was the bánh cuốn. I've often seen this translated as "pork rolling cake," though Phuc Yea! dubs it "Oodles of Noodles."

It features chewy rice flour crepes, rolled jelly-roll style, and in this iteration, topped with a cornucopia of ingredients: bits of roast pork, shreds of wood ear mushrooms, fresh bean sprouts, crispy fried shallots, nubs of salty pork terrine, a spray of fresh cilantro and mint, all anchored by a deceptively light-hued sauce rich with the potent umami blast of nước mắm, or Vietnamese fish sauce. Every bite makes a play to different taste receptors, hitting multiple notes at once, but ultimately achieving balance. It was a great dish.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Little Bird Told Me (Twitter for Restaurants)

A local restaurant recently used Twitter to do a very smart thing: it asked its followers how they thought the restaurant could more effectively use social media like Facebook and Twitter to better serve its customers. My response was perhaps a bit harsh:
More tweeting of daily specials, menu updates; less retweeting of every single tweet mentioning you, no matter how inane?
But it's a pretty accurate encapsulation of my thinking on what is a very worthwhile question to ask; worthwhile enough that I thought it was worth expanding upon.

Some qualifiers: I'm not a PR person. I make no claim to being a social media expert. In fact, I do my best to ignore and avoid stuff like Foursquare and really have never taken much of a shine to Facebook either for that matter. But I like Twitter.

So who am I to have anything to say here? I'm a diner. A diner who is on Twitter and reading your restaurant's Twitter feed. (In fact I've got a list with every Miami restaurant I know of that's on Twitter). For whatever it may be worth, I know what I like to see and don't like to see in a restaurant's twitter feed. So here are some "dos and don'ts" from one diner's perspective:

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My 7 Links

One of the consequences of the immediacy and constancy of social media is that content tends to get buried under the neverending avalanche of information. A blog post that is more than 24 hours old won't even be seen in many peoples' RSS readers. Some good writers have given up on their blogs entirely, finding it more convenient and effective to communicate their thoughts in 140-character Twitter bursts, the epitome of ephemera. What any of us were saying last month, let alone last year, often gets lost in the electronic ether.

I'm usually wary of anything that sounds like a chain letter, i.e. "Do this and then ask another five people to do it." But I'm a big fan of recycling, including recycling blog content. I was also honored to have been nominated by Doc Sconzo (one of the people who indirectly inspired me to start this blog) to participate in something called "My 7 Links" started by the Tripbase website, the idea of which is "to unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again."

I enjoyed reading Doc's 7 links. Here are the results of my own dive into the archives:

Most Beautiful Post: When I first started this blog, I had very ambivalent feelings about food photography. I'm a writer, not a photographer. Aside from not having any photographic talent whatsoever, I also was concerned with the dissociative effect of taking pictures - that the obsession with getting the right shot can separate you from the experience of actually enjoying a meal. There's also the "douchebag taking pictures of his food" issue.

For better or worse, I've gotten over it. As much effort as I can put into describing food, much of the dining experience is often visual. So even if you can't taste the food over the internet, at least you can see it. And while I'm still a rank amateur photographer, I've tried at least to get to the point that my pictures will not embarass the people who created the food. I also recently upgraded my equipment, and have learned a bit more about how to operate it, and have been excited about the results.[1]

It still pales compared to the work of genuinely talented photographers like Doc, Ulterior Epicure, A Life Worth Eating, and ChuckEats, but I'm not entirely ashamed of the pictures I took on a recent trip to Portland at Le Pigeon:

foie gras profiteroles

Le Pigeon - Portland, Oregon - August 19, 2011

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Genuine South Beach?

Down the block over at Miami Rankings, there's some concern over the recent announcement that Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink will be taking over the restaurant (and all F&B) at South Beach's Raleigh Hotel. South Beach, with its fancy cars, glitzy hotels, and abundant breast implants, may seem a potentially less than "genuine" move. This, no less, right on the heels of the news that Schwartz is also taking over Jonathan Eismann's recently closed PizzaVolante spot in the Design District to open Harry's Pizzeria (named for the chef's son, who is still a bit too young to be working a regular shift on the pizza oven).

I understand the concern. And I have no particular love for South Beach myself. But I think some of the worry is misplaced.

The success of Michael's Genuine since it opened in 2007 was and remains a significant development in Miami restaurant history in a number of respects. Along with Michy's on Biscayne Boulevard, MGF&D marked a shift of the center of Miami's restaurant universe away from South Beach and over to less colonized areas of the mainland. It was (and is) dedicated, perhaps more than any other local restaurant, to the "farm to table" ethos, before every restaurant started throwing "organic," "sustainable," "local" and "artisan" (occasionally even "artesian") into every menu description. It was (and is) geared as much, if not moreso, to locals than to tourists, with a menu that changes regularly and always seems to have a couple new items, even for regulars. It was (and is) a place that's popular because it is comfortable rather than scene-y, and both the food and the atmosphere achieve an "upscale casual" vibe that is the way more people want to dine these days.

But it's not necessarily the only trick in Chef Schwartz's bag either. When he opened a second Michael's Genuine in Grand Cayman, I think the goal was simply to duplicate what he'd already done here in Miami at an off-shore outpost. I don't think that's what he'll do at the Raleigh, separated from the mothership only by a 15-minute drive across Biscayne Bay.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Phuc Me? Phuc You!

Several weeks ago, I was disappointed to hear that Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata had packed their bags and left Blue Piano. I'd only gotten in once to the pocket-sized wine bar and music lounge just north of the Design District, but was very pleasantly surprised by the well-selected wines and the creative and tasty tapas-style bites while Aniece was running the bar and Cesar was in the kitchen.

Silver lining and whatnot, Aniece and Cesar, along with Daniel Treiman (chef and occasional Short Order and Eater Miami contributor) are now teaming up to do Phuc Yea!, a modern Vietnamese pop-up restaurant that will have a 3-month run in downtown Miami.

Launch date is this Thursday September 8, after which they will be up and running Tuesday - Saturday from 5:30pm - 10:30pm until November. Phuc Yea! will be setting up camp in the Crown Bistro, located inside the Ingraham Building in downtown Miami (19 SE 2nd Avenue).

Some preview menu highlights include mini banh mi sandwiches with roast pork and house-made cha lua; thit bo kho, a Vietnamese beef jerky they've redubbed "Viet Cowboy Snack;" banh cuon (a/k/a rolling cake, a rice crepe wrapped around pork); caramelized pork riblets; "Nam Style Charcuterie;" and a few larger plates of char siu style pork, confit duck or fried snapper served with rice and a "table salad" of lettuces, greens, herbs and pickles. You can see the whole Week 1 menu here.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ned Ludd - Portland, Oregon


There are times when you are just utterly charmed by a restaurant. It may not be the most breathtaking food, it may not be the most ostentatious decoration, it may not be the most obsequious service, but sometimes a place captures a bit of magic that seems to make every piece of a meal fit together perfectly. That was our experience with Ned Ludd.

Ned Ludd the man was a late 18th century weaver who, in a fit of unexplained rage, destroyed two knitting machines. Decades later, this little incident acquired something of a mystical aura as he became the mascot to the Luddites, a group of rebellious textile workers who vainly opposed the developments of the Industrial Revolution, opposition that was often expressed by breaking the machines that were taking away their jobs.

Ned Ludd

Ned Ludd the restaurant is not quite so revolutionary, but the name is definitely a signal. The food here is very down to earth, the preparation methods simple, primarily using a wood-burning oven that was left behind by an earlier tenant. The decorations are similarly rustic: weathered wood furnishings and surfaces and rough exposed beams are softened up by decorative twisting vines and branches, old-timey cut-glass light fixtures and candle-holders. It felt to me like a farmhouse from a Peter Greenaway film. Outside, bins of fruitwood (the fuel for that oven) form a perimeter around a few park benches that serve as an outdoor seating area.

The menu is divided into "forebits," "kaltbits," "warmbits" and "plats," indicating starters, salads, slightly more substantial cooked dishes, and heartier entrées. We cobbled together an order for the table that included something from each, focusing primarily on an abundance of tempting-sounding vegetable based dishes.


First to hit the table were these warm pita-like flatbreads, hot from the oven, toasty and browned on the edges, and given a generous bath of good olive oil. The distinctly assertive note of caraway seed was an unexpected and welcome jolt of flavor.

cherries, duck bacon, walnuts, lettuces

I'm not usually one to get excited over salads, but the salads at Ned Ludd were gorgeous. Tender soft lettuces were paired here with translucent pink slices of duck bacon, lightly pickled cherries, and meaty walnuts, dressed in a simple but pitch-perfect vinaigrette. Hearty flavors, delicate textures, and great balance to the components.

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